Hopped off the plane at LAX…

…with culture shock.


You would think that growing up in America and living here for 20 years that I would have no problem adjusting back. I’ve been in Lax for an hour and am already feeling some weirdness and reverse culture shock back into my known world. This is keeping me busy while waiting for my boarding time. Here are some of the observations:

  • America is a plugged in society. Everyone is tied to their phone. Sitting here in Starbucks, every other person is either talking on their phone or looking at their phone. Even the girl in the bathroom was talking on her phone, in the stall! I’m now able to be plugged in just as much now that i have AT&T and 4G networks on my phone. I suppose it is because lots of people are traveling for work so they need to work from the road (or air). This is different from the mostly backpacking travel that I have been experiencing.
  • It was so uncommon to see American clothing brands while abroad. It was almost easy to spot an American in Australia because we do dress differently. The typical brands of longchamp bag, ugg boots, and clothing styles of boots, cardigans, leggings have now re-entered my lifestyle.
  • I bought lunch here and was so pleased with the prices agin – even though they were high airport prices, they are cheaper than the Australian prices. It was different to use the notes and change of our country again and to have a tax charged to the price.
  • There are definitely two extreme food cultures in the US. In the airport terminal, there is a Burger King and Starbucks where the two cultures are really apparent. There’s the half that eats fast foods because they are cheap and easy but unhealthy. The people then often struggle with obesity and inherent health problems… This is its own issue of America above and beyond my airport observations. The other extreme is a skinny mindset where the people obsess about avoiding the bad foods. This was apparent at the Starbucks line where the woman ordered a salad with no dressing and a coffee with nonfat foam. The people sitting at the tables were talking about cleansing diets and others walking by are talking about their exercise routines.
  • Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I do always appreciate the spirit of the season leading up to the holiday. A lot of that spirit comes from the weather changing and since I’ve gone from summer to spring to summer to tropics, there has been no sense of winter. The airport has Christmas decorations all over, wreaths, ornaments, and trees and music playing. People are wishing eachother a happy holidays.  In Fiji, there were lights and few decorations and I almost forgot it was the holidays.  Even though Hanukkah is in 2 days!
These differences have been the norm in my life. Traveling and experiencing the opposite side of the world has made me apparent of all of these differences that make America, America.  It will be interesting to transition back into this society.

Hostel Living

After having such a nice hotel stay I’ve realized more of the differences between the hostel stays. I assume most people reading and following my blog have never really experienced living in a hostel. A hostel is certainly a budget accommodation with a different standard of living.  They have different room options – shared rooms that are single sex or even coeds of 4 person ranging up to 12 people or private rooms.  They each cost around $20 a night.  They have lots of people living in them looking for work or just traveling.   I wouldn’t say that I have completely enjoyed it, but it has been an experience that I would like to share.

From my stays in a few different hostels I’ve learned that they are each different. The hostel in Sydney was probably the hardest for me due to the lack of sleep. Ann and I booked the private double room at Maze Backpackers.  We figured would keep our safe stuff and offer that security. Unfortunately in exchange, the hostel common area was right outside our door which meant people were outside our room drinking, cooking, or socilaizing until late. Then the people on the street were right outside of our window doing the same thing all night. The matresses were the worst part – you could feel the springs poking through! The combination of the noise and the bed made for a really rough’s night sleep.

What's on at Maze? Lots of goon

What’s on at Maze? Lots of goon

Melbourne’s hostel, Elephant Backpackers, had some differences. The kitchen area was downstairs and it was so busy as a gathering spot. People brought drinks and cards and hung out at the tables passing the time. The room didn’t have walls connecting to the ceiling so you could hear the neighboring room. The beds were at least comfortable and I was able to sleep.

Card Games at Elephants

Card Games at Elephants

I only stayed in a hostel in Surfer’s Paradise and Noosa for a night so I wasn’t integrated enought to share details but they were both decent stays.

After my study abroad program in Auckland, I stayed in XBase in the CBD. This was a comfortable hostel but had some weird aspects. I stayed there for 5 nights in a 4 person shared room. Over the days I had people moving in and out everyday. The weirdest part was that the room didn’t have windows so I would wake up at 10 thinking it was the middle of the night.

Entrance to XBase

Entrance to XBase

With our HWSUC group course, we stayed at the YHA in Wellington and YMCA in Auckland.  These were the nicest and cleanest accommodations we stayed at.  We shared rooms with others in our group and had field trips and lectures during the day so we didn’t interact much with the backpackers or hostel.

The structure between all of the hostels is all very similar.  The hostels are usually convieniently located in the CBD near public transportation.  There’s always a group of people outside smoking.

Within the hostel, there is a main check in area and bag storage area.  There are floors with private doubles or shared rooms of different sizes with bunks.  The kitchen areas have communal utensils and cooking supplies but you keep your food labeled in storage bags with your name, room number, and departure date. The staff must routinely go through and clean out old food and you have to trust that no one else will steal your food. Lots of people eat noodles – like cups of noodles or ramen because they are so cheap.  I’ve seen people eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I’m sure they are sick of them but they are for budgets.  The other amenities are also shared.  The bathrooms are usually one or two per floor.  You definitely want shower flip flops to wear otherwise it’s not like you’re even showing.  Within the hostel there is a Wireless network, usually Global Gossip, which is a pay per time or usage system.  The rates vary from place to place but it’s usually worth going to find the free wifi.

