Another "should I stay or should I go?" question
March 25, 2014 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Should I move to the other side of the world? Snowflake situation inside, of course.

I live in NYC and am trying to decide if I should move to Sydney. Metafilter, please help me answer this question or at least see sides of it I haven't yet.

I've lived in NYC a very long time and am from the area originally. I love it, I think it's a great city, but I feel I should've taken opportunities long ago to shake things up and try living elsewhere. I'm jealous of friends and coworkers who have done this. I work for a large international company with offices in many cities and I see coworkers transferring around fairly often and I wonder why I've never taken advantage of this great opportunity for myself. In terms of specific cities, I've spent a decent amount of time vacationing and working in Sydney and really like it there. While I have never lived there, I'm pretty confident I would enjoy living there (as confident as one can be without actually trying it out). I know a few people there already and I'm pretty sociable and make friends easily.

If I were ten years younger, I would absolutely do this in a heartbeat. In reality, I'm 36 years old and female and I really want to get married and have kids, and I obviously have very little time left for that. I'm also very close to my family (who live near me). I've always loved the idea of having kids and living somewhere near my family so my parents could spend a lot of time with my kids. Unfortunately, life being what it is, this dream has not panned out for me.

My ideal scenario would be to live in Sydney for 1-3 years and then return to the NYC area...enough to get this living-abroad bug out of my system. I realize though that if I spend the next couple of years in Sydney, there's a good chance that if I meet a guy there, it will be a guy who isn't interested in leaving Sydney. (I realize of course that anything could happen - I may not meet anyone at all - or I may meet an American dying to move back to the US - but if I do meet a guy there, the odds are in favor of it being someone who likes living in Sydney, or else why would he be there to begin with?).

Being "stuck" in Sydney for the long-term wouldn't be the absolute worst thing in the world (I could afford to fly back to visit my family a reasonable number of times a year, given the distance), but raising a family there so far from my parents and siblings is definitely not part of my eventual plan, and I would feel really sad to be so far away from them for so long (or forever!), especially if I wind up having kids who see my family infrequently due to the distance.

On the other hand, who knows what will happen? I could stay in NYC and never meet anybody. I could move to Sydney and never meet anybody, then come back in a couple of years. I could meet someone in either location who wants to stay put where they are or is dying to move.

But in terms of odds, it does seem like moving so far away is putting myself at risk for meeting someone who likes where they live and wants to stay there.

(There's also the separate issue that some responders brought up in my previous questions, namely, that Sydney is a terrible place for women to meet men, but in my experience NYC is the same way so this is kind of a wash. I might consider other cities abroad instead of Sydney, but my basic question about whether moving so far away is a good idea at all still stands.)

Part of me thinks that if I were going to do this, I should've done it ten years ago, and I waited too long and missed the boat and that sucks but I'm just too old for this kind of risk. Another part of me thinks I may as well take advantage of not being coupled up (even though I would much rather be coupled up!)

So: should I stay or should I go? Thank you!
posted by sunflower16 to Human Relations (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't advice, it's just an instinctive reaction: after reading your question, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind you should move to Sydney.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 3:35 PM on March 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


Seriously, you won't be able to do it when you're settled down somewhere else with a family, at least not as easily. Just take the chance. You sound like you're very level-headed and thinking about it from all angles, and it sounds like the only thing stopping you is worrying that it's "too late." It's only too late if you don't do it.

posted by xingcat at 3:38 PM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm 37 and I would do it. It sounds like you'll regret it if you don't.
posted by something something at 3:38 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

My vote: DO IT!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 3:42 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

FWIW, another option to consider is waiting a few more years to do it. I disagree that it'll be difficult to do once you've married and had kids. You can do it for the same amount of time before they start school. Maybe your husband can take a year-long leave from his job and then you can all have a family adventure.

Or the time for having kids after meeting someone will pass, and you can go without worrying that you'll be missing out on anything.

