Australia – a left-sided world

I barely did any research about what will expect me culturally in Australia before leaving Switzerland. I decided to just go there without any expectations, with an open mind and the willingness to just fully immerse myself in what I will experience there. One of the few things I knew about Australia before I arrived was that they drive on the left side of the road. This is something that stood out immediately upon arrival. However, I thought this would be the only “left-sided” thing, but I quickly realized that there are things and practices that are only visible after interacting and living with Australians.

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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. 

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Australian Friendliness

I landed on the 6th of July in the early morning in Sydney at the Kingsford Smith International Airport. While still sitting in the plane, I was already experiencing some tenseness due to the declaration file that all passengers had to fill out before leaving the plane. Australia is known for its strict border control and therefore prohibits the import of a lot of items to protect its native flora and fauna. However, after I had filled in the declaration, I left the plane and went straight to the biosecurity control. After my passport and e-visa were checked, I took the chance to ask the border officer about my student visa, which I hadn’t received at that time. I was so scared that she would get angry at me as my parents had advised me to not ask them straight away about my visa. However, my fears were quickly put to rest. The lady took me to her office and first asked me about my travels and if I was ok because she had the impression that I was not doing that well, which definitely was the case. However, after our little chat she checked my student visa and informed me that it was still being processed but I that shouldn’t be worried about not receiving it. Then she wished me all the best and I was able to collect my suitcase and left the airport to get to my short-term accommodation. This was my first lucky encounter with an Australian, however, it was not to be the last one … 

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The Art of English

As a Swiss person you learn English from 7th grade on, but coming to Australia made me realize the first few week that English is not just English. It has very different forms and different dialects. When I arrived in Wollongong, the Australian accent gave me a lot of trouble, because my ear was just not used to it. I feel this would be different with English as it is spoken in England or the US, because I know it from the movies. 

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A deep gap in the society of Australia

Europeans were not the first humans to arrive in Australia: Aboriginal people arrived in Australia many 10’000 years before the European settlers did. This creates a conflict that is still present up to now. Aboriginal people did not receive basic rights like voting up to the 2nd part of the last century. The probably last aboriginal family living a traditional lifestyle was contacted only in 1984 ( and it’s assumed that most Aborigines (as they are called in Australia) have only been living a Western lifestyle for a few generations. Continue reading “A deep gap in the society of Australia”


As I write this text, reflecting on the last couple of months and trying to come up with examples of what has become familiar, I sit on the rooftop of my student housing. Here, 21 floors above the ground, I have a perfect view over central Sydney. While there are so many things, stories and people that have become familiar over time, the breathtaking view reminds me of the many stories and aspects I haven’t yet gotten to discover. Continue reading “Family-Arizing”

Heading the right way!

My first interaction with the Australian culture almost made it impossible for me to tell the story about it. After a long and at times very shaky flight, I took the train to Sydney Central Station where I was supposed to check into my Hostel where I would stay before moving into the Student Housing on Campus. Not having slept during the 14-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, I was only focused on one thing: getting some sleep as soon as possible. At this point, noticing and dealing with cultural differences or local customs was the least of my worries. After all, so I thought, Australia is surely the most European country in the Asia-Pacific region. Continue reading “Heading the right way!”

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