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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

by Amy Baker, Associate Director

Recently visiting Australia on my honeymoon, I had the opportunity to experience a wonderfully, different culture. I was born and raised in Canada and until I moved to the U.S in 1996 for good, I was under the impression that the U.S and Canada were basically “one” culture group. Both countries when compared to other countries were PWC (my own made-up term, lol) Predominantly White Countries. I would have explained Canada compared to China as very different culturally based on language and skin color and physical differences, while clearly the U.S and Canada must be similar in culture.  I quickly learned that although the cultural differences were only slight between Canada and some regions within the U.S, such as the Midwest or Northwest, other areas had drastic cultural differences such as the South or Northeast regions. PWCs are often grouped together culturally due to language and skin color, thought to be of the same “white/English Speaking” mindset, translated into “one” culture group. Most of us stereotype people and cultures on a macro level, making assumptions about the whole country or people group from our own limited personal experience.

Going to Australia my eyes were open to yet even more distinguishable differences between the predominantly white countries.  Arriving in Brisbane immediately I was struck with the diverse populations, very similar to the “melting pot” of America. Strolling through the streets of the city, accents accentuated different forms of communication, for example billboards would be advertising “breakfast” shortened to “breaky”. Similar short versions of words seemed commonplace, unique to Australian culture.  People seemed to be very blunt with a great sense of humor, not accustomed to putting on any fronts. From many conversations, I gathered that many Australians’ perceive Americans and American culture as “fake”, portraying happiness while disguising the reality of what is happening. 

Moving from Brisbane to Adelaide I was struck with how different regions of Australia were culturally. While being very similar, one thing that stood out was the “melting pot” effect became even more pronounced. I came to understand why when I met an Indian family that told me that it had taken a mere six months for their work visas to allow the family to make Australia their new home. Sitting on the beach on Christmas day in Adelaide, I was surrounded by European, Indian, Russian, and Japanese literally all within fifty feet of me. An Australian mother with her two year old son came up to me to ask if I wouldn’t mind sharing my sunscreen, she had forgot to bring hers along. This incident confirmed to me  the idea that Australians are indeed “real”, much more so than the so called “fake” Americans who would have burned to a crisp before admitting coming to the beach without sunscreen. 

Australia indeed helped me see the richness of culture even within countries that are predominantly white. From social and etiquette differences to political and religious differences, make no mistake that each country has rich culture unlike any other.

Amy Baker is from British Columbia, Canada and began her career with Liberty University in June 2008 as an Associate Director her in the Center for Multicultural Enrichment. She is a 2001 alumna of Liberty where she received a Bachelor of Science in Child Psychology and received hers Master of Education in Educational Leadership in 2003 from Northern Arizona University (NAU). She recently married Jason Baker December 10, 2010.

Posted at 2:44 PM | Comments (0)