From Trailing Spouse to Trailing Mum!

30 Jan

Being a expat is a privilege, a challenge and a journey.

It doesn’t define you, yet it is a way to identify yourself. I have been living back in the USA for 18 months now, as a trailing spouse.

A new term I hadn’t heard of, yet now after research, writing blogs and learning more, I now have a better understanding.

When taking on another overseas assignment, I knew that we would have children oversea. I knew that and I was and still am happy to do so.

With motherhood comes, amazing moments, challenges, new stage of your life and new found respect for your own mother and those that you know.

If being a Mum wasn’t a challenge enough try being a expat or rather a trailing Mum. A Mum who followed there partner overseas and has a newborn.

If you had told me at our one year wedding anniversary that I would be living back in California, having a baby girl who was born 8 weeks early and spent 49 days in the nicu, I would say you are crazy. But that is what happened.

From that experience I have learnt a lot and have started to experience being a expat as a Mum. Instead of a late night on the town, I am going to mothers group, instead of a last minute weekend away, I am going on a family outing to the farmers markets and instead of a romantic dinner for two, it is now a dinner for 3 and you know what I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My expat experience is more enrich, meaningful and fulfilled.

Do I miss my family?
Do I wish we live closer?
Do I want our daughter to experience Australia?

Absolutely! But she is enjoying a life experience that children dream of, not to mention she is a dual citizen.

Recently I have had a few readers ask how do I do it. How do I be a expat mother. Well I am not going to lie, it is hard work! But I love it! Every single thing about it!

So to all those other expat Mums out there, here are my top tips for new mother expats, on making the most out of this experience. Also how to survive being a stay at home Mum ( short term or long term)

Mothers group- sounds corny I know but find a mother group. Both a online forum and a meet up group. This give you a chance to socialize with other Mums, learn from each other and be each other support.

Hobbies– make sure you don’t lose sight and time for your hobbies. Be it netball, singing, volleyball, cooking anything. Work out a way to continue these interests.

Time out– find time and a way to have time away from the baby. Go to the movies with friends, a girls night out, dinner with family, anything!

Communicate– being a expat our family and friends are far away, so make sure you keep them up to date. Send a monthly email, send pictures of the baby, chat on FaceTime, viber, Skype.

Help– don’t be afraid to ask for help. I learnt this when I was pregnant. A complicated pregnancy meant needing help. I was so touched by the support and help I had from my fellow expat friends. If you need help, ask for it.

Let’s continue this journey and enjoy motherhood, expat life and everything that comes with it!

“I am a wife and mother first, then the First Lady!” Go out there and enjoy your expat life!

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Discover your expat city!

2 Dec

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So begins part 2 of arriving as a expat and becoming a local. This is part of a series which will assist you with becoming a expat.

Many readers have requested assistance, advice and information on tips and tricks of being a expat and living the expat life in the Bay Area.

So to answer your question the first tip is to discover.

Discover the place you live, get to know your local community and enjoy what your city has to offer.

The Bay Area has an array of things to do. No matter what your interests are, be it the arts, food and wine, sports recreation, history and nature there is something for you.

When arriving to a new destination the first thing I alway do is go on. Hop on/ off bus. It may not sound luxurious or overly exciting compare to other tours but it allows you to get your bearings, a lay of the land and start to discover what the town has to offer.

This will assist with finding what neighborhood you would like to live in, the local spots to eat and background on the community.

For San Fransisco check out http://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com/san-francisco-bus-tours for tours.

Being a expat a lot of the time you don’t chose where you go or are posted and that means that maybe the destination isn’t a major city and may not have tours. So if that is the case grap a map and make your own tour. Check out all the major attractions of the town and get the lay of the land that way.

Once I have completed the tour then it is time to embrace the expat experience!

I find, I always feel better about a place once I have done some discovering. Check out the local spots, get a feel for the town and then you can make a start in getting settled.

First stop discover, second stop research!

Let the expat journey continue!

Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful!

28 Nov

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So as you all know I am Australian. As an Australian we celebrate Australia Day, Anzac Day, AFL Grand Final, Melbourne Cup, Easter, Christmas to name a few.

So Thanksgiving is an new celebration for my family. Today is our fifth Thanksgiving in the USA. I can now say it is one of my favorite holidays.

It is a time to eat and drink, be thankful and spend time with family and friends. So I guess like Christmas without the presents.

Today I reflect on the past year and reminisce about the highlights of the past year.

From holidays, celebrations to births, weddings and magical moments. It has been a year to remember.

