Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cultural Differences In The West

After coming back from Europe, I am very interested in knowing more about the differences between people from various countries in the West. So I interviewed three Australian born Aussies and seeked to discover what it is that makes an Aussie an Aussie, and how they saw the differences between themselves and people from other countries.

. What is distinctly Australian?

Individualism, materialism, appreciation of the nature (outdoor), sense of freedom, home ownership dream, beach holidays, relaxed and low pressure lifestyle on career and money , the Australian 'fascination with sport' (a unique capacity to identify with our nation's sportspeople, especially in international competition), “Larrikinism” (identify with public figures whose love of fun leads them into somewhat morally questionable situations). · How do Australians differ from Americans on the one hand and Brits on the other hand?

Compared to both Americans and Brits, Australians place significantly less emphasis on formality, manners, and social status. The social class system in Britain has no real parallel here. The American fascination with political correctness doesn't reach quite the same levels in Australia. Australians generally imagine that most Brits would love to give up their stuffy existence in the rain and come down here to the Sun and relaxation. Australians are generally simpler, more real, vaguely uncivilised, and more open and friendly compared to Americans and Brits. Americans tend to put on a big show and are more pretentious. Brits are more patriotic and devoted to their country, which stems from the royalty. They have more appreciation to their heritage. Aussies are fair dinkum down to earth, and willing to give anything a go, but are lazier. Americans are hard working, career driven while Brits are less hard working than Americans. The majority of the original Australian settlers were predominantly directly English related. The biggest difference probably comes from the age of our nations, size of our populations, and relative power we are able to exert on the world stage.

· Are there differences between Aussies and Kiwis?
Kiwis are more community and agricultural based and there are big differences in language, speech and accent. Australians also see Kiwis as being a bit more rural and backward. We joke about their fascination with sheep. Kiwis seem to think that they are far more laid back and friendly.

· How would you define an Aussie?

The old-fashioned definition of an Aussie is: "Caucasian person who spends a lot of time in the Sun and says g'day". Now an Aussie is someone who calls Australia their home, someone who experiences political freedom and the right to give opinions. An Aussie now can come from many cultural backgrounds and enjoys the Aussie climate and culture that goes with it.

· What cultural traits or other aspects of culture identify and define an Aussie?

Some typical Australian cultural traits include shaking hands, using Aussie slangs (shortening words), loving nature and strong front (you don’t tell me what to do). However Aussies in the city are very different from Aussies in the country. Because Australia is really a collection of many cultures, it is hard to single out any one trait by which an 'Aussie' can be identified. In terms of food we could try meat pies, fish and chips on Friday night, BBQs in the summer with flies everywhere. For fun, we could say sport and the beach. Competitiveness and 'taking it easy and no worries” are big ones too, though they seem to contradict each other. These days cosmopolitan living might be a unifying trait. Maybe having no real definition of culture and being open to try anything anyone from another culture suggests is also a trait of Australians.

· What changes are taking place in the conception of what it means to bean Aussie from 10 / 20 years ago?

I think Australia is still growing up. In the last 10 / 20 years we have learnt that we can do more than play on the beach. We have continued to develop an interest as a nation in scientific and medical endeavours. Certainly multi-culturalism is something that continues to have an impact. Fifty years ago, the white-Australia policy meant that an Aussie had to come from Europe. Now Asian and American influences are a big part of Aussie culture. A trip to any state capital will make it abundantly clear that an Aussie can be all sorts of people / things. There is now more multicultural tolerance and rapid population growth and less monarchy propaganda and less patriotism to the commonwealth.

· How will your understanding of an Aussie effect your ministry?

Based on the understanding that an Aussie can mean anyone who lives in Australia (including those from the city or country, those who were born here or immigrants from various countries), I will only use these generalisations as a starting point and try not to stereotype too much when serving in my ministry. I will befriend with anyone and accept each person as important and unique because we are all created in the image of God.

So what do you reckon? Do you agree with the above points?


Sivin Kit said...

fascinating exercise ...

fernando said...

interesting, i'd encourage you keep working on this.

btw, who do you think is the most legalistic?

also, on a personal level, I have found brits far friendlier than aussies (grew up in australia lived for nearly 5 years in london).

Kitty Cheng said...

yeah perhaps we could do one on the Asian cultures too Sivin.

Kitty Cheng said...

fernando, it's hard to say who is the most legalistic, i suppose there are legalistic people in each country. what do you think?

Kel said...

Great post Kitty, you're turning into quite the journalist.

Dare I say it - aussie aussie aussie, oi oi oi

Kitty Cheng said...

thanks Kel for your encouragement!

YAY!! oi oi oi !!! :-)

Paul said...

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi. Where does the oi oi oi come from who knows and being Aussie, I am too lazy to find out.
Well you have some of slang right but at the same time the Aussie slang is a complex system as well. As you can use rhyming slang like sausage roll for a goal in AFL or a meat pie for a try in Rubgy. And you can have normal words that mean something completey different here in Australia, like the words bastard, it can be a term of endearment thru to abusive.
As of the last 10-15 years unfortantly we have lost alot of our culture (not that we had much to begin with) to the Yanks. We seem to follow them in everything they do.
But in saying that, I would not want to live any where else than here. As this country is one of the few countries never to have a civil war (albeit we are to lazy to fight against each other), and where else can we say that we are one of the most oldest and stablesy democries in the Western World.
But in saying that, I think we have a lot going for us, (Sorry Kiwis), and again I will say, Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi.

Trav said...

I like what you said about "strong front (you don’t tell me what to do)." I reckon there's a lot of rebel in Aussie's to stand up for what they believe in ... maybe similar to the rebel in Jesus when he stands up to the Pharisees and tells them where to go.

I think it's a shame Churches in australia are for goody two shoes people...i don't think churches indentfy with the rebelish nature of Jesus