Tag Archives: Expat blog

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


Sydney Expat Interview Series: Part 1 – Expectations vs Reality

Sydney, Sydney Expat Interviews

I’m so excited to share the first in what will be a monthly series over the next year and a half. Recently, I put a call out to expats in Sydney to answer a series of questions about their lives here. I was calling it a “sideways interview series,” because instead of sharing an interview with one person, I’ll be sharing one question with multiple answers. I hope it will be fun and informative, whether you’re also an expat, you’re a native of Sydney, or perhaps you’ll visit or live here one day. And, make sure to visit all of my fellow bloggers who are linked here, once you’ve read this post (and commented, shared it, and liked Between Roots and Wing’s Facebook page, of course!!). 

Question1 - Expectations and Reality

QUESTION 1: Tell me two things that surprised you about Sydney, and one thing that was exactly as you expected.

Name: Caitlin 
Country of origin: England 
Lived in Sydney: 6 months 
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis


1) The weather! Perhaps foolishly I’d been led to believe that Australia is sunny all the time. The amount of rain in my first couple of months in Sydney took me totally by surprise!


2) How small it is! I’d expected Sydney to be similar to London but I quickly realised that it’s more like an oversized village where you’re only 2 connections away from anyone else. If I had a pound (sorry, dollar!) for the number of “coincidences” there have been over the last 6 months.


As expected: The beautiful surfers down at Bondi!

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years

2 surprises were:
1.)  Visible Discrimination in society
2.) That it is quite expensive.

The laid back culture was expected.

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

The first thing that surprised me was how bad the traffic was, was totally not expecting that when I first moved here. Having moved from a small country town in the UK where there is little to no traffic it was pretty full on to be stuck in heavy traffic travelling very short distances. On the bright side the second thing that surprised me was that I could take a ferry to work and miss all the traffic! My first job in Sydney was based in the city so I could catch the ferry from Rose Bay to Circular Quay every day…amazing way to commute!

The beaches were exactly as I expected, amazing! Having lived most of my life in England having beaches like Bondi on your doorstep never gets old, I appreciate living in this amazing country with it’s coastline so much for that reason!

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Almost 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram 

Two things that surprised me are the cleanliness and how little police presence there is. You rarely find graffiti (unless it’s art) and there isn’t trash everywhere. The air is so clean and pure compared to the industrial areas of the U.S. The only time I ever really see police are walking in pairs around Darling Harbour. It’s just not a common site. And police cars…rarely seen as well!

1 thing that’s exactly as I expected is the difference in nationalities you find around you. In America, you will find a lot more South American and African people than you do in Australia. Australia tends to have a lot more Asian and Middle Eastern influence, which is awesome, because that means a lot of Asian and Middle Eastern culture!

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: Nearly 6 years


It’s a lot smaller than other cities, (e.g. London) with so many different neighbourhoods with different styles and characters, but lots of great places with a villagey vibe really close to the city.

NYE in Sydney!! you cannot beat the fireworks – I first came to Sydney about 14 years ago as a backpacker and had one of the best New Years of my life – Basement Jaxx playing at King Street Wharf – followed by the fireworks at midnight. Not been able to top that one – and each year I watch the Fireworks – you know they are never going to be a let down.

Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

1. How quickly food spoils without so many preservatives and chemicals.
2. How short the cereal aisle is without all the high sugar ones, that I lived on as a child.

I was not surprised by the fact that most Australians are generally nice and like Americans. I can’t count how many times people have said, “I love hearing you talk.” And believe me, no one ever said that until I moved here.

Name: Nom de geurre – “Bushranger”
Country of origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5yrs

2 surprising things: 1. Birds…I could not sleep the first few days because of the background noise. I felt like I was in the jungle, but then I got used to them.
2. The Harbour – I did not think it was going to be so awesome.

1 thing as expected: Before coming to Sydney I’ve watched a lot of Australian movies and one that made a lasting impression was “Kenny” – a mockumentary about a plumber who works for a portable toilet rental company and his interactions with people and how similar and different everything it is in comparison to US. When I came to Sydney, things were almost exactly like in this film.

Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 months 
Melissa blogs at Leche Love

One thing that surprised me was how many smokers there are here. I know it’s such a weird and random thing, but there are a lot of smokers here. After seeing the cost and packaging, even more so.
Another surprising thing was how easy public transit is here. I lived in Austin, and our bus/train system was pretty bad. Having moved here without a car, this was important.

I expected it to be beautiful, and it has been.

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: A year in July!
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

2 things that surprised you about Sydney:
How culturally similar it is to most metropolitan area in America. The people look similar, speak English (with a quirky accident and vocab), listen to all our music and watch all our shows.

The diversity in people, food, and nature. I am friends with Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, Korean, South Africans, Kiwis, Sri Lankans, Iraqians …very few are originally from Australia which keeps things interesting. You walk down the main strip of my suburb and restaurants from Thai, Greek, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, Vietnamese, African and so much more, your taste buds never get bored! Then the flora and fauna, you get everything to the beach to the big city to rainforests and then of course the dry Outback!

