Expiry of the Expat

Assimilating to life in a foreign country is never an easy exercise. Lord knows for the last 3 years, I’ve tried to look at each experience and opportunity with as much positivity I can muster, but living here in the United States over the last 10 months has certainly taken its toll on my overall morale & happiness. And I am not talking about the happiness that a job or money can bring (which is basically what Silicon Valley/SF pretty much is all about). Bringing children into the equation when relocating to a foreign country makes life twice as hard. I’ve come to learn that fostering meaningful relationships for my child with her immediate family members and friends back home really needs to take priority.

Over the last 3 years, I’ve found it really difficult to connect with people, you know, find those meaningful connections where you can look back and say “Oh yeah, thats my tribe”, and when I say “tribe” I mean a group of people who you feel like your true self with. No reservations, no holding back or “better keep my ultimate lively personality under wraps incase I scare the Americans off” kind of self. I’ve been fortunate to find a small group of friends who don’t care about the above, but there are still those moments of “whoops – the Aussie larakin shouldn’t have said that” or ” I swear too much” or “oh…. they didn’t understand that weird Aussie slang I just auto-piloted out of my mouth”. I think I am guilty though, of comparing the friendships I have back home to the friendships I have here, but my Aussie friends have this warmth and welcoming openness which is rare to come across. Or it’s there in the beginning but then it fades…warm or cold. Mainly luke warm? Failure to commit to outings and such because distance gets in the way of a good gathering…my introvert self has a hard time coping with these thoughts.

There are many things I could warn the bright eye’d future expats moving here to the United States. I see comments on Facebook groups I’m in, with these excited Aussies asking about “where to live in SF” or asking for “warnings before they relocate”. No one seems to talk about the cultural differences between Aussies and Americans. Interestingly though, I had the opportunity to speak to a lovely Aussie couple who we know through friends and they struck up a conversation about the same very thing I was mentioning above. It was weirdly re-freshing to listen to those who understood how I was feeling.

And even with me finally falling on my feet and finding an amazing job which gives me flexibility, there still seems to be a gaping hole in my self worth as a whole. A hole which can’t fill the missing art, culture and liveliness which my home town Perth seems to ooze. Culturally as a city, Perth is fresh, it has an amazing original live music scene, excellent food, groovy bars, plenty to do every day of the week, beaches which are just as amazing as Hawaii or any tropical island. Perth is the TRUE paradise on earth. Sure, it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of a metropolis which San Francisco offers, but I think that is why I love and miss home. Its not a rat race. There aren’t thousands of people, looking all stressed, hurrying down the streets, homeless stench and bodies laying on the sidewalks. In Perth, you won’t get stuck in hours worth of traffic for 5 miles every day of the week (unless you choose to take major freeways during peak which is just silliness). There is a sense of calm and quality of life which can’t be beat.

I have appreciated living here in the Bay area in a lovely home, safe neighborhood. But the time here for me is drawing to a close. It’s made me realize how lucky and enriched out lives in Australia actually were. I’ve solidified my feelings and America I can no longer think of long term goals. I long for the warmth 8 months of the year brings. For safer, clean GUN FREE streets. For clean air and I miss our very own house, making it a home, being super close to my friends, not wanting to miss out on their babies growing. When we are back in Australia, our daughter absolutely loves it and doesn’t want to leave. I feel guilty that she’s spent more of her life living in America than in Australia! I don’t want her to forget her roots. Yes, the tech jobs and careers here are plentiful, but at the cost of what else? At the end of the day, we need to think about our families happiness, and if that means its the expiry of being an expat, then so be it.