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!

Celebrating festive occasions abroad!

23 Jan

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Being a expat means you get to have an adventure, discover new and interesting places and experiences. On the down side expats are always missing something back home- a wedding, birthday, birth, christening, Christmas or baby shower.

January is one of my favorite months of the year. Why you may ask?

Well It is a start of a new year, my hubby’s birthday, friends and family birthday, cricket test and last but not least Australia day!

Australia Day is one of my favorite holiday! It is a time to get together with friends/ family, watch cricket, drinking beer, having a BBQ and listening to triple J hottest 100.

Though this can be hard abroad, we will miss Australia Day in Oz this year. So in this situation you have a few choices get down in the dumps, join a festivity abroad or create your own event.

A fellow readers this week asked me how do you celebrate your traditions from your home land abroad?

So in response please find my top 3 ways of celebrating a festive occasion abroad!

1- Embrace it- if you celebrate an occasion – Australia Day, Anzac Day, Queens Birthday, 4th July, Thanksgiving etc at home, make a point to embrace it and celebrate it where ever you are living.

2- Get involved– Expats are everywhere chances are you are not alone and there are fellow expats wanting to do the same thing. So join meet ups, have your own celebration or combine with other clubs and people!

3- Get patriot– I find I am even more passionate about Australia, living overseas. I love sharing Australia traditions, songs and facts. Do the same!

So on this Australia Day, if you are living in San Fran, come join fellow Aussies at ” The Australia Day Sport Carnival”

An event where netball, afl, pies, bake goods and Aussie music combine to make one heck of an event!

For more information check out https://www.eventbrite.com/e/australia-day-2014-sf-sports-carnival-tickets-8839957551

Some times expats feel far away from home! Embrace the experience, as you never know when it may end!

Embrace Life!

What does 2014 hold?

2 Jan

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With the beginning of 2014 started it is time to reach my goals by the end of the year.

What I have realized lately is the importance of loved ones and work life balance. Like a lot of us, we have spent so much time working, trying to reach your career potential, waiting to reach a particular goal or travel to a specific destination, that I have decided that 2014 is going to be the year of change, discovery, enlightenment and joy.

So how am I going to do that?

Well I have put my fears in the freezer and written my goals that I want to achieve.

So here are three of my goals I wanted to share with you. Normally 3 of my goals I share and the other 2, I wish upon a star. As my girlfriend told me recently always have a wish ready as you never know when you will see a shooting star.

Though the goals may seem trivial to some, any goal is important if you have created and want to achieve it.

So here we go:

1- Spend more time with hubby

2- Attend a cooking class

3- Run a 10km.

So as I go to bed on the first day of 2014 , I am putting my best foot forward to achieve all my goals and dreams.

I say to you reach for the stars and never stop!

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New year = New Resolution!

30 Dec

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So at this time of year, like everyone, I have been reflecting on the year that was! What an interesting year it has been! With births, wedding, relocations, career changes and sadly some sad times.

A few years ago, a few of my girlfriends and I decided to make 5 goals for the following year. Not goals that you know you will achieve , like I want to go to Hawaii and the trip is already booked but rather goals that you have always wanted to do or achieved. Such as read a new book each month, learn Spanish or buy a house.

We then wrote the goals on paper and put it in the freezer. U may ask yourself why the freezer? Well Mum always told me that if you have something on your mind or a goal to achieve wack it in the freezer and it will have the best change of coming true!

So with NYE upon us and chatting to my gf’s it is time again.

It is important to think about your 5 goals, tell friends so they too know the goals and then go for it.

So what will 2014 bring?! Get thinking!

On January 1st I will tell you my goals!

So open up your freezer today and get goal setting!

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