Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Top Tips for Expat Transitions

Every once in a while I find a link to something I think every expat should read. Lately my focus has been drawn to those articles containing tips for making an easier expat transition and/or validating points relating to what the transitional period can be/is like. There is just so much out there, it's incredible, and you can go nuts sorting through it all, so I try and do a bit at a time. Find one good site and you'll find another 20 links to sort through. I take the best and place them on my links list over on the left hand side.

One excellent resource is: "
Val's Top 10 Tips for Expat Transitions"

Two common themes in many things I am reading lately are the 1) phases of adjustment and 2) re-invention of self [I'd rather call it that than loss of identity]. Surprisingly, of all the moves abroad I have done over the past few years, I've not spent much time, outside of expat forums, looking into resources for expats. Coming back to Australia, though, I felt a real need, especially due to the fact that I disliked it so much last time around. This time I knew I had to put some elbow grease into the adjustment, so to speak.

Coming upon descriptions of both the expat adjustment phases, as well as issues relating to re-invention of self, has been enormously self-validating. I recognise myself in so much of what I read. Occasionally I don't recognise myself, which is, I've learned, due to the fact that I am going through a bit of a re-invention process. Life has changed to much that I can't expect myself not to change. Resistance to change would keep any expat from making it through the phases of adjustment to the other side;)

Part of my adjustment includes getting out there and doing stuff...any stuff!

I have a new list of things to do/places I want to go:
  • Horus Egyptian Cafe & Shisha House
  • Plan a day out for Steve & I on our 1 year anniversary! We're thinking of doing something around the Murray River area, but I have no idea where to begin, to be honest
  • Attend an event hosted by the Australian American Association (maybe the 5th of July picnic)
  • A meal at My Tho Vietnamese restaurant and one at The Himalayan (Can you tell I like to eat out?)
  • Beer tasting at the Cooper's Brewery and (depsite warnings against Port Adelaide) a trip to The Port Dock Brewery Hotel
  • Still need a sighseeting day out in the city centre (have gotten some shopping in) but am wondering if that may get postponed until my mom visits
  • Er, still have not made it to yoga

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

What kind of accent is that?

I don't bother asking...because I get tired of people asking me on the phone at work. Unless they're expats too, I'd rather just stick to work 'convo'. So when I called to try and sort out some flights home (next February), I didn't even bother to ask the fella on the other end of the phone, but I do have to wonder what the heck kind of accent the people at United Mileage Plus on the 13_ _ _ _ number have. Who knows where that call centre is, but they are certainly teaching a new version of spoken English somewhere inthe world. Anyway, it looks like I'll be home for a couple of weeks in February, and all for free thanks to miles. Unfortunately, I'll miss my first Valentine's Day in Aussie with my hubs:(

Monday, 23 June 2008


Well we finally made it to the Ethiopian restaurant on Saturday night. Steve and I both agreed it was the best one we'd been to, even topping Ras Dashen in Chicago. Abysinnian in Adelaide is fantastic, with live music, great African beers, and for $20, you can get what is called Mosab dining, which is a sampling of about 6 different dishes (ours was 3 meat and 3 veggie dishes, including Doro Wat which is my fav, plus another lamb and chicken dish). We were both ansolutely stuffed when we got home---great place to visit on date night;)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Expectations of Perfection

