Australia, Destinations, Expat, Like A Local, Living Abroad, Types of Travel

It’s Not All Sunshine and Great Accents – An Expat’s Realisation of Life Abroad

When I first started this blog, I vowed to write about any and all that happened while traveling, and any traveler will tell you that it’s not always Instagram-worthy. I’ve received comments, texts, emails, etc. asking how my move to Sydney has been going and that everything seems so perfect and great and happy. While I am very much happy and everything really is great, there will always be a few bumps in the road. My blog isn’t about gloating on the everlasting joys of travel; it’s about showing the real side of taking risks and opening your eyes to a world that will never cease to amaze you. And as always, with taking risks, there will come adversities.

Before making the big move to Sydney, I really didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal. Friends and family asked if I was nervous, and to be completely honest, I wasn’t. In my eyes, Australia was pretty much a distant cousin to the U.S. Within my first few weeks of living here, I’ve realized there’s much more to it.

There isn’t glaring cultural differences, as there would be had I moved to Bangkok, like my friend Haleigh did. It could be as simple as remembering that the good ole USA doesn’t use the metric system [like the rest of the world] and having to convert EVERYTHING.

  • How do I dress for the weather when I don’t know what 11 degrees C feels like?
  • 60 kilograms: I can definitely squat that. Oh wait, thats 132 pounds. Goodbye usage of my legs. [Yes, I know I’m a wimp.]
  • It’s only 800 meters up the road? Great, thats like nine football fields away.
  • kilogram-pound-converter

It could be as stressful as finances. While minimum wage is double that of the U.S., prices for nearly everything are almost double as well. For a post-grad coming from a university where dollar drinks and $16 cases of beer were in abundance, this was quite a shock when I heard, “Hey, there’s a special on Heineken! 2 cases for $85.” Wait… What… Reality set in.


There’s an overwhelming Asian influence which was highly unanticipated. Everywhere I turn, there’s Chinese symbols on the shops’ windows. Thai restaurants are on every street corner, like the U.S. and McDonald’s. And of course, this isn’t an adversity, but where I’m from, our minority majority is Latin American so I’m used to seeing Spanish everywhere. I’ve eaten more Asian food in the last month than I have in my whole life.


Catching up on the Aussie lingo has proved to be a challenge as well. Every time I learn a new word, out comes another. I can never catch up. All of the words are shortened or ending in -y or -o.

  • Telly (television), footy (football), uni (university), arvo (afternoon), ambo (ambulance), Maccas (McDonald’s), tradie (trade worker), ciggie (cigarette), bickies (biscuits, cookies)…

When in doubt, just shorten a word and add a vowel to the end, and somehow it will end up being Aussie slang.
australia-slang-aussie-wordThere’s also the fact that every morning I wake up and think, “Today is going to be the day I see a Huntsman Spider.” And luckily, I have yet to see a spider or a snake, but I live in constant fear… There’s also a constant fear of learning to drive manual, the public transportation system, whether or not there’s vegemite on my toast…


Finally, there’s just the overall hassle of not being Australian. Government documents, VISA applications, tax file numbers, Australian Business Numbers, Motor Registry, WWCCs, RSA, Bank accounts, a hundred different methods of proving my identity… But I must give the Australian government some props for 1.) Dealing with my phone calls and 2.) Having a human voice answering the phone.  IMAGINE THAT!

You name it, I’ve dealt with it. But it’s what comes along with the risk of moving 10,000 miles away from home and making a life for myself. While it may not always be sunshine [it’s winter and it’s cold] and great accents, it’s been worth every hassle and adversity I’ve had to face. Sydney is a beautiful city with quite possibly the friendliest and most helpful people around. And at the end of the day, I’m happy with happy people around me. Life is good.

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  • Reply ldr13 July 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I know where you’re coming from; all those little things really add up. I spent a month in England last Christmas and expected it to be just like Canada but with cute accents and nicer buildings but boy did I ever miss having iced tea (sweet tea where you’re from!) served at restaurants, Miss Vickies chips, Oh Henry bars, butter tarts, salted fries, regular mustard on my burgers and vegetables that had taste (they mostly boil them and don’t use any spices, not even salt and pepper).

    It was like a beacon of light when I saw a Subway in London and thought I can have something exactly like I would have at home! I talked for ten minutes about my love of sub sauce to my boyfriend and how he had to try it… and as it turned out, they don’t have sub sauce in the UK… or the U.S. How is this possible? It’s only the best subway condiment there is!?!? It sounds crazy but the whole sub sauce thing really got to me.

    Then there was the issue of bathroom sinks having a hot and a cold tap making it impossible to wash your hands in warm water… what? And having no plugs in the bathrooms… how do girls get ready in this country? Plus their roads are completely insane; my boyfriend’s car side mirror is held on by tape and now I know why lol.

    The plan is for me to move there in a little less than a year and while I completely believe he is worth it and I look forward to being able to have a ‘normal’ relationship with my man, it’s also completely terrifying. I’ve always lived in relatively the same area, am close with my parents, hate change and have a very firm attachment with the food I’ve grown up with. It’s going to be a very difficult transition but I know I have a supportive boyfriend and his wonderful family to lean on. In the next year I will not be taking Canada for granted though!

    • Reply kellyschwantes July 22, 2014 at 11:30 am

      Change is good, and while the food will never quite be like home (ie. ranch dressing is not served everywhere here…), it will be an experience and a love like most people dream of. Feel free to email me if you have any questions/concerns, I’m sure I’ve been there at some point, Best in your endeavors. Xx

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