“Be sure to immerse yourself in Australian culture.”
If you’re an international student, you’ve probably been given this advice before.
But how is it done? Should you go to the footy, eat Tim Tams and hug a koala?
Well, yes you should, but there’s more to it than that. In order to expand your horizons, increase your job prospects, and have a truly enriching experience you have to be more than a spectator.
As Confucius says, “Wherever you go, go with your whole heart.”
Here are 5 things to do, to immerse yourself in Australian culture.
1. Get political
It’s easy to spot what Australians agree on (meat pies…cricket) but if you’re able to understand what modern Australians debate and discuss, then you’ll be ready for any conversation with anyone.
Make sure you watch or read Australian news at least once a day – especially political reporting. Or, check out the ABC show Q&A, a popular panel show that debates the topical issues in Australia each week.
If you find the news a bit depressing, you can always watch political satire, read political cartoons or join political or activist clubs at your university.
2. Discover Indigenous culture
The Indigenous people of Australia, also called First Australians, have the oldest living cultural history in the world – going back 50,000 years (maybe more).
Indigenous art and ancient artifacts can be seen in museums and galleries all over Australia. Better yet, visit ancient rock paintings (use this guide from Australian Traveller), sample traditional bush tucker, or read up on Indigenous creation stories – they’re unlike any others in the world!
Creative Spirits is an excellent starting point for learning about this amazing culture.
3. Get out of the ‘student bubble’
It’s essential to get out and meet as many different kinds of Australians as you can – not just other university students. Volunteer or join Meet Up groups so that you learn from all sorts of people and immerse yourself in their worlds.
Older people, in particular, can teach you a lot, so try volunteering in a retirement home or find a mentor who’s older than you and ask them as many questions as you can!
4. Discover Australian humour
‘The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop’ and says, ‘Can you make me one with everything?’
The most Australian thing about this joke isn’t so much the joke itself; it’s more that an Australian actually told this joke to The Dalai Lama’s face (he didn’t get it). The man who told the joke was being highly irreverent; a word often used to describe Australian humour.
Comedy is a cultural thermometer – it will teach you more than a million guidebooks can. Watching Aussie comedy will teach you about social boundaries, class, gender, politics…everything!
You can go and see stand-up comics (Wil Anderson and Adam Hills are popular) or, watch some classic Aussie comedy films and TV. To start with
To start with try; The Castle, Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Kath and Kim, Summer Heights High or Please Like Me. The ABC and SBS channels also often air home-grown Australian comedy shows.
The ABC and SBS channels also often air home-grown Australian comedy shows.
Get more info on Aussie Humour here.
5. Keep a diary or scrapbook of all your cultural experiences
Do you sometimes forget all the things you see and hear while you’re traveling?
You’ll probably visit many museums and galleries while you’re here, and, hopefully, read at least one classic Australian novel (there’s a great list here from Goodreads). But it’s hard to remember all the things you experience and learn.
Every time you see something that surprises or confuses you or answers a question – write it down in your diary. By doing this, you’ll have a record of your learning and start to see connections between everyday life and the bigger culture.
The most important thing is to see every day as an opportunity to learn something new. Remember to keep asking yourself; how is that different from what I’m used to? And why?
Don’t neglect to get out on your own sometimes… and keep your eyes and mind wide open. Have fun!