american expats, vol 3: first year down (under)


HOLY $H!T. One year went by way too fast. I’m really in shock that it’s already been a year since we moved to Australia. Expat life is full of mostly ups, some downs, and lots of excitement - I've learned to never compare anything as good or bad to life in the states, but to just observe and appreciate the differences. Today I’m going to share some highlights from my experience so far.

Bill Bryson (author of lots of good books, including A Sunburnt Country, which I’m reading right now!) sums life abroad up better than I ever could: "I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."

It really does make me giddy, almost childlike when I’m roaming around and experiencing new things here. Literally everything was new and unknown when we first arrived. While everyone speaks English in Aus, there’s still tons of differences that you’re just so confused about - from street signs, to pharmacies, language at work, etc. that you almost feel like you’re bilingual once you get it down. I still come across language differences daily, even one year in.

Bear with me since this post is a bit longer than my normal ones (it's about a 5 min read!), but feel free to skip to the sections you're most curious about!

TRAVELS

We’ve traveled a ton of the East coast of Australia already. And PS: it’s so weird being an East coaster because I have to remember it’s not West when I am describing something closer to the ocean (so used to California!) From our home base is Sydney, we’ve now visited Byron Bay, Jervis Bay (twice), Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Hunter Valley, Avoca (twice), all around Sydney, and even managed to squeeze in a few international trips to Bali, New Zealand’s north island, New Caledonia, and 2 trips home to California. As someone who is obsessed with traveling & seeing new facets of the world, it’s a pretty spectacular feeling to know that nearly everywhere you can go is a new bucket list check mark. The rest of 2018 already has the Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Malaysia, Vietnam, a New Zealand (south island) road trip, and Byron Bay (again) lined up. We're ticking off lots of items on our Ultimate Aussie Bucket List!

MAKING FRIENDS

Making new friends has been fun because I really love to meet new people & hear their stories of where they came from & why they’re here. Most of the American friends we’ve made are in tech too, so seems like that’s the industry to be a part of if you’re looking to move to Australia. All the major tech companies open offices in APAC at some point. We've met people in a variety of places in their lives, people from all around the world, in different professions, and with different personalities than we ever would have met in our (somewhat) homogenous group of like minded friends in SF. Don't get me wrong, my best friends from home are my best friends, but it is also refreshing and interesting and challenging to meet people very different from you. I've connected with a handful of people who I don't know I would have if I had my network here and was in my comfort zone, and I think that's pretty damn awesome. We have loved going camping or on weekend trips with new friends because it's a good way to get closer faster. Looking forward to more friends getaway weekends this summer!

While making friends is fun and exciting, it can also become a little bit exhausting! You have to go on a lot of friend dates, and after being more settled now, and knowing plenty of people, I can get lazy to do it. We've made friends here, there and everywhere, but even after one year, people have already moved away -- to different areas of the city (and Sydney is very big!) or home to the States. At this age in life, people who have roots here already have their friends, just like we did in California. Expats are the ones looking and open to meeting new friends, so it's easy to connect with them, but the expat community is such a revolving door, so you never really get to stop making friends as people move home. It takes time to make solid friendships at this age, and you have to be patient, and not compare relationships to those you have back home that have decades on these new ones. Making friends as a couple is also a lot different, and a new experience for me... I would argue more challenging too. Since everything is new, you want to experience all the new things with your person, but at the same time its so important to have girl time & make our friends together, but our own friends too

MINIMALISM & SIMPLICITY

Moving overseas has allowed us to live a much simpler life. We have most of our stuff in our storage unit - aka my parents garage. :) We moved over with 6 boxes and 4 suitcases. That's it. We've already acquired more than we needed to here, but we're living simple - we spend all of our summer days at the beach and our $ on travel, not things. Our network is tenfolds smaller here, so our social calendar also looks simpler, which is actually so refreshing! We've fallen into a really great routine of eating clean and working out during the week, and either traveling or hitting the beach and meeting friends for drinks on the weekends. We've cleared a lot of clutter our of our lives and minds over here, not intentionally, but just as a result of moving abroad!

This has opened up my mind (and calendar) for new hobbies. Surfing, scuba, and open water swimming to name a few of my new passions. We've been doing lots of some tennis, camping, coastal walking too! My other pride and joy has become my new business venture (as a little side hustle only) - The Urbanite Insight Shop - selling wall prints of my photos from around the world. Make sure to check it out and thank you so much for all of the love and support so far!

HOMESICKNESS

People always ask me if I'm ever homesick, and my answer is no. I miss everyone at home, but I definitely wouldn't call how I feel "homesick." I don't feed sad that I live far. I have Joe here, who's my fam, and I think that's why I don't get homesick, but I do miss my family (and friends) everyday. FaceTime, Marco Polo, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and all the technologies out there help us to stay connected with everyone though. The people I get sad about the most are my nieces and nephew. I miss their cuddles and hugs, but I get to talk to them a few times a week usually & my brother is great about having them call which always makes up my day!!

This year we had to miss out on 3 weddings, one was one of my bridesmaid's (in Tel Aviv) which was heartbreaking! One of my besties had a baby this year too, and a couple of them got engaged as well. It's definitely a bummer to miss out on these big life events of people who mean the world to me, but it's been really important for me to just do my best when I am in town and go the extra mile to be the one who makes sure we stay in just as good of touch as we did when I lived in the states. When I get to go home, I squeeze my schedule as full as possible and come home completely wiped but it's always so worth it. I also will shamelessly bug all my friends to visit me until they do. My best friend visited first and already booked her second trip back and is coming for the 2nd time this year! I know when people come, they will absolutely fall in love like I did, and I'm always proud to show off my new city. From this October through March 2019, we have 1-2 visitors per month coming so we will get plenty of love from home this year!

CAREER

Even at big companies, our offices here are so small. I love having the benefits of a startup with the brand of a solid company. In a small office, when executives from HQ visit, I always get 1:1 with them and get to go to dinners with more senior people than I would normally be meeting with in the same role back home. I feel like this has given me a higher level view of the world and it will ultimately give me the opportunity to take career moves that wouldn't be available maybe as quickly or as readily back in SF. Working in a new market certainly rounds out your experience and will always be an amazing resume item as well. I am very grateful that I've been provided this opportunity by my company!

It's also been a new challenge to manage people in a new country. The lifestyle, upbringing, and culture is definitely different than what I was used to in Silicon Valley, and it's definitely given me a new challenge in learning how to manage people from a different culture. This can be challenging at times because occasionally I just have an inherently different way of thinking, but more times than not it's for the better and opens my mind to a new way of seeing certain things! Again, it's not about comparing one way to the other, it's just noting that they're different, not for better or worse. It's been fun to get to know and to learn how to motivate different types of people from different parts of the world.

LOVE

Last, but certainly not least, let's talk about love. This experience has been so cool to undertake with my partner in crime. In San Francisco, the norm would be for me to have plans with the gals, Joe to have plans with his friends, and we'd often see each other at home at 9 pm 2-3 nights a week. While we certainly did a lot together, we do a lot more together here, and also spend a lot more weeknights at home on the couch watching trashy tv (on my nights) or true crime docuseries. It's definitely brought us even closer and I think we'll always be grateful for this experience together.

Life is a little different over here, but we are loving the style of life that the aussies live, and are eager to see what year #2 brings us. Thanks for following along with all of our adventures down under! If you're thinking about moving abroad, hopefully this gives you some insight into what you can expect in year one! And don't forget to check out my guide on moving to Australia - full of tips & tricks I wish I knew right away!

Next, check out my other expat posts: volume 1 and volume 2!

#oceania #australia #expat

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