Basically, I don't see how it'll be too late to do this in your 40s.
posted by alusru at 3:43 PM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I could give you all the reasons, but.... just go.
posted by janey47 at 3:48 PM on March 25, 2014

Go. You can still do it when you're married and have kids, but its easier now. Also, don't put opportunities off until "later", in case they disappear.
posted by Joh at 3:52 PM on March 25, 2014

You should go for it, really, just do it! Reading your question, it sounds like you're just putting your life on hold waiting for the whole marriage/family thing to happen. Who knows what's in store for you? May as well go on an adventure!
posted by stripesandplaid at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go. Shaking up your world is a great way to meet the right man -- seriously. And being young and happy and in Sydney is sooooooo fabulous! I see zero downsides other than the chance that (a) you'll meet the right guy and (b) he won't want to live in the U.S. and (c) you'll still want to do this and (d) something else can't be worked out. Really? You'd give up this opportunity because that might happen???

GO GO GO. (So jealous.)
posted by Capri at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you start the process of moving, and quietly let things just happen in your life between now and then? I made a big move a little more than a year or so. It took over two years from where you are now (considering whether moving would be a good idea) to actually stepping off the plane in my new city. Had I gotten a huge promotion at work, met the love of my life, etc. I could have opted not to go at any point.

Look into transferring with your company. Start doing your research. Save money. If it's meant to happen, it'll happen. If something else is meant to happen, that will happen.
posted by Sara C. at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only regrets of value are those relating to issues under our control.

You want three things. 1. A life experience in another place. 2. A mate and kids. 3. And your family nearby when you raise the kids.

Only one out of those three things is totally under your control. You may find a mate in Sydney, NY, or somewhere else. Who knows? It is not under your control. Your found mate might want to move from NY, or live in Patagonia, or stay in Sydney, who knows? You can't guarantee a mate you find in NY wants to stay in NY (or Sydney). But having new experiences and opportunities is something totally under your control. Move to Sydney.

(And you may be surprised how many expats in Sydney decide that the benefits if raising kids in Australia far outweighs the disadvantages of being an overseas flight away from one side of the family.)
posted by Kerasia at 4:08 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Go. Standard response. Life isn't that complicated. Its really not. Go, take the amazing opportunity. Love it (because syndey freaking rocks) and go. Live in manly beach if you can!!!

posted by chasles at 4:27 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

When the question is, "I've always lived in one place and yet always dreamed of living somewhere else, and now I have the opportunity; should I do it?"

The answer is always, "Yes."

Your worst case scenario is either moving to Sydney and falling in love with someone who lives there or moving to Sydney and not falling in love. Neither of those is so bad, right?

Also, don't count on living overseas for a few years satiating the live-abroad bug! But that's not such a bad thing.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:28 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do it. I lived in Sydney for 15 years and I loved it, but I had to move to California (in my late 30s!) to meet my guy and have a kid. Jury's still out on where we raise the bub, but I'm thrilled he's here and it would never have happened if I had stayed put. Don't think about it too much, just go.

Also, once you get there: Sydney can be a difficult place - not to meet people, which happens all the time, but to make friends who you actually socialize with. It's a big city and getting around can be annoying, which means people tend to go home after work rather than hang out in the city or with friends. Also, many people in our age bracket have kids and so their time for socializing is limited. I found the best ways to meet people were (a) house sharing (b) joining a sailing club (c) hanging out in the same cafe for breakfast Saturday after Saturday. Knowing all this, and having done a few international moves solo, I would say keep your expectations low and expect to be lonely and have moments of hating it for the first few months. It will pass and you will love it!
posted by yogalemon at 4:40 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

My rule of thumb is that when someone's adding up all the pros and cons, whatever they say last is what they're really feeling: "Another part of me thinks I may as well take advantage of not being coupled up..."

Do it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:54 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go for it!
posted by stubbehtail at 4:57 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

new places = new people. There's no guarantee that you'll meet "the one" in Sydney, but it's a city full of new people, new social dynamics, and new co-workers.

Go, and try to avoid automatically replicating your NYC self.

(I'm not saying that you're doing something wrong in NYC necessarily, just that it's easier to break out of a rut in a new place.)
posted by mercredi at 5:03 PM on March 25, 2014

Do it. You can always move back early if you don't like it.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:06 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't go, or at least only go for 6 months to a year. People up and leave so easily these days for excitement and novelty. It's insane. If you have friends and family there (that you actually have good relationships with), and you feel like it is "home" there, you are insanely lucky, and that would be so good for you even without children (and extra wonderful if you ever do have children). Take the risk and get it out of your system for 6-12 months (and if you do meet someone there at least you're okay with living there permanently), and then come back to New York.

