Originally from Atlanta, my husband and I moved to Sydney 5 years ago looking for a new adventure. Since then, we've seen so much of Australia, become parents, and taken Australian citizenship. We're not going anywhere for the time being, ...
Where are you from, Sydney, and what are you doing nowadays?
I'm from the United States. I grew up in Atlanta and was living in Florida when we decided to move to Sydney, Australia. I was a Literary Manager for a theater in Florida, and today I am a stay at home mother of a 3 year old "AusMerican" and blogger at Between Roots and Wings.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Australia?
My husband (boyfriend at the time) decided to try for a Skilled Work visa for Australia around the time of the global financial crisis. Australia is "the lucky country", after all! To both of our surprise, he was approved in record time, so we moved to Sydney a few months later.
As a US national, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
My husband came over on his skilled work visa with sponsorship from the state of New South Wales. He'd applied as a single person, as we were only dating when he applied, so he then sponsored me on a prospective marriage visa. We had to fill out a lot of paperwork, including many documents to prove that our relationship was genuine - phone and travel records, photos, and statutory declarations from ourselves and people we know, talking about the nature of our relationship. I also had to submit criminal background checks and take a medical exam at an authorized doctor's office.
It took a few months for my visa to be granted, so we lived apart, at that time. Once I came to Australia, we had one year to get married, and when we did, I became a permanent resident. After two years, I had to apply for full permanent residency, which was based on the fact that we were still married!
How long have you been in the country?
We've lived in Australia for six years and are now dual citizens.
What has attracted you to Sydney?
We landed in Sydney because of my husband's sponsorship from the States. Part of the agreement was that we would live in New South Wales for 2 years. That was fine for us because we've come to really like Sydney.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
I was continually surprised by many small differences - things like condiments not being free, or how different our coffee is, or that you had to pay for Wi-fi in a hotel. Everyday, there were little differences that added up to something bigger. I was also amazed at seeing the Sydney Opera House for the first time. It was striking as I'd always imagined, and to this day, I love getting to see it.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
My husband found our first apartment before I arrived, but he did struggle a bit to secure it, as the rental market was so intense during that time. There was a lot of competition for every unit. Apartments and houses for rent are shown one time for 15 minutes, and sometimes there can be dozens of other people there, all hoping to be chosen. I think the rental market has cooled since we first arrived, as we haven't seen as much competition for the places we've subsequently moved into.
In Sydney, you can rent apartments (units) or houses. Anything very close to the city will be fairly expensive, but there are some nice suburbs which aren't too far away. Of course, the beach is a nice lifestyle, but can be a bit more expensive, as well.
How do you find the Australian lifestyle?
Australia is much more laid back than the US. They still work hard here, but they value "work/life balance". In your free time, it's all about being outdoors - at the beach, the park, at a barbecue, or on the water. It's beautiful - except when it rains, then everyone in Sydney is a bit lost!
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Yes, I think for Americans, the cultural differences are a lot more about subtle things. We speak the same language (mostly!) and share a lot of cultural references. It can be disorienting moving anywhere, and it did take me a full year to feel settled, but I don't think it's too hard to understand most things about the culture, coming from an American perspective.
What does your every day life look like in Sydney?
I'm a full time carer for my 3 year old daughter, so most days we have a class or playgroup in the morning, then will often meet with friends for a play date in the afternoon. After lunch, we usually like to go out for an adventure, perhaps at one of our parks on the Harbour or just at the lovely playground across from our apartment. We like to eat dinner together at home, as a family, and then I'm usually exhausted by 9.30 pm.
Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?
We made a real effort to do a lot of traveling around the country, especially in the first couple of years after we arrived. Australia is such a vast and beautiful country with so many different types of ecosystems that we've really just scratched the surface. I loved driving the Great Ocean Road on to Kangaroo Island, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, spending time in the parks of Tasmania, exploring the lane ways of Melbourne, and seeing the whitest sand in Jervis Bay. There are still so many places on my Australian bucket list though!
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Sydney? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
Sydney is quite a bit more expensive than almost anywhere in the US. Rentals in Sydney would probably be comparable to Manhattan. Everything from groceries to clothing to make up to movie tickets is much more expensive, sometimes double. If you're planning on coming over as an expat, finances should be a primary consideration.
How do you spend your leisure time?
We're usually at a park, Taronga Zoo, visiting friends, or perhaps at one of Sydney's museums of festivals. It seems like there's always something going on in Sydney.
What do you like the most about the country?
I like Australia's easygoing attitude. It can be summed up with the favorite Aussie expression, "no worries, mate!"
Your favorite local dishes?
Australians are really partial to all types of Asian cuisine, and I've loved expanding my knowledge of all sorts of styles of Asian cooking. As for Australian dishes, I love a good pavlova (even though the Kiwis really invented it - don't tell the Australians that!). Every Australian cafe serves delicious smashed avocado on toast, which is something I could eat every day, along with an Aussie flat white coffee.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Everything is very convenient in the US. Just about anything you want, you can find 24 hours a day. I also love how open and optimistic Americans are. I know people in the rest of the world can find our wide-eyed optimism cloying, but I think it's mostly a good quality. And, of course, I miss my family and friends, most of all. Everyone is very far away when you live in Australia.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Australia?
Australia's big cities are very multicultural and tend to be very welcoming of people from all countries. I'd say, just dive into the lifestyle here - enjoy the outdoors, go to the markets on the weekends, eat outside. It's a nice way to live.
I think one of the best things anyone moving to Sydney can do is research the suburbs and choose one that fits your lifestyle, whether that's being close to the city, near cafe culture, in the suburbs, or at the beach. Picking the right suburb is one of the best thing you can do to set yourself up for a good experience in Sydney.
What are your plans for the future?
Now that our daughter is getting a bit older, we'd like to do a lot more traveling. I have some designs on setting up a new small business, but you'll have to check back with me later!