Diana: Wear to Next
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Perth, etc.
I’m Di, a photographer & writer from Vancouver, Canada who threw convention to the wind, and followed my heart to Perth, Australia. This crazy life twist came about when vacationing in Hawaii in 2010 - I met the man (from Perth) who would become my fiancé. We were long distance for the first year and then I moved five months after we got engaged. The engagement incidentally, was at exactly the same spot, a year to the very day we met, on the same Hawaiian beach. It was really quite amazing because Perth was the city in which my parents met and my own mum had arrived as a British expat there fifty years earlier under the Ten Pound Pom immigration scheme. Though born and raised in Vancouver, Canada (my parents had made the permanent migration to North America from Australia in the 1960’s) my extended family all live in Perth, and I already possessed citizenship (through my father’s genealogy) which made it easy. I made the move two years ago and have really grown to love it! It’s not my first expat experience however – as a child I was raised across a panorama of countries from two years in East Africa, to Greece, England, and in the Southern United States.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I became inspired to blog after reading some very poignant accounts of other Canadian & American expats’ experiences here in Australia. When I first moved here I came across the writing of my (now) friend, Vahni who writes the blog, Grit & Glamour and it was like we had shared the same path and journey – just a few years apart. She inspired me to start a blog of my own! Photography, writing, fashion and maintaining a busy social schedule have always been both my passions and a consistency of my life. I used to correspond for the 24-Hour Style & Fashion column for our provincial newspaper back in Vancouver, and blogging was a natural progression. I thought I’d put my own spin on the expat adventure with a slant towards the creative arts, fashion and social scene I’ve delved into in since moving to Perth…
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
In a highly uncharacteristic way I was invited randomly into a complete stranger’s home in one of Perth’s toniest neighborhoods. The owner of the home turned out to be a lovely lady called Evi; a noted Western Australian artist, sculptor and philanthropist. Out for a drive with my fiancé we had stopped the car to marvel at her Venice Beach-like house amidst all the airbrushed mega-mansions and she came outside and said “hi!”. I asked her if it would be okay to take a few photographs and she invited us both in for a tour of her home, which was a living shrine to art – inside and out! The post I wrote was California Dreaming in Perth.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Perth differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Oh, yeah! After a few weeks I was hit with massive culture shock and the only surfing I was doing in Oz was crashing through waves of homesickness. It encompassed everything from the lack of brewed coffee to not being able to go for a walk in the evenings (it gets dark early and the city empties out) and of course, driving on the other side of the car/road (The driving, I’m still working through, ha ha!). It all conflicted with the fact that I’d actually been raised by British & Australian parents and I had assumed I’d more or less smoothly transition into a life here. But there was a lot of adaptation I didn’t bargain on… Canadians and Aussies have a very different cultural relativity in many aspects that lie beneath the surface when you scratch it.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Perth? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
In retrospect, from a logistical perspective? Sure – as prepared as I could be. The physical move was easy. I sold all my belongings from my house, my car, furniture and most other things. In spite of loving fashion and art - I’m definitely a minimalist so that was pretty easy! From any other perspective – it’s a hard question to answer. See, I’d visited Perth seven times over the course of my life, so I knew the city in the way a tourist might. But, there is a massive gulf between long-term travel for exploration or adventure, and moving somewhere to set up a new life with a plan for permanency. The hardest part for me was leaving a rich network of close friends, business contacts and family in Vancouver. I go back to Canada for a visit every year. Now, if that wasn’t on the cards? I don’t think I would have left. It’s the feeling of such supreme physical distance from my home country that took a while to wear off and there isn’t a whole lot that you could change or prepare for in retrospect to circumvent that.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Without a doubt – it was on a mini-break to Bali where I met Ketut Liyer, the medicine man from Eat Pray Love. The book (Eat, Pray Love) by Elizabeth Gilbert was one of the most inspiring literary works I’d read on travel and life transitions. But, when I met Ketut in Ubud he gave me the oddest “prophesy” I’d ever heard. Feel free to read about it here – Eat, Pray, Like…What was that? The other notably silly thing has been finding, photographing and sharing my numerous venomous spider encounters on social media with my friends back home. Even living in the center of the city, I come across them pretty routinely from Whitetails to Redbacks, and they never fail to illicit awe and reverence on Facebook.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Perth?
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. The first few months and years – those will be the toughest. For most people you’ll be working to establish, both professionally and inter-personally, a whole new life. Making a permanent move to a new country is a very brave path and not for the faint of heart. Time will help smooth the transition, and give clarity and focus.
- Research the heck out of the employment market. You may find that without the all-important “local” experience it can be a challenge to get in the door or requisite qualifications may vary, depending on your profession. Volunteering is a great way to both get that experience and make new contacts in your chosen country.
- Say yes to every social invitation! Get out; make new friends and experiences at every turn. The great thing about Australians - they are super friendly and highly sociable. From Sunday sessions to beach and barbecue parties, to horse racing, fashion and sporting events – say yes! Try them all…
How is the expat community in Perth? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
To be honest, in Perth I really only know one other Canadian that has moved there on a permanent basis…but have met lots of expats from all around the world and joke that our circle of friends is much like the United Nations. Through my blog, I’ve had all manner of people reach out over email and social media to convey their experiences or say hi. I’ve been to several InterNations expat meet ups and they have been fantastic and fun!
How would you summarize your expat life in Perth in a single, catchy sentence?
Canadians and Australians – poignantly different yet perfectly compatible.