Australia – we are shocked!

October 19, 2013 in Australia, On the road

AustraliaAfter more than one year in Asia, it was a really strange feeling to be back in a country with a relatively familiar western culture. We were definitely not prepared for the shock that the contrast caused…  everything was different from what we were used from Asia: prices, culture, people, flora, fauna, weather, food, shopping…  After we had arrived by plane in Darwin, in the far north of Australia, all these new impressions assailed us from everywhere. We had not realized that we had adapted to Asia to such an extent. And another shock was waiting for us when we learned that our motorcycles would not arrive so soon….

Customs and immigration were fast and efficient. We left the airport, and boarded the shuttle bus to the backpacker hostel where we intended to spend the few days until our motorcycles would arrive. On the bus, we were hit by the first major shock: the price shock! 27 AUS $ (approx. 19 EUR) for a ten-minute drive for two people? – Ouch! In the hostel we decided to take a double room (we were not keen to share a dorm with 20-years old drunken backpackers…), a little luxury, but with shared toilet and showers: 95 AUS $. Even the ice cold can of beer for 3 AUS $ (approx. 2 EUR) didn’t taste very good after this….

Something that we really enjoyed was the peacefulness and quietness that we noticed immediately – quasi a positive lack-of- noise shock. Only little traffic on the wide roads, the cars all relatively quiet, no scooters with extra-loud exhausts, no “the-louder-the-better” music from every mobile phone speaker, and so few people at all that could make any noise –a real relief after the always present hubbub in Asia.

And then the supermarket shock next: after our time in Asia, we were now used to buy and eat whatever was available that day. We really liked the Asian cuisine. However, after a while we had started to miss certain things and familiar food from home, but mainly cheese, bread, and wine. Now we were standing there in the supermarket in Australia, in front of endless shelves full of all the food we wanted (or not…), and more varieties of everything than we could bear: about 40 different cheese types, about the same number of different marmalades and jams, one aisle only for cornflakes and mueslis, and another one for sweets, about 20 different sorts of milk, and – help! – which of the about 30 varieties of coffee is the one that we like? The apples were all polished and neatly piled up; bananas, peppers, salad – all selected and sorted, and individually wrapped in cellophane foil. It was all a bit too much for us….

But we soon recovered from this shock, and we really enjoyed it to be able to cook some of our favourite dishes from home in the kitchen at the hostel. But only after we had overcome the price shock, which had struck us hard again at the supermarket….

We also experienced a little traffic shock. In Asia there are basically not many rules – you just have to watch out…. one-way streets in the wrong direction? – no problem. A shortcut via the footway? – nobody cares. U-turn in the middle of the road? – sure!  In Australia we had to think different, and we had to learn to respect signs and rules again. You can’t simply turn around or park whenever and wherever you like – and some of the fines (we heard) are quite painful…

There are many more things we could mention that caused a major culture shock when we returned to the “first world” after such a long absence. Things that seemed completely normal to us before, but which don’t exist in Asia: e.g. children’s push chairs – or plastic bags that you have to pay for in the supermarket – warning signs for everything – self-service petrol stations – water that you can drink directly from the tap – no unfathomable holes in the footways – no burning rubbish in front of the doors – traffic lights that are actually respected. And that’s just a short selection….

And then the worst shock: we were informed that our motorcycles would arrive about 20 days later than planned. The shipping company Toll had simply changed the schedule again. Already in Timor Leste they had driven us crazy with their constant changes of the departure date – and now we were almost ready to run amok; because the further delay did not only mean that we had to change our plans for travelling again, but also that we were stuck in the completely overpriced city of Darwin for another two weeks. Every day, we watched the money drain further from our travel funds, whilst at the same time our frustration grew bigger.

After only one day, we had seen enough of Darwin. We wanted to get out. In order to become not too desperate, and also because we had family from Germany visiting us, we rented a campervan for about the same amount of money that the hostel cost us per night. At least we could travel around now, and see a little bit of the area.


And one more shock, we really want to mention: the absence-of-Wi-Fi shock.  In most Asian countries, Wi-Fi is really easy to find. Even some of the cheapest guest houses and many restaurants have free internet access. But now in Australia, wifi networks were scarce or the access unbelievably expensive. Luckily, we soon found the free Wi-Fi at the mall in Darwin. And now we are online with our SIM card and USB stick – but only if we have network coverage, which is also scarce once you leave the bigger cities.

These were our first shocks and impressions after our return into the first world. How we finally got our motorcycles back, and about our first kilometres through the Australian outback, you can read in our next blog post….