On being an expat

December 4, 2015

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to live overseas. I am also grateful for the opportunity to have time off while I wait for my work visa. To explore, to settle in, to find ourselves a perfect apartment and to just simply have time off.

I’ve spent the majority of my time walking Teddy, going to the gym, exploring what DC has to offer, going to yoga classes, sewing, cooking etc. I can fill a day easily and rarely do I stand there and think ‘I’m so bored’. If I ever do think I am bored, I jump online to see what is happening around us or I take Ted on another walk to explore a new neighbourhood.

There are not many people my age, male or female, that can have three months off work without having a reason. The most common reason would be for travel, having a child etc. I am using this time to figure out what I want in life (still don’t know :-P), spend time doing the hobbies I enjoy and pursuing volunteer activities to fulfil my need to help others.

I’ve found settling in easy and hard. American food is very different to Australian food, especially for quick bites and take away. Where I might have chosen to get take away 2-3 nights a week in Australia, I might choose to do it once a week here. This is simply because the take away and fast food options are less healthy and the restaurant options usually too busy or too expensive. If I go out during the day, I usually eat before or after I go because I am underwhelmed with the choice of quick-lunch meals. Most of it seems to be sandwiches, burgers etc. whereas sometimes all I want is a quick salad or some sushi rolls.

In saying that, we have had a lot of great meals at restaurants we have found but these are the ones that tend to book out quickly. I do miss my neighbourhood Italian shop in Sydney and the sushi place I frequented on lunch times.

Grocery shopping has been hard for me so far due to the fact that no one supermarket close to me stocks everything I need. I need to go to multiple shops to get my weeks groceries which can be a bit of a drag. I do know there are larger stores around, but we don’t live close enough to walk to them and we don’t have a car. Perhaps when we move further out this might be a little easier.

I haven’t felt homesick too much yet, but I have yearned for human communication. Apart from volunteering, I don’t talk to anyone during the day and needing to talk to people might be what surprised me the most. I always had people to talk to at work, I often saw people outside of work back home and now I have Teddy and the people at the shops if they’re up for a conversation.  Sometimes all I want to hear during the day is a familiar voice. I worked hard to build friendships in Sydney and I’ve found it hard to be able to call people back home due to the time difference. I do have people I can and do text often, but I find that is not the same as being able to talk on the phone. Some days that gets the best of me and makes me wonder why I would move overseas where I have to start over and try to make friends who I can call for a chat or see when I want to. I know this will change when I get a job, and for now I just have to keep on keeping on and not let it get to me too much. Obviously I can talk to my Husband when he is home, but he isn’t available all the time for a chat during the day while he is busy working.

Things like trying to find a new doctor, a new hairdresser (I didn’t succeed, you should have seen my hair!), new beautician, new dog groomers etc. can seem quite daunting, but we’re slowly getting there. While my hair was a disaster, Teddy came home today freshly groomed and looking wonderful. I’m still looking for a doctor and trying to figure out how it works with my health insurance, but I don’t need one just yet so I’ll get to that when I need to. We wanted to buy a car and found out it was almost impossible unless we had the cash up front. We’ve put that off for a bit while we decide if we even need one for now. Tipping is also a major adjustment for me. I actually walked out of the dog groomers earlier and wondered if I should have tipped because you do at a hair dresser. It’s about 20% for most services which includes the hairdresser but some hairdressers like you to split that between the people who worked on your hair – the person that cut it, the person that coloured it, the person that washed it etc. I was lucky to only have two people and just gave the tip to reception to pass on using the ‘I’m new here’ excuse. I’ve forgotten to tip bar tenders, I’ve probably over tipped in many cases, but I am slowly getting there and it is becoming the new ‘normal’.

Another thing that surprised me is the language difference. Yes, we all speak English but the differences between American and Australian English make me think twice often. I hate having to say ‘what do you call this’ and have unfortunately found myself saying it quite often. It isn’t a problem at all, it’s just something that makes me have to think harder about what I’m saying.

One thing that continues to amaze me is how close we are to the rest of the world here. Sydney seems like such a tiny place compared to what we have at our fingertips here. Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love Sydney and it will always be my home, but while we are here, we are able to see so many different places. NY is three hours away, Europe is seven hours away. Sydney is about 28 hours away! We have so many opportunities at our fingertips that we would be silly to not take advantage of. We have worked hard to get here (Yes, we. Steve has worked hard at work and I’ve worked hard being the backbone at home to ease the pressure on him) and our hard work paid off. We had always spoken about moving overseas and when the opportunity came up, we were quick to take it.

Have you lived overseas? What is your experience?

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  • Reply Rachel G January 20, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I had to come and read this because you commented on my recent post about being a fellow expat! It’s a funny feeling, when everything is new and strange. I mostly just try to avoid going to the doctor if at all possible in a different country. I also avoid getting my hair cut and/or instruct a friend on how to cut my hair because stylists usually don’t want to listen to step-by-step instructions. 😛 I haven’t gone to a salon since moving in July 2014.

    • Reply Rhiannon January 21, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Hi Rachel,

      Thank you so much for the comment! I’ve avoided a doctor so far and after my first hair experience, I haven’t gone back again! I will be growing it out until I am back in Sydney and have my sister in law to do it for me. I need to write on this blog more often!

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