This is Part 2 of Expat Life Down Under, to read Part 1 click here.
In my last post, I shared some of the positive rewards I’ve experienced since making the move across the world to Oz. Although I consider myself to be quite happy where I am in my life, I’ve still had my share of struggles and sacrifices. Below I’ve listed some of the lessons I’m still continuing to learn every day as an expat.
- Making new friends is challenging. When traveling the world you naturally become more friendly and open to strangers. You can meet some salt of the earth, genuine souls from all corners of the world, but after a few days or weeks of hanging out it’s time to move onto the next destination. There’s a saying that the older you get the harder it is to make friends. Even only being in my 20s, I’ve learned this is true. Friendships take so much care and effort and as our lives get busier, it gets progressively harder to devote time and energy into maintaining them. My first year in Oz, I lived in such fear that I would never find a new “girl gang” and it held me back. You can’t just give someone a fruit roll-up at lunch time and become instant best friends like you could as a kid. Eventually I joined clubs, gyms, and became one of those overly social colleagues at work. I have never had to make such an effort to put myself out there and I still feel this is a challenge I will always face outside of America.
- Communication with home is extremely difficult. Can you say 15 hour time difference?! As if being away from family and friends wasn’t hard enough, the fact that I can’t call or Skype at any time is a kick in the bum. Thank goodness we live in this tech centered world and I can use apps like world clock to find timezones or Viber and WhatsApp to make free calls and texts.
- Saying goodbye and not knowing if it’s forever. My family spreads across California, Montana, New York, and Japan so when I go home I’m not able to see all of my loved ones in one trip. I have a lot of older and sick family in my life as well and every time I’ve had to say goodbye by hanging up the phone or walking away from a visit, my heart breaks. It’s not an easy task to stay strong when you secretly know they may need you or you feel like you’re losing valuable time and memories. When I left California, I also said goodbye to dear friends. I knew this goodbye was different from other travel experiences so in the back of mind I was worried that the friendships would only dissipate as each year passed. Some friendships have survived the distance through occasional or constant contact while others have sadly not. It’s no one’s fault per se, it’s merely a result of time passing and what naturally happens when you move somewhere new.
- Slow start to career is normal. Career progression is tough for any recent graduate. However, place said graduate in a country that does not use the GPA system or value the American grading scale or even know which University you attended and it is very challenging. Education and qualifications work a lot differently in Oz and a significant percentage of the workforce doesn’t attend secondary college education. There were days when I really regretted leaving Northern California, the home where I could most likely have found a decent job. Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky to meet many genuine people from all around the world who have looked out for me and given me amazing opportunities for growth. It took 147 weeks to get a job that was a step in the right direction for my career, two thumbs up for finally being an accountant.
- Forgetting life in America. Is it normal or am I traitor? I felt guilty at first (like I was betraying my culture) but I’m learning that it’s natural and instinctual when you’re no longer exposed to your old life. I’ve completely forgotten the common lingo in America, what TV programs are on nowadays, or what it’s like to drive on the ‘right’ side to name a few. I don’t even remember what Trader Joe’s sells anymore! I spend so much of my time with Australian or Irish friends that I find myself thinking of their sayings before I even remember the American words. I have started making Barry’s tea with milk in the evenings (I’ve forgotten that sweet taste of Starbucks’ PSL), calling everyone mate and signing off text and email messages with “xx” (another way to say “xo”). I try to keep in touch by reading daily blogs and scouring news sites but I’m starting to let go more easily. I dare say my new life has gotten in the way and I’ve adapted. It’s okay not knowing everything that is trending back home and most importantly I feel comfortable in my new society.
Living away from home means you sacrifice a lot to gain a reward (sometimes a very small one), but that’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it or not. If it gets to a point where you feel the bad outweighs the good then I suggest re-evaluating living abroad (pro and con list if necessary), finding someone to talk to and really focusing on making positive decisions for yourself. Among my expat friends and myself I witness depression, homesickness and loneliness far too often because it can be extremely difficult living away.
By no means do I consider Oz my permanent home. In fact, I don’t know how much longer I’m staying. Like every other twenty something, my life is up in the air with no real game plan. What I do know is that my 24-year-old self is so glad that I listened to my heart three years ago and gave this experience, this love, a chance. Traveling can be amazing, but to live somewhere new and be okay is the real adventure. I never once thought I’d be calling myself an expat but I’m proud of what I’ve done with my life so far, all the negatives and positives included.
For all of you readers out there who want to travel please don’t think the destination (aka the most Instagram worthy spot) is the most important factor to consider. It doesn’t matter what city, state, or country your life takes you because all roads lead to Rome. I don’t mean everyone should travel to Italy (although I highly recommend it), but know that there are many different paths and routes for everyone. Ultimately it all leads us all to the same goal; happiness, fulfillment, and love.