By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
It is time for the concluding entry of this blog, as reading week has arrived and it is time to assess how a reverse culture shock might have manifested itself, as well as how re-integrating into Manchester has evolved.
As winter is approaching, with every leaf that hits the ground I realise more and more that missing out on winter in Australia has had quite an impact on me. Probably, of all adjustments to Manchester, weather and the tempo changes have been the most pronounced.
In Australia, most of the activities occurred outdoors; in fact, the distinction outside/inside did not really dominate thinking that much. After all, I still managed to go camping and swim in the ocean in the middle of the winter in Noosa. Now this summer I found myself starting to plan a camping trip a couple of weeks into December in the Lake District. It was only after a bleak realisation that it does actually get quite cold that I put the idea to rest along with habits of hanging out on the grass, or barbecues in the park. In that sense, if there is a reverse culture shock, then climate and weather are at the core of it.
I noticed that I pay more attention to the sky and nature now than I did earlier, and really enjoy the blue skies over Manchester when the clouds clear out. I have found the cold, harsh winds and cloudy days to inherently create an atmosphere where reality is viewed as more bleak and rough, whereas the reflections of the sun in the Brisbane River and colourful birdlife made for a more idealistic, optimistic environment. It definitely constitutes a change in lifestyle. I doubt that anyone would expect the Aquatics Centre to have a permanent outdoors pool here.
Also, in terms of wildlife, the diversity of subtropical Brisbane and the antennaed, shelled, auburn cohabitants have given way to squirrels hoarding their goods, ravens, and the default city-creatures, doves.
These disparities manifest themselves in conversations with friends in Australia who tell of a kaleidoscopic spring dominated by purple-blue Jacaranda trees blooming, 40 degrees outside and sunshine in full effect.
The speed of life has similarly undergone a subtle change. Obviously, I am in my final year and have quite a few extracurricular obligations, yet I have noticed the Manchester environment, the city-space, contribute to a perception of it being further accelerated. The way I see it, the wide roads, large space, infinite blue sky, the distance of the campus from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the large green areas in the city and on the UQ campus all help approach life from a calmer viewpoint. However, the noisy, crowded Oxford Road corridor at the heart of the University in Manchester creates a restless urban background-scenery, a relentless space of busyness. Seated among the trees of Whitworth Park, one still can hear the buses spit out smoke with every take-off. At lunchtime at UQ, unsurprisingly, most people gathered at an amphitheatre shaped park to the sound of the water fountain and songbirds.
In terms of interactions with people, I feel that rather than undergoing a cultural shock, drops have been added to the culturally fluid state that makes up my identity, with roots and branches in a wide variety of spaces and connecting to a variety of persons. That also means that, whereas I definitely feel a changed person, the transition to Manchester has been seamless. Arguably, I even appreciate the opportunities that Manchester offers more now. In particular, I am referring to enhanced dedication to the basketball team, starting a society – Struggle for Recognition: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and working with refugees.
Thus, with only one year to stay in Manchester, I would not speak of a reverse culture shock, but of a cultural spark; especially in terms of me seeking out new experiences and trips in the Northwest as a consequence of the perceived freedom of movement in Australia, as well as in terms of transposing the energy, invigoration and motivation of Australia to a demanding year in Manchester.
I carry a part of Brisbane, Australia in me, like I do parts of Manchester, UK, wherever I go. All in all, life in Australia has further galvanised a spirit of exploration expressed in freely, capriciously firing cultural sparks that I have since built upon in Manchester.