All the above people are not really trying to think about or understand your situation. They are just saying "GO" immediately because the idea of it seems fun and exciting to them. It's easy for them to say so since the draw backs have nothing to do with them.
posted by Blitz at 5:47 PM on March 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

I wouldn't go. It takes a couple of years just to figure out how to buy cheese in a new place. Yeah they speak English in Australia, but the social rules will be different, and you'll spend a lot of time de-coding before you start feeling comfortable. And then you get comfortable, ok. But you can't just bracket three years out of your life, because it sounds theoretical from here. Things happen. Events will evolve in Australia and will call you to make more and maybe more difficult decisions.

Maybe you go, and stay there. Your parents get old, friends back home move on, you're friendly with some there but will never be close. Maybe you meet someone - visa issues. Maybe you don't, and you've got to face being alone far from loved ones.

Maybe you go, and don't stay. Now you've got to go back home and revive your professional network, readjust to the work culture... if you're a high flier with a lot of social capital and specialized skills, this is not as difficult, but it's not an easy transition if you're even a medium flier. And again you'll have to to wake up your friendships; maybe it's easy, maybe it's not. (Maybe before you even left, you met someone, and faced another hard decision.)

It's a fun adventure for a 20-something, sure, but when you're at an age where settling down might come to mind, and you're maybe starting to think about how you're going to save for later years, all this rooting and uprooting comes at a cost, and truthfully, especially for a woman. I don't know where you're at with kids but if that's something you want, this window here matters. (And again - say you meet a great Aussie guy and pop one out. Heartbreak for one or the other set of grandparents, homesickness for one or the other partner - maybe not immediately, maybe it's when it's time for the little one to go to school, or Christmas... all of these things are much easier to manage when you're in your twenties and more adaptable, and when the people you love have more time ahead of them, too.)

Disclaimer: I went away 'for a year or two, for fun', stayed half a decade; came back in my early thirties, closing those up now; still finding my feet back home, economically. However, I did not leave with a ton of cultural capital. And I didn't come back with more than memories I can't share with people here, while the people who are there drift further away in time. On the other hand, some people go and stay where they went and find themselves good lives... but not always in the way they expected. Loneliness will be part of it for sure, along with the adventure.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:18 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm overstating the cheese case, obviously it's not two years. But even little differences like that, a lot of them collected, can add up to more adjustment than you'd expect, even when you're excited and open. And reverse culture shock is a thing. It's not tragic, it can be fine, you know.. but I do think all of it's much easier to manage when you're younger and when these particular years don't matter so much. (6-12 mos, much different story)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:26 PM on March 25, 2014

You sound like this would be a thing that would constantly be a 'what-if' if you don't even give it a try. In that case, I would say, you're never as old as you think you are, and better to take a chance than always regretting that which never happened.

That said, people don't jump out of airplanes without a parachute (well, they shouldn't!). Your age and other concerns are well-founded, but it doesn't mean don't go at all. It means it's probably not in your best interest to follow the route most 20-year-olds can and do take: arriving at a place, and then finding an opportunity to work. You probably can't quite spare that.

Does it have to be Sydney, or any decent English-speaking-majority city? Then hunt for job opportunities, scholarships (those are still possible!), job secondment, consultancy, anything! Then move. By then you'll have a place waiting for you and you can really give your dream a go.
posted by cendawanita at 7:34 PM on March 25, 2014

I would champion the idea of going for a year. I'm not usually in the "go, go, go" camp but it seems like this is something you really want, it would be much easier and with less risk than such a move would usually have because your company can transfer you there and you already know people in the area.

It seems like the main reason you are questioning your inclination to go is because you want to meet someone and start a family in NYC but unless your dating situation has changed radically recently, it is not clear to me why being away for a year would be a major factor in that happening or not happening. Also, if you stay and don't meet someone in the next year that will make it even harder emotionally--especially since it seems like it is not only about meeting someone, but also meeting someone who wants to have babies pretty quick which puts a lot of stress on the whole thing.

Three years seems harder but if you can do it for one year then that could well be worth it even if it isn't the best year (I had a very mixed study abroad experience and got really annoyed with people being all "study abroad is the bestest thing ever and it will all be magical fairy time" because it really wasn't but years and years later I am now glad I did it, because despite all the blarg, it was a much more memorable year than many others that I have had).

