We are familiar with where we have lived -- be it Colorado or Oregon. We know the roads, we know our favorite restaurants, we know how to catch the bus, and we know that we drive our cars on the right side of the road. Without consciously acknowledging it, we knew the nooks and crannies of our routine. As we immersed ourselves into a new culture (10 months ago and every day since), we have become familiar with new practices. We learn the sounds, the cultural norms, the smells, and the vibe of our ever-changing location. Eventually, if we spend 30+ days in one location, we have become accustomed to our new life on the road. We're used to being stared at everywhere we go. We're used to not knowing the proper way to eat our foreign food. We're used to under or over paying at a restaurant because we're not quite sure what the amount was. We're used to accents, miming instead of speaking, and using a translate app daily. But how can a place, like Australia, feel so much like home, but be so confusing and backwards to us? Reverse culture shock is a strange thing. Here's a list of seven "normal" things that felt foreign during our time in the Gold Coast:
1. Rules of the Road
It seems like years ago that we drove an actual four-door car, used crosswalks, and fully stopped at stop signs (sorry, mom). In Asia, traffic is treated as a free-for-all. As long as you get from Point A to Point B without hurting yourself or anyone else, you're good to go. We'd park our motorbike or tuk-tuk anywhere we could find space. It was so strange waiting at a bus stop for a bus that would appear minutes later right on time. It was strange sitting in the right seat to drive a car. It was strange paying to park and obeying signs.
2. Airport Requirements
Although the Gold Coast airport staff is incredibly friendly, they don't take security or customs lightly. We were escorted around the airport like cows upon arrival. Two people in front of us would be assigned to wait in Line A, then the next Line C, then Line A, then us Line B. We couldn't ever figure out their seemingly random system. We were told to stand directly on an X painted on the ground, place our bags down in front of us, and wait for the dog to come around and sniff our bags. We didn't have any problems with this, but we forgot how long of a process this can be. Also, on our way out of Australia, we had to pay $100 USD to check my backpack. The 7 kg "limit" was merely a suggestion in Asia that would never once be weighed by staff. In Australia, my bag was indeed overweight and we were charged a hefty fee.
3. Blonde Hair
I don't think this needs any explanation. Australia is filled with blondes who look exactly like us. Blending in was something so foreign to us.
4. Expensive Everything
I think it's pretty common knowledge that Australia is expensive. This is why many young travelers have to regrettably pass traveling the country. The food and drink hit our budget pretty hard. So much so that we "accidentally forgot" to complete our budget tracking for the Gold Coast. Oops!
5. Clean Beaches
After spending 10 months on a hundred beaches, we thought we'd seen it all. Unfortunately, the beaches around Asia are usually littered with plastic bottles, snack wrappers, straws (we hate these things), and alcohol bottles. In Coolangatta, where we stayed, we couldn't believe the cleanliness of the beach! It was absolutely incredible. We were refreshed to see people caring for the planet. Many businesses even participated in Plastic-Free July while we were there.
6. Different Celebrations
Okay, this one is a stretch because nothing about not celebrating the fourth of July felt normal. It was the first time in 27 years that I've been away from America on my birthday (July 4th). Usually I am spoiled rotten with everyone having the day off of work, enjoying the celebrations, and ending the night with fireworks. In Australia, July 4th is just another day. However, we were lucky to soak up the sunshine and discover a microcraft brewery.
7. "Western" Food
Ever since leaving home, all of my day-to-day stomach issues have completely disappeared. I used to get intense stomach cramps every time I ate and be embarrassed at work when my belly would sing songs after lunch. Asia only serves fresh local food. If it's not in season or readily available, it's impossible to find. Our bellies had forgotten what preservatives were. Our first day in Coolangatta, we went and consumed a freshly-made sandwich. Not thirty minutes after we ate, both of our bellies were furious. This continued on for our 10 days in the Gold Coast. Although our bellies may have been upset, we indulged in tacos, good coffee, and microbrews.