After a nice time in Koh Samoi, Thailand with good friends, Ryan and I arrived in Australia. Somehow with no extra charge added despite our extremely over-weight luggage – thanks to Ryan’s charm…who knew?
We arrived early afternoon in Brisbane after a pleasant, 9-hour flight on Thai airways. Since we were trudging along with so much luggage, we decided to rent a car to drive an hour North to our destination, Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast. I immediately learned that driving on the left side of the road is much more difficult than I thought it would be. It takes serious concentration. Driving gets to be such a routine action that it becomes habitual requiring little conscious effort. Now throw a wrench into that routine and a lot of conscious effort is essential. Driving on the left-hand side plus the fact that I had no idea where I was going was intense pressure. I never thought I’d be so content sitting in a traffic jam only moving a few inches a minute. But it made that part of the drive less stressful and less tense on my shoulders, arms, and back.
So I would say that was our first “culture shock” experience. Our next happened the same night walking to the store. We ended up at a small motel with kitchen access in case we didn’t find a place to live right away. ( I mean, we could not afford to live going out to dinner every night with a Macca’s - the Aussie way of saying McDonalds - meal starting from 8 to 10 bucks!! Can you imagine what good food is like? Yea, we’ll talk about that at a later time.) There was a convenient/small grocery store directly across the street, so we headed over there to see what they had to offer. On the short walk, we passed a person who looked directly at us and said “hey, how’s your day goin’?” I looked at Ryan, then I looked to either side of us, and even stretched my neck around looking behind us only to realize the man was talking to us. He had even stopped to wait for a response. In America, this happens, but most often people say “how’s it going” or nod in passing; not necessarily waiting for a response. This encounter was totally bizarre. We finally answered and returned the questions and received a genuine answer – his day had been great. Then again at the supermarket, the cashier was the same. We had a conversation about our day of travel answering the guy’s genuine questions.
After living in China, I’m just used to people staring for no apparent reason – other than I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white person living in a country who only produce black-haired, dark-eyed people. Greeting strangers in China is not ordinary and isn’t really apart of the culture. When greeting someone walking down the street, you may get a laugh with a confused look or be completely ignored. The point is that I had grown so accustomed to not acknowledging strangers around me, that I forgot what it was like to take notice of others in such a genuine way.
As for driving on the left side of the road, I’m sticking to it’s the wrong side. I’ll be giving it another go in October when I house sit for a couple and use their car for the month. On the other hand, I really enjoy the change in interactions with people. I’m back to speaking to people as they walk by, greeting strangers with a smile and a friendly hello, and having pretty lengthy conversations with the grocery-store cashier. What can I say? I’m Colette’s (my mother’s) daughter through and through.
Here's to becoming a local!