English, Brisbane city, food and culture – my Aussie experience

ICTE-UQ English language student and scholarship recipient Miso Kang from Chungnam National University in Korea gives us an insight into her time living in Brisbane, how she improved her English, and the differences in the lifestyle and cultures of Koreans compared to Australians. Miso spent five weeks studying General English at ICTE-UQ and a one-week internship at Brisbane City Council. 

When I arrived in Brisbane, Australia it was winter but it was not as cold as Korea. It felt like autumn in Korea. People were in T-shirts during the day, and thin jumpers at night. It was very good for me because I am really weak at cold weather. Brisbane’s weather was perfect to live in. Many teachers of ICTE-UQ were not born in Australia and they said the reason why they came to Brisbane was the weather.

 A beautiful night at South Bank parklands

Compared to Korea, where we have small birds, in Australia there were a lot of big birds like pelicans and turkeys. Also, there were huge old trees. Many parks have barbecue facilities for free. So, people can enjoy the picnic easily. One day, my friends and I had a barbecue party at the Brisbane park. We could enjoy delicious foods with a great view. When I was in Brisbane, I didn’t see any cats in the street. In contrast to Korea, Australian big birds can wander around without cats. But the birds always want the food, so we had to escape from them every time when we had a picnic.

There were large birds in the park

Australia has a variety of cultures compared to Korea, which is a single-race nation. Different to my worries, there were a lot of Asians and I didn’t experience any racial discrimination. Aussie people were very kind and pretty leisurely. When I caught strangers’ eyes, they smiled. Even some people talked to me as if they already knew me. Because I easily got lost, I usually asked them how to get somewhere, then people explained or took me there.

Aussie people respect others’ freedom. I can see various fashion in the street. Compared to Korea’s conservative view, they can choose what they want to wear here. Moreover, there was a vote for gay marriage. I wondered if Korea could collect the opinions openly like Australia.

In Brisbane, the train runs above ground rather than underground like the subway. And using the Brisbane river, the ferry was one of the public transportations too.

Because it was winter, the sun set early.  Most stores close at 5 or 6 pm. Usually Australians go to bed at 9:30pm. In Korea, there are a lot of people in the street till midnight. The class of ICTE-UQ starts at 8:15 in the morning. Some of the other classes in UQ start at 8 am in the morning. That was so early compared to Korea.

Australia has very delicious wines, and meats and cheeses are very cheap. I could enjoy some different cheeses, fruits, vegetables, olives, hams, sausages that I haven’t ever seen. Also, people from each country come to Brisbane, so it was nice to taste the world's cuisine. With my friends, I ate Indian food, Periperi Chicken, Chinese food, Thai food, etc., We could eat in places that we could easily walk to. There were many Korean restaurants in Brisbane and there were many Koreans. Walking around the city as well as UQ campus, I could see many Koreans on the street.

Various fruits, olives, ham and sausages that I have never seen in Korea
The cuisines from a variety of countries that I enjoyed in Brisbane

Brisbane is dotted with many markets that were held regularly. Usually, they sold agricultural products that they had grown like the Farmer's Market, and there were many different kinds of crafts as well as cuisine from all over the world. One day I saw people selling second-hand clothes freely in their luggage carrier, it was interesting because this is uncommon in Korea.

Also, there was lots of shops specialising in desserts such as chocolate and fudge. Australia was also selling various flowers everywhere, such as a small size or large grocery store. I thought it was very romantic to have flowers.

Flowers at the UQ markets on Wednesdays

Brisbane is very accommodating for the handicapped. Every bus was operated by a low-run bus for wheelchair movement, and every bus has two seats for wheelchairs. The passengers were really patient when waiting for a wheelchair to take a bus or get off. The driver helps the wheelchair every time. Also, the button for opening and closing the doors was very low for them, and every toilet has places designed for the disabled. Therefore, the nursing room or the baby pedestal was found in both male and female restrooms or separately furnished as the parent’s room.

Living in Atira, while living in Brisbane, I was very happy because I was able to realise my long-cherished desire to live abroad, not a hectic tour. When I finished ICTE-UQ class, I went to a big supermarket like Coles or Woolworths and bought groceries for cooking. On weekends, I bought vegetables and fruits in the morning market. I could live like a local in Brisbane. Of course, the location of the accommodation was perfect, and I could get to school very quickly. Atira also had various programs for residential students. One day I participated in the cooking class, I made Bolognese spaghetti. It was a very exciting experience making the pasta with real ingredients. In addition, there were lots of good opportunities to meet neighbors at the barbecue party every Friday evening, free pancakes on a Sunday morning, and movie night once a month. Also, there were various kinds of game consoles, including billiard table, table tennis, and gym hall.

Our dinner at Atira

There was an English conversation class hosted by Atira, and I had an opportunity to debate the pros and cons of gay marriage. The student assistant, who is a student also, listened to the students' presentation and helped them speaking English.

People in Australia used a lot of gestures when speaking, and used metaphors when joking.. Additionally, when speaking with a friend, I learned that in Canada, saying hello to someone, they say "Hey, What’s up?" However, in Australia, it is mostly used by boys and has a rough feeling. Instead, asking "Hello, how are you?" and the answer should be something like “good” or “bad”, and re-asking again, "And how are you?” So, my friend said it took time to get used to the kind and friendly greetings in Australia. While learning English as a book in Korea, I thought that English-speaking countries would use the same English language, but they did not.

There was a wide variety of activities for students in ICTE-UQ, so it was not easy to get bored after classes were finished. I spent a lot of time participating in classes about Australian slang and culture, chorus, cooking, etc. Also, there were many programs offered to students by UQ. I could experience the life of a university in Australia.

In Brisbane, riding the train about an hour, I can reach the Gold Coast. On a weekend, I went to the Gold Coast with my friends. The beach was really beautiful. It was a windy day, but many people enjoyed surfing on the beach. People in Australia seem to love swimming. Most of the homestay houses had swimming pools, and there was a large public swimming pool with an artificial beach at the South Bank Parklands. It was very sad that I could not swim in the sea because it was winter. It was too cold for me to swim.

At the Gold Coast with my friends
The swimming pool and artificial beach in the South Bank parklands

The Library of Brisbane was very different from the South Korean library. Korea has a bright and basic white colour to study hard, whereas the Australian library has a very relaxing atmosphere and painted with warm colours such as red. It makes me comfortable. Also, it was interesting that people can borrow music scrolls from the library. Museums and Art Galleries were always free, except for special exhibitions. It was very good to enjoy cultural life.

At the first day of the internship at Brisbane city hall, they gave us small presents and the name plate. I felt proud to have my seat in the office. Because I am a student now, I haven’t had a job in Korea yet, it was difficult for me to compare what it’s like working in Australia compared with Korea. An interesting thing is that when they commute or have lunch, there was not any fixed time. The personal schedule was flexible. In Korea, most of the companies or organisation have a default time table for getting to and from work, or lunch time. And for lunch or break time, usually they go together and rest together. I think the Australian system is much better than Korea’s because they can rest or have lunch when they want to. Watching the decline of the quality of life in Korea as working till night and weekends, the biggest thing I felt in Australia was that people's lives were leisurely. Not only is the minimum wage 2.6 times higher than Korea, but also they can spend more time with their own family after they leave the office.

It became a great opportunity to practise English. Five weeks was a bit of a short period to improve my English skills brilliantly, but I was really motivated to study English. On the first day of my class, I was so nervous and couldn’t speak as I thought in my mind. My experience in ICTE-UQ gave me a great motivation. Thanks again to Brisbane for allowing me to experience a wider world.

Last updated:
27 September 2017