We arrived in Australia a little over three months ago. Of course, I know it's going to take a much longer time to feel like we actually live here. Right now I still feel like I'm on a sabbatical from the U.S. I am making daily comparisons between what "they" do here and what "we" do back in the States. Owning a house back in Atlanta that hasn't yet sold and renting our home here adds to this sense of a temporary lifestyle. In fact, I leave in a week for a 12-day trip to America to attend some conferences and see some family members. I find myself very much looking forward to this trip because I'll be able to relax again, being in my own culture surrounded by people who talk like me and eat my food, sell "my" kinds of things, etc. We're creating a shopping list of things for me to buy there that will require bringing along an extra suitcase. And I'll get to see so many of my dear friends and family!

Given my current state of mind, I found this page appropriately amusing. It's from, a website for ex-pat Australians living in the United States. On this page is a little anonymously written essay called "The Five Stages of Culture Shock." I believe that I am experiencing the beginning of the second stage (which followed a stage of wonderment and tourist-like excitement):
The second stage is the actual shock. It can be characterized with loss of courage and general discomfort. Changes in character occur, depression, lack of self-confidence and irritation, people become more vulnerable and prone to crying, more worried about their health, suffer from headache, bad stomach and complaint about pain and allergy. Difficulties with concentration often occur and reduce the ability to learn a new language. These factors increase the anxiety and the stress. In this period, the self-awareness dissolves and people have trouble with solving simple problems. Conversations on this stage are about things that cannot be bought, what you must get along without, and everything that the people in the new country do wrong (which means "differently").
It is easy to get into a rant about the little things that are different here (e.g., the lack of built-in sink plugs, the light switches that flip down instead of up, the complicated choices involved in choosing mobile phone services), but such rants merely mask pangs of homesickness. Most of all I miss my friends and family. It's hard to accept the fact that I can no longer just jump in the car and drive off to see them in a few minutes or a few hours. I also realize now that I am resisting assimilation quite fiercely by surrounding myself with things from "home," and occasionally mocking what people do here. I end up spending most of my social time with North Americans (which is easy to do at my workplace)! According to the "Five Stages of Culture Shock:"
The third stage of culture shock is characterized with one's plunging into new ways of living. With patience, it is possible to reach this stage by the end of the first year. Key aspects in a new culture are being learned and the earlier chaos and lack of direction seldom appears. Relations with the native population are initiated, such as neighbours and workmates or schoolmates.
So, according to this, I've got another nine months of moaning and whinging to go! Then I can start on fourth stage. Stay tuned...