Tag Archives: American in Australia

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

 

5 Year Expativersary

expat issues

 

5 years ago today, I boarded a plane with two suitcases and a Prospective Marriage Visa, on my way to make Australia my home. I didn’t have a timeline in mind, but I’m sure that five years would have seemed like quite a long stretch to be here if you’d asked me then. It was a confusing time for me, and thinking beyond more than a few days was head-spinning enough – never mind 5 years. Yet here I am, and 5 years is certainly long enough to feel settled and to build a community. It’s long enough to have seen most of the tourist spots and many of the hidden gems. It’s even long enough to become a citizen.

 

Taking Australian citizenship was the most significant event this year, in terms of finding my place here. There’s something about being “official” that has made me feel more settled. – it’s like the feeling I had when we got married, even though Partner-in-Crime and I had been living together for some time. That piece of paper changes your relationship in subtle but lovely and important ways.

The other day, a stranger started chatting us up and asked, based on our accents, if we were “visitors or residents.”

“Citizens!,” I proudly replied. (I’m sure he was terribly impressed…).

Beyond taking citizenship – or really, including it – more than anything, this has been a thinking year for me. I spent a lot of time thinking about my place in this country and the U.S. (particularly thanks to a six week visit home). I thought about my professional ambitions and how I want to allocate my time and head space. I thought about politics in both countries, and what I feel is right, wrong, and a little in between. I spent a lot of time tinkering away on this blog both in ways that I think will be obvious and some that are much more philosophical. I thought about the kind of wife and parent that I want to be and what my priorities are for our life together and our future goals. I did a lot more thinking than acting on many of these things, though the 11kg bundle of kinetic energy that I call my daughter kept me in motion all day long every day.

Today, my kid was playing with a toy at her friend’s house and I noticed that she seamlessly transitioned back and forth between calling it a “flashlight” and a “torch.” It’s a little thing, but one that signaled to me how our whole family can all adjust to living with two or more cultures if we don’t overthink it too much. We do our best when we just enjoy our friends, our comforts, our freedoms, and appreciate the gift of being citizens of countries that have welcomed us by birth or by choice.

As I do every year in my expativersary posts (you can find the rest linked at the bottom of this page), I’ll conclude this one with photos of some of our more memorable moments this year.

We moved two buildings over, and remembered that there’s no such thing as an “easy move.”

We hosted a Breakfast For Dinner housewarming.

 

Jacarandas!

We love Sculpture By the Sea every year.

Two passports in hand, we got on a plane to the U.S. Let the permanent record note that I single-handedly went long-haul with a toddler and lived to tell the tale.

We got to witness my brother’s beautiful Christmas themed wedding.

And, we met a jolly old elf.

We just generally loved spending the holiday season in the U.S. with so many friends, family, and festivities. And WINTER!

My girl turned two with a bing and a bang … we threw her a music-themed birthday party.

We ate a lot of birthday cake at 2 year old parties throughout February.

My brunch girls and I “discovered” a Secret Garden.

…and my 2 year old girl “discovered” (soy) babyccinos.

One of my favorite people read something I wrote about her and wrote THE PERFECT response. And, my year was made.

I voted in my first ever Australian election.

We unwittingly subleased our balcony to a family of possums.

Parks and Recreation came to an end – yes, a significant life event for me.

We met a fireman, a significant life event for Hushpuppy who channels Fireman Sam approximately 6 – 8 hours per day.

We did a lot of Vivid, and especially loved our laid back evening in Chatswood.

Sydney had a cuh-razy storm. We were glad that we were already in the land of Oz.

This burger happened.

abromavic

Partner-in-Crime and I fell in love with the Marina Abramović residency. I spent about six hours immersed in it over two days.

We celebrated the 4th of July with a little party for some American families in our area.

Double rainbow!

 

The Most Perfect Burger in Sydney

restaurants

There are two Holy Grails forever being pursued by the American in Australia expat community – Mexican Food and burgers. Mexican food, served just the way I want it, remains enigmatic, but today, I’m am able to report a victory for Team Burger.

First, let me define my terms. A burger, in American parlance, should be a thick patty of fatty, fatty meat, topped with ketchup, mustard, and sweet pickle relish or a dill pickle chip. Maybe mayo, if you’re wild. Tomato and a piece of lettuce make it healthy. And, melty orange cheese and possibly crispy bacon make it glorious.

