Coping with reverse culture shock in Australia


I was always a little skeptical of reverse culture shock. I experienced slight culture shock when I arrived in Sri Lanka, a crazy country for my first visit to Asia but I never thought that I would experience culture shock when going to a Western country like Australia!

Why was I feeling like this?

I was excited to arrive in Australia, Asia had been my home for over 7 months but the constant bartering and language barriers can make travelling there tiring. I was looking forward to travelling in a country with set prices where everyone spoke English!

As soon as the plane landed and I traipsed through security it hit me that I was not in Asia anymore. The extreme price of things first shocked me. It cost $20 to get from the airport to the city centre. That would have bought a bus ticket to a place miles away in Asia.

I was certainly not in Asia anymore!

As I looked out of the bus window the landscape of buildings and shops looked so familiar that I half expected to see sights and people from home.

I was really confused.

I felt like I was back home but everything was different. I told myself to get a grip and checked in to the hostel. As I chose my bed in the darkness and tried to find my wash bag in the dark I unexpectedly collapsed in a heap and started to cry.

Being in such familiar surroundings made me extremely homesick.

I longed to be back home and questioned my reasons for coming to Australia. It seemed so similar to the UK that in the back of my mind I wondered why I had bothered to come to the other side of the world to a place that reminded me of home.

I felt so alone.

The next morning I decided to explore the city and try to see the city in a more positive light! I hadn’t even left the hostel and already I was harboring negative thoughts about the city. I had to give it a chance.





At first I felt quite disorientated, It was such a peculiar feeling. Little things that you don’t even think about perplexed me. Waiting to cross the road was a new phenomenon and I started to feel impatient. All around me were people dressed normally and I started to feel scruffy in my travel clothes.

I headed in to a pub for lunch and was startled to hear words in English. I had got used to the sing song hum of a foreign language in the background and hearing all of these English speaking voices was sensory overload.

Despite enjoying my first few days in Brisbane I spent most days fighting back tears. I felt like booking a ticket back to Thailand, a place where I knew and understood. Ā I felt guilty for not appreciating this beautiful city. I was used to the lack of rules and order and sensible Australia was certainly a culture shock. I got asked ID in a pub and the tears streamed down my face as I walked away. I had not been asked for ID in over 7 months. In Asia it’s normal to see children riding motorbikes to school so they certainly don’t bother asking for ID. I felt confused and ashamed at how I was thinking and reacting.

Luckily I got used to Australia after about a week when I went to Noosa. The small town suited me better and I started to appreciate the uniqueness of Australia and the laid back lifestyle.


Have you ever experienced culture shock or reverse culture shock? If so was it expected or unexpected like mine?


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Iā€™m a twenty something podiatrist with new found wanderlust. Follow me as I prepare for my trip of a lifetime to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and wherever else the world takes me.

11 thoughts on “Coping with reverse culture shock in Australia”

  1. Steph- this is your best writing yet! Keep telling these little stories about your travel exp. Those nuances are the real stories nobody shares. Go deeper.

    The year we visited Argentina and Chile I decided to read Isabel Allende’s “Ines of my Soul” while I was in Argentina. Argentina felt very comforting to me- it was like being in the heart of Paris, eating fabulous Italian food with the comforting meats of the western USA cowboys at hand, a library in every corner and people that look like like us & spoke Spanish very easily, language of my native tongue. everything in Argentina felt so familiar. But having read this book as I crossed over the Andies into Chile I started to feel as though another world was ahead. I felt miles away from everything in my brain. To me it was 1492, before the whole world changed – all I could see was conquest, culture wars, indigenous populations trying to fit into the new world. It was perplexing, sad, and I could not explain my deep feelings of guilt on the matter. the social consciousness of history and modern travel converged. I’ve never traveled the same again.

    Miss you and keep digging….

    1. Thank you so much Giselle. I love writing articles about the reality of travelling, I just need to remember to balance them with stories about how amazing travel is too!

      That’s very interesting about how that book changed your perspective on travel. Australia should feel comforting to me but it just feels so different to my beloved Asia and almost TOO familiar. I do love it though, it’s just a completely different way of travelling!
      I find myself reading a lot of travel literature whilst on the road too. Many of the books that I read seem to be about epic treks, the PCT, the Camino and crossing the Sahara desert. I have a feeling that my next adventure will be an extreme hike somewhere…

      Miss you too xxx

  2. I can’t even imagine how much of a shock it must be to arrive in Australia after travelling through places like Sri Lanka and Thailand.
    I hope you’re enjoying Australia now šŸ™‚

    1. It was a shock! It really surprised me how extreme my reaction was. I’m loving it now though, I’m in Byron bay. I saw humpback whales playing in the ocean yesterday so I know that Australia is a special place šŸ™‚

  3. I have never given culture shock a second thought, although I can see how the change you describe might cause an extreme reaction. Australia, for us, was our fourth stop on our around the world trip, after Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand. Not much of a change that early on in the trip.

    Possibly the most extreme shock we experienced was the leg from Delhi to Rome. Even then, however, we emerged into a country where we spoke none of the language so it was still foreign to us. By the time we arrived in the English-speaking countries of Ireland and England, we were more travel fatigued than culture-shocked. After four months at a somewhat breakneck pace, visiting seventeen countries in that time frame, we were ready for home.

    Amazingly, though, a few years at home has again brought out the desire for travel. We’ll be practicing slow travel in the future, so travel fatigue won’t be a problem like that last trip.

    1. Seventeen countries in four months is crazy, I’m travelling to ten countries over ten months and even then I sometimes feel like I’m missing out on things. I bet it was an amazing experience though!

      I’m well and truly cured of culture shock now, I’m just shocked at how cold it is in Southern Australia! I had a fantasy that it was always sunny and warm in Australia!

      What did you think of India? It always fascinates me but I’m always wary of travelling there as a solo female.

      I wish you the best of luck for your relaxing, slower travel in the future!

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