Moving overseas permanently, need moral support!
September 7, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I have decided to "settle down" in Australia - his home country (I'm from California); we'll probably make the move in about a year. I've lived in Australia before, but the permanency of it I was wondering if anyone had any advice or knew of any good resources for expats or "lifers".

A little background info... we decided long ago that since we like our families, we should live near one or the other. It just wouldn't make sense to go get jobs in Chicago or London or something.

Australia just "won" due to: national health care, living wages (we easily made enough in Oz for me to visit my family, but he'll have not been back in 2.5yrs - and at that we're moving), federally mandated maternity leave, half the unemployment rate (of CA, anyway), vacation time (to see my family!), more flexible education/work force system etc...

We both have college degrees and good professional experience, and are lucky to have found work in CA... but we don't make much, and while my husband's job offers *some* benefits, mine offers none. The whole "OK where are we going to settle down" issue came up when discussing a)my husband's (in)ability to visit his family - ever, and b)we're 29 -- the whole "kids" thing...and the fact that though I think we're ready, getting preg. now would be financially devastating. I am awfully tired of what should be a happy, exciting thing being this huge worrying weight.

I'm realizing that the America I perceived of as a child is closer to Australia than it is to the reality of the current US. It's devastating; yet at the same time I feel so lucky to have an "out".

I would love to hear from other expats and other couples making similar decisions.
posted by jrobin276 to Travel & Transportation around Australia (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Is it just the possibility of this being your 'forever' life that scares you, or are you worried about something more specific? Not that the fear is a small one; it definitely caused me loads of angst before I moved abroad. I think you've got an ace in your pocket because you've already lived in Australia, though; at least you're going into it with a clearer picture of what that 'forever' life will look like. It sounds like y'all have already made the decision; are you just looking for ways to ease the transition?

Nothing is permanent. I've come to realise that since I left. I don't have any plans to move back to the states, ever, but I still take a small measure of comfort in the thought that I could if I wanted/needed to, or if something happened to my family where I felt it necessary to be around for a long time. As it is, my parents visit me once a year, and I visit the states once a year, and we email/im/talk on the phone/skype during the other times.

Do you already have a community (apart from your husband's family) that you created while you were living in Aus before? I think that's what I've found the most difficult: having to leave my really close-knit group of friends and being forced to make new ones, especially when you're past college/grad school age, was tough. I'm pretty introverted, so putting myself out there has been hard. Will you be living in a large enough city that there might be regular expat meetups somewhere? That might give you a nice connection to home if you're craving it.

I don't have any Aus-specific resources, but there was a Yank/UK forum that I used loads while I was navigating the immigration process; some quick googling has turned up Yanks Down Under, and there might be some good reading there.
posted by catch as catch can at 9:31 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cam in to send Yanks Down Under, which is basically the go to reference. I used the forum heavily when I was exploring a move myself.
posted by iamabot at 9:43 AM on September 7, 2011

The expat experience has well-documented phases of novelty, irritation, disillusionment, homesickness and ultimately adaptation; there are always examples of expats who adapt by diving in and assimilating in short order, or who become near-parodies of their perceived national characteristics.

The world is a much, much smaller place right now than it was for people who emigrated a handful of decades ago. I think I've mentioned it before, but I have relatives who moved to Australia in the 1960s who would call home two or three times a year, and sent airmail letters on ultra-thin blue paper at other times. Getting on the boat really did feel like a one-way trip.

Communication with loved ones is now cheap, simple and sophisticated; international travel is no longer something that requires a year's sacrifice to drum up funds; if you have a craving for a particular product, the internet provides means of obtaining it; the cultural products of your home nation are also widely distributed, and support networks are transparently available.

