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The most surprising things about Australia, according to an Indian international student

Shiva is studying at Sydney University and has been in Australia for almost 12 months. Image: Supplied.

Shiva Krishnan is studying a Masters in Management at the University of Sydney.

Hailing from Chennai in southern India, he has studied in India, Canada for three years and has been studying in Australia for almost a year.

Here’s what has surprised him most about Australia since he moved here.

Australians aren’t racist, they’re friendly.

Reports of racism and assaults on Indian students have made their way back to India, Shiva said when his family and friends found out he was coming to Australia they warned him about the violence.

However, Shiva said his experience has been the exact opposite: “People are very friendly”.

“I was given lots of advice from India that you are going to Australia just make sure that you’re not being attacked or be a victim of racism,” he said.

“I don’t find any of that type of nonsense here, people are really friendly.”

Shiva said he hasn’t been a victim of racism and it really depends on the company you keep.

“It depends on the friends that you make and the places you visit,” he said.

Australian girls are really friendly.

“Australian girls are really, really fun, they crack lots of jokes… even when you’re meeting for the first time,” he said.

“In India, there’s a barrier when you’re talking from a girl. If you’re hailing from a very orthodox family you are not supposed to talk to a girl.”

But Shiva said that is starting to change as India becomes increasingly westernised.

“People are coming out of those barriers,” he said.

“For me while I was studying at college in India I faced that barrier. I was unable to talk to a girl so freely as I am talking to you and other people in Canada and Australia.”

Working part-time in Australia pays good money.

While Shiva’s current study timetable means he cannot work at the moment, he has had a couple of part time jobs and was surprised how good the pay was.

“I’ve tried a lot of jobs, I’ve been a personal assistant to a top executive,” he said.

“They pay me really good money like $28 to $32 per hour.

“I was really surprised because when I compared the market with the US and Canada I think Australia has better compensation and it’s really understandable because living in Australia is surging everyday, it’s really tough to keep up with the cost of living in Australia.

The beaches are extraordinary.

Taking a trip to an Australian beach was one of Shiva’s most memorable experiences.

“I’ve been to the Northern Beaches [of Sydney] and they’re really, really nice,” he said.

“They’re really beautiful, I was totally crying when I was standing inside the lake walking literally to the middle of the lake and it’s not deep.

“The beaches are clean, compared to India where the beaches are not clean.”

It’s surprisingly different to Canada.

Shiva thought Australia would be similar to Canada, when he arrived he was surprised it was very different.

“It’s more international, Canada is more like white people, there’s more Americans and Canadians but here in Australia the first thing I noticed is it’s very diverse in culture. You have loads of Chinese people, you have loads of Indians, lots of German people, French people, and everyone else, it’s all over the place,” he said.

“In India you have different cultures but from the same country. Australia has more international cultures.”

Being vegetarian means something else.

Shiva describes himself as a “pure vegetarian”, what he means is according to Indian standards he’s a vegetarian but in Australia his eating habits are actually vegan.

He was also surprised by how much bread Australians eat and how breakfast is very different in Australia, “people eat a traditional breakfast whereas Indians we prefer a warm Indian breakfast. It took some time for me to get used to that”.

All the differences and Australia’s high cost of living means Shiva now cooks for himself a lot more.

“I’m an excellent cook, he said. “I don’t need to find a girl.”

Everyone shortens everything.

Shiva’s full name is Shivaramakrishnan Ramamoorthy, but he says it’s easier to shorten his name to Shiva in Australia.

“People would raise their eyebrows and have no idea what I was talking about but that’s my name!” he said.

“I kept my preferred name as Shiva, even on Facebook, so people don’t get afraid of my name.

“But they still shorten my name…[Australians] they shorten everything, they shorten it further. I usually say to people ‘Hi my name is Shiva but you can call me SRK or Shiv’.”

It’s far less crowded than home.

Shiva estimates the population of his home town in India is roughly the same population as Sydney.

He’s not far off either but the big difference is the population of Sydney is spread out over an area which is about 67 times larger than Chennai.

“In India everything is crowded, you can’t even find a space to park your car or your to wheeler, your bike.”

Aussies are afraid of spiders and cockroaches.

Back in India Shiva said he “used to play with them”. “People are so afraid of spiders [in Australia]. I’ve even heard about people dying from spiders, if I say that to my parents they will laugh at me.”

“I’ve seen people going crazy… it’s just a cockroach, it just goes by,” he said.

There’s less respect for elders.

Australian Shiva is very different to Indian Shiva, he said when he returns home it takes four or five days to settle back into the customs and expectations of his home country.

“When I’m in Sydney it’s a completely different Shiva that you will see,” he said.

“In Chennai you need to be more respectable to your parents, over here people really don’t care who the hell you are.

“If I say ‘mum I like this girl I want to marry her’ she will probably say ‘I don’t like that girl’… the culture is more parent dominating rather than giving freedom to the children.

“Over here I find that completely different it’s up to the choices of people.”

It’s easier to get a visa in Australia compared to Canada or the US.

Shiva said he’s found it much easier to get a student visa in Australia. He began trying to come to Australia after his visa application was rejected in Canada in the US.

Studying in Australia is relaxing.

Shiva said he’s “more relaxed studying in Australia” compared to India, where he found the courses more intensive.

“Over here [in Australia] they say intensive courses but for me it’s like a piece of cake,” he said.

Studio apartments are hugely expensive but really nice.

Shiva pays $263 a week for a single studio apartment in Sydney’s inner west, he said while that’s expensive compared to the other parts of the world he has lived in, it’s cheap by Sydney standards.

“The standards are really high [in Australia], even though in my home [in India] we have lots of servants it’s really hard to maintain the building. Over here people really care a lot and there are lots of safety measures and security measures as well,” he said.

Chinese people in Australia are really competitive.

Shiva thinks the Chinese people he has met speak really good English and are extremely competitive when it comes to studying.

“I’m having a competition with China that I used to face in Canada as well, they’re all over the place,” he said.

“I want lots of Indians to come to Australia so we an give some competition to China here as well.”

Australia’s internet is terribly slow.

Australia is lagging behind when it comes to technology, Shiva thinks “Australia is behind five years in terms of where technology is concerned, especially with the internet, the internet is really slow”.

There’s a bunch of traditional Indian temples in Australia.

Shiva said he’s found a lot of “traditional” Indian temples in Australia, visiting them every week he says it reminds him of home. But he doesn’t just go to temple to worship; Shiva said you could get “very cheap and nutritious food” there as well.

Professors are approachable.

“The professors here are much more friendly,” Shiva said. “In India if I even had to speak to a lecturer or a principal it takes lots of respect and effort to meet them.”

Shiva said if he did manage to meet his lecturers in India they would dismiss him saying “what’s going on you’re a student just focus on your studies” whereas in Australia he said “they’re welcoming that approach from students, they’re really encouraging students to perform well, they’re really supportive here”.

He said it comes back to the culture of having to “respect your elders”.

The changes in political leaders are really confusing

Shiva said he doesn’t like politics in Australia and has trouble understanding how it all works.

“Yesterday it was Julia Gillard and tomorrow morning it was Tony Abbott, I don’t know what the hell was going on,” he said.

Shiva’s next adventure is to Norway in December.

*This article was originally published in April 2014. Read the original here.

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