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Gwen: "I was immediately surprised by how laid back and casual Los Angeles is"

  • Gwen in Los Angeles
Interview
Published 3 years ago
When Gwen's husband got a job offer in Hollywood, they decided to leave Sydney to settle in Los Angeles with their family, amongst movie & TV stars...
ItStartedinLA

ItStartedinLA

Twice I've found myself yanked out of my comfort zone of the fabulous Sydney to live in another country. It's not that I didn't want to BE an expat it's that you need to be careful what you wish for. I'm now in LA living amongst the rich and ...

Why did you decide to move to Lo Angeles?

Out of the blue my husband got a call from a Post-production company in Hollywood to see if he was interested in heading up their operations. It's not every day you get called up to work in Hollywood (especially with no experience in the entertainment industry) so we decided to take the bull by the horns and do it. I really wanted to do extra work but it's difficult without help given I've still got two kids I need to chauffeur around and pick up from school. So I set up a blog to account for the surreal life we have landed ourselves in. We never thought we'd be amongst movie & TV stars, plastic surgeons and private-jet owners so it's a real eye-opener.

How was the moving process?

Moving is never easy. For us it was made easier by having packers & unpackers at both ends. I tried to do a huge "cull" to get rid of unwanted and unused things so weren't dragging them half way around the world for nothing which is sooo time-consuming but worth it. The hardest thing was itemising everything we owned before it got packed. Our removalists in Australia warned us that the insurance people are very fussy here in the US and if it's not itemised it doesn't get insured. That was probably the single biggest pain in the **** but the best advice ever. He was right, I claimed damage to a painting but the insurance people couldn't find it on the itemised list and ask for me to point it out to them. Lucky it was on there and it went through without a hitch. I suppose I now have a record of everything for the trip back so it won't be quite so bad. (There's always a positive).

What were the formalities you had to undergo in order to be able to settle in the United States?

It's hard moving to the US because it's like you're starting again. Despite being well-established in Australia we had no credit rating here and so it's hard to get anything without it-mobile phone accounts, electricity & gas, cars and credit cards. It's funny we had to put down extra deposits for things like utility bills because we were a credit "risk" but if you are a credit risk how do have the money to pay a deposit? Lucky we did but it's part of the double-edge sword effect that are the rules of the US.
The other thing was getting a social security number and resitting a driver's licence test. Yuck. The visa was the easy bit for us because the company helped with all the paper-work. I can imagine that would be tricky if you had to deal with that on your own.
By far the most frustrating thing was the lack of credit: it impacts everything. More than you know or think.

Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?

Language is easy but you still have to get used to Americanisms. We love teasing our new friends with words like thongs (flip-flops) and Australian slang. I think it's easier for us to adjust to the language change because we're exposed to "American". We're lucky: LA and California are more laid back from the rest of American so we don't scare our new friends too much. I have to say though that I've had to learn to curb my swearing. I've always had a foul mouth and it just doesn't go down well here.
I thought it would take much longer to find friends but we've been pretty lucky so far so good.

What surprised you the most in Los Angeles?

I was immediately surprised by how laid back and casual LA is. Apart from going out at night (and perhaps to lunch) anything goes in terms of fashion. It is completely acceptable to head out in your gym gear in tennis clothes. I think I dress up more in Australia then I do here! The other thing that has surprised me is just how nice people are. I've had my dog delivered back to me a few times when he's escaped out our front gate and (random) people just talk to you wherever you are: supermarket, out walking. I mean wherever you are. Actually today a sales assistant at Bloomingdale's started talking to me and I was immediately suspicious. She really was just being friendly, inquisitive and super helpful. It takes a while to get used to but it's nice.

Is it easy to meet new people in Los Angeles? Any advice?

It's hard for me to answer that because I haven't really tried to meet people outside work, school and extra-curricular activities (I play tennis and have met some gorgeous girls through that). My advice is definitely to get out there, get involved and be proactive. When I first got here I waited to be invited to things (and I actually was!) but then after a few months I decided I needed to be the one to do the inviting and that helped a lot. When you move away I think you need to put yourself out there more than what you do at home. That's how you get results anyway.

How did your kids adapted to their new environment?

The kids have adapted really well. I think school helps and certainly the school they're at is a very welcoming community so they're (we're) very lucky. Their accents also helped because the Americans are suckers for the Australian accent. It just breaks the ice and makes them interesting. They obviously miss things from home that they may have taken for granted but I'm extremely happy with their transition to their new environment.

