Tag Archives: Expat

From Trailing spouse to Expat mother 

6 May

Being an expat is an adventure! It is an amazing journey of highs and lows, laughter and tears, goals and fears and most of adventure! 

My love of the USA started back in 2005 when I came over to be a councilor for summer camp. California was like no where I had been. The food, people, sights was like nothing else. 

We then returned in 2008 and spent 8 years on and off in the States. We were expats. When we returned to the states in 2013, I knew we would have children abroad. My husband and I always wanted children and I knew it would happen in California. 

With that said we had two beautiful children Grace and William. This is when the transition of trailing spouse to expat mother occurred. Being a expat is one thing, being a expat mother is another. 

As a expat you are constantly navigating daily life- banking, working, insurance, housing. Having a baby in a foreign country takes on a whole new world. From navigating the medical system, to citizenship, to health insurance to then taking on parenthood. 

What I have realized is when you change from a trailing spouse to a expat mother something inside of you changes. Yes you have had a baby but something else. It is as if it makes you more independent, resourceful and resilient. 

Being a mother is no easy task no matter where you live but living away from family and friends adds a further challenge. Now for me, I have lived away from family a long time. I haven’t lived in the same country or place as my parents for over 10 years. But it is when you have children you wish you lived that little bit closer. 

As a expat you constantly have to put yourself out there, to make friends, try new things to take on new adventures. Being a expat Mom has a whole set of new challenge. A fellow reader asked me about my motherhood experiences recently And what are my top tips for surviving motherhood as a expat. This was the inspiration for this blog, so now to share my tips! 

Well here are my top tips! 

Support– reenforcements, family, friends, mother helper 

Mothers groups- find/ meet other mothers, find people you click with, have something in common with. 

Date night- find time to have some adult time and enjoy a date night with your partner.

Hobbies– continue or find a hobby just for you! Tennis, going to the gym, language class, choir. Something for just you! 

Intellectual outlet– find something that simulates your mind- work, study, writing a blog, keeping up with the news. 

Wine– if all else fails wine! Everything also seems clear upon a nice glass of wine. 

Motherhood is an amazing gift, journey and adventure. It is powered by love, fueled by coffee and sustained by wine! 

Trailing spouse- trailing mother- travel widow wife 

16 Jun

        

      I am often asked what do you do, why are you in the USA, where is your husband and the question I am asked almost daily how do you cope with your husbands travel. 

      A reader of mine ask me to write a blog about how to cope with having a husband that travels. To that reader, this blog post is for you. 
      More and more people are traveling for work, both interstate and overseas. Some travel a little and others travel a lot. 

      I grew up with a Dad that travelled a lot in fact he commuted from Perth to the eastern states weekly. My Mum made every effort to make a happy, positive household. I can now start to understand what she went through as a mother and what a truly amazing job she did. 

      When I meet my husband, little did I know that he too would travel a lot. I have been with my husband for 11 years and over that time his travel has increased slowly until the last 5 years where it has become more often. 

      Having a husband that travels is far from easy, especially now with a newborn. But we make it work and enjoy spending time even more when we are together. 

      Over the years I have gained tips and tricks of being what I like to call a travel widow wife. A wife who is alone while there husband travels for work.
      So here our my tips for how to cope with a traveling husband

      1- Keep in contact- messages, viber, FaceTime, calls, whatever it takes to keep in contact on a daily basis. 

      2- Keep busy- plan out your days, while he is way- meet up with friends, work out, do chores, what ever your interests are ,fill your time with your favorite things to do.

      3-Schedule – it is crucial to plan. If I want my husband at an event or appointment then I plan around his schedule. We have what we call “black out day” where it is a must he is here and he tries to work his travel around that. 

      4- Communicate – communicate your thoughts, plans, daily thoughts with him. Make sure you include him on decisions and daily goings so he feels apart of the family. 

      5- Flexibility- flexibility is key. My husband travel changes all the time and it is key for me to be flexible and not to take it personally. 

      6- Support– ensure you have support around you- friends and family. Our friends are our family as we are expats living overseas. However I call my parents every day and they can FaceTime with our daughter. They are always there to support me and give guidance. 

