My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Oct '11

The Difficulties of Living Overseas

I have to blog this week about the painstaking process of living in another country, moving to Australia.  It comes to mind this week as I have a friend that has recently moved here and is struggling, and conversations with many Americans that find difficulties with cultural differences and making friends.  It seems great, you come on a ‘vacation’ to Australia and you think “wow, they speak English, they talk funny, the people are nice, they have some of the greatest cities in the world to visit” and then you go home.  But for those of us that have chosen to stay and live our lives here, have a very different experience.  I suppose at first when I came here I thought things were the same as America, but what I have found is that it is quite different from living in America, in that there are expectations of social activity being the ‘same’ as what you are used to.  Nothing is further from the truth.

I speak from my own experiences, but also from the experiences of my friends that are expats to this country in particular.

Australia is a large country with big cities, but the cities are few and far between. The cost of living is high.  Whether you live in Melbourne, Sydney, or Perth – your options are generally in your city and there aren’t that many options.  When its time for kids to graduate high school and go to ‘University’ they live at home and stay with their parents while they complete their schooling, and then they generally live with their parents until they save up to buy their first home or waiting to get married.  Can we blame this on the economy today?  It came to mind however, this is a practice that is more inherited than economy related. Parents, for some reason, are happy for them to stay, taking care of their “grown” children – some even staying through their 30’s.

In America we are dying to leave home after high school, usually to go to a University away from our parents, to experience independence and learn how to live on our own.  University options are plentiful and Americans are eager to move far, far away from their parents. I look back on my 20’s and 30’s and all the experiences I’ve had being on my own and I can’t imagine living with my parents that long, even as wonderful as my parents were/are.  Part of the moving away culture includes the sanity of our parents an the ability for them to have a life free of their children.

Australians are difficult to make friends with, they still have their same friends from school, and because they haven’t moved away from home and experienced making new friends, they aren’t keen to expan their circle.  Coming here as someone that is well travelled and has made friends all over, it is difficult to think how hard it is to break into some friend-groups.

As a working woman, at 40, I tend to think it would be easier, but it is not.  In my industry I work with mostly men, with the few women I do meet, I find that it’s the expats that welcome me and befriend me.  These expats are from South Africa, from Ireland, Japan, America, and Canada. I have only made 3 Australian friends at work, and after living here for 6 years I tend to think that I would be able to make better connections.  I’m thankful for my husband’s friends when I first got here, most took me in.  I do have a couple great friends from my husband’s group, but even my husband’s group of friends are from school. 

Some Americans move here and do not have a circle of friends, a support of their partner’s family, and this missing link can be quite damaging. It’s important to have a support system in place in order to “make it” in a new society that is different from your own.  Culturally, there are so many differences, from language to how we were brought up, how are we to bridge those gaps to find some common ground?

Sometimes we just have to take matters into our own hands.  Thanks AIA.

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