Staying Longer Than Expected in Australia

Staying Longer Than Expected in Australia

11/03/2003 by Lisa

After leaving a life in America for her Australian husband, Lisa never expected that she would still be in Oz 10 years later. This is her story…

First of all, I never thought I’d make it to year ten in Australia. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pack my bags and go home. Since I had a new Aussie husband, there really was no choice. He was, and still is, an angel – nobody else would have put up with me and my homesickness.

The following are observations from living in Oz for a third of my life in three different cities in three different States (NSW, WA, and QLD) – no flames or spelling corrections OK.

I’ve found that there are two types of Americans in Australia: A.) Those who love it and never want to leave B.) The rest of us. It seems that if you had a childhood where you moved around a bit, you do better than those who lived in the same house/neighbourhood your whole life.

I find that American men “handle” Australia better than American women. Although one American business man I knew hated the whole “crack the beers at 3:00 on Friday” thing. He couldn’t shake that darn Protestant work ethic.

I have no Australian-born female friends. The only Aussie women that I’ve got on with were married to American men. I won’t go further into this because I don’t want to cause a riot in the group.

Friends usually are expats. I have belonged to the American Women’s Club in Perth and that was alright. I found myself hanging out with women just because they were American (when I really thought about it).

Ask yourself when you get in that situation: “Would this person have been my friend in the States?” You may find the answer is “no”. That’s ok, it just means they weren’t your type. Keep looking.

Expats from other countries are good. If, say, you have an Irish background, go visit a local Irish club and learn dancing, cooking, etc. (An aside or two: I took Spanish in high school and can speak it fairly well so I used to go to the Spanish Club in Sydney, which is really a pub).

Over a few glasses, an older Spanish man told me how he felt about living in Australia–he wanted to go home but after so many years it was too late. Also in Sydney, my Spanish teacher was from Columbia–Cali, Columbia. Does the “Cali Cartel” ring a bell? Kidnapping capital of the world? Anyway, she too wanted to go home.

You see, it’s not just Americans. Our family, culture and our history are part of who we are. Some people can leave it behind and other’s spend their lives trying to get it back.

Getting a job as an American can be difficult unless it is in an area where there are massive job shortages–like in the trades or nursing, etc. South Africans, I’ve discovered, have a similar problem.

The only thing I can put it down to is that both cultures are known for being “down to business” and maybe that intimidates some? It was so bad for me once that I thought seriously about changing my resume/CV to show that I was Canadian instead of American.

I’ll try and wrap this up now, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to email. An experience at a party: A fellow guest at a party discovered he was talking to an American (me) and began to yell and accuse me of all sorts of US world atrocities from the Reagan Era to Vietnam to, wait for it, the Revolutionary War.

He also told me that my kids (I have none) would never be Aussies. I didn’t bother to tell him that I wasn’t old enough to vote for Reagan, I was a baby during Vietnam, and the Revolutionary War?

You will run up against people like this from time to time. Don’t let people treat you like this–it’s OK to use that American accent and tell him to “piss off, mate”. I can guarantee you that you will still be asked after 10, 20, 30 years in Australia if you are “on holiday” and, if not, “how do you like it here?”

It will get tiresome but, eventually, you go on “auto-pilot” and answer the questions over and over again without thinking so you can get to the next stage of the conversation. You will also be asked if you are Canadian because they don’t want to offend Canadians by calling them American. Check the logic on that one.

All Americans are supposed to speak with some sort of “twang” or Bronx-like accent. –Please, please, please, don’t change your accent to sound more Aussie thinking it will get you through life easier. It sounds awful (Yanks sounding Aussie) and you’ll never be able to fool them anyway.

As for shopping, it’s better now than it was ten years ago and, I suspect, it will be even better in ten years time.

However, clothes for women will still come from China and come apart one day after you wash them. One note on chocolate. You cannot compare US choc to Oz choc because you are comparing two different beasts.

Australians grew up eating a milkier/creamier chocolate. Americans are used to a darker chocolate. For those of you who don’t like Aussie choc (I won’t say the name), try the Nestle dark chocolate (brown wrapper found in Coles lolly section). You may find it tastes a little more like what you’re used to than the Aussie milk choc.

OK, here’s the end. Sorry this is so long. For those Americans who love Australia with all their hearts and never want to leave: please don’t “poo poo” the feelings of our Yankee brothers and sisters who are having a tough time of it. Count yourselves lucky to have settled so easily.

I knew an American woman from Oregon who went to a public toilet in a Perth park and hung herself. She wanted to go back to the States but felt trapped here. Please people–you can always go home–don’t hurt yourself.

There was also another American woman who, after raising three Aussie kids, promptly packed her bags and left when her youngest daughter graduated from high school.

This is a common theme for women. If you hate living here, please don’t make babies (especially with an Aussie husband) because you will really feel trapped then. OK, I’m done flushing my brain. Good luck to all you “newbies”. You will be better Americans for having lived outside of the US.



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