I’ve found that to most Americans, Australia is seen as a great holiday destination with strange animals and friendly people. This is a very good reputation to have but unfortunately, it is these topics which make up the bulk of the conversations I happen to have with Americans.
The kangaroo usually comes up first in conversation which I don’t really mind. In fact I enjoy talking about what is unique about Australia; although I am starting to suspect that Americans are not really interested in my version of Australia. They are more interested in simplified caricatures and national symbols, that offer them a more comfortable albeit conventionalised version of Australia. I suppose this is something that I’ve found difficult to understand, because I am aware that I don’t exactly represent the quintessential Australian, but I offer some diversity that could potentially educate Americans about Australia, and relieve some of the simplistic views they might have of us. I think that a country is more than just the image it projects, but sometimes the image is all people care to consider. It is not bothering me so much right now, but it is starting to dawn on me. I do miss my family, but I love being here. I don’t miss my life back home as much, because I definitely think I am having way more fun where I am.
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This is a really insightful post. But try turning it round – maybe these sorts of ‘stereotypical’ views of Australia are a great opportunity for you to say, ‘it’s really interesting to me that you see Australia like that! why do you have that idea, do you think?’ ie turn the question back onto the speaker, not as a confrontation but as a genuine request for information. That might start a dialogue and get people thinking about their own preconceptions. Or it might not. But it’s an excellent starting point for reflection for your own learning. It is also going to teach you an awful lot about how we as Australians are perceived, and why. And of course it is teaching you about aspects of US cultural views and values
Yes, it’s culture shock. You have been officially diagnosed! (trust, me, I’m a doctor…)
February 6, 2011 at 4:12 am
When I moved to the USA as a kid, it was the time of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Americans were seeing images of Australia and its people practically every day! It’s funny how, at the time, some of these images turned their ideas around (even the fact that the Australian Olympic mascots were not kangaroos or koalas – a deliberate move by the Australian organising committee), while others only reinforced previously established stereotypes. It was over ten years ago now, but some of the things you are saying remind me of that time. It’s a difficult thing for someone to reconcile what they know and have always heard, with what’s being presented. They probably need some time [a few months, maybe? ;)] You might start to see a change during your exchange.
I suppose, by meeting you, maybe they’ll consider visiting Australia and getting a different perspective! 🙂 Think of yourself as a catalyst.
February 6, 2011 at 9:58 am
Added, I really like your site! 🙂
February 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm
I agree.. and I’m sure there are people here who are genuinely interested in discussions about other countries!
February 9, 2011 at 2:38 am