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Life in Australia – what you don’t realise until you get here

My brush with culture shock—Australia edition

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Ivy Casquejo
Ivy Casquejo

By Ivy Casquejo

While everyone was about to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I was leaving my loved ones for an adventure and opportunity of a lifetime. With only guts and a dream, I packed my life in a 30kg luggage heading to a place unfamiliar and knowing no one. At exactly 1.05 pm, 14 February 2018, I landed in the state known as a garden city in a country popularly known as the Land Down Under – Australia.

I was amazed yet overwhelmed. Rules are different. Culture is surprising. Here are a few examples:


For someone from an Asian country, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is not common. It is setting clocks one hour ahead of standard time to make use of more sunlight in the spring, summer, and fall evenings. DST starts at 2am on the first Sunday of October, and ends on the first Sunday of April. I remember staying late just to witness this phenomenon where my phone clock automatically jumped an hour. Be reminded to adjust your watches.


In Melbourne, it is typical to experience four seasons in a day. It may be cold in the morning, muggy during midday, and raining in the evening. As such, always check your weather app. It’s pretty accurate!

Trading hours

You might want to reconsider your routine if you’re used to all-night shopping – but it’s like living the dream if you love doing grocery runs. During my initial weeks, I was surprised to know that most shopping centres close at 5pm. Nonetheless, groceries are open until midnight. I may hurry in buying clothes but not food.


It’s an exercise in self-sufficiency because self-service is a thing in Australia. I scan and pack my own groceries. I pump my own petrol and inflate my car tires. I plan my own route. But there are apps for that, so research is my friend.


When they say “bring a plate”, don’t take it literally. It means to bring something you can share. But it’s not only with food. Australia also promotes BYO bags for shopping, BYO water bottles, coffee cups and alcoholic drinks.

bring a plate, BYO

Drinking directly from the tap

Flying makes me thirsty. So, it was indeed a culture shock when I arrived and asked my landlady for water, she got it straight from the faucet. I was at first skeptical drinking it. However, I found out that Australia has one of the cleanest tap water in the world.

Learn the slang

Speaking English is enough, but learning the slang is a must. Being taught and used to American English, Australian English has glaring differences: they love to shorten the words. Aside from potato-tomato pronunciation, some basic Australian slang one must know: Maccas (McDonald’s), Arvo (afternoon), avo (avocado), snag (sausage), servo (petrol/gas station), brekkie (breakfast), jumper (sweater), lift (elevator), rubbish (garbage), barbie (barbecue), lollies (sweets), mozzie (mosquito), zed (z). Don’t be shy to clarify terms you don’t know. After all, Australia is a friendly country.

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Hierarchy in the workplace is not displayed

Time to ditch the “sir” and “ma’am” salutations. Be comfortable to call your colleagues by their first name, whether they are the owner of the company or your direct supervisors. 

Casual conversations are normal

“Don’t talk to strangers” is a phrase not applicable to most Australians. I’ve travelled in different countries but it is only here where I found two people engrossed in conversation only to find out that they don’t know each other – just two strangers in the same place at the same time. So next time someone starts a conversation, they’re not recruiting you – they just want to talk to you.

Accreditation is a must

It is not enough that I have the knowledge to do the job, I must have something to show for it. Most employers require certificates – they’re your qualifications. The basic ones are Working with Children Check, Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA), First Aid Certificate. Go and get your certification. 


Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are heaps of support available, for whatever ails you. A lot of communities extend their help and organisations created for specific types of need. Some of them are Study Melbourne, Filipino-Australian Student Council of Victoria (FASTCO), Titas and Titos of FASTCO, Gawad Kalinga, Beyond Blue, Lifeline and many more. On top of that, these services are free.

(Ivy Casquejo is an Australian Solicitor with TBA Law and a Philippine lawyer with Acosta Casquejo and Associates Law Office. Outside her legal career, she’s a foodie, photographer, artist and a Sunday school teacher-assistant.) 


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