Cultural Shock…

Philly Skyline

Philly Skyline

Ok, it seems that my blog has generated some discussions among our own friends, for good reason that is.  We have had mood swings, bewilderment, enthusiasm, borderline depression, an overwhelming feeling of everything being different, we have criticised and we have been criticised and much more.  There is a name for this… …it is called cultural shock!

Let me put it in perspective, most people I know, would not move to the other side of the town they live in.  Whether that is because it is not a place they know or it is far away from friends and family, it does not really matter.  It is foreign to them so they stick to what they know and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Well, we are about 16.000km away from where home used to be and nothing much is here that we can hold on – for better or worse – to insert some routine, some sanity into our daily lives.  Our values, our priorities, the things we know and what we consider common sense, the rules and regulations, they are all very different, they are foreign.  Certainly, the fact that we have moved 4 times within two states in Australia did not contribute to any routine being established.  We again moved this past weekend and we hope that this will be the last time for the next couple years.

Wuppertal-Panorama

Wuppertal-Panorama

So back to cultural shock, it is a normal condition and everyone that emigrates goes through at least some of the stages of cultural shock.  Even if one goes back to the country that he grew up after living in a different one will go through the shock, albeit a reverse cultural shock.  It is extremely important to get a routine in place and to be open to the new environment, to smile and keep positive and communicate with the new surrounding as much as possible.  It is one thing to say it and another to actually do it, it is a very difficult task but it is not insurmountable.

The Arch

The Gateway to the West

I remember the first one I went through back in 1990 in the St. Louis, a place that I know call home (one of many, more on this on another post) but one that I hated with all that I had for a couple months in the fall of 1990.  It has long turned into an eternal love affair.  There has been a few since and it always has turned all right.  I was not keen to move to Germany and now I miss it, I call it… you guessed it right… home!  I have always been a bit sentimental and as much as I look forward to exciting times I look back at fun times, I do though forget the pain along the way and that is fine by me.

So to our shock now. Culture shock is defined as a psychological disorientation that most people experience when living in a culture markedly different from one’s own. Culture shock occurs when our “…cultural clues, the signs and symbols which guide social interaction, are stripped away. …A difficult part of this process for adults is the experience of feeling like children again, of not knowing instinctively the ‘right’ thing to do.” (Piet-Pelon & Hornby, 1992, p.2).  In general there are four phases to a cultural shock: Honeymoon, Adjustment, Negotiation and Mastery.  Everyone experiences it in different ways and so it is for us.  We are between the negotiation and the adjustment phase, had it not been for the four moves within Australia we would probably be ahead of that.  We are building a routine, we have started friendships, Ben has started with Kinder and so it goes.  We will be reaching the mastery phase in the next few months and while that does not necessarily  mean that we will totally assimilate it means that we will feel at home and as we have many homes by now this will be another one that we will come to love.

So long…

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Ben in an airport and on the move again...

Ben in an airport and on the move again…

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Our view…

Our views have been shaped by the experiences that have brought us to this point in our life.  In principal this is not very different to the other immigrants to Australia, what makes it unique in its own way are the nuances of these experiences and that is our view.

IMG_0107

Sunset in Hallet Cove, South Australia

I cannot talk about these views without putting them in context and speaking a bit about our last station, Germany.  I have lived in four different countries and Germany is by far the one place that comes close to perfection more than any other and it is the place where I have lived the longest.  The efficiencies, the frugality, the thoroughness and a global conscience  that is the collective German way of life has developed over the past 6 decades is unprecedented.  A good friend of mine from Russia described it as a very boring place because everything works and it is near automatic, isn’t it ironic as it sounds a no worries kind of place yet it so far from it on daily basis as Germans are overall very formal, distant and constantly unsatisfied and then Germany has that terrible weather.

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Footy!