Here are things that Australians like to do to their burgers that make Americans cry inside:

  • Use lean meat
  • Top it with beetroot
  • Top it with pineapple
  • Top it with egg
  • Top it with non-crispy Australian bacon
  • Slather it in barbecue sauce

I mean, the Aussie burger is fine if you’re into that kind of thing, but if what you’re after is an American style burger, it’s sort of like ordering sushi and getting lasagna.

A couple of months ago, I bragged on the burger at The Grounds of Alexandria as being the best I’ve tasted in Sydney. I stand by that as a damn fine burger. However, last week, I discovered the World Series Apple Pie Bald Eagle of Down Under burgers.

Five Points Burgers in North Sydney has only been open a few months, but has already become one of the most popular lunch spots in the area. I’d actually attempted to go once before, but even at 1p.m., the lunch rush was still raging on, and the line to order was to the wall, with a mob outside waiting for their burgers. Apparently, it’s like that every single day.

We gave it another try post-rush around 2:30p.m., and that was the lucky time. We ordered two Bronx burgers and a side of fries to share between the three of us (Hushpuppy, who had been declaring her excitement for burgers the whole way, ate about three fries and was done with the whole thing, but she’s two, so I wouldn’t go by her review). I also added a vanilla shake (chocolate and salted caramel also available). Our whole order was around $35.

What can I tell you? The burger was perfection. Tasty, juicy, cheesy, bacony, just everything I want in a burger. Look at this masterpiece:

… I know, right?

I’m not actually sure how you go back to work for the rest of the afternoon after this…

The fries were good – big, crispy, beer battered steak fry style – but honestly, entirely unnecessary. And, I’d probably skip the shake next time. It was thin, not what they call in Australia a “thick shake,” which is what we Americans would think of as a burger joint shake. Though, the salted caramel is tempting.

 

I was fat ‘n’ happy after our lunch, and so full I skipped dinner. It’s definitely a once in a blue moon sort of decadence, but one that this Yank is so excited to have in the neighborhood.

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A few things:
Five Points Burgers
124 Walker Street, North Sydney
Open weekdays only. 11:30a.m. to 5p.m.
Not child-friendly (no high chairs or kid’s menu, primarily high stool seating). Grab takeaway and go to the park!
On Instagram

25 Things American Expats in Australia Inevitably Think

expat issues

25 Things American Expats in Australia ThinkMy fourth expat anniversary is coming right up, and as a precursor, I’ve been jotting down some of the things I thought when I first moved here, as well as the common themes that come up in the many conversations I’ve had with my American expat friends.

Here are some of the reactions that almost every American expat in Australia I’ve met has had. I hope some of them give my fellow Yanks Down Under, and also my Aussie friends, a bit of fun. For me, most of these thoughts are a distant memory now. Most of them … I’ll leave you to wonder which is which!


1. I don’t KNOW?! I just want a cup of coffee!

coffee menu

 

2. They call them … prawns? Wait a minute, that means … there’s no “throw a shrimp on the barbie…”

3. A roundabout? OK. Don’t panic…

4. Arvo?

5. I’ll just order a Fosters. That’s Australian for beer, right?

6. They have Target!!!! Oh … never mind.

target logo

7. I wonder what that is in Farenheit/miles/gallons.

8. It costs HOW MUCH?!?

9. That’s PER WEEK?!?

10. Where’s the slot to pay at the pump?

11. Is that a … nude beach?

12. Where’s the closet?

13. Where’s the air conditioner?

14. It is FREEZING in this apartment.

15. That’s not bacon.

16. Where are all the good cereals?

Source

Source

17. I thought I was a size 12.

18. Haych. … Zed. …

19. How can this store be closing? It’s only 5p.m.

20. I wonder if anyone just saw me get in on the passenger side.

21. Why is there barbecue sauce on my burger?

22. Why is there arugula on my pizza?

23. …it’s called rocket?

24. How do I go about getting some ice in this glass?

25. We’re drinking. At work!


Americans in Australia, tell me yours.
And, if you’re an Australian living in America, how about the other way around?


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