When I made the decision almost a year ago to move abroad, I did what any type A freak would do… I researched.
I read blogs and articles and anything I could get my hands on about packing up your life and moving to a new place. I was lucky enough, however, that I had a blog friend turned real life friend, Shane, going through the same experience as I was! While I was planning on moving to China, Shane was going to be working in Sydney, Australia for a year!
So what do two bloggers who live in other countries do? Collaborate, of course! With excitement, we bring you the first part in our two part series!
Q: What do you enjoy most about your country? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
S: Australians are an extremely laid back breed of people. My friends told me I was uptight when I first arrived, but now I just go with the flow. Weather is also perfect ten months out of the year and I’m a quick bus or ferry ride from 20 different beaches.
I love the fact that Aussies get a “fair go” more than Americans. Everyone gets free health care and affordable Uni. Work/life balance is valued immensely here with four weeks paid vacation and ten sick days required. Minimum wage is extremely high with even waiters making $25/hr. I’d say the Aussies have a reason to be as carefree as they are.
R: I love the low cost of living here! I love that as a first year teacher, I can travel and enjoy a really nice lifestyle
(dinners and drinks out are a frequent occasion for this girl!). Tutoring English pays $50/hour, which as a side job compared to my regular teaching gig. I also don’t have to pay for lunch during the work weeks, my apartment or
internet access (as slow as it is!) I enjoy that I can travel so much.. and I love LOVE my job. I teach at an international school, so I teach in all English. I love what I’m teaching, and my students are awesome. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity!
Quality of life? That’s a tough question. As much as I really, REALLY do love my life in China and am very happy here (I just signed my contract to teach another year!), I would say the quality of life is a bit lower. The air pollution is really a real concern– I get frequent headaches! I have a hard time not understanding what people are saying most of the time, even though I take Chinese lessons. The pushing and spitting on the streets can get a girl down, and I do miss some of the comforts of home, especially food (a block of cheese is over $5!). All that said, I wouldn’t change living here for the world!
Q: Any negatives about living in your country? What do you miss most about home?
S: Sydney is super expensive. I’m talking $10 for a beer, and $300/week for rent. Don’t even get me started on clothes and shoes. The Mexican food is terrible, but the Asian is phenomenal (Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Malysian, you name it, Sydney’s got it!)
Bars are super strict and have reason to be with the extreme drinking culture here (We had drinks in the office at 4pm in my first week) I have been denied access to a bar before, when back home they’d be more than happy to have me come in and spend my money freely! They stop serving shots at midnight, can’t serve more than a double drink (what about $9, 9 shot trash can in college) and have lockout at 1am.
I also miss my car! Public transport is reliable here but you have to allow for far more time to get from A to B than when you can just drive. Australia is also so far and disconnected from the rest of the world it feels at times.
R: I kind of hit on my negatives in the question above, but it is and was a HUGE adjustment from the states. I miss being able to understand what everyone’s saying around me, and things just seeming a bit easier. For example, to go to the gym takes an hour on the metro including walk time, or a thirty minute cab ride because of the traffic. These are just things to get used to. I miss clean air, and reliable internet. The internet here is quite awful!
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends in your country? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
S: I am lucky that my work has a massive graduate program that all go out together. In the last few months I have found tons of travel bloggers through meetups and networking events that I share a common interest beyond drinking with.
R: My coworkers rock, and most of my friends here are either people I work with, or friends I’ve met through them. I also have met a couple of friends through church and my yoga studio. Just like being an adult or living in a city, I think it’s hard to meet people in general!
Although this doesn’t count as living in China, I’ve met some really awesome people traveling in Thailand and Asia, and have kept in touch with them, which is awesome and exciting!
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
S: Sydney is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. The majority of my workmates and friends are not
originally from Australia, but India, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, England, Ireland, Bosnia and more! It makes life super interesting.
Politics and religion just aren’t normal topics of conversation. Actually haven’t heard them brought up once. Aussies also tend to jestingly throw around terms we might view as racist in America, but no one seems to get offended here.
R: Chinese people, at least in my experience, are always happy to see foreigners! I have never had anyone be rude to me
because I am American. I am learning Chinese, and try to speak as much of it as I can around Chinese people, so when I do they are always thrilled!
China is a predominantly atheist country, and I’m a Christian. I’ve never felt discrimination, per se, but talking about
religion is just something that isn’t done here. I go to a church that only allows expats, or foreigners, to attend. You are required to bring your passport to services here.
There is a great expat community in Shanghai, and I have lots of feminist friends here, so I don’t often feel judged for my gender either, which is awesome! :)Tune in next week for part 2! Anything you’re curious about us answering? Leave it in the comments!
I'm Rachael, and welcome to my blog! Here you'll find stories about life abroad, living in China, blogging tips + tricks, and what I'm reading. I'm fueled by hot tea, bright lipstick, and red wine. Stay a while--I'm so glad you're here.