Without a doubt the highlight was the birth of our baby girl Grace. It definitely wasn’t the pregnancy journey we expected nor was it a easy road but is was worth every single emotion and challenge because the result was truly amazing!

At Thankagiving it reminds you of what is important and the goals ahead of you.

I am no longer a expat but rather a mother and to define that more a expat mother.

So let the next chapter begin on my Expat journey as a mother!

At this time I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and thank you for the support of my blog. I am truly thankful for the encouragement, feedback and enthusiasm that my readers bring me.

I am signing off on Thanksgiving eve wishing each and everyone of you a Happy Holidays!

Arriving as a expat and becoming a local

15 Nov

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So the decision is made that you are moving, not to a near by town or suburb but across the world to the USA! You are excited, nervous anxious and so much more!

You clean out your house, pack up and ship your items, have a going away party, eat all your favorite foods at your favorite restaurants and then the day comes that you leave on a jet plane. Good bye home, hello America.

As you land into your new town, you take your first steps in the USA, you think to your self ok I am here, now what? What do I do next?

Well here are my top 10 tips for expats arriving into the USA. Each week I will expand on my tips and provide you with more information in relation to being a expat in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1- Discover– get to know the city you live in. Take a hop on/ off bus and discover all the different neighborhoods and areas.

2- Research– website hunt, read expat blogs, websites and get tips from those that know.

3- Network– the best pieces of expat advice I have been given is from word of mouth. Join meet up groups and expat groups.

4- Credit History– open up a bank account, start a credit card, lease a car but most of all start your credit history.

5- Create a home– live as though you are not leaving! Buy furniture, rent an apartment, set up your house the way you want it and make it a home.

6- Embrace American and your homeland traditions– celebrate Thanksgiving, Super Bowl, 4th July! Share your celebrations with your expat and American friends.

7- Insurance– make sure you have health insurance

8- Join a club– what ever your interest are join a club or group. Be it Aussie Rules Football, Netball, Amateur Theatre or Pool.

9- Get involved in your community– do a local fun run, attend a trivia night or a restaurant opening.

10- Get your California Driving license- by law you are required to get your license within a certain timeframe of arriving in the USA.

Now set off and enjoy your expat journey!

The Expat Loop is back!

11 Nov

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It has been a few months since my last post and due to popular demand I am back.

The reason for my absence was a complicated pregnancy and an 8 week early arrival of our beautiful daughter Grace.

Our gorgeous daughter was born October 3rd at 1 pound 13 oz and has spent the last 6 weeks in the nicu. She is doing well and will be home in the coming weeks.

Over the past few months I have had countless requests for advice, information, resources and my experience in moving to the usa.

So with that in mind I am going to concentrate my upcoming posts on providing information and knowledge to expats moving to the Bay Area.

Being a expat is an experience that should be embraced and enjoyed. Sometime it can be frustrating to find the information you are looking for.

So let me guide your expat journey! It is about the journey not the destination!

The Top Moments of Life

18 Jun

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If you could sum up the top moments of your life to date, what would they be?

Today I am celebrating our 4th Wedding Anniversary and it got me thinking of my top moments to date.

There are so many it is hard to choice just 10.

Is it a significant moments?
Is it a destination you travelled to?
A job ?
Buying your first house?
Reaching independence?
Finding love?
Achieving your goals?

My top 10 moments to date. In no particular order

1. Engagement and marriage to my amazing husband.

2. Living and working abroad in California.

3. Becoming an Auntie to our 3 nephews, 2 nieces, god parent to our nephew and god parents to my dear friends daughter.

4. Graduating from high school and then college.

5. Purchasing our first house.

6. Traveling to amazing destinations around the world.

7. Sharing incredible moments with our families and friends. Especially girl time with my best friend my Mum.

8. Adopting our puppy Matilda.

9. Career success, including starting my own business

10. Enjoying each moment and opportunity as they present themselves.

Every week, month and year more moments are added. I could list a hundred.

So I ask you what are your top moments to date ?!

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Guest Blog: The Hong Kong Expat Experience by Rebecca

5 Apr

This month’s guest blogger is Rebecca. Rebecca and I went to high school together in Australia and she is currently a expat living in Hong Kong.  Thank you for sharing your experiences with the readers.

Please give a warm welcome to Rebecca with her blog post below entitled ” The Hong Kong Expat Experience”

Hong Kong, a bustling city that truly never seems to sleep, and in general, is an easy and interesting place for expats to live.

