InterNations Featured Blog
Jae: Housewife Down Under
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Australia, etc.
I'm a 27 year old American, originally from Minnesota. I came to Australia in January 2012, having met an Australian in Poland back in 2011 and fallen in love with him. We just got married in September and have decided we want to raise our family in Australia.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging less than a month after I came to Australia, mainly because I didn't know anybody and was a bit lonely and needed something to do.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My personal favorites are the ones about things that are uniquely Australian, especially anything involving cute animals (like Koalas) or beautiful places (like the Great Ocean Road or the Grampians). However, I can't write about just one subject all the time and I write about a lot of other things that have nothing to do with Australia at all. The most popular ones by numbers tend to be craft or cooking related, even though I don't consider my blog to fit those categories very well. The most popular post by far is my guide to DIYing vintage wedding invitations from scratch, which, you know, I was pretty proud of them, but I don't think it makes for super interesting reading. I prefer looking at cute koalas.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Australia differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
A lot of things are the same (like the language, thank God, and even the street signs) and a lot of things are different.
Every place has great things about it, but what I really love about Australia, and Melbourne in particular, is how easy it is to live an active, outdoor lifestyle. In America, that can be really difficult because it is such a car-centric society. Here, I have a jogging path right in my own "backyard" and I can cycle anywhere. And if you want to get out of the city and do some serious hiking, you only need to drive about 2-3 hours in any direction to find some breathtakingly beautiful place to spend the weekend.
I also love all unique animals here, especially all the beautiful birds. Cockatoos are my favourite! I do miss squirrels, but I'm glad Australia doesn't have any skunks.
However, I am still getting used to sky-high prices for everything and I perpetually feel ripped off. It literally pains me to pay full price for anything here because I know the same product in America costs at least 50% less. I guess you could say I have sticker shock more than I have culture shock.
Australian people are really friendly and welcoming. I've had bad expat experiences in other countries where people weren't very friendly, but never in Australia. That definitely helps take the edge off the "outsider" feeling you can have in a new place.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Australia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I had no idea what to expect! I'd never had a desire to visit Australia before I met my husband and I didn't know anything about the country until I came here. Fortunately, just winging it has worked all right so far, but if I could go back and do it again, knowing ahead of time that I would intend to stay here for the long term, I definitely would have sorted out my finances a bit better and made better arrangements for all my affairs in America to be looked after.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Being from Minnesota, I'm used to mosquitoes and I'm also used to being the person the mosquitoes find the tastiest. Sitting outside for dinner one warm January evening, about two weeks after I'd arrived, I was pleased to find that, after sampling me briefly, the mosquitoes in Australia didn't like me that much and preferred to feast on my husband and his brother. 24 hours or so later, it became clear just how much they didn't like, as my one lone bite on my leg started to look and feel very strange. Within 48 hours after being bitten, I couldn't even walk and my husband insisted I go to the emergency room. It was his birthday and we spent the entire night in the hospital with me on an antibiotic drip because the mosquito that bit me had apparently been carrying flesh eating bacteria on its proboscis. What a nice welcome to Australia, huh?
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Australia?
- A lot of things in Australia can and will kill you if given the opportunity. Research all the deadly plants and animals and stay away from them.
- "Unfurnished" in rental unit listings means literally that. You will usually need to buy all of your own appliances for an unfurnished unit.
- If you are really, really attaches to a certain product in your home country, research ahead of time to see if you can get that product in Australia. If you can't, be prepared to bring a huge stash with you. Excedrin, tampons with applicators, Reese's Pieces, and sunscreen with SPF 75 are all non-existent or very hard to find here.
How is the expat community in Australia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Most of the people I've met are expats or the partner of one, but I haven't gotten involved in the expat community, so to speak. Most of the people I know have been here for many years and don't really identify as expats anymore. There are so many people who were born in other countries that I think it's not such an identifying mark here as it is in some other places. Whether or not you identify strongly as an expat is up to you and not a label that other people will put on you.
How would you summarize your expat life in Australia in a single, catchy sentence?
I just really love koalas.