      Every day I learn I new tip or trick and I never stop getting advice and support from fellow mothers. Being a mother, expat and a travel widow wife, is still new and I seek help when needed. 

      Enjoy every moment with your husband and make those moments special. Plan trips, date night, family outings and enjoy the ride! 

        

      Traveling with a baby= a new travel experience! 

      13 Mar

      

      Each day millions of people around the world travel. They travel for holidays, business or pleasure. 

      Travelling in my opinion is an art form perfected over many years. From packing the perfect amount of cloths, picking the best flights and connections, requesting the best seats to getting through security in a timely manner, getting sleep on the plane and avoiding jetlag on arrival. 

      Now I would say that I am or rather was a good traveller, I would arrive to the airport with plenty of time, pick the shortest line with no families when going through security and relax in the lounge before boarding.

      What I didn’t realise was when we had our daughter my travel plans would change. It was now about feeding schedule, changing diapers and packing for the baby. I had become one of those people, you know the people who you dread seating next to, as they had a baby. 

      I am that person. My appreciation for parents on long haul flights has changed to amazement. I was the person holding up the security line and collapsing the stroller at the gate. 

      I did so much research before our long haul flight from LAX to SYD, I asked every parent for advice and did a pre pack and prepped as much as possible. To be honest it went brilliantly! She slept 13 hours out of 15 hours. I could not have been prouder. 

      So with that said, a recent reader of mine asked me for my 10 top tips when travelling with a baby. So I dedicate this blog to them and here are my tips.

      1- Use an umbrella stroller or carrier-as much as possible before you board the plane 

      2- Pack light– Pack the essentials you need for yourself and the baby but don’t over pack 

      3- Travel insurance– make sure you get travel insurance for the baby. That way if anything goes missing it gets damaged you are protected. 

      4- Book a bassinet on the long haul flight if possible.

      5- Feed or give the baby a teething toy for take off and landing to assist with pressure changed to there ears 

      6- Lounge access– if possible join a frequent flyer club or buy a day pass and use the lounge prior to flying and during connections. That way you can change, bath, feed the baby easily.

      7- Ask for assistance– everywhere I went I was offered assistance, take them up on it. From security helping you with your items, to the airline staff assisting with boarding and on board 

      8- Get to the boarding gate early and board the plane when offered to do so. On most flights families with children can board prior to a general boarding. 

      9- Toys– bring your babies favorite toy with you. This will assist with providing something familiar to your child and help with the travel.

      10- Change and fees prior to flight– by the time you boarding, taxi and take off it is often an hour to hour and half before you can feed your baby again. Not to mention that is with out delays. So may your baby as happy as possible prior to boarding the flight. 

      So go forth and start travelling. Thank you to all of my dear friends who gave me advice and encouragement to fly. It was worth it, bringing our daughter to Australia for the first time was something I will never forget! 

      Visiting home as a expat! 

      9 Mar
      Visiting home as a expat! 

      As a expat we long for the day to return home for a visit to see friends and family. 

      The excitement of pressing booked on your flights. The anticipation of walking on to a Qantas jet and hearing a Aussie accent and then the final descent into the land down under.

      On arrival you rush to get your Aussie food fix be it a pie, a flat white or some Cadbury chocie. Then you wait to see your family and friends! You reconnect on what has happened in the past year, all the local gossip and you remience like old times. 

      It is a strange feeling! It is like meeting an old friend, familiar yet you don’t see them often. It is as if nothing has changed yet there are changes around every corner. From new restaurents, building, freeways to       friends and family having children, buying houses and moving interstate. 

      Being a expat is like living a double life. We have two houses, two sets of friends and two lives. One is not better than the other, just different. You fit in your life where you are living and the when you go home you fit there too. 


      I am proud to be an Australian and to bring our daughter home for the first time. How long I will be a expat living in the usa, I am not sure. One thing is for sure, is that I will make sure our daughter knows where she is from, make a effort to come home yearly and enjoy the time we spend in Australia. 

      No matter where we live and what we do we will still and always call Australia home! 

      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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      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 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!

       

      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!

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