An American Woman Living in Australia
20/10/2004 by Maureen Whitaker
This post has been reprinted with the permission of the author. It was posted on a very active Yahoo Group that we post on – Americans Down Under http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AmericansDownUnder/
Thanks for everyone who replied to my message. It is great to hear first hand what it would be like to move to Australia. It is interesting to hear all the different view points, but it seems that moving to Australia is still something that is desired.
Being able to move out of one country to another, and to be an American- Australian seems pretty cool. I realize that there are pro and cons just like anything.
I am sure finding a job will be tough, not being able to be close to my relatives and friends will also be hard.
That is a good idea to save money for emergency reasons. You just don’t know if you need to be back home for a family emergency or just as a back up. My wife who is Australian has lived in the US for 7 years, and just like someone else wrote, she is also tired of the fast paced, stressful lifestyle here is Los Angeles.
So, she is ready to go back home of course to see family, and I am ready for a change! I guess that I will have to guess used to the weather (That wont be easy) So, I am still going forward with
I actually started writing this response to your post several days ago, but it seems like it’s been raining non-stop for weeks, and I’ve been in such a funk that it’s been difficult to compose a fair and balanced post in answer to your question….
Expect some highs and lows, for sure. When you first arrive, you’re in a kind of “holiday mode”, where it’s still sort of surreal and you feel like it’s just another vacation. Then, reality hits… and you realize that this really is your life now.
Adjusting to Australian Ways
For the most part, I have made the adjustment fairly smoothly… BUT, we have been here nearly a year, and we are STILL trying to adjust to the cost of living, which is much higher here than it was in the US.
Also, one of the things that I surprisingly find totally disorienting is the reversal of the seasons! It’s something I never expected—you don’t realize how much your internal life-clock relies on the seasons until you have them turned upside-down. It’s REALLY bizarre!
Most importantly, bring your sense of humor! Every time I get frustrated with being back on dial-up internet service, drag my laundry off the hoist seconds ahead of the next deluge or am dealing with YET ANOTHER power outage, I (jokingly, of course!) rant to my huz, “What kind of a bloody 3rd-world country have you dragged me to?!!!” It always cracks us both up and breaks the tension.
Although I am used to being away from my huge extended family, having moved away from NJ to Denver for nearly 10 years, it can be brutal to not be just a short plane flight away. I was always
able to fly home once or twice a year, but that’s unlikely to happen now.
My mom is devastated that she can’t see my 2 kids whenever she needs her “fix” and I miss my siblings (5 brothers, 2 sisters) horribly. On the up side, we live within minutes of my in-laws (whom, fortunately, I adore), so it is nice to have family nearby again, even if it’s not mine.
Making New Friends in a New City
Stephen makes a good point about it being easier for men. Before we moved, an Aussie girlfriend of mine in the US asked me, “Aren’t you nervous about making new friends?” Being that I’m not exactly the shy, retiring type, I thought that was the oddest question—believe me, that was the LAST thing I was worried about.
Making friends has NEVER been an issue with me. But here I am, nearly 1 year later, and while I have lots of acquaintances, I still haven’t found any real “girlfriends”. I got very spoiled in Denver, because nearly everyone who lives there is from somewhere else, so everyone is looking for connections.
I had loads of friends, many from other countries, and when I became a stay-at-home mom, there was no shortage of women in the same boat. People really went the extra mile to make each other feel welcome, and the friendships I made there were instant and lasting.
I’ve thrown myself into playgroups and pre-school committees as a means to meet people here, but most of the women that I’ve met so far in my little suburb, while they are lovely and perfectly nice, just don’t seem to have any interest in pursuing new friendships (hmm, well at least not with me :-).
They rarely venture to downtown Melbourne, let alone travel outside the country. They were born and raised in Frankston, and married and started having kids young and are content with the status quo and don’t feel much of a need to branch out.
It has been a bit disheartening, and I’ve found myself retreating a bit and learning to enjoy my own company again (which is no easy feat, `cause I’m a very social person LOL).
Aussie women in general (and there are exceptions to this, so Aussie women in this group, don’t be offended 🙂 are much more reserved and are just harder to get to know than “heart-on-my-sleeve, my-life’s-an-open-book” types like me (even my Aussie friends contend this to be true for the most
One of the things I found to be helpful is meeting up with some other American moms once or twice a month for a playgroup, because they have been experiencing the same sort of difficulties, and it’s nice to have others who understand and share the same feelings of being an “outsider”.
Culture Shock in Australia
Also, expect that it’s going to be a HUGE transition back for your wife too. She may not even realize how much her life experiences have changed her until she goes back home. My Aussie husband had been away for about 7 years, and was really shocked at how different things were (and how different HE
was) when we moved back.
Life in Oz had “frozen in time” for him, and when he got back he realized that life here had gone on in his absence, and things were not as idyllic as he remembered. An Aussie girlfriend of mine moved back after living in the US for several years, and though she is happy to be back near family and friends, she really misses the quality of life she had in the US.
Believe it or not, though, despite the gloomy tone of this post, I am still really happy to be here and, despite the hardships, really do love it here! Yes, there are some days when I wake up and do
nothing but count the minutes ’til Happy Hour, but hell, I had those kind of days in the US too 🙂
Whenever I get homesick, I just take a day and go exploring the CBD or take a drive to the
end of the Mornington Peninsula and I’m reminded why I’m here. I can’t remember where you’re moving to in Oz, but here in Melbourne there is certainly no lack of organizations to get involved in to meet new people and network for jobs.
I haven’t been able to take full advantage of these groups yet since my kids are so young and babysitters are scarce, but getting to the occasional Newcomers Network, Democrats Abroad or Expat Americans Meetup outing can often be just the thing you need to bring you out of your blues, because it reminds you that there are others who understand what you’re going through and that you’re not alone.
And, of course, always feel free to “vent” to your friends on ADU—we can truly laugh (and cry ) right along with you!
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