View of Perth from Kings Park
From a girl whose experience with international travel is limited to family vacations to Canada, studying abroad in Perth, Australia for five months was a choice that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When I checked in for my flight to Perth and told the kind woman at the counter where I was headed, I was greeted with a joyful, “Well, we don’t get many people going there!” You would think this would be disheartening, but Perth has proved to be an exciting city with breathtaking views, even more breathtaking beaches, and a constant stream of events and festivals that give the city an exciting atmosphere, fitting of Western Australia’s growing but isolated capital.
Though I don’t have to struggle with a language barrier, it can sometimes feel that way. I didn’t expect Perth to be exactly like America, but I found that the culture feels like a mixture of American and British influences (which fits, since it was colonized by Great Britain). When I went to orientation, volunteers at Murdoch University made a handy Australian to English translation chart, to which I’ve been gradually making mental additions. For example:
- car park = parking lot
- plushies = stuffed animals
- walkabout = walking alone
- footie = soccer
- arvo = afternoon
And just a bunch of other fun terms I’ll be bothering my American friends with when I return home.
An Australian delicacy I have yet to taste is kangaroo meat, which I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach since I love kangaroos too much. I’ve heard it tastes like chicken, but doesn’t everything? Perth also has excellent seafood (I’ve fallen in love with a seafood joint called Cicerello’s in Fremantle, just a bus ride from Perth), especially the shrimp and crab that have ruined American seafood for me. If you can get past the Mackers and Hungry Jacks (McDonald’s and Burger King) and try Australian cuisine, you won’t be disappointed.
When I decided to study in Perth, someone told me that I would be one of the few international students and people would think it was cool that I was American and not from Australia. This idea was not true, but I’m not disappointed. My university has thousands of international students actually, many of whom I’ve gotten to know and love. The city certainly isn’t lacking with respect to diversity. When Indonesia is closer than Sydney, I guess it should be expected.
Without a car, you have to rely on a combination of buses and trains to get where you want to go. Luckily this isn’t a problem. With something like 12,000 stops in the Perth/Fremantle area, public transportation is reliable and easy to navigate. There’s even an app for the local transportation system that lets you plug in where you are and where you need to go, and it will tell you what buses and trains you can catch to get to your destination.
When I met people I felt comfortable talking to, I finally asked them a serious question: What are some stereotypes you guys have about Americans? One girl immediately (and probably impulsively) blurted: “Fat!” After laughing it off, some other people joined in with comments such as: “You guys have a lot of fast food right?” “Tourists,” “Starbucks,” and “rich.” Some people also said they thought Americans didn’t travel and never left their state, much less the country (glad we can prove this stereotype wrong). Most of it was amusing, with one guy asking “So, are there like bald eagles shouting freedom from the skies?” But it was clear that they knew that these ideas don’t represent the majority of the population and that most of the Americans they had met were kind and excited to explore.
Perth is one of, if not the most, isolated capitals in the world. But what it lacks in proximity, it makes up for in it’s abundance of festivals and activities that seem to appear in the city every weekend. Before I came to Australia, a couple of American friends asked me why I was going to Australia as there’s nothing here but desert. Happily, my pictures of beaches, plants and wildlife have shown them that there is, in fact, much more to Australia than just vast spans of empty land. Though to be fair, there’s that too.
While Perth exceeded my high expectations, the transition from a more fast-paced American lifestyle, to the laid-back Aussie attitude definitely took some getting used to. If you have any comments or questions about life in Perth or Australia in general, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.