Australia versus Europe: what’s the difference?

Master of Teaching student Karina Kesvatera tells us all about the differences between Australia and Europe – and why Melbourne is her favourite place to be.

The people: The people in Melbourne are so welcoming, so open-minded. If you walk on the street, random people just smile at you. In Estonia, people are very closed and private. It’s such a different world. We don’t really do small talk in Estonia; we’re just straight to the point, so for some people, it may come across as rude. Even over the phone, you just say, ‘Hi, I need this and this and this’ and it’s totally normal.

Making friends: Because Australia is such a welcoming place, it was easy to find friends. People would say, ‘Come on, I’ll show you around!’ I like the mateship – Australians call you ‘mate’ all the time and they help you without wanting anything in return. I think in Estonia it’s a different culture – people help you, but they usually help you when they know you. Here, people help strangers.

Language: Australians speak a strange sort of English. They shorten everything and use lots of slang. What I’ve noticed is that everyone always says, ‘No worries! No worries, mate!’ They also say ‘reckon’ (which means to think or believe – like ‘What do you reckon?’). I try to use ‘G’day mate’, which is how some Australians say hello. When I first came to Australia, people called me Smiley because every time they said something I didn’t understand, I just smiled.

Studying: I studied maths back in Estonia, but I think at university here, it’s more independent work. You go to classes and talk to teachers but you’re more in charge of your own study schedule. What I also like here is that we do more group work – it’s good because you learn how to collaborate with other people. In Estonia, it was more of a set structure.

Formality: What I love here in Australia is that the lifestyle is really casual. It doesn’t matter how you dress or what you call someone. At university, everyone calls the teachers by their first names, which I like. I think if you can relate more to your professor, he’s easier to approach if you have a problem. People dress really casually as well. In Estonia, if you go out, you always have to dress up with your high heels. It’s so uncomfortable! Here I can wear flats; sometimes I wear sneakers and a dress. No one cares.

Food: I absolutely love Melbourne food. I actually like Vegemite – I don’t mind it with smashed avocado (a typical Australian breakfast of avocado on toast). It’s really good!  Estonian food is really simple; it’s kind of like German food, so you have a lot of potato and meat. Here, there’s definitely more variety, so Vietnamese, Chinese, Greek food, lots of vegan places – no matter what you want, you can find it.

Sports: Sport is a religion in Melbourne, especially Australian Rules Football. Everyone has a team. My flatmate, he loves footy and he took me to some of the games. Now, I barrack for the Richmond Tigers. I’ve tried to experience different sports, so I watched cricket – never again! It’s too boring for me! I love the Australian Open tennis; I’ve tried to watch rugby and UFC boxing. Even if you don’t go to the stadium, you can still go to the pub or a bar and watch it with mates. I think that’s why Melbourne is my favourite place, just because of the sports vibe. You don’t have to play it; you can just enjoy it.

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