As an Australian, I had always felt a deep connection to my homeland, particularly its laid-back spirit, love for nature, and a unique sense of humor. Yet, my career and wanderlust led me on a seven-year sojourn to Europe, where I spent most of my time in London working as a management consultant while pursuing my PhD. I thought I had seen it all until I left the familiarity of Europe for the vibrant chaos of Asia.
After Europe, I did a four-year stint in the United States before I finally put down roots in Singapore. As an Aussie in Asia, I not only found myself immersed in a completely different culture but also discovered a newfound appreciation for my Australian heritage.
Unlike Europe and the US where certain cultural elements resonated with my Australian upbringing, Asia was an entirely different ballgame. The bustling metropolises of Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon and their distinct cultures made me feel like a fish out of water initially. But it was this stark contrast that helped me connect more deeply with my Australian roots.
In the midst of navigating through Asia’s urban jungles, the values that I held dear as an Aussie – strong bonds of friendship or ‘mateship’, egalitarian spirit, love for nature and a penchant for good-natured banter – came to the forefront. In fact, it was these quintessentially Australian traits that became my coping mechanism and helped me carve out a piece of home in these bustling cities.
During my time in Asia, I’ve come to realize that no matter where we are in the world, our cultural DNA remains intact. We might adapt to new environments and adopt new customs, but our core identity stays unchanged. For me, living in Asia not only amplified my Aussie spirit but also challenged the notion that embracing a foreign culture means losing touch with one’s own.
So here’s how I’ve managed to keep my Aussie spirit alive while immersing myself in the vivid tapestry of life in Asia’s most bustling metropolises. I hope my experiences inspire other expats to embrace their cultural roots, no matter where life takes them.
Finding My Aussie Spirit in the Asian Metropolis
Living in Singapore, a city that never sleeps, was a stark contrast to my laid-back hometown of Melbourne. The skyscrapers towered over me, and the constant buzz of the city was both exciting and overwhelming. But within this urban jungle, I found ways to embrace my Aussie spirit.
One of the things I missed most about Australia was the bond of mateship. It’s a unique Aussie concept that revolves around mutual respect, equality, and shared experiences. I found that this didn’t have to be limited to Australia – I began building similar relationships here in Asia. I made friends with locals and fellow expats, and we supported each other through both the challenges and joys of living abroad.
I also held on to my love for nature. Singapore may be highly urbanized, but it is also known as a ‘City in a Garden.’ I took regular walks in the Botanic Gardens, visited the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and even tried out urban farming! These activities helped me stay connected with nature, much like I did back in Australia.
And of course, there was the quintessential Aussie humor. It’s a bit self-deprecating and often involves a lot of banter. At first, my Asian friends were taken aback by it but soon enough, they joined in. We shared laughs and good-natured jibes in our own multicultural melting pot.
Challenging the Belief of Cultural Trade-Offs
Many people believe that when you move to a new country, especially one as culturally different as the Asian countries I’ve lived in, you tend to lose touch with your cultural roots. The idea is that as you adapt to the new culture, you let go of your own. This belief implies a sort of cultural trade-off – to fit into a new place, you have to shed parts of your own identity.
But my experience in Asia has shown me that this belief is not entirely accurate. Yes, living abroad exposes you to new cultures and customs. You do adapt and adjust. But this doesn’t mean you lose your cultural identity; rather, it evolves. My Aussie spirit didn’t diminish while living in Singapore or Bangkok; it became more pronounced.
The cultural differences I encountered in Asia didn’t dilute my Aussie spirit. On the contrary, they made me more aware of it and instilled a deeper appreciation for my roots. I maintained my mateship, connected with nature, and even shared my Aussie sense of humor with my new friends.
I ended up nurturing and keeping alive my Aussie spirit alive while fully embracing the vibrant Asian culture around me.
Keeping Your Cultural Identity Alive
The key to keeping my Aussie spirit alive amidst the hustle and bustle of Asian metropolises was active engagement. It wasn’t about resisting change or refusing to adapt to the local culture. Instead, it was about embracing the new while also cherishing and expressing my Australian identity.
I’d encourage anyone in a similar situation to actively seek out connections with your cultural roots. For me, this meant finding ways to experience nature in an urban environment, building friendships based on mutual respect and shared experiences, and not being afraid to express my Aussie sense of humor.
It’s also important to remember that your cultural identity is not a fixed entity. It evolves and adapts, much like you do when you move to a new place. So, while living in Asia, instead of feeling like I was losing touch with my Aussie roots, I saw it as an opportunity for growth.
The point is this: living abroad doesn’t mean you have to let go of who you are. You can fully experience and embrace a new culture while still keeping your own cultural identity alive. This balance has been key in my journey and could be in yours too.
A Broader Perspective for Your Journey
Living in various Asian metropolises, I’ve come to some important realizations that extend beyond just maintaining my Aussie spirit. It’s about embracing a mindset that fosters personal growth and self-empowerment, no matter what situation you’re in.
Firstly, taking responsibility for my situation, even when it wasn’t my fault, was empowering. I chose to move abroad, and any challenges that came with it were mine to face. This mindset didn’t just help me keep my Aussie spirit alive; it also boosted my resilience to tackle all sorts of life challenges.
Secondly, I learned to think for myself and break free from societal expectations. Sure, there’s a common belief that living abroad dilutes your cultural identity. But I questioned this societal myth and defined my own reality – one in which I could embrace a new culture while staying true to my Aussie roots.
Lastly, this journey taught me the importance of aligning your life with your true nature. For me, this meant holding onto the values that are inherently Aussie – mateship, love for nature, and a sense of humor.