How about their education: which kind of school did you opt for and why?

We chose private school for our kids. We immediately thought in America everyone went to public school (you've seen 90210 when the Beverly Hills kids go to West Beverly High right?) but our early research suggested that that wasn't the case so we had to shift our thinking. If you are considering moving to LA though you need to research your area and its school district. There are still plenty of good public schools in LA but you have to live in the right area. For us to maintain a similar level of education as Australia, in the areas we wanted to live, we felt our only option was private school.

Could you please share with us something you like about Los Angeles and something you don't like:

I love the weather and the things to do here. It rarely rains, winter is gorgeous and there are so many things to do outdoors. Plus driving around feels like you're on a movie (or TV) set with the palm tree-lined streets, sunshine and beautiful people; you have no choice but to be in a good mood.
It's hard to come up with one thing I don't like about LA. OK, I think that everyone makes it all look so easy-landing the lead in a new sitcom or movie, having a great body or being able to afford those designer clothes and designer handbag. But it's just the same, it's still hard work that gets you those results!

A common belief about Los Angeles (or the US) which wasn't right:

Us Australians tend to be hard on Americans; I'm not sure why but we are. I think our perception is they're intense and competitive. I would have to say that Americans are much nicer, more friendly and open than I ever imagined they would be. I can be putting petrol in my car, shopping at the supermarket and walking my dog all by myself and had many conversations in that time. Only in America! It's also very true of people here in LA by the way.

What do you miss the most from Australia, your home country?

There's no doubt I miss my friends the most. You can mourn your favourite food or the way things are done but that's what moving is about, experiencing life in a different part of the world. What makes the adventure hard is not being able to share it with those closest to you. And it's not to say I haven't met some great people here, it's just to say I miss my girl-friends.
Oh, and I miss butchers. Real ones. I didn't know what cut of meat or how much at home because I was spoilt by my butcher. All I did was tell him how many people I was cooking for and what I was thinking of doing and he'd come with the right cut and amount. (Think Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch).

What does your typical day as an expat in LA look like?

First & foremost I treat my blog as my primary job so in the mornings I log in while I'm having breakfast & put the washing on and draft posts, work on technical improvements and get on social media to talk about what I'm doing or promoting myself and my blog. Then it's time to get out and experience LA (which I still don't do enough of) so I've got stuff to write about.
Before I know it it's time to get the kids from school and switch on to motherly duties. There really aren't enough hours in the day! I play tennis, go shopping and love looking around for location shoots!

Why did you start your blog, It Started in LA?

I started my blog for a few reasons the main one being to give me "purpose". It's one thing to go out every day but if you're not going to buy shopping gets boring and there are only so many lunches you can have-especially with limited lunch mates! So when friends were encouraging me to start a blog I thought why not? I love writing and taking photos and it gets me out of the house so it's a win-win. I'm also hoping Chuck Lorre will offer me a sitcom! Seriously.

Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Los Angeles?

Do it! If it's what you want. There are plenty of good things about LA and plenty of opportunities for you here. You do need to be aware though that many people come to LA hoping for the same thing so it's not necessarily as easy as simply moving here. If it's sun, an outdoors culture and a laid back (yet strangely intense at the same time) attitude then LA is for you. But please do your research first!

12 Comments
pinchez chy
pinchez chy
2 years ago

awsome, i love how you really coped there.

Reply
Zuhayyan
Zuhayyan
2 years ago

What is the name of your blog Gwen?

Reply
Zuhayyan
Zuhayyan
2 years ago

I enjoyed reading the story. A different perspective regarding both sides of the world.

Reply
Appleorchards
Appleorchards
3 years ago

Brilliant article very informative and relevant .. nice one Gwen.. keep us posted please..

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ItStartedinLA
ItStartedinLA
3 years ago

Thanks guys for all your kind words.

Reply
lydiachuma
lydiachuma
3 years ago

Hii that's a good life you make by moving to Los Angelas can it be posible for me to join you as your aupair for your children. Ill be glad if i get a chances thank you.

Reply
ItStartedinLA
ItStartedinLA
2 years ago

What a great idea! But my children are older now so we don't need an au pair. Good luck though!

Reply
caning35
caning35
3 years ago

Awesome Gwen! I love this article Cheers

Reply
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