Reverse Culture Shock: Is Life in Australia Really Any Better?

by Sharell शारेल on April 12, 2012

in Culture Shock in India, Visiting Australia

Post image for Reverse Culture Shock: Is Life in Australia Really Any Better?

As I’ve mentioned previously, people often ask my why I’ve chosen to life in India rather than Australia. Or they suggest that we leave India and move to Australia.

Although Australia has a high standard of living, does this mean that it’s the best country for me though? Would I feel happier there (when I’m already happy here)? I really don’t think so.

This feeling is reinforced by the experience of my friend Ruth, who returned to Australia a couple of years ago with her Indian husband and children. She spent 15 years in India, and of course went through the usual ups and downs. Yet, she was very content with her life there. However, her husband had a stressful job, and they thought it would be much healthier to live in Australia. He’s now retired and has settled in well there. Unfortunately, she hasn’t. She’s been experiencing severe reverse culture shock, and wants to return to India.

One of the worst things she’s felt is a sense of isolation, disconnection, and loss. She’s found it hard to wipe the slate of her “awesome past” but has to because no one in Australia is interested in it. To her, western suburban life is bland and social connections shallow.

One of her main forms of support has been this online support group.

Some of her observations have been really interesting, and she’s kindly agreed to let me share them here. Yes, they are overly negative about Australia. Yet, they are very real for some people, including my friend. And to be honest, the thought of the blandness of life in Australia after I’ve grown and learned so much quite terrifies me too!

She says:

“As Sam in the group mentioned, he like many, yearn to live in Australia as it’s touted as some kind of heaven, a lucky country. It is very clean, beautiful, and feels pristine. Despite this, many people migrate to Australia and soon realise that they are very, very far away. Australia is an island at the bottom of the world. It’s culturally one dimensional, and limited in aspirations and options. Yes, parts are multicultural. However, very little has been allowed to seep out other than food, and I still meet many who are afraid to taste and are chili-shy of my husband’s Indian delicacies.

Australia is also so tightly controlled that to do anything other than take up a 9 to 5 job is impossible. Creativity and possibilities are stifled, entire industries squashed with legislation and the high expense of everything.

I have met many news Australians through my work but I feel there is heaviness, here an inability to really DO. There is a lack of dynamism. When I first arrived, in comparison to India, Australia feels like a dictatorship with all perfect little sheep following the rules. Australians are naïve, allowing laws to chip away at any stirrings of culture and dynamism. Laws presented in the guise of safety are unquestioned, and make life less and less interesting every day, without thinking of what is being lost in the process or questioning the relevance.

Australians love their country and promote it like mad but that’s because we are an island at the bottom of the world. We’re out of touch and don’t know what anything else is like. That’s the problem with leaving — you get to see what you like and don’t like about your own home. I have re-connected with old school friends. However, I’ve found that compared to the social life and extensive friendship circles I had in India, they still seem to only know each other and their worlds have altered very little.

I like the environment in Australia but the people are empty and exhausted. As they try to keep up with the Australian dream of a house and car, they think of nothing else. Give me an apartment any day in a vibrant city so I can get on with living, a weekend of home beautification and keeping out the weeds seems such a waste. There are bland endless suburbs which all look the same, all void of culture and life except barbecues, school sausage sizzles, and a neighbourliness which does not move much beyond good morning. Life revolves around school, sport, church and not much else. People are warm and friendly but I soon meet with an impasse with any interaction.

I feel that I am an alien. I broadened my horizons and I no longer fit in here. In India, I blossomed. I had felt the need to leave Australia, and go out in the world so that I could become me.

Unlike the UK, as Susan described, Australia does not have a grand cultural or historical significance like much of the world. We do have an awesome aboriginal culture which one does not see or feel in the south. It is a decimated culture, swept under the carpet and in many areas suffering horribly — I feel their loss of culture and country and I deeply understand.

There is nothing to see in Australia unless you live for beaches and bush walking. I missed the beaches so much when I left but personally now they all look the same to me. I now miss my walks past old Portuguese fishing villages and 400 year old churches in dynamic Mumbai. A walk in Australia is just so boring.

Australia is a dumb blond — good to look at but lacking substance.

Ahhh, I have become so critical of the country of my birth. I envy those who love it and cannot imagine being anywhere else. It does not feel like home and I only want to be somewhere else. For me living in India every day felt like “schools out for summer” — inspiring and inexhaustible possibilities of life. Here I wake up and think, “oh god this can’t be for real, how on earth did I end up back here?”. It’s another day void of connection with anyone other than my family. I miss the deep connections I made.

I know of four Indian families who came to Australia because of the hype, and they all returned as they felt lonely, sad and depressed. I know many who came out from the UK also returned.