Australia is a great place in many ways, life is for some reason just easy-going and the mild weather makes for an excellent outdoor lifestyle.  In our view though it is far from perfect and that maybe the curse of just knowing to many homes.  Things are made unnecessary complicated  in more ways than we could have imagined when we arrived.  Simple things like setting up and proving your 100 points of id as they do in Oz so you can get basic services takes time, patience and above all it costs nerves.  The surprise is that one would have thought that there would be someone who can or should tell you what you will have to do and how to do it, the onus is on the newcomer.  In a country that welcomes so many thousands of immigrants you would have thought there would be more to it.  That is not the case and while it is not rocket science per se, it is made more difficult by the incompetence, the lack of systems and of processes for new arrivals in the country.  Beyond that even matters that one would believe is common sense are relative complicated, such as trying to get decent broadband, a matter that is trivial anywhere in urban Europe, US or Japan, has cost us at least a couple thousand dollars and countless hours on the phone with providers, as well a broken lease and countless hours on the matter of leasing properties, our rights and obligations.  It is amazing that in 2013 this is an issue, I would understand it if I was in Alice Springs or some other place in the outback or the countryside.

Ben in Melbourne

I am not going to compare here every little aspect but suffice to say that having moved between four countries over the past twenty years, I have never had as many issues, not even when I moved back to Greece in 1996 from the US and had to deal with the incompetent civil servants.  Unexpected because Australia is a modern society and it is one of the most urbanized nations on the planet, the envy of many and the place where many people dream to be able to get a chance at calling it home.

I am not, in any way, saying that this is an awful place, quite the contrary, despite our tribulations and the various costs both monetary and otherwise we are looking forward to the next 12 months with renewed confidence that things will be better, they will improve and we will finally be able to get more out of the Aussie lifestyle.  It is not a post of despair nor is it one of disappointment.  It is merely our experiences and while there certainly have been difficult times we have had luck with family and friends that have supported us all along.

 

Friends, relatives and people that love you

People usually ask what is the one thing that you would like to take with you if you are ever stranded on an island, well my answer is my friends and -most- of my family.  These past few weeks would not have been possible without them.

On March 8th and 9th the moving company packed our household and put it in a container.  What was left was, well…  …another household!  We took a decision to not take everything with us for various reasons, so we were left with a lot of stuff that we had to either sell or give away and of course all the trash.  I know it sounds trivial bit taking care of all that took almost two weeks.  During that time we were sleeping at friends, my uncle loaned me his car and others were helping in any way they could.  The neighbors chipped in and they let me use their scanners, printers, garden furniture, etc.  It is overwhelming really to think of it all and without their support I am afraid we still would be trying to finish up.

In a couple of days we will be in Australia where another bunch of people will help us set a base in our new adopted country.  This is not the first nor will it be the last time that we have been in this situation.  Some people ask me why I am such a giving person and considerate, I just am.  Most of them do not realize that they are very much like that themselves.  You always get what you give, people are usually afraid to give or open.  I have found that by giving, by opening up, being honest and responsible towards others you gain so much, you have fun along the way and above all you learn things about yourself and others that would otherwise not be possible.

R.W. Emerson said it best: The only way to have a friend is to be one!

So I would like to thank all you who have been here and there for us and the ones that couldn’t, I will always be there for you.  Without you our lives would be very poor, you are and always will be in our hearts!

Here is one to friends, relatives and people who love you!

PS: We are now in Kuala Lumpur on our way to Adelaide.  I love this city and I like Malaysia.  I have a few things that I want to write about on my next post, which should be in a day or two…  …meanwhile here is a photo for you.

Our view from our hotel

The road to Melbourne

Our last night in Adelaide

Well after a month in South Australia it was time to move on.  After all there are 6 states in total and two territories (NT and ACT), which in effect do function as States though.  We had to swap our hired car as the inspection light came on, so after sweet talking Bill the Greek in the Europcar station in center city Adelaide we got us a nice Skoda Octavia that fit us perfectly for the 800km trip to Melbourne.