Best luck to you whichever path you take.*

*If you go, please send me TimTams. :)
posted by pie_seven at 8:11 PM on March 25, 2014

I would go. I found someone pretty early (I was 20), and although I love him very much, he is a complete homebody, and my dreams of living abroad for a time have been truncated by the reality that I'm married to someone who doesn't want to go, and it would be a real strain on my marriage if I took advantage of the work abroad opportunities at my company and went someplace for 1-3 years on my own. I knew it going into my marriage, and am ok with the tradeoff, but you can't assume that if you stay in NY and find someone that he'll be on board to live abroad later.
posted by RogueTech at 8:29 PM on March 25, 2014

i moved to melbourne in my late 20s and lived there for six months. i knew no one when i went and this was pre-facebook, so it was hard to connect to life back home in the states. i think - given how you've been there already, are familiar with and love the place, how social you are - that you are NOT like me and will do just fine :) my experience with aussies is that they LOVE to travel and go on holiday, and if the right man is to be found in AUS then he will probably follow you back home to NYC. also personally, as someone in NYC as well.... what men are to be found here? no good ones, haha! so GO!!!!!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 8:48 PM on March 25, 2014

On the other hand, who knows what will happen? I could stay in NYC and never meet anybody. I could move to Sydney and never meet anybody, then come back in a couple of years. I could meet someone in either location who wants to stay put where they are or is dying to move.


I made some life decisions based on being 36 and single that I now kind of regret...because I'm 41 and still single, so I might as well have done what I wanted.

Australia and the US are both English-speaking countries with not a huge amount of cultural differences, in the grand scheme of things. I say this as someone who has lived and worked (not just vacationed) in the backwaters of Indonesia, which really is a whole different ball game: it still didn't take long to get past the culture shock and get to the cool part.

If you can get a job transfer AND you'll be well-enough off to fly back home when you need to, then you're miles ahead of most people I know who've relocated. Those are the two biggest/scariest obstacles taken care of, straight off! (I'm actually v envious of the position you find yourself in. I want to be 5 years younger and have that opportunity!)

If you meet someone and fall madly, mutually in love, and want to start a family...frankly, the problem of where to live will pale into insignificance. Either he'll move, or you will, and it'll be awesome anyway. I know plenty of people who've moved from Aus to the US/Canada/UK for lurve, and vice versa, and are happy as clams.

Really...go for it!!!
posted by Salamander at 9:38 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so.

So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”

- Mark Twain (1835-1910)
posted by blueberry at 9:41 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think your concerns have a lot of merit and are very realistic. That said, it sounds like you could live with that scenario (meeting someone and having to either end the relationship or stay in Sydney) more easily than you could live with not going, particularly if you don't meet someone in NY. (For me, it'd be the other way around, but to each her own.) That's how I'd make this decision -- eyes open, so that if the worst happens you can say "I knew this was a possibility, and I decided I preferred it to the alternative. I made the very best decision I could with the information I had at the time, and so here I am now making the best of it!"
posted by salvia at 9:42 PM on March 25, 2014

(Just wanted to mention that in my previous response, I was reflecting not just on my ultimately unsuccessful relationship, but on that of six, wait, seven couples who yes, have made it and are now mostly happy, but all had to wrestle with the issues you anticipate. These issues add considerable stress to ordinary relationship dynamics. Time constraints around visas on its own really puts pressure on a budding relationship, for example. Citizenship might have implications for choices you might make if things don't work out. If the job is sure, that's fine, but then you're also locked into it by the visa. I also wouldn't underestimate the difficulty of being a new mom who only has access to help from her partner s family, though that might work out. That's a lot of uncertainty there, though. I just feel like, if family is what you really want, why set yourself up in a situation that would make it harder? Not meaning to be all Grouchy McGee here, and not all of the legal issues might apply, and money always helps, but I think while adventure + meeting someone often go together well, cross-national family-making is another thing.

While I had some wonderful experience s in my time away (despite the catching up with a lifetime s worth of different cultural references, cheese finding etc), the risk cost me time, in the end, regrettably. Anyway, good luck working it out.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:59 PM on March 25, 2014

Why else would he live there to begin with? Are you kidding? Sydney is the only big city for hours. There's low population density here, so outside of Sydney it gets rural fast. I know plenty of people here that "hate" Sydney, and tons of Aussies that have been to and LOVE the US, NY especially. Heck, if you met an Australian in NYC on a work visa... would you date him?