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, having been handed back to China by the British in 1997. Being a Special Administrative Region means Hong Kong has a different political system to China and a separate judiciary. In practice, the combination of the old British heritage and Chinese authoritative influence makes Hong Kong a unique place to live, aptly described as “East meets West”.

Hong Kong is in fact made up of around 250+ islands, with the main areas being Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, often described by expats as “the dark side”. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are divided by the world famous Victoria Harbour. A picturesque harbour that bustles with activity being one of the key commercial gateways into China. You can spend hours getting lost in your thoughts simply watching the ships come and go.

Typically, Hong Kong Island is more westernised with high end shopping, English pubs and French cuisine. In stark contrast Kowloon offers visitors a flavour of a true Chinese city. Kowloon is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, with apartments as far as the eye can see with strange food sold from street vendors. Kowloon is not for the faint hearted. According to Wikipedia 8 million people live in Hong Kong, this is almost half the population of Australia in area that feels no bigger than Sydney’s CBD.

The sheer number and size of the expat community confirms Hong Kong’s place as one of the true international cities of the world. No nation is unaccounted for, with Argentinian restaurants sitting comfortably next to Irish pubs. Due to its historical links from the expat community is dominated by Englishmen, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans. Consequently, it a very easy place for expats to move too. There are numerous relocation agents and real estate agents for expats to assist in finding an apartment, connecting your gas, electricity and cable TV services etc.

The biggest shock to expats is the price of rent. As space is at a premium, rent in Hong Kong is exceptionally high. Be prepared to part with a sizeable chuck of your monthly pay if you want to live on Hong Kong Island. The cost of rent and lack of space is often a downside for expats not accustomed to living in an apartment. However the apartment buildings often have good facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and children’s play areas. There is less excuse to miss the gym when there is one in your apartment building!

Our apartment block

Our apartment block

People work very hard in Hong Kong, whether it be a CEO or a street cleaner, seemingly everyone is putting in the hours – probably to pay their rent! Being the financial hub of Asia, the majority of expats are employed either directly or indirectly by the finance sector. There is no end to the banker and lawyer jokes in this town. . Being a lawyer myself, Hong Kong is an ideal place for Australian and English lawyers to work, due to Hong Kong’s legal system being based on English Law.

Excluding rent most things in Hong Kong are relatively cheap compared to Australia or England. The biggest upside is the ability to employ a “helper” Helpers are quintessential to the way of life for expats in Hong Kong. Household chores become a thing of the past when you move to Hong Kong, with Helpers cleaning, ironing, washing, taking children to school and feeding the baby during the night. I suspect it will be hard to move back to the “real world” in Australia. Public transport is unsurpassed in Hong Kong, with multiple options including: one of the world’s most efficient and extensive subway systems, taxis, ferries, buses and a tram line with double decker trams. The tram line has been running for over 100 years, and whilst slow, is a fun way to see Hong Kong Island. The ferries that run between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are also another good way to view the island. Taxis are plentiful and very cheap. Sometimes you may have difficulty directing the driver where you want to go if you do not speak Cantonese or Mandarin, but for expats there are apps (Hong Kong Taxi Translator being the best) which translate most streets into Cantonese.

There is always something to do in Hong Kong, whether it be a new restaurant or market or simply just exploring a suburb you’ve never visited before. I’ve found Hong Kong to be a fascinating mix of Western and Asian culture. For example, all the streets in Hong Kong have an English Name, and a Cantonese name.

Exploring the Bird Market, Kowloon side of Hong Kong

Exploring the Bird Market, Kowloon side of Hong Kong

Chinese New Year is a really interesting time, as Chinese people have a huge number of auspicious customs for Chinese New Year. For example, you are not meant to have you hair cut for a period of time after Chinese New Year, so as to not “cut away” your luck for the rest of the year. Similarly, on the first day of the New Year, you are not to sweep your floor, so not to sweep your luck out of your home. It was also great giving out “lai see” – the red packets containing money.

The best activities in Hong Kong are often things you would not expect from a large city, Hong Kong is made up of around 250 islands and is very mountainous. There are great hiking and trail running paths, and a view from the water or from the top of a mountain is the often best way to see Hong Kong. The city skyline of Hong Kong Island is beautiful, and from a distance, appears to rise straight from the between the mountains. We’re members of the Aberdeen Boat Club, which allows us to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and spend the day at an outlying island swimming and eating at a beachfront restaurant.

 

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The view of the back of Hong Kong city during a hike up one on HK’s many mountains – cloudy day, normal for HK!

 

Food is ingrained in the culture of Hong Kong, with a huge variety of cuisines available from high end restaurants with three Michelin stars to street vendors, Hong Kong has it. Dim Sum in Hong Kong is particularly good!

