Jean: The New Edge
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We’re fairly certain that most of you have visited a town or city once that just took you by storm and really made you want to live there, if not forever, at least for a couple years. This is exactly what happened to Jean and her family not too long ago. Shortly after arriving in their new hometown of Sydney, Jean took up blogging at The New Edge and has been posting at least every other day ever since.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Sydney, etc.
I come from Malaysia. We visited the country on a holiday in 2009 and fell in love. When my husband was offered a posting here, we leapt at the opportunity. We moved in 2010 and have been here for a little over a year.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started it shortly after we arrived. I love to write and take photos, I always wanted to learn how to administer a blog and I wanted the family to keep up with our comings and goings. I also wanted to log my experiences and observations while they were still fresh and alien to me so I could look back and be entertained one day.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
We saw a massive fight in one of our first visits to a park with the kids. I entered one of the shots in a photography competition in my shire and it was shortlisted.
I also like this one because it was much by accident. I saw the new buds of spring and thought how nice it would be to show pictures of the same trees going through summer, autumn and winter. When I dug around, I did have some!
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?
Not really… there are plenty of similarities. Malaysia is multicultural, we use the metric system, speak English, say Zed and not Zee for the letter Z, and we eat (well, some of us) Vegemite – Marmite.
One thing that shocked me as a mother of young kids is the explicitness of scenes on TV and radio ads. Sex, erm, aids are advertised on the radio in the middle of the day! I encapsulated some of my experience here.
We still haven’t gotten used to shops opening at 10 am and closing at 5pm. Back home, you can shop from 10 am till 10pm every day and eateries are often open till midnight!
When we first arrived, we were taken back when cars stopped for us to cross the road. The order of the world was turned upside down for us. More on that below.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Sydney? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was fairly prepared as I did a lot of research online. My online research didn’t prepare me for how small some of the units and houses were though. Those wide angle camera lenses sure make them look a lot bigger! The main problem with a small house/unit is that our belongings wouldn’t have fit. I know of some people who hire storage in addition to renting a place for that reason.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
About two months after our arrival, my husband and I visited the Wahroonga suburb. There is a zebra crossing in between two rows of shops. I stood by the shops’ sidewalk but apparently too close to the zebra crossing because cars stopped! I waved the first car on, but he waved me to go first. I ended up crossing the road although I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to delay the cars any longer and I was so mortified.
I blogged about it here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Sydney?
- Housing is one of the biggest challenges especially if you are on a budget – do research prices and characteristics of suburbs as they vary quite a bit. Prepare supportive documentation to show some good payment history and proof of finances.
- Read a book – there are many books on Australia; one I’d recommend is “Culture shock Australia” by Ilsa Sharp. The author is a British born writer married to a Singapore-Tamil (they are both now citizens of Australia). It’s a particularly good book for Asians as her insight is personal. For more of entertainment purposes, read Bill Bryson’s Down Under.
- Prepare to love the outdoors.
How is the expat community in Sydney? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It’s probably one of the most vibrant places in the world for expats. That’s wonderful because the other expats have been in your shoes and are more than willing to lend a hand or give a piece of advice – no matter which part of the world you come from.
How would you summarize your expat life in Sydney in a single, catchy sentence?
Lucky to be in the lucky country!