What they all have in common is the backpackers lifestyle. This is a really friendly, open personality that they are always looking to talk to and meet new people.  Most of the people staying are on work visas looking to work and travel in a foreign country. Except what I’ve found is that the ones who haven’t found a job are the ones living in the hostel, while the ones who found work have moved into flats – at least, that’s what I’ve found.

It’s been a good experience staying in a hostel in a city. It’s not a lifestyle I would exactly want to continue with but it was an efficient way to travel on a student budget. It will certainly work being in Fiji where I will just be hanging out on the beach for a few days then taking an island tour.  I’ll be staying at Bamboo Backpackers in Fiji which has been the least expensive of all of them ($8 Fijian about $4 American a night!)


Here are some of the things that I’ve picked up on that are unique to Australian culture:


  • Mate/Sheila: Mate is commonly used with any guy. “whats up mate” “alright mate” it’s very casual and not offensive. I haven’t heard much sheila though
  • Splash and dash – quick bathroom rest stop
  • Togs/swimmers: bathing suite
  • Yeah: Another very casual term that I’ve heard a lot of. I’m thinking it’s instead of saying um or like. It’s often used at the end of a sentence or thought, yeah.
  • Inverted commas: “quotation marks”
  • You’re alright/She’ll be right- When you get in someone’s way and say sorry this is the common response



  • Buz: it’s written on the front of the buses. Itll say ‘city to the gap buz’
  • Reading period: before an exam, students are given 10 minutes to read through without marking the testPokies:
  • A bar will often advertise Pokies. It means that there is gambling there, like poker.
  • Jay walking: it’s really not done much. I’ve heard that there is a $40 fine for doing it. It seems really inconvenient when the crosswalk isn’t where you want, but better than seeming like an outcast.
  • Tipping: You don’t have to tip.  Nowhere on the bill does it say 15% and it’s not rude not to.
  • Club music: The first night out we liked hearing all of the throwbacks from our middle and high school dance parties. Songs like “get low” and “tipsy” were fun to hear after years of not being popular. However, all of the clubs seem to play them every night! They’ll throw in an electronic or dubstep song here or there but it always seems to get thrown back. Here’s my collection.
  • Junk mail:  Lots of mailbox have little plaques on it that say “no junk mail”.  I’m not sure if this really stops those letters from coming but they seem to belevie so.
  • TAB: A betting organization
  • Smoke-o: smoke break
  • Uniforms: The school kids are required to wear a uniform.  The different schools vary.  Our home brother and sister have to wear a maroon colored polo with a long skirt or long shorts.  I think it’s funny when the schools get out at the end of the day and mix on the bus because there has to be some hidden uniform rivalry
  • Sunscreen: You have to wear it here. The ozone layer is thinner here and people are very conscious of sun protection with hats and sunglasses. There are skin testing clinics around to check you out.
  • smoking: it’s heavily taxed. A pack costs $20. In the stores, tobacco is behind the counter in a covered box. Seems to deter the consumer away if they don’t see it. The boxes also have terrible images of cancer. I’ve seen people rolling their own cigarettes which is probably cheaper. You’re not allowed to smoke inside any building but some places have designated smoking areas.
  • Crossing Signals: because people never jaywalk, they always wait for the crossing signal.  along with the light changing color, a ping sound also plays that sounds almost like a whip-bird

Food and Drink:

  • Barbie: Meaning barbecue. This seems to be a popular way of cooking everything. Our home stay has a traditional Sunday brekky where they cook eggs, bacon, hash browns, tomatoes, and mushrooms on the Barbie. “fire up the barbie” “throw some prawns on the barbie”

A jar in our homestay

  • Veggiemite: A spread used on toasts that has a salty tase.  It isn’t as popular as I thought it would be. It is pretty much everywhere, like ketchup. However, not everyone likes it – I think it tastes discussing.
  • Tomato sauce: ketchup (rarely Heinz, sorry Molly)
  • Lollies: Candy. They conveniently have a lolly shop on the UQ campus.
  • Milo: A chocolate powder drink
  • Mueseli – Oat cereal with mixed dry fruits and nuts
  • Clear Skin Wine: popular with our host family, this type of wine is really cheap because it comes from an undisclosed vineyard. The vineyard may be of high quality but produces extra wine that they bottle and sell with a clear skin label.

Have you ever seen such a great deal!?

  • Goon: Boxed wine. It’s cheap and theres about 5 bottles in a bag!  It’s cheap, like $15 for a box and terrible quality.  But when you call it “vino” it’s classy.  Slap the bag
  • poppers: juice boxes
  • Prawns: Shrimp
  • Bottle Shop: Means the liquor store, also called bottle-, i’ve seen drive through ones!
  • Brekky: breakfast. Alot of Australian slang is just the word cut short and a y added.
  • Long Black: One shot of expresso filled with hot water.
  • Tea: This is a snack time – either morning tea or afternoon tea. Tea and coffee is served with biscuits, cookies, or fruit.
  • Beets: Red beets are a popular sandwich condiment
  • Maccas: McDonalds, they don’t have a dollar menu but they do have 30 cent ice cream cones!
  • Hungry Jacks: Burger King
  • Stubby holder: beer can holder, a coozie
  • Anzac buscuits