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Tina: Back Pages

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Melbourne makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Melbourne, etc.

I’m a 24-year-old American from your standard U.S. suburb in Virginia. I graduated university over two years ago and have been out work traveling since. I lived in the Southwest of America for seven months working in a conservation corps, and got to travel to loads of National Parks/Forests to work on trails. Soon after, I moved to Thailand for seven months and taught English to 120 very chatty but sweet Thai teenagers. I was about to fly back to America to get what my parents would call a real job and live out a normal life, but then I looked at a map and saw how close and alluring this giant landmass of an island was to Thailand. I applied for a work holiday visa, moved to Melbourne a year ago and have no intention of leaving Australia any time soon. I worked a few odd jobs for several months and recently got a job at a consulting firm, which will allow me to stay here for a few more years.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I started blogging about a year and a half ago when I moved to Thailand to teach English. It was the first time I left my country and teaching was a completely new experience to me, so I wanted to share what I was doing with my friends, family and others undertaking the same type of thing. It was the most challenging thing I’ve done to date—I had to figure out how to stand up in front of 40 teenagers and not let on that I am super shy!

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

When I’m feeling sentimental, sometimes I’ll go back and read old entries and relive some travel experiences. I like a post where I describe getting settled in Melbourne—it was such a stressful yet exciting time and in hindsight, I can look back and laugh at the misadventure of moving to a new city with no plan.

Tell us about the ways your new life in Melbourne differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I came to Melbourne from Thailand, and it almost felt like being home again because I was in a Western country and could understand the conversations around me. The biggest shock was how expensive Australia is! I am used to it now, but in the first few months when I didn’t have a stable job, it was super discouraging that everything was three times as much as in the States. I went to a McDonald’s and was disheartened that there was no such thing as a “dollar menu” here! I’m also still getting used to the lingo and different wording. When I ordered fish and chips for the first time, I fully expected to get fish over a plate of potato chips (or crisps) and was surprised (and a bit relieved) to see they were served with what I would call french fries.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Melbourne? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

No, I came to Melbourne with this idealized vision of being a nomadic, spontaneous traveler who made no plans, which sounded good in theory, but I ended up wasting a lot more time and money than I would have if I had just planned out the important stuff, like where to sleep and what to eat. I didn’t plan on staying in Melbourne—my original “plan” for Australia was to travel for a while then land somewhere in the outback to do an outdoor job. However, Melbourne is a charming place and once I was there, I didn’t want to leave. If I had known that I would be staying there, I would have done more job research and found a place to live right off the bat.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

I don’t know about a specific, funny story but I’ve met some hilarious entertaining people along the way. The funniest person I have met is Aileen, a tiny Colombian girl I worked with at a café. She was so little and innocent looking, but probably the sassiest person living. She used her charm to get away with murder, saying, “it’s okay I can say what I want because I am little.” This little girl would go around and berate the tough, irritable chefs and if anyone ever showed signs of wanting to get mad, she’d give this cheeky smile and totally defuse the situation. When it was a really busy stressful shift, she’d walk around and say in her thick Spanish accent, “I’m too sexy for this job!”

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Melbourne?

  • Drink as much coffee from as many different cafes as you can! Melbourne has one of the best coffee/café cultures in the world and if you’re like me and need coffee like you need air, you’ll be overjoyed by the selection of coffee and the baristas who take the art of making the perfect long black or flat white very seriously.
  • Rent a car, grab some friends and make a trip to the Great Ocean Road. It’s close enough to make a day trip out of, and the winding road along the coast makes for a beautiful road trip. If you go early in the morning, the area is teeming with wildlife—I saw a koala, kangaroos and wallabies for the first time. We pulled off at one of the beaches and I was amazed at how pristine and quiet it was—it’s rare to find a beach at a popular tourist destination these days where it feels removed from the effects of man.
  • If you’re a work holiday expat, don’t follow the masses and look on Gumtree/the internet for jobs. Get out there on foot and do as much job hunting as you can in person. I wasted a month thinking I could find a job behind a computer screen and this is nearly impossible. You’ll notice when you click on a job ad that 100 other people have looked at the same one. Go straight to places you might like to work with a smile and some confidence and you’ll get a job right away.

How is the expat community in Melbourne? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

I stayed in a hostel for my first month in Melbourne and met a lot of people from other countries right away—forming some of my best friendships in Australia. When I started working, more of my colleagues were from overseas than Australia, so I think it is fairly easy to meet other expats. I’m going to say that Melbourne probably has one of the best international communities in Australia (and perhaps the world?) There are loads of international students, backpackers and expats taking jobs in Melbourne—you should have no problem meeting others!

How would you summarize your expat life in Melbourne in a single, catchy sentence?

A constant misadventure, filled with too much coffee, not enough sleep and a fair share of quirky characters.

Alain Nguyen

"It was easier getting to know other expatriates in Melbourne with this platform and to share our previous experiences in Australia. "

Samantha Greene

"I love the idea of going out with other expats here in Melbourne and exploring the nightlife this city has to offer. "

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