The Post I Wish I’d Written Five Years Ago

expat issues

There are things that I should have written in the early days of this blog, representing the initial days of my move to Australia. Lately, I’ve been working through old posts to tidy up formatting and pictures after the move to WordPress (*ehem* … a year ago. My housekeeping here is about as stellar as it as in my real home), and I’m embarrassed at how shallow my early blogging was. I don’t see much that reflects how I felt. I see posts about weekend trips and doing the tourist sites in Sydney. I wrote about Australian slang and eating kangaroo, which is fun, but I didn’t share much about myself or where my mind was. I know why I only wrote about surface things – I didn’t know how to share the rest of it and I felt guilty for feeling like I did – but I should have been more open. I should have been braver. 

There are people who read this blog who are considering an expat move or who are new to Australia. I’ve been honest about where I am today, and I hope that’s encouraging. But, I think it might also be helpful for me to be honest about where I was back then.

So, for anyone who feels like a literal stranger in a strange land, here is the post I wish I’d written five years ago:


 

I make myself leave the house every day. Or, almost every day. Some days, I wake up with good intentions, but just don’t leave because it seems so exhausting and I can’t think of where to go. I’ve been to all the attractions. I’ve been to all the parks. There’s nothing to do at the park when you’re alone, anyway. I hate the grocery store. But, it’s usually better on the days when I do leave the house. Mostly.

Partner-in-Crime goes to work every day. Many days, he comes home and then gets back to work into the evening. I don’t go to work. Before we moved here, I was the one who was always at work, so that’s something different. He always asks me what I did today, and I think I see disappointment or at least confusion when I tell him I didn’t do anything, which is why I try to go out. So that I have something to say.

I feel so exposed when I walk down the street. I’m certain that I have a big neon sign on me that blinks, “DOES NOT BELONG.” I think they all know a secret. Everybody here seems to buy their clothes from the same shop. I don’t shop there. Why don’t I have more black clothes? Would I feel less exposed if I got some tan ankle boots? Probably not. All the girls are so skinny. No joke, all of them. I’m not that. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

I had a coffee date this week with the friend of a friend. Of a friend. It was the only thing on my calendar, and so I looked forward to it all week. I was so glad when she didn’t cancel, as I realize she probably wasn’t planning her whole week around this event like I was. It was so crowded in the cafe. Where do all these people come from? Thankfully, she spotted me, and we had a nice conversation. We talked about the plays we’d seen, the plays she writes, and the work I used to do. Then, she went back to her work. I had nowhere to be, so I decided just to walk. I might discover something, and then that will be my thing. I walked for two hours until I found my neighborhood. I could have walked for four hours. No one would have noticed or missed me. I’m wholly unaccountable. It’s actually like being invisible. Is invisibility better or worse than having a neon sign? Worse, I think. We all want to exist, right?

I had to go grocery shopping. I needed bread. All the loaves of bread start at $5. I’m trying so desperately hard to stick to our budget. I stand in front of the bread rack for a few minutes. I leave the store and cry. … I still need bread.

I’m snappy with Partner-in-Crime a lot of the time. Or, I sulk. He’s kind and never pushes me. That makes me more snappy. I want to have a fight so that I can yell at him for bringing me to this place that doesn’t make sense to me. But, I’m an adult and accountable for my own actions – for choosing to be here – so I don’t push this very nice man who I love and live with. Deep down, in the pit of my queasy stomach, I still wish there was someone to blame.

The milk here makes my stomach hurt. Could I be lactose intolerant? I’m going to stop drinking milk. Maybe then I’ll feel better.

I suppose I can take my book to the park this afternoon.
Thank goodness for books.
I guess this is my park now.
I like that quiet bench by the water. park

 

16 thoughts on “The Post I Wish I’d Written Five Years Ago

  1. Cate

    I’m so glad I read this! My husband transferred with his work in May. I went for 7 weeks but then came back to the UK to finish up some work I was contracted to do because I’m self-employed. During those 7 weeks this is EXACTLY how I felt (apart from being snappy, I was the opposite, an annoying, over-talkative ball of energy when he got home from work!). I am going back for good in November and it’s encouraging to read your blog post and know it gets easier. Thank you!

