Join now
Log in Join

Susan: SuzyQ down under

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 Susan Minihane. I am American and had a nice childhood growing up in New York State where the majority of my family still reside. I went to college in upstate New York and then won a scholarship to study in Australia. I earned a Masters degree in Sydney. While studying, I worked part-time and saw most of Australia on a Greyhound bus, staying at hostels along the way. I returned to NY and worked in Manhattan for several years, where I had a blast and was also fortunate enough to meet my husband. We moved to the sunshine and high tech adventures of San Francisco Bay area in California, another great place to live and explore. Twelve years and two children later, we both turned 40 and decided life in the suburbs was good but a bit staid so we actively sought work overseas. The goal was to move to mainland Europe. However, a great job for my husband came up in Australia. Since I lived in Sydney in the past and thought it was such a 'pleasant' (best one-word-description of Sydney to me) place to live, I thought it’d be easy to return almost 20 years later with my family. We have lived on the northern beaches of Sydney for 3.5 years now. My husband still works for his initial employer and I recently started a gourmet cupcake business from home. Between cupcakes, blogging, family, and all the other details of everyday living, my life is very full and pleasant :).

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

I started blogging in January 2013 to share my observations and experiences as an expat and also some everyday/basic recipes. I thought as an expat, I had stories, adventures and observations to share/tell. I am an excellent baker but average cook. I wanted to share good, easy, basic recipes to the average cook, like me. I was tired of reading recipe blogs with photos and recipes but not much else - I wanted to know more about the cook and blog writer. I probably wouldn't have started blogging unless an Australian friend hadn't urged me on. She uses to marvel at my interest and experience in cooking and also enjoyed hearing my foreign observations of Australia. She urged me to start writing so I made it a New Year Resolution for 2013 - and I actually followed through with it...that's a first. 

Do you have any favourite blog entries of yours?

Each blog takes a long time to write as I have to do research, chose recipes, take photos, etc. It is more work than it looks but I enjoy it.

My favourites blogs posts are:

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?

After an initial adjustment, my life in Sydney is wonderful! We had great friends, a nice house and lovely weather in California but it was a rat race there. The high tech companies draw a lot of smart and ambitious people. It made the Valley, as its' called, hyper competitive, overworked and over scheduled. The schools were becoming overcrowded and people were worried about the safety of their children and guns. California is also a very liberal state in the US and I didn't always agree with their politics. 

Life is simpler and easier in Sydney. People work hard but they also play hard and really enjoy life. We love living on the coast and being outdoors and enjoying the water. The schools are very good and our kids play more sports here. There are less people, less problems, strict gun laws and children are safer here. There still exists a level of manners, respect and overall social decency. 

It took me a good year to get adjusted. We moved in November, which is right before big US holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. That was difficult and made the first few months difficult. Even though the US and Australia are first world countries, both speak English and appear very similar, there are a lot of differences and nuances with the language, culture, and customs. I am still learning.

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

No, I was not fully prepared for moving to Sydney. It reminds me a bit of getting married and having kids - it sounds like a great idea but at first it is quite hard and sometimes you second guess yourself. Luckily, these big decisions have worked out for me despite initial bumps in the road.

If I could change anything, I wouldn't have moved just before the holidays. I would have packed more things in my suitcase coming over as it took 2 months for our furniture and belongings to arrive. At the same time, I would have sold more furniture. Rent is expensive and accommodation tends to be smaller so I wish we didn't bring as much.

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

 Nothing specific comes to mind except silly things:

  • not using an electrical adapter and ruining an appliance
  • asking people what they meant when they said a very basic Aussie slang word that anyone would know
  • acting like you know what you are saying or doing when you actually have no clue
  • having American expectations on many things that are very different in Australia

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

  • Come with an open mind; you can have a great life here with the right attitude.
  • Sydney is big and spread out so do your research beforehand as to areas/towns you may want to live.
  • It takes one year to adjust when you move, so be patient with yourself and don't be shy - get yourself out there. It takes an effort to make new friends.

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

Our neighbourhood is mostly Australian but there are some Americans, Brits, Brazilians and South Africans which is comforting. I've made a real effort to have Australian friends which has been hard because so many Aussies in my town have family and long-time friends nearby. I have some American friends, mostly in my book club. I am a very outgoing person so it hasn't been too hard for me to make friends but I had to make an effort. 

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

Oh gosh, I don't have anything catchy today but I am sure I will think up something the next time I have insomnia :). How about a cheesy - Sydney is superb!

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."

Global Expat Guide