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Ilka: TravelPassion-ista

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 Sydney 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 Sydney, etc.

My name is Ilka and I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. After a 15 year career in tour operations, which involved a variety of assignments throughout the world, I decided to “settle down” in Sydney, Australia during the eighties. Since my time in Sydney, I have studied Political Science and Religions and eventually opted to concentrate on Middle Eastern cultures. Using Sydney as my base, I have continuously travelled and explored the diverse cultural aspects of numerous countries throughout virtually every corner of the globe.  Over all my years travelling, I have actually resided for extended periods (several months to a few years) in Britain, Greece, Hungary, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Thailand and the United States. In addition to German, I have become fluent in English, Greek and Spanish and I am currently attempting to master the Japanese language. 

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

I entered the blogosphere in 2002 with “LoneJourneys” (subsequently replaced by TravelPassion-ista).  I regard blogging over the internet as an excellent way to share details and impressions concerning my most memorable travel experiences.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Up to now, not so much because I have truly enjoyed all my travel destinations.  However, in recent years, I have developed a passion for a small Himalayan nation: Bhutan. In light of this development, I decided to post a new blog venue (www.hellobhutan.net) and that is probably my favorite at this point.

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

Because I had already lived in several countries (among them, Britain) I did not experience much in the way of culture shock.  I would say that overall I was presented with opportunities that would not likely have emerged in Germany, for example co-founding a real estate development business. I learned very quickly that “brick and mortar” was of utmost importance in Australia, much more so than in Germany. However, over the years, affordability has waned and, slowly but surely, even this nation is adapting to a renter’s mentality by moving away from quarter acre blocks into higher density properties.  But one thing I have always missed – since Australia is so far away from everywhere – is the luxury of hopping into a car and driving for a few hours to experience a different atmosphere, language, food and people. In that respect, nothing matches Europe.

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 came here initially to just do some fact-finding but, relatively early on, homed in on an area to settle down.  I must have made the right choice of location because I still live very happily in the same spot.  I take pride in being one who is well prepared at the point of decision, rather than regretful in hindsight.  Certainly in the case of settling in Sydney, I would not change anything.

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

When I first arrived here, I applied the German practice of distinguishing between friends and acquaintances but I soon learned that this is not a common practice in Australia’s culture. My attitude raised some eyebrows, because here, pretty much everyone is officially regarded as a friend.

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

First, read and research as much as you possibly can. Then come here on a trip, visit several cities and ascertain whether there is “chemistry” between you and this nation and which location suits you best. Lastly, make an overall appraisal of your personal career opportunities along with cost-of-living considerations (which, as we have all become aware, are fairly high in Australia).

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

When I moved here (a long time ago), there were German clubs, which exist in most Australian cities.  However, personally I found myself yearning for Australia’s multi-cultural spirit. Since the advent of the internet, this has become a much easier exercise.  Organizations like InterNations, MeetUp and Xing are great venues to help match one’s priorities with those of other expats.

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

As someone who is globally entrenched in both mind and spirit, I would consider myself “at home” in Australia’s multi-cultural society.

Serhat Ahmed

"Without experience of having lived abroad, I thought it would be hard to get to know other expats. But not with InterNations."

Lotta Koskinen

"When I first attended the Sydney Bar night I was really nervous. But everyone welcomed me and I quickly felt as part of the community."

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