Fresh off a red eye flight (thanks Skoot), we arrived to Australia tired. As we made our way to customs, we were ready to interact with another new culture. The funny thing was that there wasn’t much waiting for us at customs. No searches, no sniffing dogs. We walked right through to the currency exchange booth which turned out to be a joke. They gave us offers that were way off of what they should have given us. After a lot of us rejected the place, we found our van driver, and we found Adina Apartment Hotels. We were exhausted, but we knew not to go to sleep too early.
I was really looking forward to being immersed in a huge Australian city. The first person to talk to me after getting off the plane put me in that immersion. The accent jumped out at me. I enjoyed listening to it more than I thought I would. The next cultural difference I saw was the cars. Manufacturers that I didn’t recognize were all over the place. Continuing with roadway differences, the crosswalks made a strange noise when they allowed people to cross. However, the biggest difference I found was the dialogue. Phrases like rubbish, lift, stacks, mate, take away, come through, and cheers were some of the things I heard repeatedly.
On Monday we headed to ANZ stadium for a tour. Another huge difference was seen here. Australians love rugby, not football as we know it. In fact, their favorite sports are AFL, rugby, and cricket. The stadium has at least 4 home teams which is the most in the world for a stadium. Because of this wide use, it has turned a profit for the city of Sydney which built the stadium for the 2000 Olympic Games. No city since then has profited from the Olympics.
Upon leaving the stadium, we were split into teams of three to compete in a scavenger hunt. My group got to find many places such as the Powerhouse museum, the Queen Victoria Building, the Botanical Gardens, and Cheers. We had a great time exploring Sydney. It’s even easier to navigate than Bangkok. The last place we ended was the Opera House at The Rocks (Circular Quay). It was surreal to see. I never knew that the roof was made of one million tiles. The Harbour Bridge was also spectacular.
Tuesday we got to visit IBM and DiBella Coffee. Both of these places struck me as being innovative in how they were designed. IBM had circular hallways and post-it notes everywhere. DiBella had a centered walkway with ordering locations on each side and a seating area that overlooked the kitchen. The speaker at IBM had some great ideas. He talked a lot about disruption by striving to be a wave maker, not a wave taker. He also mentioned how he pushes for diversity. My biggest takeaway was that he wants his employees to feel like IBM is their company; he wants them to feel like they own the business.
Wednesday we visited the American Chamber of Commerce and Sydney Trains. We got to see the control room where all of Sydney’s trains and light rails are monitored. It reminded me of mission control for the space shuttle. While that was cool to see, the experience I had at the Chamber was far more memorable. The speaker was perfect. The only thing he focused on was making us more knowledgeable/accepting of Australian culture. I learned that Australians can’t be fired from their jobs at will, Australians have a difficult time finding investors for new businesses, Australians are required to show up at voting polls, and Australians show contempt towards people who show off immense wealth. Even better, he touched on problematic culture. He talked about how cutthroat the United States is. His main point was that companies need to be collaborative instead of competitive. It starts with the executives; they need to show compassion to their employees and consumers. Meeting with him helped clarify the differences I saw between Australian and American cultures. Now I understand why people love living here. It’s the culture. I really feel like Australia is a country I would consider gaining citizenship in.