    1. Cristin Post author

      I was very similar. I came for 3 months, then went home for 3 months to deal with some family things and wait for my visa. Things were much different when I came back, as I already knew the lay of the land and I started to make some friends. It took a full year before I felt settled, but it got better and better, with some hard days thrown in, as well. I hope it starts to come together for you when you return!

  2. A.Q

    Every word of this post is so true. I have recently moved here and feel exaclty the same except I have toddlers that go to school and an infant. I am here settling in and hubby is back home with work commitments. I hope it gets easier and i would be able to find work and everything.. Sigh..!!

    1. Cristin Post author

      It will get easier. I imagine in some ways, having children will help with setting routine and making friends, but having an infant might also make the early days seem a bit isolating on top of being in a new place? It’s hard with no family – been there! Working and making friends made a huge difference for me.

  3. Erin of TexErin-in-SydneyLand

    This is a really great post and so relatable to those of us who live in a different country than our own. The grocery store frustrated and upset me too…still does sometimes. A book in a park with that type of view was a savior for me many days.

    1. Cristin Post author

      Glad I’m not alone in the grocery store thing – it was my nemesis.
      We always have books!

  4. Christie Wilkin

    Excellent–you are spot on in your descriptions of those first few months exactly. I used to avoid cafes because it seemed everyone was with someone. I also felt like I couldn’t complain too much on my blog, at least for the first year, because we “chose” this life. I escaped every single night into the world of the books series I was reading. It was a life-saver.

    1. Cristin Post author

      I definitely had that feeling that I couldn’t complain, either. Both because it was something I chose and also because I didn’t want to offend Australians by sounding ungrateful. Yes, thank goodness for books – and funnily enough, my eventual avenue into making friends was a book club!

  5. Ashley

    Reading this I thought of my time abroad as an expat. I too felt like I had a neon sign or a tattooed forehead that said “outsider!” Then you feel guilty because how many people get a chance to live outside of their home country and have a wild adventure travelling the world. I found that coffee dates helped, as did wine nights.

    1. Cristin Post author

      Yes, it’s definitely a strange feeling – you know it’s something wonderful you’re getting to do, but it’s still unsettling. And, getting out and meeting people definitely makes all the difference!

  6. Madeline

    Thanks so much for this post, Cristin. It’s 100% spot-on. It’s encouraging to read that it does get easier. I too went back home after three months (I’m in the US at the moment) and will be heading back to Sydney in a couple weeks. I’m hoping since I now know some people and the lay of the land that things will be better/easier, but part of me is busy making up crazy schemes for ways we can just stay here!

    1. Cristin Post author

      It really does get so much better, and from the comments I’ve gotten, almost everyone seems to agree on that. I can completely appreciate the impetus to want to stay on a visit home (I still always feel at least a little like that), but when you get back, I’ll bet you find that it does feel just a bit more like home here than when you left. I hope so.

  7. Tracee

    Thank you for this. I sit here now with tears streaming down my face lol. I feel exactly the same way. I’ve been here just over a year though and I’m still finding it pretty difficult. My 16-year old daughter is finding it even harder. We are going to try moving suburbs and see if that helps.

    1. Cristin Post author

      Oh, Tracee, I’m so sorry to hear that. You can see by the comments here that you are so not alone. It’s a huge life change. When we first moved here, we lived in the city, and after a year moved across the bridge. I felt so much more comfortable. Finding the right place and making even one or two good friends can make all the difference. Hoping things will turn for you and your daughter soon. xo

  8. Val

    I’ve been in-country for 2 months now. I still feel lost on every level. I feel that I stick out like a sore thumb…and of course I really do. I’m still anxious driving on the “wrong” side of the road, trying to figure out round abouts without killing anyone, the food takes some getting used to (I totally agree about the milk, and clearly the animals eat different kinds of grass because the meat tastes different as well). I am slowly making friends, but it’s still hard. And lonely.

    1. Cristin Post author

      You probably don’t stick out as much as you think you do, but it can really feel that way. Have to admit that driving is the one area I’ve never adjusted in all this time. I avoid it at all costs. Just my thing. Thank goodness Sydney has very good public transport.
      Eggs also got to me for awhile. I found them quite rich.
      The tough thing that nobody mentions about making friends is that it does take time to get to know and trust new people, even when you’ve found them.
      I hope it starts to turn for you.

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