I’m no Aussie do-gooder

29 Apr

Australia is just full of do-gooders, and I never realised until I moved back from Vietnam.

There are rules for driving etiquette here, eating a meal properly, drinking, standing on an escalator, walking down the street, and every single person complies with these rules and leers at me when I step out of line. I’m constantly scolded for walking across intersections while pedestrian lights remain red – an action that became not only habit but an absolutely essential skill to get around in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a hard one to crack now and I just refuse to wait when there are no cars in sight.

Worst of all, though, I’m not allowed to drink alcohol on the street! I’m not even able to have a drink with dinner on a weeknight without being labelled an alcoholic while, in Vietnam, I could get away with three or four beers per night without judgement. I could drink cheap beer at home, take one for the road and then carry the same opened can into the club with me, while sporting thongs and a slur that would surely get me refused service at a bar in Australia. It was awesome.

It’s the unspoken social rules I’ve discovered in Australia which have surprised me though. I’ve spent the past month greeting old friends and family with enthusiastic kisses on the cheek which have been returned with scrunched up noses, hugs with about half a metre of distance between us, and a tap on the back with the strength and passion of a ragdoll. It seems my European expatriate friends in Vietnam got me in the habit of lining up double-barrelled smooches that are way too close for comfort for my Aussie mates. Apparently a hand shake is acceptable and a hug if I really must.

I’ve been back for a month now and, still, I sometimes feel like a culture-shocked immigrant who’s fresh off the boat. Imagine the troubles refugees have settling in.

By Marissa Toohey

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