City Life- Culture Shock

August 12, 2018

You mob might not have heard of it before. It’s what you might feel when you go to the big city for the first time. It’s where you feel disorientated, overwhelmed, confused or exhausted by the new expectations, rules and cultural norms in the new place. Schooling away at boarding school, getting drafted to the AFL, attending uni or TAFE blocks in the city, moving to work- life in the city is a lot different than growing up in the bush.

I didn’t properly (except for a long hospital stay in Perth as a teen) leave the Kimberleys until I started work for Clontarf Academy in 2006. It took me a while to learn about how to use public transport, how to use the big multi-lane round-abouts, even just standing in a big public mall with more people than I’d seen in one place in my life. I was an adult and it still took me a while to figure it all out and feel confident in my ability to get myself around and interact with that mob properly.

I moved to New South Wales a few years ago. Even after 10 years working with Clontarf Academy going on interstate camps I still found it hard moving to the city. Not getting to talk our way all day everyday, the different cultural ways that city mob just know but I have to remember, everything is their way. It’s deadly here seeing new things, learning new things, meeting new people, different opportunities. It takes a while to learn to ‘code-switch’. It just takes you a while to adjust.

Some issues you might face living in a city:

  • Some people may appear rude by your culture- ie. eye contact, who you should talk to and how
  • Some people might behave in ways that might be culturally offensive back home but are fine in the city- ie. topless swimming, kissing in public etc.
  • It might be hard to communicate or understand- talking Standard Australian English, the tone and expression to use to be respectful to different types of people.
  • Not understanding which services you can access or not- ie. student services, Aboriginal liason, Club rooms etc.


Stages of culture shock

So I thought I’d write this post to share with you mob so you know that if it happens to you that you know what is happening, what to expect and then how you can work through it. It’s not a reason to give up whatever it is that you are trying to acheive in the city.

So here are my top tips:

  • Before you go learn as much as you can about the city, where you will live, public transport, what you might do for fun, support services etc. If you are going for school or sport or work you might have a contact down there that can help you learn more.
  • Set goals for your time in the city- use these to help keep you focused and grounded when things get a little tough.
  • Figure out the small stuff first and don’t be afraid to ask about it. Figuring out public transport routes and how to use the ticketing system, where the shops are etc will help you feel like you have some control over life in the city.
  • Check if there are any orientation/induction programs or Aboriginal officers near by. If you have moved down for school or for sport your school/club should help you get comfortable. Make sure you go and get contact details for the support staff who are there to help you.
  • Connect with other Indigenous people. Call back home to people who have lived away before, meet the other Indigenous people in your school/club/organisation, connect with other Indigenous people living in the city online.
  • Focus on the good stuff (mindfulness and gratitude)- write down in a journal or diary the exciting and good things so that you can look back on them when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Find new friends- they will help you learn the language and culture of the city. Take up invitations that new people offer you.
  • Find something to do- getting out and doing fun things in the city will keep you distracted and help you learn more about the city.

Staff that support Aboriginal people (teachers, coaches etc) we highly recommend you read the following docuemnts to support your clients:

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