Our trip to Melbourne was via the Western Highway, which is the shortest route.  It is still a long route that passes through a number of towns but it is a route that besides some pretty spots is very boring.  The only stops we made besides Murray Bridge 80km east of Adelaide to marvel at the mighty Murray river, was stops for gas, coffee and nappy changes.  The good thing this time around was that there were significantly less flies compared to

Ben checking out the naughty Hindley st. in Adelaide. The world's dirtiest McDonalds is on this street!

our trip up north.  Interesting along the route are the Grampians National Park and the Little Desert National Park as well as the city of Ballarat.  The city of Ballarat is known for spawning the victorian gold rush in the 1850s.  It is quite a large city, it is probably the largest inland city in Australia.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to stop as Beth and Ben were getting impatient to get going.

What is it about Australia, its highways and its bad drivers?  I mean Aussies are as nice and polite as they come but behind a steering wheel they become obnoxious and reckless.  It is weird because I expected it to be different, the driver’s have no notion of decency on the road.  On the other side you have these narrow two lane highways that make them perfect for horrific accidents.  Road trains do not help either, it is very hard to overtake them

Eleni, Beth and the kids

and when you do you have to actually speed up significantly, something that the Australian police does not seem to really agree with.  Speed limits are quite low and frustrating as it takes forever going 100km/h in Victoria (110km/h in S. Australia).  The distances are so great and there is so much space I wonder why it has to be this way.

Another thing that surprised me is that 40-50km outside Melbourne from the west side there is nothing.  I expected suburbs that stretch the horizon but the cities are much more compact, there have been recent developments but there are not that many commuters that actually have to drive 40-50km in Australia.  We arrived as night set in over Melbourne and the skyline was amazing, a stark contrast to the very (in comparison)

Ben is growing fast!

provincial town of Adelaide.  Adelaide is quick and easy, it has over a million inhabitants but it feels like much less, it is very spacious.  In comparison when we were approaching Melbourne I thought New York and Chicago, it is not quite that big but it has a few skyscrapers and compared to where we just came from it might as well have been.  We also found ourselves to a modern multi-lane highway that also came as a surprise and not long after we came to our first mini traffic jam over the West Gate Bridge.  It was a combination of a road works and a guy who wanted to jump off the bridge, let them jump I say.  It is a weird spectacle as a drama like that unfolds a mere 10 meters away while you are in your own little world looking through a window and hearing no sound.  I do not know what happened but then I could not just stop and watch.  We finally made it to Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne

My BBs, taken in Murray Bridge

about 7km from the CBD and according to Wikipedia a very expensive one.  It has a population of about 20,000 people and it is very close to the city.  We will be based here for the rest of our stay in Australia.  We will explore Melbourne its surroundings, Sydney, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef in the next few weeks.

So long….

Kyriakos, Beth's uncle and our host in Melbourne feeding the little man.

He enjoys water so much!

Our friends in Adelaide

Adelaide Hills, the Wine Country and the beach town

Beth and her Godparents

This past week we have spent meeting with friends of Beth and Beth’s parents. Beth left Australia in

BBQ!

1981 and she was 8 years old at that time. I am surprised how much she remembers from back then. Of course they had seen each other since then but there was a lot of talk about the old times and the new times. It is amazing as I heard stories from Greeks here that are very similar to stories I have heard from the same generation Greeks in the US and I also know of very similar stories from my own family’s past. It was a very hard time but most of them did well, I believe they did much better than if they had stayed in our homeland. It is unbelievable the hardship that those people had to endure

The Pouliotis Family

and the difficulties and challenges they faced in their new adopted countries. Most could not speak the language, the passage down here was mostly by ship and they had to work for well o

Dimi and you know who

ver a year to pay for their passage to Australia.  Here in Adelaide Greeks are everywhere, anywhere one turns can see sign posts with Greek names. They have left a strong influence that, together with other immigrant groups like the Italians, have left a distinct cultural mark, enriching their lives and the lives of this city in many ways. Up in the Adelaide Hills we went to Hahndorf. Lutheran Germans were prosecuted in Germany in the early 1800s and thus sought a new home. Germans were the second significant people that came to the shores of this country looking for a better future and freedom to

The Antarakis Family

express their religion. They found a new country in the rolling hills surrounding the city of Adelaide, there are many small Lutheran churches dotting the area. Hahndorf has a German look and a lot of the eateries and stores sell German food, there are some Fachwerk houses.  We tried the sausages and they were decent but nothing like back home.  We saw people eating Eisbein and Sauerkraut with a beer outside in 30C weather!  It was bizarre.  We went on to Mt. Barker and drove up to the summit where we

Dirk Meinhertz Hahn

had an incredible view of the surroundings.