There comes a time in every writer's life where 1) they have to be willing to make themselves vulnerable in their writing and 2) they have to write about the people they love...and the people you love have to learn to accept being written about;) I'm less than confident about calling myself a writer, but technically, I guess I am on some level. I'm having a slightly glum day. I had a fight with my husband last night. I'm really trying hard to settle into my new home, as well as be a good wife...and I've only been a wife for a little over 9 months, so I have very high expectations of myself, on both fronts. Sometimes I feel like I fail at it, and of course, I don't always think it's entirely my fault;) I grew up without any relationship role models, since my dad died young and my mom never got into another relationship, but I'm sure most young marrieds don't really know how things are 'supposed to be'. Majority of the time I can really pat Steve and myself on the back for how well we do, and how much we've grown over our time together, moving continents while entering new and different stages of our relationship. But when we have a bad moment, I get a feeling in my chest somethiang like heartburn...and I felt like that last night. I decided to go to a Meet In pub meet (on my list of to do items below) and I invited Steve's ex, as she's been in and out of the country for quite some time and I thought she might enjoy meeting some new people as well. As most of my friends know, I have had a very difficult time adjusting to Steve's friendship with his exes. This one is very nice and I enjoy her company, though, plus I know she is important to Steve and I want to make an effort. Given that, I still find it a hard transition to get used to the idea and a lot of what we talk about at this point has to do with Steve, and she and Steve, and Steve and other people, so I ended up on 'information overload' last night, although I didn't realise until I got home, at which point I had a bit of a go at Steve.... "Why didn't you tell me this? Why did I have to hear that from someone else?" (You can't always go the route of "Gee dear husband, I have something on my mind. Can we please talk about it rationally and calmly?") But of course, since men love that sort of behaviour, it got me nothing other than an icy silence from my man. Since I was already feeling a bit crap, I had lots of nightmares and would prefer to be hiding under the covers at home rather than be at work today. Every couple argues, but when me and my man do, it always feels like such a waste of energy and time, as I'm sure it does to...well, every couple who argues. Sometimes I think being an expat (can I blame it on that?) means one needs to lower their expectations of perfection for themselves. I'd like to be the perfect wife, settling in perfectly to her new home, and being perfectly professional at work, not bothering anyone with her imperfect problems.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

5 Things I've Learned Since Becoming an Expat

1. Shyness is a luxury. As an expat, you HAVE to get used to meeting and socialising with strangers...unless you are ok with being very lonely. As I've said before, to begin with, accept any invitation you receive in your new country, and go from there. You'll have loads of choice if you just reach out.

2. On the same note as above, being an expat is an excellent opportunity to develop interests and talents you've always had but perhaps never put into action. This 1) lets you create something of your own in order to gain independence and 2) keeps you busy and meeting new people. Being an expat is an excellent confidence builder if you treat it as an opportunity.

3. Being an Expat Partner/Spouse adds a lot more complexity to a relationship, making essential relationship values such as flexibility and patience even more important. Both partners need to be committed to being open-minded about the challenges they will face when one or both are moving to a new country. New expats need to be a bit more open to trying new things, and those partners who are already in their home country need to accept that flexibility is essential and some things they take for granted may not be (at least immediately) acceptable to their immigrant wife/husband/partner. Stubbornness and resistance to change can cause roadblocks and unhappiness in any relationship, but can be the downfall of an expat relationship. If you can handle a relationship abroad with grace and success, you can handle anything! For more information and resources, see:

4. Culture shock is not something that may happen, but something that will happen. For example, English speaking peoples do not all share the same culture! The differences in cultural values and norms can be even more confusing because our expectations don't always allow for this. The two most shocking cultural differences for me have been in relation to 1) customer service and 2) class-ism. Customer service in the UK, NZ and Australia is just not the same. Thankfully, Australian customer service is better than UK and NZ, but it still doesn't measure up to American standards. And in regards to class, the English are over the top in regards to class-ism and even 'take the mickey' (or poke fun of) themselves on this one. Australians are in direct opposition to this. God forbid you mention that something is too working class in Oz (such as my neighborhood)---you'll instantly be branded a snob.

5. Being an expat is something you don't recover from, in my opinion. I'm sure there is a better way to say this, but once you become an expat, you are always an expat. It is true, in a sense, that 'you can't go home again'. Don't underestimate the profound change becoming an expat will have on your life and you as an individual. It is work, and it is challenging, but overall, it's fun!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

You Know You're Being Assimilated When's no longer comfortable on your tongue to say aitch. H is now pronounced by yours truly as haitch. I make a rule of not changing my speech to suit Australian English but as I work at a company for which the name is an acronym beginning with H. I figure I may as well answer the phone with speech which the locals are familiar with and understand, as that's simply professional, but I do not say zed at home (for Z), or pronounce aluminum aluminium. I just hope this isn't one of many pronunciation changes to come:/

P.S. Check out my new blog, if you have a moment---link is on the left hand side. I've decided to start up my own business-to-be, if things go well.