If you meet someone so wonderful you decide to stay and raise kids here, well, thatis a choice to be made when the time comes! Don't worry about it, it hasn't happened yet and may not.

I'm from California, met an Aussie while living in Japan, lived in country NSW, then the US, and have been back in Sydney for almost three years... we're staying. I'm pregnant too. MeMail me if you want.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:46 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go somewhere else that isn't known for being a bad place to meet men instead. If your main goal in life right now is to marry and have children then chase that goal with everything you have. Aus is just a distraction from that. Do your research, find a city where you're most likely to meet available men whose culture is most likely to match you best (outdoorsy? Museums? Hunting and fishing?) and move there.
posted by hazyjane at 2:10 AM on March 26, 2014

If you go, go now, while your parents are healthy.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:22 AM on March 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Go. Do it. Be prepared for small things to trip you up, be prepared to be scarily homesick about six months in. Go have an adventure. You stay, or you don't stay, you meet someone or you don't, you hate it or live it, none of that matters because you did something big and tried something new and closed your eyes and jumped and you will learn so much more yourself than if you stayed. Do it.
posted by wwax at 7:16 AM on March 26, 2014

I lean toward thinking you should stay in New York. If having and raising kids is something you really want to do in life, and it's something that you want to do in the United States near your family and support network, then moving to Australia is certainly not going to help you reach that goal.

Of course there's no guarantee you'll meet the right man either way, but if a criterion for "the right man" for you is wants to raise kids in the United States, then you're certainly a lot more likely to find that person in the United States than in Australia.

On the other hand, if you think you'd really regret not living life for yourself in the event you don't meet someone in time to have biological kids, then go to Australia. But on the other other hand, living abroad does not have the same time-limited window that having biological kids does, so there's no reason you couldn't do that in your 40's.
posted by Asparagus at 9:38 AM on March 26, 2014

I'd go.

You don't know what the future holds regarding marriage, children, etc. You can't live your life on hypotheticals.

Very, very little is permanant in this life, so you move to Sydney and after awhile, you assess and move again. Or you love it so much, you decide to stay.

What if you get to the age of 44, having met no one, not having children. What would you think about your decision NOT to move?

Whatever is meant to happen, will happen. You may have some hard decisions ahead, but that's true no matter where you are.

Go, and enjoy.

FWIW, my parents decided to move and live abroad in their 60's. They lived in Japan and Germany.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

One more: GO!
posted by Gotanda at 5:15 PM on March 26, 2014

As a 34 year old woman who's grappling with the same dilemmas (except that I llve in Sydney!) I find the range of responses interesting. A few additional points that might be of assistance:

I figure you might be like me in that if you really wanted to *just* be married with kids and *just* have the experience of living overseas, you would have ticked this stuff off the list already. But you quite rightly want more - a partner who you love and respect and are attracted to; an experience living overseas in a country of your choosing doing interesting/ meaningful work and enjoying the local lifestyle. Whatever your conditions are, that's totally OK. Once you've clarified the specifics, figure out what you can ditch, what you want to keep, and what you can control. Then act accordingly.

If you have the option of committing to a year in Sydney and then deciding if you want to extend your stay, do that. I just spent a year living in Melbourne for work (which is obviously much closer than NYC!) and I don't feel like I've missed much in my time away from Sydney - but I also don't feel like I really got to experience Melbourne as fully as I would have liked. After 12 months in Sydney, you'll know what your priorities are, but you won't know until you live group those 12 months.

Also, Sydney is beautiful but it can be a tough city to socialise in. You're from NYC so you get the what it's like to live in a big, busy, ambitious city. Because of its size relative to other citiies in Oz, it's much less common for people from Sydney to move to other parts of Australia for study/work. As a (generalised) result you find a lot of local friendship groups or networks that formed back in high school or university, and a lot of expats and people from interstate end up socialising with each other. As I said, this is a big generalisation and is probably being broken down a bit, but I've had a LOT of US/UK/EU friends, classmates, colleagues and flatmates mention this over the years. Structured activities are good for combating this, as are meet ups/ tweet ups etc. Good luck!
posted by rockpaperdynamite at 8:11 AM on April 6, 2014

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