Sunday, 5 April 2015

Sunday Reads: Reverse Culture Shock

I'm back in Sydney from an extended stay in Hong Kong and I am relieved to be back.

I loved Hong Kong and shed many, many tears leaving that sleepless city. But I truly did miss Sydney. I missed the fresh air, fresh seafood, strong coffees that actually need a stick of sugar...

I missed being able to drive!

I didn't think I'd miss this place that much because I have travelled back and forth between Sydney and Hong Kong quite frequently. It usually doesn't take me long to adapt to either cities but this time it was totally different. Dare I say that I had reverse culture shock when I got back to Sydney?

So strange because I was born and raised here. I mean, this is my first home. Alas, I had a great deal of trouble getting back into the Sydney routine.

Here's a short list of blunders that I encountered.

1. LANGUAGE/ACCENT: Getting used to the Australian accent
For whatever reason, I always lose my accent when I leave Australia. In Hong Kong, the dominant English accents are British, followed by American. So, whenever I'm there, my accent deviates between American and British. The way I pronounce my vowels turns into a bit of a drawn out drawl, whereas my Australian accent is less pretentious snappier.

I didn't get to meet up with a lot of Australians while I was over in Hong Kong and  when I did, we spoke Cantonese with each other. So I went by not hearing the Australian accent for a very, very long time.

But the moment I got to my boarding gate on the way home, the Australian accent was everywhere and it was so incredibly... jarring. It was the oddest sound! I kept going, 'Ahhh do I really sound like that?!'

Since coming back, I've been going through this weird transition period where I get tongue tied speaking in English. It's so incredibly embarrassing because I always get asked whether I can speak English (do I really look that fob?! LOL). I've become really good at Cantonese and even Mandarin, so much so that I started thinking in Chinese! So my brain worked twice as hard, having to form the sentence in my head and then translating it back into verbal English.

2. DRIVING: Car sickness
I never drove in Hong Kong because you honestly don't have to. Public transport over there is so convenient and well organised. CityRail is primitive compared to the MTR. Buses aren't always on time but they're double decker and they go literally everywhere. There's also minibuses that can take you through 1-2 suburbs at the time.

Admittedly, whenever I found myself in a car, it was always for a 10-15 minute ride and at about 10-40km/h. There's way too many people on the road and the traffic is pretty intense in Hong Kong.

So coming back home and having to drive at 70km/h made me a bit queasy. It gave me some weird palpitations - especially when I went over jagged road. Pretty sure this is road sickness?

3. PLASTIC BAGS: 50 cents a piece
There's a plastic bag levy in Hong Kong. About 3 000 or so retail stores including supermarkets don't offer you plastic bags with your purchases. It costs 50 cents to purchase one. From April onwards, with some exceptions, all stores will be banned from giving out plastic bags. You can still purchase one for 50 cents.

When I came back and purchased some groceries from Coles and the girl asked if I needed a bag, I seriously was so taken back that I honestly almost cried in relief.

I promise I don't abuse the use of plastic bags!

4. SPEAKING: the need to slow down
In Hong Kong, things go a million times faster than any other city I've been to. They really take the phrase 'time is money' very, very literally. Hence, everyone is mindful of your time and they expect you to be aware of theirs. People tend to think and act very quickly and the best place to see this all in action is in a Cha Chaan Teng or Hong Kong-style cafe.

(My favourite is the Australian Diary Company in Jordan, Kowloon! They served THE best scrambled eggs, hands down!).

Customers are sat on communal tables and either make an order immediately without looking at the menu or will use a millisecond to scan it before ordering. It was intimidating at first because the staff as always lingering around with notepads waiting for you to place an order and they can never understand why you need that extra second to weigh up your calories options.

Sydney is, of course, much different. It's much slower and I had to consciously slow my speech so that people could understand me. It was actually really annoying because I've always been a quick thinker and talker - Hong Kong exacerbated that. So when I came back and people looked at me like I was way too intense, I kept thinking that I needed to get back on the plane to Hong Kong... because this was insane!

It's gotten better now but I still have a tendency to talk quicker than the most people. AHAH.

5. NIGHTLIFE: there isn't one...
Every night is late night shopping in Hong Kong. You want to go out for a shop at 9PM? Plenty of stores are still open. You want to go for supper at 1AM? There are some places that open well into the morning.

One of the negatives of Sydney is that there's no nightlife. Yes, sure. There's the Friday and Saturday night scenes but I was never really into that. I'm more into the food, culture and shopping side of it. The streets are always bustling with people well into the night in Hong Kong. People are out having dinner, shopping or just hanging out with friends.

In Sydney, you can go out for dinner, a few drinks and then you go home because all the shops are closed and there's nothing else you can do.

There's always a new hotspot in Hong Kong or a new menu to try - it's a tiny city but there's never short of something new and exciting to do.

If you could go anywhere in this world, where would you go?


  1. Hahha! This is great!! I've read a post like this recently and it makes me chuckle! I couldn't imagine having all the malls and shops closed by 7 or 9pm!! That's crazy to me! All regular shops in asia usually close earliest at 9, so it's a shock to me when I've visited australia and most of the shops are closed by 7 or 8 in some areas! I haven't been to hong kong in so long but I would love to visit in the near future! Love the food and the crazy market scenes! If I could go anywhere right now I'd love to go to the maldives and boracay! I'm going to bali later this month so I'm sooo excited! First time going there!

  2. Hi Sharlynn! Thanks for coming by again!

    I know - how crazy is it that everything in Australia shuts so early?! It's really frustrating when you're looking for something to do late in the night!

    Ohhh I would lovveee to do to the Maldives one day! I'd spend my holiday lazing around - I can see it already. Bali sounds fantastic! Hope you have loads of fun over there!

  3. I think I'd feel the same way if I visit Korea again. It has been so long, so Seoul is a completely foreign city except that my beloved parents live there.
    The accent thing is so true (and funny). Although my first language is Korean, I don't think I can go back to pronouncing words in Korean way or just that I don't realize I speak things in a certain way, which many Korean people find pretentious. This is funny because I still have a hint of Korean accent! ;p

    Anyway, welcome back! :)

  4. Thanks Lena!

    Ahah that's hilarious! Great to know that I'm not the only one when it comes to accents!

    Seoul has been on my to visit list for ages already. I'd love to visit some of the historical sites there and of course eat my body weight in seafood ahahah!

  5. first of all... WELCOME BACK! I really enjoyed reading this :) I've been to hongkong for a brief holiday trip and it was so different to sydney! Like you said, the nightlife was amazing and I personally found people to walk really fast too haha. I went out last night and most shops were closed by 7pm and security guards were hounding us out the door, so we went home at 7;30pm and feeling too old to club. I would actually love to live else where for an extended period of time to lose my bogan accent which I came to dislike more and more as I'm not far from those crack addict housos on current affair lol fml.

  6. Thanks Lily!

    I laughed so loud reading your comment - especially the last bit. AHAH. Back in the day, I actually liked watching Current Affairs AHAH so embarrassing *covers face and hides in a corner*.
    The people in Hong Kong do walk really fast! I still walk mega quick now that I'm back - I try to tell myself that this is the most exercise I'll get today so I better 'powerwalk'. But I always end up looking so suspicious... like I'm walking/running away from someone/something? -_- ...