When I talk to people about moving to Australia, the reactions I’ve gotten have gone past the point of predictability. I can almost say the words with the person as they respond. The top three responses I’ve gotten have been:
That’s so cool. Gonna have some shrimp on the barbie, eh?
Kangaroos are so cute, but I heard Koalas sleep a lot.
You’d better go out to the outback! But don’t get bit by a snake. I swear everything there will kill you!
That’s it. That basically sums up an American’s view of Australia (all initial reactions that I had as well). And it’s funny, isn’t it? All these people who have never been to that side of the world giving input and advice on something they’ve never experienced. Even without having been to Australia, everyone feels like they know SOMETHING about it. And we all do…well, kind of. We know what little is presented to us. We know what movies and the media tell us, which, in reality, is only a highlights (or lowlights, if you will) reel of the top ten things that make Australia unique.
So here I am wondering, as an American going to Australia to live, what on EARTH do they think of Americans? Just imagine the top ten things that make America unique, and I bet even you would come up with a few facts that don’t paint us in a very pretty light. There are SO many stereotypes of America and Americans that are just not true of my life. So how on earth can I show up there assuming anything of theirs?
I’m not going there on “holiday.” I’m going there to LIVE. To live somewhere new you have to find a way to become a part of it. I can’t be an outsider looking in for four years. And if my goal is to be a part of that new world, I need to go there with as blank a slate as I can. For every assumption I have about the way Aussies live their lives, I’m sure they’ve got 10 for how I live mine. And chances are we will both be wrong.
So for me it is blank slate time. I’ve read the American ex pat books. I’ve read Bill Bryson’s Sunburned Country, and my boss has told me many stories of how the culture differs. Heck, I even watched the real housewives of Melbourne (purely for cultural research purposes, obviously). I have been completely inundated with expectations of the reality I will soon face, and now it’s time to simply prepare for the unknown.
That statement seems a bit ironic. Prepare for the unknown. Be prepared to face a future you do not know or understand. I guess what I really mean is that it’s time to prepare myself emotionally for something new. I need to drop expectations, comparisons and preconceived ideas and simply be there. Easier said than done, I know, but I’m trying. I think the idea of preparing for the unknown can be applicable to almost anything in life. Your unknown might not be a new country, but the same idea goes for a different state, a new house, a baby, a new exercise routine. You know what your now is, and you can speculate what the new might be like, but you don’t really know until you’re there—until you’re in it. If you go in comparing the new to the old, you’ll quickly discover all the things you miss.
So here’s my challenge to you and to myself. Face your next big change with as blank a slate as you can. Don’t assume, preconceive or plan. Just show up bright-eyed and bushy tailed and see where the change gets you. Oh, and in about 4 months, please remind me to do the same.