That doesn't erase the distance between your current social groups -- it requires real effort to maintain friendships at a level higher than the odd Facebook 'Like' -- and it doesn't mean that you won't have periods of feeling out of place in an incomprehensible environment, often for reasons that seem absurd. But I don't think there's ever been a better time to be an expat.
posted by holgate at 10:06 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't forget, you'll still need to file your american tax returns every year for the rest of your life, no matter where you live.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:34 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I moved the other way from the US to Australia and it is scary moving "fulltime" to another country you are allowed to be worried and scared. Something that eased that worry for me was my husband helping me save up $5000 in a separate savings account that's called my Australia fund. No matter for what reason be it massive homesickness, family problems or what ever that money is there if I need it so I can get back home on the next flight out.

We have been through some tight money times but that fund has remained sacrosanct. I've never had to use it, but knowing it was there was a life saver at times, knowing that no matter how bad things got I could go home meant that I could put up with a hell of a lot of homesickness and culture shock.

The funny thing is what cured me most of my missing Australia was going back to visit my family 2 years after moving here. I had a great time, my family and friends welcomed me back as if I'd only just left but it was then I realized that it wasn't my only home anymore that it is possible to feel at home in 2 places and to love them both and that I wasn't as trapped as I had thought I was. The best way I could sum up moving to another country was a huge contradiction for me, an amazingly terrifying experience that was wonderful and sucked all at the same time.

I know you are after more of a US to Australia expat help, but if you'd like some moral support from someone that has gone the other way for pretty similar reasons please memail me.
posted by wwax at 11:26 AM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

check out mefi's own Kris. Her website isn't just about the expat experience (she's now a citizen) but she's made some excellent observations of the differences and similarities between US and AUS
posted by jaimystery at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2011

hello jrobin welcome to Australia.

where in the country are you moving to?

Although originally from Australia, I had lived in California for years before moving back to Melbourne.

Being happy in a new country means building a new social network. Normally that's not something most of us take on as a conscious task, it sort of just happens. But I think the homesickness people feel is often really about not feeling enmeshed in a deep rich social network, so it’s worth being a bit more deliberate about it.

My advice is to treat making new deep connections with other people as one of your main goals when you move here, and that to do that you should devote a lot of time to activities like volunteering, amateur team sport, maybe going back to university, activities where you have sustained contact with groups of the kinds of people you’d like you think you would like as your social network. Eventually it should happen all by itself, but you need to make a deliberate effort to put yourself in situations where it is possible to connect with new people.

Have fun

posted by compound eye at 5:33 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

typo.. meant:
.. the kinds of people you think you'd like as your social network.
posted by compound eye at 5:42 PM on September 7, 2011

I'm an expat, but I'm not sure if I can give much advice. I grew up in the East Coast, so many of the things that cause me culture shock - the warm weather, the beach culture, the chilled out/outdoor lifestyle - are probably pretty familiar to a Californian.

When I moved here I threw myself into Australian culture, but it hasn't really fixed the homesickness. The biggest change I've found is the television, so try and find yourself a good Internet connection and download your favorite shows. Convict Creations and Bill Bryson's Down Under will educate you a bit about Aussie culture, but it seems like in the cities things aren't TOO different from America - just enough to be strange.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:53 PM on September 7, 2011

I should also say that I'm the outlier in my family. My father is Australian and my mother is American, and they moved the family to Australia for similar reasons as you have. Everyone else loved the move, so it'll probably be a positive experience.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:55 PM on September 7, 2011

OP, I'm about to do the same thing, wife and children already in the other country. I lived in said other country for nine years, so I know their ways. But no matter how much I think I know their ways, I haven't lived there in a long time, despite frequent visits, and no place stays the same. So be prepared for dealing as much with how things have changed there as much as to how there is different from here.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:58 PM on September 7, 2011

One thing that helped us a lot was having a phone via Vonage (except now you'd use Skype or Google Voice I think) that gave us a local phone number in the USA. Being able to reach friends and family via a local call really helps remove the feeling of distance.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:05 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Polo Logo Database   |   Database from Word.doc Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.