The following day we went the other direction towards Barossa Valley and the wine country around Adelaide.  Barossa Valley also has a distinct German touch, there are also many Lutheran churches around.  It is incredible how many wineries there are in South Australia.

On Mt. Barker Summit

Australia is now the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world behind France, Italy and Spain.  Barossa Valley is most known for its Shiraz, but there are excellent Rieslings as well and of course many more.  We visited the Seppeltsfield winery, they also have a self taught chocolatier on the winery, who was inspired by the movie “Chocolat”.  When I watched that movie I was inspired to eat 200 euros worth of pralines within a week, I guess each to his own.  We then moved on to Clare Valley, which in my eyes looked like Barossa Valley albeit much smaller.  Riesling in Australia has its home in this valley.  It was a great day and

Hahndorf

we spend it with Dimi, Beth’s childhood friend, who once about 37 years ago held my wife’s hand without asking me, he is a great dude though so I let it slide.

I have been told Adelaide is actually a beach town, if I remember correctly around 80% of Australians live within 20 or 30 miles of the sea.  So in my book that most towns in Australia are beach towns.

The beach at Glenelg

Well, what better way to see what kind of beach town we are talking about by driving down to Glenelg, the first settlement on mainland Australia according to Wikipedia.org.  Reading up on this plush and popular beach side suburb I also came across a new word that I will use when possible to impress native English speakers.  The word is “palindrome”, a Greek word by the way, and Glenelg is such a word.  It can be read in either direction.  About the Glenelg beach there is not really that much that I can w

My BBs on the Glenelg jetty

rite, I have never seen beaches anywhere as good as our beaches on the Mediterranean (Greece, Spain, Turkey, Italy, etc.).  I have yet to see the South Sea though so there might be something better.  As you can tell we were not really impressed by the beach or the waters in Glenelg  Also, similar to the Henley Beach that we had visited a couple weeks ago the waters are rough, and there is just too much build around it.  We like our beaches to be away from major settlements, the waters should be clear.  That is nearly impossible here with the big waves pounding the beach.

The Family!

Mosley Square is right at the beach and it does look good looking into the town with all the shops and the tram that arrives from Adelaide.  The jetty also has an interesting story and at 215m it is only about two thirds of the original one that stood a little farther away.  It is also from the jetty that the Greek Orthodox Bishop releases the cross on the Epiphany each year on January 6th.  Glenelg though has not been able to escape the high rise development that started in the late 70’s.  Farther afield, in a corner of the marina we saw a replica of the HMS Buffalo.  It was this ship that carried Rear-Admiral Hindmarsh, head of a small fleet of ships that carried the first British settlers for the colony, in

Mosley Square

December of 1836.  It really is a very young country in some regards.  The replica doubles as a restaurant and a museum, unfortunately both were closed when we were there.

Barossa Valley

On Saturday we were invited at a baptism, Beth’s Godparent’s daughter who was also a witness at our wedding in 1999; baptized her daughter Eirini.  It was the first time that I saw a round church like that.  It is a very significant event in the life of a Christian-Orthodox.

He is so handsome!

Here is more proof!

...and some more!

After a few days in Adelaide I was getting anxious about finally heading out to the real Outback, we planned to leave Adelaide on Feb the 22nd and head out to Coober Pedy for an overnight stay and then on to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where we had to stay in Yulara (there is nothing else out there).  Beth was not really thrilled to drive 1600 km through nothingness and hostile – especially to city people like us- environment.  I was ready for the wide open road…
So long…