There is something exotic about Australia though. It has an island feel, and I am trying to put it into words as I feel it will make me feel better. I know that when I leave I will miss the peace and quiet but I’m not ready for it yet — that’s for old people. Hmmm as I think about it…. Australia feels to me like is a big retirement village and a great play ground for children. My kids and older retired husband are happy here.

I am working towards leaving again.”

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer.

66 people like this post.
© Copyright 2012 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

Related Posts You May Like:

{ 108 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph June 25, 2013 at 1:00 am

Hi Sharell

I couldn’t sleep and began googling on Australia and found your post. It is a post that justify my feelinga about Australia. I have written one too:
http://josetravels.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/cant-sleep/

Reply

sushim July 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Mumbai is very unique.Even I do feel once you live here its very difficult to adjust anywhere else in the world.I seriously recommend you to visit NCPA as i think one can witness best of arts & also finest Indian talent.

Reply

Amit August 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Thanks, Amazing Read. As an Indian who has lived in both UK and Australia, I can say with confidence that Australia is Perfect if you under 15 or over 65. Kids love the Space and Seniors love the Pace. But there is nothing as Vibrant as London or Mumbai or Beijing where people are “Real” and not Binge Drinking Robotic Clones. However, When I was in Australia I met some really Friendly and Nice Aussies who didn’t subscribe to the Aussie Misinformation, mainly because they were Well Travelled around the World. But this Propaganda that “There is nothing like Australia” is Necessary to Retain people in that Isolated Dry Toxic Island, Disconnected with the Reality that they (“Aussies”) really are in the middle of nowhere away from Europe/USA, surrounded to two Emerging Powers (India/China) and the World’s largest Islamic Country Indonesia. White Aussies Survive on Second Hand Confidence and Borrowed Security from US/UK, and they MUST STOP Discriminating against Minorities in Australia and treat Aboriginal Australians Fairly (please learn from your neighbour New Zealand where Maoris live Freely)

Reply

Satish August 31, 2013 at 5:27 pm

the grass is always greener…….

Reply

Ramesh October 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I am living in Australia for past 19 years, and I must must and must admit that you have described my exact feelings which I am unable to express so perfectly as you have done. I keep trying on every single opportunity to express these very feelings and find myself alone in social gatherings or otherwise. But your article has given me so much of confidence that I am not alone….. many thanks for such a wonderful piece of gem. I have read this article now many a times and I feel like talking to myself every single time. And finally, as yo have concluded the article, I also take the liberty to conclude the same way……I am working towards leaving Australia !!!

Reply

Rameez November 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm

wow ..I was typing the exact same thing.lol

Reply

Becky November 15, 2013 at 6:20 am

Perfectly expressed! I’m living in India after thirty years in Australia raising a family – wonderful place for the kids to grow up, but I’m not ready for the retirement village yet!

Reply

Marcus November 21, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I agree with your accurate description.

