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Culture clash down under: A journey through Australian culture shock


Culture differs from one place to another, and each culture is uniquely significant for them. Culture is to society what memory is to individuals (Kluckhohn, 1954). It defines the way how an individual behaves to certain environment ( for example, financial discipline, dress we wear etc…). Culture generally can be split into two, i) Subjective ii) material. According to Traindis (2002), material culture consists of such elements of food, dress, houses, and structures while subjective part is ideas of how to make the elements of material elements. It implies that material culture is something we can feel and touch while subjective culture is the experience, memory and habits which are not visible but shapes our daily thoughts. Exploring the dual nature of culture as material and subjective, this article presents my experience of culture clash in Australia as an international Student.

dcity along with millions of others who belongs to different part of world. For people who dream to come here would be often fascinated with virtual views of enjoying outdoor and coastal charm with beautiful beach lining the shores and people surfing or soaking themselves in the warmth of sun. Those assumption were built in mind of people dream to travel to Australia and I am exception to it. However, it turns out to be different on reaching here. Real trouble is when we need to pay for everything. For example, I suffered from severe abdominal discomfort within just two months of my stay here in Australia and I booked an appointment with doctor (GP) at Carliscal Medical centre, WA. I paid 70$ for running quick 5 minutes manual screening and 260$ for radio therapy. For an individual who have recently arrived from Country where health services are free, it turns out into total astonishing scene for me. That point was a time where I picked the habit of carrying a bottle of water every day. I realized how behavior and certain environment affects me to naturally act in that environment. Similarly, Kendra, (2022) says that any person, regardless of their background, can be trained to act manner given the right condition. I gained some insight into the rationale for the custom of carrying a bottle around with you every day in Australia because of the experience. Perhaps because of the warm weather and the emphasis on health and wellbeing in the society, it made hints about the importance of drinking enough water. This observation clarifies in a small way but significant influence of social norms and the cultural behaviors. Additionally, it draws attention to the connections that exist between specific actions and larger cultural settings, encouraging a more thorough examination of the complex dynamics that characterize day-to-day living in a Australia where health is wealth.


Another important and unforgettable challenge I faced as new residents of the western Australia is language barrier. Weakness of conversational English of Asian students which was reinforce by the lack of exposure to the good English speaker at school (Swavir, 2005). To a certain point, I experienced the feelings of bewilderment, irritation, and loneliness.  I was thrust into a language context that is different from home tongue. It stopped me from participating in the lecture and discussion at university. Understanding and communicating are made more difficult by the frequent use of academic jargon, accents, and colloquial language. Not only the class discussion, it has affected my ability to, make friends, and participate in extracurricular activities and also hindered the expressing wanted to collect coffee shop. Moreover, the anxiety increases when one fears that language problems may cause them to be misinterpreted or made fun of. This fear increases emotions of isolation and loneliness, making cultural integration more difficult. In social situations, the worry of not being able to express oneself clearly or convey one's ideas can lead to feelings of vulnerability and self-consciousness. It makes the already difficult work of navigating foreign language environments even more difficult, which makes people reluctant to fully engage in numerous facets of social and academic life. Thus, the emotional toll of overcoming language hurdles in a foreign culture is further compounded by the added weight of possible misinterpretation.

.The educational landscape in Australia presents a unique set of challenges for international students, often contributing to culture shock experiences. For instance, Australian universities prioritize critical thinking and independent study, diverging from the more traditional teaching methods found in some countries (Lethbridge, 2013). Moreover, the emphasis on "self-directed learning" requires students to take control of their academic journey and Assessment methods, including exams and group projects, emphasize critical analysis and effective communication skills.  Additionally, the integration of technology in education introduces further complexities. Being born and studied in traditional Bhutanese society where my class population in Australia is equal to entire population of a university in Bhutan, it is culturally challenging for me speak out my mind. In one of the lecture session, professor was throwing a question to crowd “what do you understand by metaphor”. None of the student has answer for it. Though I had answers in my mind, I could not gather my courage to speak up in front of more than 200 student in the lecture hall. The answer was simple, it was just to say, Metaphor is a figurative language. In Bhutan, students rarely speak unless someone direct particular question to somebody. Which is why, it fears me out to share what I know, or I was conditioned to refuse speaking unless the question is directed to me. And it explains how an attitude and value shapes our habit and confidence.

Similarly, finding familiar ingredients from the home country was difficult for me especially in areas with limited access to ethnic grocery stores. Having brought up eating higher concentration of spicy in almost every diet, adapting to jam and bread on the plate is hard to consider it as a food. Over the time I'm enjoying the process of adjusting to the new situation little by little, overcoming the obstacles with perseverance and fortitude, and eventually finding my groove and growing more comfortable with it. Berry (1992) suggests that instinct of human ability to acculturation and adaptation, migrants can and often do successful move to the new society. And he also argues that level of stress rise in the process of acculturation depends on the degree of the how deeply they must change to adapt to new culture.

In conclusion, there are many opportunities for personal development and adaptability along the way when adjusting to a new culture as an international student. Resilience and tenacity are required during the shift, from the initial shock of financial differences to the linguistic barriers experienced in social and academic environments. People can start to understand the nuances of their new surroundings by accepting the two sides of culture: the material, physical components and the abstract, subjective ones. Moreover, navigating the educational landscape in a foreign nation provides extra levels of complexity, requiring students to recalibrate their learning methods and communication skills. The stark difference between Australia's emphasis on independent study and critical thinking compared to traditional educational conventions highlights the extent of cultural adjustment. In addition, the challenge of locating well-known foods and adjusting to novel eating routines acts as a concrete reminder of the underlying cultural differences that characterize daily existence. The process of acculturation develops resilience and adaptation, which subsequently leads to a deeper understanding and respect of cultural variety, despite the initial difficulties and feelings of confusion. In overall, the trip presents priceless chances for self-discovery and personal growth even though it may be turbulent at times and full of hardships. International students can navigate the challenges of cultural adaptation by being persistent and adopting an open-minded mind.


Berry. (1992). Aculturation and Adaptation in new a society. International Migration, xxx. Retrieved from

cherry, K. (2022, November 07). Very Well Mind. Retrieved from What is bahaviorism?:,that%20our%20actions%20are%20shaped%20by%20environmental%20stimuli.

Lethbridge, K. (2013). Assessing the psychometric properties of Kember and Leung’s Reflection Questionnaire. Assesment and Evalution in Higher Education, 38, 303-325. Retrieved from

Sawir, E. (2005). Language difficulties of international students in Australia: The effect of prior learning experience. International Education Journal, 567-580. Retrieved from!&&p=d64524cbbf03c07aJmltdHM9MTcxMTA2NTYwMCZpZ3VpZD0xOWJiMmQ1MC02ODE1LTY4MTQtMmFkZC0zOTY5Njk1OTY5NmEmaW5zaWQ9NTQ3Ng&ptn=3&ver=2&hsh=3&fclid=19bb2d50-6815-6814-2add-39696959696a&psq=language+difficulties+of+international+student+i

Traindis, H. c. (2002). Subjective culture. Internation association for culture society, 2. Retrieved from





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