1 thing that‘s exactly as you expected:
The laidback lifestyle. They take “no worries” to the extreme and you can’t take anything they say seriously. All Australians are entitled to four weeks annual leave which makes for a great work/life balance. And 4 o’clock drinks in the office? Normal.

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

I was amazed by the beautiful deep blue colour of the sky – I had always kind of assumed that the photo’s in holiday brochures had been photo-shopped.

Not long after arriving, we got invited for a charity fundraising lunch in a park. I remember being absolutely blown away that there were public barbeques in the park, that people actually used them and they weren’t vandalised!

The way of life here is just what I thought it would be – a lot more relaxed, lots of outdoors living. In my opinion, the perfect place to raise a family.

Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 6 ½ years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-SydneyLand

The lack of air-conditioning in homes and apartments for lease in such a hot country, and (of course, I think almost all expats experienced this) the high prices of everyday products. $5 for Chapstick? $7 for a pack of band-aids? $3-$4 for a bottled water? Say what?!?

The beauty…I dreamed that Australia would be beautiful, and it did not disappoint.

Photo by Erin

Photo by Erin

Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

2 surprises:
I expected Sydney to have a laid-back beach culture, similar to Orange County, California, but offices are fairly corporate, and people are always dressed to the nines when they go out! I was also surprised by just how international Sydney is, particularly how much of an Asian influence it has.

1 thing that‘s exactly as you expected:
Sydney Harbour never fails to blow me away.

Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 3 years, 2 months

Surprise Number 1 – Just how expensive it is to live in Sydney. I was naïve about the cost of living and genuinely thought that the price of rent was per month until I learnt that that was per week!

Surprise Number 2 – the harsh parking/ driving/ public order penalties, which are approximately 3 to 4 times as high compared to the UK. They don’t seem to act as a deterrent to most of the drivers here either.

As expected – the amazing weather. It lives up to my expectations and then some. Incredible to enjoy the outdoors and live a more active life thanks to the sunshine for ten months of the year.


Sydney expats – did you have any expectations or surprises of your own?


We Decided to Call Sydney Home


For nearly a year, Partner-in-Crime and I were semi-slyly planning a change of scenery. We first met in Florida, a state that – despite its complete weirdness and frequent disfunction – we felt at home in because we’re both laid back sunshine lovers. P-i-C has always liked the idea of moving to Queensland, Australia’s most tropical state, to recapture the Florida vibe. For a long time, he’d say, “let’s move to Queensland,” and I’d shut him right down, saying that I’d moved across the world, settled in Sydney, and that was enough moving for me.

After I got pregnant, we were staring down a move since we live in a one-bedroom apartment. Moving is the pits, especially in Sydney where the rent is shocking, the competition is stiff, and what you end up with is often short at least a few of the boxes you hoped to tick off your list. We dreamed of a nice house, but that meant moving much further out of town than we wanted to. At that point, I had a part-time casual job and P-i-C was working for himself, so we had no real professional ties. Our friend-soulmates were moving back to the States soon. It’s no secret that Sydney is not my favorite city on this planet. It all started seeming way too hard to me. “Maybe we should just move to Queensland,” I finally declared.

We started researching and settled on the Sunshine Coast where we would be near the beach, the mountains, and could rent a 4 bedroom house for what we pay for our one bedroom apartment in Sydney. A trip up there confirmed that it was lovely and easygoing. It seemed like a fait accompli. I didn’t want to move while pregnant, so we decided we’d be Queenslanders shortly after Hushpuppy was born.

It might have all gone as planned if it hadn’t been for the yoga.

In the late stages of my pregnancy, I was taking four classes a week at a beautiful studio and looked forward to taking the Hushpuppy to some of their Mums and Bubs classes. When she was 8 weeks old, we went to our first one, and it quickly became such a special time to me. I started researching for something similar on the Sunshine Coast to disappointing results. It was my first little clue that I might not be completely happy there.

I started looking online at Sydney apartments – just out of curiosity – and after many long conversations, P-I-C and I agreed that we would look for something special in both places and, as I declared, “let the universe decide.” I threw down a gauntlet of must-haves for a Sunshine Coast house and he did the same for a Sydney apartment. We were going to have to make sacrifices either way we went.

One day while walking back from yoga, I clued into the neighborhood for the first time. I was looking at funky shops, an organic cafe, a nice Thai place, a Subway (my favorite for picnics), a kid’s park, families everywhere and right on the bus line to the city. I expanded my search to that suburb, and before long, we found a 2 bedroom in a complex with pools, sauna, club house, a cafe on premise, and across the street from a leisure center. I felt like the universe had responded in kind.

Around the same time, we found a beautiful rental listed on the Sunshine Coast that ticked every box on the nearly impossible list I’d created. Many more long conversations later, we finally came to the mutual agreement that Sydney was the right place for us right now.

The saga of how we finally got into our new apartment is a story for another day. Let’s just say, the universe wanted to test our resolve. But, at last, we pick up our keys today and will continue to call ourselves Sydneysiders for some time to come.

A lot of those “long conversations” took place at this park, which probably didn’t hurt Sydney’s chances.