Reply

Mikael December 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Hey, thanks for the very interesting post. I have been feeling this way for many years now. Its kind of nice to know other people feel the same. At least I know its not just me. I left Australia when I was 16 and and went on to live around Europe for 12 years. Not everything was easy there, but I can honestly say that in 12 years overall I didn’t miss Australia even for a day and i lived in a lot of tents and found myself with no money many times. I did come back temporarily a couple of times because of family etc. But I very quickly became extremely depressed every time I came back. The last time I managed to escape to Amsterdam, but then got married to an Australian girl who scared away all my other girlfriends and between her and my brother who was always scabbing off me they convinced me to move back to Aus possibly because they hated how well things went for me there every day and because I finally refused to give them any more money. We lived in Brisbane and that would have to be the biggest social hole full of empty, 9-5, small talk, mediocre, brainwashed sheep in Australia and the world in which i’ve lived. My ex (now) was from the blue mountains though so I have moved here now. I have to admit its still boring here but at least you don’t have the traffic and pollution and quite as many retarded/rude/aggressive people as in other places. There is a bit of culture here and interesting people and you can go camping and its pretty easy to get some pot to calm you down if you are feeling like killing yourself or just going on a murder spree because those are pretty normal feelings in Australia since the majority of both men and women are extremely sexually frustrated. One thing I liked about Europe was that usually I only understood what people were talking about when they spoke to me directly in English and apart from that didn’t have to hear anyone’s stupid conversations even subconsciously. Anyway, I would leave this country first thing in the morning, and especially now I am divorced, chances of meeting anyone decent in this country are pretty dismal once you are passed 30, but I have a son now so i’ve accepted my fate. :D My son does bring me great joy though and I love him very much. I try my best to be a nice person and have some hobbies and interests and keep life interesting, but it is a daily struggle I have to admit and self medication is necessary sometimes. Pubs and nightclubs here are a complete waste of time. You never meet the interesting or friendly people there. You’ll only meet alcoholics, drug users, scabs, people with really bad attitudes etc. You will be way more depressed at the end of the night. In Europe pubs and clubs are great and generally people are sociable and friendly and many interesting, intelligent, cultured people also. As a guy, I found getting a girlfriend or just having friends who were women was easy and normal and I had heaps and they were mostly quite beautiful. But unfortunately in Australia women seem to really hate men unless they went to school with them or its their brother or dad and their friends and talking to a woman here is a good way of getting into a fight with some jealous guy who has been trying to get in her pants for last 20 yrs. But if you buy a car you get lots more attention from the slutty women here. I didn’t believe it, but then I bought a car and I got women telling me how sexy I looked driving and getting all excited about it. Pretty sad. And I would actually like to meet someone worthwhile at my age (32). But then again, there seems to be a lot of people here who think everyone else is an idiot or criminal and have a bad attitude not just women. Lots of stuck up people. Shallow people. People with jealousy issues, self esteem issues, manipulators, etc etc etc. Also a very judgmental place. I would advise any young people who don’t have kids yet to get out of this country while they still have a chance. Forget about all your patriotism. In this life only yourself and a handful of friends and some family members count. No one else gives a shit about you and no one else will come to your aid when you are down and out especially not in Australia unless its from a disaster that’s been all over the news then everyone tries to get on tv and show their muscles or their asses like in the brisbane floods. Seemed to be a communal spirit going on. Well, they have all turned into shitheads again. So go out and live life and see what the rest of the world has to offer with an open mind. Don’t waste your youth here being depressed and sexually/spiritually/culturally or intellectually frustrated and oppressed. I didn’t and Europe was awesome. Girls are great and they love Aussie guys and blokes are usually quite respectful and its easy to make good friends. Plus you will learn a lot in every way. And for those of us stuck here… I guess we just have to find ways to make it a better place for ourselves and the next generations by being who we are and not becoming boring shitheads like the ignorant bogans and maybe trying to socialize with like minded people to keep ourselves sane. I suppose starting a new class system or something. Not in regards to financial status, but maybe spiritual/cultural/intellectual/artisan class. We can’t all go to the beach/eat sausages/drink beer/buy a 4WD/get a boring 9-5 job/bleach our hair blonde/get tattoos/marry our primary school sweetheart etc. Its great that we are different and that there are Australians such as us who are really the only hope to making this country livable and exciting.

Reply

Mikael December 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Another thing, in Australia, especially QLD, its extremely easy to find yourself in jail or getting massive fines for anything you might accidentally do. Only people with lost of cash can afford a lawyer and you don’t even get a chance to defend yourself most of the time. Here you have to prove yourself innocent. Also cops are very lazy and their priorities are not going after real criminals, but rather persecuting anyone they don’t like personally. Its very discriminatory and the police force is just like another dangerous gang to stay away from. Brisbane police are ignorant, brutal and abusive. NSW police aren’t quite as bad, but you do get horrible ones. AVOs… i’m sure most Aussies know what they are. Usually a woman puts it on you, but anyone can and basically there is nothing you can do to defend yourself. Sometimes a police officer will throw one on you even when no crime has been committed if they don’t like you. Then you can’t work in certain jobs for 5 yrs. And if you do anything wrong within the AVO time period you go straight to jail without even a chance to defend yourself. Lots of good people end up in jail in Australia for petty things. Also, if you are a bit of an individual and maybe sing in the street or do something a little odd you can easily end up in the psyche ward. Anyone can just call them up and they’ll come a nab you.

Reply

Kym January 6, 2014 at 9:56 am

I am so glad to read this and to have come accross your blog and know I’m not the only one to think like that about Australia… this puts words to what I have been feeling since I moved to Australia. I thought I was the only one to be profoundly frustrated and unhappy living in this country, eventually this frustration has started to turn into depression and it kind of conforts me to know there are lots of foreign people in my situation. And especially to hear that whatever you nationality is, Australia is not any better as aussies always claim it. I come from France and I have travelled and lived in different countries of the world and to be honest, Australia is the worst Western country I have ever lived in.. I had a big culture shock when I arrived here and the biggest disappointment. The worst thing for me is that it is denied of any culture, which is a very important aspect in my country.. cities all look the same and the city itself is so small, ugly-looking buildings, hardly any museum or cultural attractions at all, beaches are not even beautiful (I have lived in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne and have backpacked in every corner of Australia), transports suck, a lot of dodgy, racist, vulgar, conceited, unintellectual and ignorant people with boring interests and past-times, cost of life is so expensive, wages pretty average, I really don’t understand what people like about this country… I am sick of those people saying Australia is the best, awesome, beautiful, rich, etc, the list is long, probably those people should go and see how the rest of the world is like?
There are lots of countries I feel confortable living in but unfortunately I don’t belong to this place. Thanks for your post !

