Culture Shock

Recently on an American expat group that I belong to, someone asked about the things that caused us culture shock when we arrived. The answers were humorous and some ring true for me so I thought I’d share. They’ve been edited for grammar and clarity and names have been removed to protect privacy.

On Trading Hours & Shopping

When I first came, the shops closed at 5pm on weekdays, 12pm on Saturdays, and weren’t even open on Sundays.

The only time I have to test drive a car is on Sunday and none of the dealers open on Sunday.

I miss being able to go somewhere after work like Barnes and Noble or Starbucks or something. There’s nowhere to get a cup of coffee except McDonald’s after 5!

Restaurants have set times they are open. Lunch 12-2. Dinner 6-9. And half of them aren’t open on Mondays.

Oh, I’m still confused about how early everything closes here.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of selection. After whining, my hubby always says, “What do you expect from a country with the population of California?”

On Feminine Hygiene Products

My shock was the feminine products.

I have 4 48ct packs of Tampax Pearl tampons in my closet, brought back from my most recent US trip. I have lived here 5 years and I have never purchased Aussie tampons.

I brought over 2 years worth of Tampax from Costco in the big boxes. They came in the container and my husband thought I was crazy.

I honestly did not think they wouldn’t be in tune with lady products. Imagine my surprise.

The year I moved here, 2009, they started carrying regular Tampax with the cardboard. I always had to bring them the previous years while visiting.

I sympathise.


No left on red.

How small handicapped parking spaces are and how few there are.

Despite being the size of the US with the population of LA, they still can’t build a decent sized parking lot or a real freeway system.

The “freeways” in Sydney are crazy. Crazy narrow lanes and weird exits. I was always a good freeway driver in California, but the Sydney roads had me beat.

Narrow suburb lanes and no stop signs. The roundabouts drive me insane.

Narrow lanes with no shoulders.

Hook turns. For the love of God, why?!?

Life in General

I couldn’t believe that I had to buy a refrigerator for a rented house.

So many places don’t have central heat and air.

Shocked when I ordered an iced coffee and ended up with a coffee ice cream float. Coffee in general shocked me. All this instant and no drip coffee?!?

$4.50 for a diet coke at 7-11 almost sent me packing!!

No mail on Saturdays and the postie doesn’t pick up your outgoing mail.

Weekly rent.

Pineapple and beetroot on a burger. Still weirds and grosses me out.

Speaking of burgers…egg on everything, too. I like eggs, but not that much!!

On the Bright Side

How blue the water is, how blue the sky is, how intense the sun is, and how BIG a huntsman is. Also how big and delicious fruits and veggies are. How big the birds are. How fresh the air is.

Have you experienced culture shock? What are the things that have done it for you?