Culture shock in your own country?

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April 28th 2012
Published: August 2nd 2012
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Have you ever been on a bus or a train and overheard someone talking about this or that being done better in their home country? It makes you wonder why they ever left....but I guess we have all been there one way or another. Moved away from home and found that things aren't meeting up to expectations or been overwhelmed by homesickness and missed things the way they are at 'home'. It is at this point that people start to look back on their lives at 'home' through rose-tinted glasses. Just ask Lara, over the last few years I have probably been that annoying person on the bus starting sentences with "Back home..."

The last 18 months has definitely had it's ups and downs. During this time we have had almost the whole spectrum of employment, Lara and I have found/changed/quit jobs/careers, been unemployed, lived in Uganda (Lara) and Egypt (Al) and been so poor we couldn't afford bus fare*. We have done some travel, but it has taken us awhile to properly get over the PUFC (Post Uganda Financial Crisis) (The end of the PUFC) and get back on our feet.

What better way to celebrate the overcoming of the PUFC than to go back to where our overseas experiment started almost 5 years ago; to spend some long overdue time with our families, and to meet the new additions! When compared to the rapid changes in children, everyone else seems to remain the same - every time we see our nieces and nephews on Skype, or hear about what they have been up to I am amazed at their rapid progress and I'm suddenly struck by how much of their lives we've missed. Living overseas definitely has it's sacrifices and seeing family grow-up is definitely one of them.

As you have probably already guessed this trip was almost entirely a family orientated vacation; lots of time at our respective homes and visiting family that seem to be getting slightly further away from each other on every visit. We really though that 3 weeks would be plenty of time to get around to see everyone, but it wasn’t, and we left thinking that it would have been great to have another few weeks to spend with everyone (this can be taken as a hint that we'd love you to visit).

To try and see all our families immediately we organised a lunch at Centennial Parklands Restaurant, which is a restaurant in the middle of a large park in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, a great way to get back into the Australian way of life.

Despite living in Australia for 26 years, at the beginning of this trip we both felt disconnected with it. In fact from the moment we boarded our Qantas flight in Bangkok and both got the giggles at our pilot's Australian accent I didn’t feel sure about anything. The price of petrol, the national sports, the issues talked about in the media, the obsession with the price of bananas are all such pivotal parts of the Australian psyche; but seemed so disconnected with my life in London that it took me some time to readjust. How is it after such a relatively short time away I could feel so out of place in my home country? I really wasn’t sure, but determined to fix it we borrowed a Commodore, slipped on our best Havianas and took off into the Australian countryside.

On a mission to rectify my culture shock did all the Aussie things we could - first off we headed to Bowral where we had a big family BBQ, Lara’s parents had recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, her grandmother was over from Perth and now that the whole family was in the one place they thought it fit to continue celebrating. It was a proper Australian barbeque, eskies outside full of beer and wine, plenty of meat, pavlovas, you name it was there - I even found a spider in the dunny!

So with the ubiquitous barbeque off the list we headed to Sydney to remind us of the beach/city lifestyle that we used to enjoy. We hit one of our old haunts – Coogee beach, found a cafe with some friends and then I ordered my next piece of Australiana – the burger with the lot. Sitting outside in the sun with a burger as big as your head that costs as much as your car, got me another step closer to feeling at home. It was starting to feel right again.

Then driving up to Manly to see Lara’s brother and sitting in the never ending traffic I remembered how much I hated that drive, that also made me feel at home. It’s funny how road rage is now so common in Australia, but seeing those familiar gestures from those behind the wheel of other cars was just another little familiar thing that made me fall back into the groove.

Which made the next thing completely Australian: Manly beach, and Coopers beers then dinner. Essentially the trip was full of food and friends. We drove around in circles, visiting all our family in their different lives - getting to see a whole cross-section of Australian living from the inner city, to the Northern Beaches, the semi-rural to the 'outback'. As our "international" accents faded back into Australian we managed to blend back into the crowd, meaning the exact opposite problem when we returned back to Blighty!

It was a lovely visit although long overdue - so hopefully we won't leave it so long next time!

* An exaggeration Mum, we're fine!

Additional photos below
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3rd August 2012

Didn't Peter Allen sing...and I hear you thinking "I still call Australia...Home"?
7th August 2012

you could do this for a living!
I look forward to reading each new installment of well composed passages, and seeing the beautiful photos in each blog! Maybe there could be a change of career as a travel journalist? I've read many a story in "country style" or other Australian Lifestyle Magazine that is good! What do you reckon?!

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