Gwen: It Started in LA
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Los Angeles, etc.
My name is Gwen and I’m a former Marketing/PR chick, wife, mother of two and friend. We lived in Sydney Australia until one fine day in April (2013) my husband got a call to see if we interested in moving to LA (for work) and if so, how quickly we could get here. We were on a plane some six weeks later checking out all LA had to offer hoping all the pieces would fit together to start at new adventure. And here we are.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about the experience some six months in as friends were encouraging me to do so. Blogging would give me purpose and an outlet. I also hope that it gives me a presence so I can publish some of my ideas. When we were expats in Shanghai I wrote a book that’s not yet published and for now it seems like a waste because no one has really read it yet. The blog is open to all to read about as it’s happening so I think that’s pretty cool.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
It’s funny I’m still getting used to what readers like and how often it’s different to what I like. I’ll write a blog entry thinking I've nailed it and it’s not as popular as others I wasn’t sure about. One of my favourites is my brush with the paparazzi and probably the other is Living the Dream on Golden Globes weekend . My most popular entry to date though would have to be my write-up on the Oscars.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Los Angeles differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life for me here is essentially the same as it is at home: I drive the kids all over town for their activities, shop for groceries and essentials through the week, work, go out for lunch and go out on the weekends. What’s different is that I don’t have my friends (or as many friends) to go out with and have spontaneous Friday afternoon (or any other afternoon for that matter) drinks. While LA is very similar to Sydney in many ways it’s very hard to get used to starting from scratch in meeting people and making friends. Fortunately not much culture shock involved with this move although LA does take some getting used to!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Los Angeles? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think we were really well prepared for what awaited us in Los Angeles. And then we got here and thought, “Oh my god, we hadn’t thought of that … or that!” Seriously, we had done our research on what we believed to be the two most important things: school and housing. We knew costs for both were going to be much higher than we were used to in Australia so we factored that in. Then we forgot to factor in things like bond (which we pay ourselves) and despite knowing what the school fees would be they forgot to mention the fees (tuition) is pre-paid. Upfront. One year in advance when school starts. Ouch. No I wouldn’t change any of our decisions. For the most part they worked out well and it all adds to the experience of weighing things up with the information you have at the time. We had also done enough research to ensure we were pretty well informed so the decision would be the right one, even if there were curve balls along the way.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I didn’t expect this question to be so tricky—when we lived in Shanghai there so many funny stories I wouldn’t know which one to choose. I think the funniest story would have to be just recently when we saw so many paparazzi waiting for JLo and Mary J Blige to come out from a restaurant we were also dining in. I went outside to put my friend in an Uber (car/taxi) and there they all were. So I decided to try my “pap poses” on them. I never laughed so much in a long time. They thought it was funny too. At first. Then they’re like, “ok, enough already!” (I blogged about this too, and one of my favourite posts—in answer to Q3).
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Los Angeles?
Research. Trust no one but yourself. Be realistic.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking LA is going to be the answer to everything—you’re living the dream. You really need to ensure you get your head out of the clouds and be realistic about what life will be like. This involves doing as much research as you can and talking to as many people as you can regarding their experiences. We were looking to a relocation consultant to help with suggesting areas to live etc. At the end of the day we needed to pound the pavement and look at what the area had to offer before committing. No one could make that decision but us. You really have to do the hard work yourself so you know how you arrived at the decisions. This is especially the case for LA because where you choose to live is so important. All the different areas are exactly that: different. Get a vibe for the place before you commit.
How is the expat community in Los Angeles? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is quite a large Australian expat community and everyone in LA is from all over the globe, so it’s nice. But, we don’t seek out fellow expats and essentially just find friends through work, the kids’ school and social activities like tennis. I feel like I’ve been really fortunate to find like-minded people here so early on.
How would you summarize your expat life in Los Angeles in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in LA is surreal in so many ways yet it’s still normal life; it’s just a different kind of normal.