Fush and Chups in ‘Straya: Unexpected Culture Shock

Our Kiwi family has been living in Australia for just over four months: 139 days of enjoying consistently warmer weather, glorious beaches, excellent gelato and an abundance of charcoal chicken outlets.

Culturally the two countries are pretty similar: notably relaxed, egalitarian and fun-loving. However, there are a few tiny differences; a couple of things about ‘Straya’ that just do not sit right; clues I am a stranger in a strange land. Every now and then I am reminded of my Kiwi-ness.

 A bug’s life

Dear Australia, we need to have a word about the cockroaches, specifically the flying variety.

I do not appreciate waking up in the early hours of the morning to exterminate the nocturnal pest scuttling on my bedside table, only to find it flies at me Kamikaze-style when I try to attack it with bug spray and a heavy object.

Do not get me started on pests of the spider and snake varieties—I try to block this reality from my mind. O how I long for New Zealand wildlife!

You call that cheese?!

New Zealand dairy products are exceptional—which is not surprising as dairy is New Zealand’s top export. I was raised on delicious cheeses, creamy fresh milk and yummy ice cream.

It is not the same here in Australia, everything tastes different. The ubiquitous pre-grated, pre-sliced ‘cheese’ masquerades under the title of ‘tasty’. New Zealand truly is the land of milk and Manuka honey.

From unfamiliar flavours to new products—navigating the supermarket is a surprising adjustment to life in a new country. I recently spent 20 minutes searching my local store for eggs only to find them in the refrigerated section.

I had not considered the role of food in creating a sense of safety, familiarity and home. I’ve developed a zealous passion for iconic Kiwi foods and recently spent $4 on a tiny jar of Marmite! Anything to remind me of Kiwiland.

The price of bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is a necessary evil and setting up life in another country is a logistical nightmare. I get it—navigating government systems is dull, frustrating and necessary.

I am extremely grateful for access to healthcare, but it does wear a little thin when I need yet another government agency to validate my existence by recognising I am, in fact, a human.

Every time I stand in line, or wait for my number to be called, I feel the overwhelming task of starting again looming large over me. I am worn down with the enormity of it all: the $170 price tag for a driver’s license conversion; the three trips to the doctor to sort out a vaccination; the endless forms, queues and explanations. Bureaucracy is a drag.

A cheeky smooch

Australian and New Zealand cultures are so similar and little differences can be surprising.

Social kissing is an awkward one. Australians will often greet one another with a friendly kiss on the cheek. I have noticed this custom particularly on Australian TV, where reality show contestants seem quite confident greeting or saying goodbye with kisses to all present.

Social kissing is not unheard of in New Zealand but is generally reserved for close family and friends.

A cheeky smooch is a much more accepted greeting in Australia, although there seems to be some confusion over who, when and where to kiss. Some people say only one kiss—left cheek only. Others say right cheek only, and definitely no lip-to-cheek touching—air kisses only.

Being a Kiwi in Australia means there are lots of opportunities for friendly banter—especially about sporting prowess! However, there is one difference Australians will never let Kiwis overlook: their accent.

There seems to be undying entertainment value for Aussies in asking Kiwis to say ‘fush and chups’. Many Australians seem to think the greatest compliment they can pay a New Zealander is: ‘you don’t have much of an accent’.

Strangers in a strange land

We are alike, but we are different. I will never get used to wearing my thongs down to the beach, curling up under a doona, drinking a popper or eating at Hungry Jacks.

At times it is as if I am in a dream where everything is perfectly ordinary and then something unusual happens to remind me I am asleep. I am reminded of who I really am: a New Zealander. A proud Kiwi.

The Philippian Church received a similar reminder from the Apostle Paul. His letter encourages them to remember their true home is not here on earth; instead they are citizens of heaven.

Paul compares this with the life of an enemy of God: ‘Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things’.

No matter which country you live in, do you ever feel like you don’t belong in the world? I know I do. I see the selfishness and pride of people all around me. It is there in my newsfeed, in the paper and on the TV. People revel in life without care for their creator; they have no room for God. Sometimes I feel like a stranger in a world I cannot escape from.

Paul encourages the Philippians to look to Jesus—remembering his power to transform and reconcile all things. As citizens of heaven we should have a heavenly accent. The culture of heaven and the love of Christ should spill out of us—it should be as obvious as a Kiwi accent in Australia.

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