Despite being a modern Western country like the U.S., you can still get culture shock while abroad in Australia.
Sure, we tend to have similar laws that have similar agendas on how society should work and we all speak the same language (to a certain degree [Canberra is pronounced ‘Can-bra’, Melbourne is pronounced ‘Mel-burn’ or ‘bin’, depending on location]).
But it is still a different environment to get immersed in. The food is different, the media and the entertainment is different, and the people are different.
One thing I was surprised was that Australia takes cultural cues from BOTH the U.K. and the United States (with a bit of an Aussie twist). While I fully expected to follow a few U.K. rules, I wasn’t expecting Aussie politics and popular culture to follow closely to the States.
Australia is still a part of the British Commonwealth, which means Queen Elizabeth II is still technically the sovereign ruler of Australia. However, since the British Empire isn’t what it used to be a hundred years ago, one could easily forget that the government is a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic.
Australia’s government is based partly on the U.K.’s parliamentary government, with a Prime Minister and Governor-General, but also has elements of the United States system of three branches of government, a Federal Government, a House of Representative, and a Senate.
Australia is one of the few countries in the world to have compulsory voting, meaning that you could be fined if you don’t vote. While this prevents voter discrimination, because it is the law to vote, people are still…people. Empty ballots, joke ballots, and protest votes are commonly marked off by some Australians.
Since Australia Amazon.com only sells books and games (although that might change soon), mall culture is still alive and well over here (much like the U.S. in the 1980’s and ’90’s).
While there is still online shopping done, sometimes the cost of shipping an item to Australia from another country (mainly the U.S.) can be too expensive, and that it is actually cheaper to just buy it in a normal brick and mortal store.
Mall culture isn’t just for the cities, even in small suburban towns there could be a GIANT mall, with lots of people roaming around it’s corridors. This one isn’t so much a cultural shock, but more of a cultural ‘wow’, because of how big the malls are compared to what I am used to back home (unless you rely heavily on online shopping, which is different than the U.S. due to postal service times).
Do be wary that malls and most shops tend to close at five instead of ten or eleven at night, as you might be used too back in the States. Only on Thursdays is it considered a big shopping day and malls are opened until nine with lots of sales.
Unlike the United States that censors more adult themes, Australia puts more censorship on violence, rather than on vulgar language or adult themes. This tends to only be the case when it’s possible children could see violence.
This means, American or British cartoons and video games that are targeted to children and youth’s are sometimes heavily censored. Video games can be banned outright from entering the country and what could be considered kid’s show–such as Adventure Time, Peppa Pig, Regular Show, and campy Disney show’s–can be censored for its ‘violence’ or general message about violence.
For example, I was watching a fairly tamed PG show (in the U.S. it would be PG-13) called Once Upon A Time and an entire scene was cut from the Australian programming because somebody gets stabbed in it (with very little blood).
Censoring violence isn’t normally a problem for me, but it was an entire scene that was critical to the plot, and a lot of Aussie viewers–including myself–were confuse when in the next scene somebody looks really guilty about something. Now, it wouldn’t have been cut if it was rated ‘M’, but because it was ‘PG’, the scene got cut from airing.
Mature programs can still be found on TV without being censored as much. The shows would be marked ‘Mature’ or ‘Mature 15+’ with a voice cautioning parents the rating system, and a show like Game of Thrones will be aired in it’s entirety (you can find HBO programs and other premium programs sometimes on regular cable here, because of licensing laws and a way to prevent pirating.)
That being said, there are certain entertainment websites that are blocked by Australia, only because they do not have the licensing and copyright agreement to air American or British content through the Internet.
And thus, your programs and parody news on TV instead of the Internet. So be wary of how to catch your favorite shows while abroad (or watch new Australian programming!).