Reply

PARY January 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

This is so true. I worked hard to be here since last 5 years . But now i feel exactly like you. The country lacks connection with god that’s why they don’t know how to be social and be friends with any one.

The other thing is it happens with us most of the time because of skin color. I know some will argue but skin color does matter.

Reply

GOCAnandhan January 10, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Well, there’s always the option of packing up and leaving.

Reply

Gourav January 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

i recon Australia is fun,but you need to make alot of money ,as living cost is very high.i am an indian,living in Australia from last 0 years,finally moving back to india,as cost of living is so high ,but Astralia is nt boring. i go to Sydney and i love it.i will keep Australia as a tourist place is future,definately nice place.

Reply

Gourav January 15, 2014 at 6:35 pm

i have been living ion australia from 10 years sorry

Reply

Dilpreet Bhatia February 17, 2014 at 11:25 am

Whenever we visit any country outside india, it feels as if its so clean, peaceful and great, I have not been able to make my mind to move out of India, because the affordability of maids, Driver and other things, which is a great help when you want to pursue other passions in life.

Reply

Jamie March 6, 2014 at 4:55 am

Hi sharell what a lovely peace of information! I had been trying to figure out how living in Australia must have been if I moved to work as a Registered Nurse. Everyone of my friends who moved there would just said ‘its sunny, expensive, but higher wages. We are trying to settle’. This information is too inadequate for me to decide whether to move to Australia. I am an Indian born living in Ireland for the last 8 years. I could easily save €2000-2500/- monthly while working 3-4 days a week and have 7-8 weeks holiday in ayear . I bet I better stay in Ireland and retire in my hometown ,India.
I feel such a relief. I even think I could just built a very nice house with a swimming pool and enjoy the good weather everyday. I feel like I found a great information that help me to make my final decision after reading your articles. I could imagine you wearing all the colourfull costumes that must be so beautiful on you just like those on Bollywood movies!!

Reply

Bill April 19, 2014 at 8:13 am

I somehow ended up on this forum drinking wine and googling australian culture as my wife and I are planning to relocate to australia from the US midwest for a few years. My company is transferring me there for a few years and though i dont mind much where i live, i’m frankly just looking for a change. Hey, it looks like we own a third of Australia anyways ;) ( shhh, its a secret lol) Sure, countries as old as India/China are culturally richer than ‘relatively new’ countries like the united states or australia. I’ve worked with a coupla indian/chinese gentlemen in my previous position and i know about the cultures to some degree. Perhaps the lure to australia is more about economics (for folks who hail from poorer countries) though your life could be dumb and utilitarian. But i don’t see it being any worse than the midwest USofA. Hell, If i’ve had to deal with all the rednecks here since my day of birth, the ‘bogans’ there shouldn’t be all that difficult to handle. The advantage i see is not sitting in the icebox for 6 months a year (winter!!) and enjoying some warm weather for a change. I do hear from another colleague/friend of mine who got transferred there a year ago about the SEVERE MISTREATMENT OF BLACK ABORIGINAL people there? He says that he feels like breaking a few jaws everytime he sees the local aussie fellas harassing a black aboriginal man. Black guy doesn’t get served a drink at a bar there?!?! My friend had to buy him his drink and shove a coupla locals to keep the black guy in the bar?! This crap really doesn’t happen here except for some sick part of Alabama perhaps. Perhaps we have come a lonnggg way forward in racial equality and mutual respect in America than Australia has. Other than that, i don’t foresee any issues with the country.

Reply

zubin April 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I was just going through all your experiences about living in aus. Thanx for the information, I must say it was worth my time reading.

Reply

anji July 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Oh Wow! this is scary!! I’ born Indian… lived in the USA for 16 years, back in India for last 3 years and hating it here. It’s funny how we always look for something else than what we abundantly already have! :-)
I was beginning my research on Aus for migrating there… for being a beautiful, clean country….(so tired of filth and dirt in India in all aspects of life)…but your article has scared the daylights out of me!
I think i’ll just plan for the USA again… living in the USA was lovely! I miss that place. Well dumb/ un cultured/ racial people are everywhere… but overall USA is a great place to live, grow and retire!
And who said anything about culture in India? I guess we need to redefine the word culture these days…. gaudy costumes and colors, loud prayers and double standards can not be called culture.

Reply

Amtesh Dube July 18, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thanks everybody for your fruitful comments i was planning to i move australia.Now i have to change my mind.

Reply

Leave a Comment