BBQ Pork Buns – Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant in the world

BBQ Pork Buns – Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant in the world

 

Given the long hours people work, and the lack of kitchen space, many Hong Kongers do not cook at home and choose to eat dinner out after work. The majority of apartments I viewed did not even have proper ovens! Despite the huge number of restaurants, it can be difficult to find good quality meat and vegetables if you do wish to cook at home. The majority of food is imported into Hong Kong, as due to space, very little food is grown here. There are some international/western supermarkets here which stock products imported from Australia, Europe and the US (Harvey Nichols, Oliver’s), but they are much more expensive than the local markets, which predominantly stock Chinese grown vegetables and meat.

Overall, I would recommend Hong Kong to any future expat. Language is not a barrier, transport is cheap, entertainment is plentiful and having a Helper makes life much easier! There is a large and welcoming expat community, and many clubs catering specifically for expats. In terms of career, Hong Kong is often the Asian headquarters for many companies, so there are certainly a lot of opportunities. I’ve also come across many new businesses started by expats, such as wine distributors, clothes boutiques or blogs such as Sassy Hong Kong (http://sassyhongkong.com), which are really useful resources for expats. Overall, it’s a great place to be an expat in, and has many luxuries that will be difficult to give up should or when we relocate!

 

Expat to local!

17 Mar

So today I was asked the question I get asked on a regular basis? Well three questions in fact.

Question 1- where are you from?

Questions 2- how long have you been here?

Questions 3- how long are you staying?

I replied and said, Australia, 7 months, this time, but almost 4 years all up and 3 years.

The lady replied and said 4 years you are a local now.

It got me thinking when do you turn from expat or out of tower to local?

When does that change occur? Is it losing part of your ascent, becoming familiar with the area, embracing the community or is it the feeling of home.

I have moved a lot, lived in 3 states in Australia, moved to California 3 times, went to multiple schools and so where is my home? Well that is the big questions.

Moving a lot makes you adapt and gives you the skills to make a home anywhere. I always thought a place/ destination was my home, but I am learning that it is where my husband and I are together, where ever that might be around the world.

So am I a local Californian? Well I am not so sure about that but I do love where we live, our expat family and most of all being together.

We are Australian, always are and always will be!

But as they as they say home is where the heart is!

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30 days to healthy!

1 Mar

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So today marks the start of 30 days of no alcohol and healthy living.

Where did this idea come from you may ask?

Well in the past my family have done Feb Fast and my girlfriend and I would give up something for lent. Things like- chocolate, hair straighter, soda, so this year I thought why not alcohol.

With a 4 week vacation coming up, thought it was time for a detox.

I love champagne and wine. I drink for the love of wine, wine tasting and matching food with wine. I wouldn’t say I drink all time but I would say I enjoy drinks a few times a week. So we will see how I go!

So today marks day 1.

What will the 30 days bring?

A time to try out new healthy recipes?

Work out more?

Nights at home?

Only time well tell! Updates to come.

When fat turns into fab!

23 Jan

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So the past few days I have gone for a run with our puppy. What I notice about running is not only the scenery, the beautiful weather but the amount of other runners.

I mean I wouldn’t call myself a runner. I have learned to love running. Back in the day I could not think of anything worse than running. However back in 2009, I was prepping for our wedding and was told that running is the best thing for a all round work out.

At first I died! Seriously, I disliked it. I was one of those people in gym class that would “happen” to miss the warm up, that how much I didn’t like running. Then in 2009, slowly my walk run turned into a jog which turned into a slow run. Today I would say I am still a slow jogger.

So I was on my run today, breathing pretty heavily at the traffic light when, a girl says “Nice day for a run” I replied ” Yes lovely day” she replied “it is always a good day for a good sweat! Sweat is your fat crying!” Then she ran off.

I stood there thinking. What the heck did she just say? Sweat is your fat crying? Really? I mean sweat means to me that it is a really good work out. I never thought my fat was crying. I mean if that is the case then crap it cries a lot!

When did fat turn into a every day discussion? I mean how does that lady at the traffic light know that my fat crying couldn’t it be muscle, can’t fat be fab ?!

People say fat can be mean word. I think it depends on the context. If you say there is a ton of fat in animal fries, or my arse is fat or sweat is your fat crying. Would you take offense?

I think every single person has there own insecurities and you have to be confident in yourself to say I’m hot, I am going to work it! Maybe it was fat and not muscle but you know what.

Fat is fab!

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