I’m just a broad abroad. We all like puns, right? I am a Canadian living in Australia with my New Zealander partner, Kiwi Scientist. Sometimes the cultural divide between those three countries seems minuscule (we all have the same Queen, am I right?), but sometimes I struggle with my situation.
I moved to Australia just over three years ago to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education and certify myself as a secondary school teacher. I moved to the small city of Adelaide in South Australia. Adelaide is a lovely little city, walkable and within an easy tram (streetcar to us Canadians) ride from the beautiful beach. I was nervous as all get out to head down there not knowing anyone. But, after graduating from university and moving back in with my parents, I felt like I was stagnating, and going down in the tar of dead-end jobs like an ill-fated woolly mammoth. There have been major ups and downs (job loss, moving, quasi-deportation back to my parents’ house), but I’ve learned a lot and grown to love Australia as a second home.
I’ve moved to Melbourne and have secured a full time teaching job that I am loving. Anyone who has been to Melbourne can testify that it is a beautiful city. Great public transport, close to the ocean, and great coffee. It doesn’t hurt that it rarely gets colder than +10 degrees Celsius. While it has been hard adjusting to a new country, there are things and people who have been a major help along the way.
I’ve tried to compile in list form my tips for moving to a new country:
- If you’re moving for school, try to stay in a dorm/international college/whatever other sort of communal living is available. These places not only come with all the furniture, they often supply meals and a steady supply of other new people. I met my partner in the college I stayed at, along with some of my closest friends. You’ll also get to meet people from all over the world, which can make for fantastic get-togethers when you go traveling.
- Again, if you’re a student, go to any international student events at your university/college. I attended pub crawls, and a very special screening of an important, groundbreaking Australian film (or so we were told going in, turned out to be “The Castle”). I met some lovely people I had nothing in common with, but also met a good friend who ended up moving to Melbourne around the same time as I did. She helped me get a job after I got semi-deported and has been a great person to hang out with. Don’t discount the cheesy events, they are there for a reason.
- That said, moving to an entirely new country when you’re not studying can make it hard to meet new people. Having moved to Melbourne almost two years ago, I am still having trouble making friends. Melbourne is a much larger city, and without built-in events welcoming me, I’ve been a bit more shy. What I’ve found to be helpful is, unsurprisingly, the Internet. I’ve joined book clubs, found knit nights and a Canadian Society all through the Internet. Not all of these were for me, but I got out of the house, met some people, had some good times and may go back again someday. Not everyone or every club is going to fit for the long haul, but it honestly doesn’t need to.
- Say “yes” to everything you can. Obviously there are sensible exceptions ““ you’re smart people and can figure those out. I’ve tried snorkeling, spear fishing (well, I swam with a spear and then when I tried to get a fish he looked at me all fishily adorable and I couldn’t follow through with it, so I maybe gave him a haircut), hiking along/up things, driving to random places, driving across Kangaroo Island at twilight (seriously, don’t do this one, kangaroos freakin’ love diving in front of cars at dawn and dusk). Point is, there are so many things I’ve enjoyed doing here that I never would have tried at home. Simply put, when people don’t know who you are, you get to be anybody you want. I’ve been a more adventurous me since I’ve been here and I love it.
Essentials to bring/find/beg/borrow:
- Skype. If your family is technologically sloth-like, download and install it for them before you leave. Calling internationally is expensive and nothing replaces seeing your mom’s face during a good catch up. I’m close with my parents so we try to talk once a week when we can arrange it. I can walk them around the house, show them my garden. They even got to meet Kiwi Scientist’s parents via Skype last Christmas when I was in NZ. Our parents got on very well and it was nice for both sides to meet each other finally.
- Food. Plan ahead and ship a box of your favourite food to your new address. I sent a box full of: chipotle spice, marshmallows (the ones here are weird), pumpkin pie filling, “sharp cheddar” Kraft Dinner, eight packs of cinnamon gum, President’s Choice cookies, my favourite chicken soup mix, and am regretting that I didn’t send Spicy Doritos. When you’re sad, or sick and feeling like the kilometers are stretching out between you and everyone you’ve ever known and loved, having your favourite soup is comforting beyond words. My partner and I keep an “international cupboard” and treat it like the nuclear launch codes, we need both invisible keys to open it. Neither of us can choose to eat the other’s food and sharing is completely optional on certain items. Everyone will make their own rules, but him respecting that he will never love the taste of President’s Choice Decadent cookies as much I do, makes me love him even more.
- A Sense of Humour. Moving to a new country often involves people making fun of you. Your accent, your turns of phrase, your ignorance of how “footy” works/ why you shouldn’t “barrack for Collingwood.” It is all up for grabs and realizing that can make it a lot easier. Maybe other countries aren’t as involved in “taking the piss” out of everyone/everything, but in Australia you’d better be ready to laugh at yourself and fling it right back. I’ve got my “Canadian accent” down pat. I can now sound like someone from the Air Farce Timmy’s sketch in a matter of seconds. Faux pas are always going to happen but a willingness to laugh them off can smooth things over quite quickly.
All of those being said, there will be many, many times when you miss home. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made a poor decision. It just means that you’ve left a part of your life you love. Celebrate holidays you enjoy (regardless of whether other people have heard of them) and allow yourself to wallow every now and then.