Friendly Frenzy

The first words you hear arriving in Australia are the following: “Hi! How are you?”. As somebody coming from a rather small town in Uri, being greeted by a stranger does not throw me off. But being asked about how I am doing right at the start of a random conversation is new even to me. Since it is not my first time in Australia, I should have known how they greet people but to be honest I still am kind of overwhelmed when I hear that somebody I have never seen before is asking about how I am doing. And the even bigger shock at my first encounter was that my counterpart actually seemed to care about what my answer will be. Having said that and not to draw a false picture, Sydney is a vibrant metropole and for sure, people don’t walk around, greeting every single human they pass. But they certainly ask for your current condition if you interact with them for whatever reason might be. 

In contrast to my general experience, the experience at UTS was quite different. As I live in  student housing close by the University Campus, I have mostly only met exchange students so far. Thus, I was super excited for the courses to start and to meet people that are actually from around here. To my surprise, I did not get a “How are you doing?” as a reaction to my encounter. For the first time meeting Australians, I was the one who had to keep the conversation going. Funnily enough, it somehow felt more like Bern again. When I first came to Bern, for the longest time I only became acquainted with people who were not from Bern either. It felt like the natives already had their friend groups and communities and were not very open to getting to know unfamiliar faces.

Same thing in Sydney: people come to class, are friendly with whomever they interact with, but as soon as class finishes, the conversation does so too and they head out. This might be due to the fact that actually not many Australian students live in the city itself since student housing is very expensive. Therefore, most of them commute for several hours every day to get to campus and back home again. With that comes the fact, that the majority of the lectures are still held online, and you only have to be on campus physically for labs and workshops which do not take place as regularly as lectures do. Additionally, the courses I am in are either second or third year courses, meaning that most people in those courses started Uni during Covid and consequently did not get the same experience of getting acquainted with other students and campus as maybe students in previous years did. And not to forget that Australia had several rigorous lock downs and some Covid measures are still in place that make it even harder to get used to socializing and meeting people again.Nonetheless, I am sure with time I will get to know my Australian comrades better and the aftermaths of Covid will progressively disappear. Until then, I am happy to take on the part of asking them about how they are doing rather to expect them to ask me.

Silja Eller

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