Living And Working In A Foreign English Speaking Country As An Australian
Moving for work or business is a decent affair and something both not to be entered into lightly and perhaps also something you shouldn’t over think.
I want to tell you a story about moving from one English speaking country to another.
Side note – did you know the highest rate of expatriate failure is from people moving from one English speaking country to another?
In 2015 after considering an opportunity in Kazakhstan (a very attractive one too) we decided it wasn’t the right timing and instead pursued an opportunity to grow my coaching experience in the USA. Within four months we went from being happily settled in our sleepy seaside town on the East Coast of Australia to jumping on a plane and moving across the world to the East Coast of the United States.
It was my wife and I, our kids and of course Speedo the cat. We had already sold our house, shipped our furniture and were considering buying a home in America (way cheaper than renting). We called it the Brake Family American Experiment – deep down I hoped it would work out ok. I mean there was a lot on the line.
Four years and six months later…
In reflecting on taking my work overseas and setting myself up in a foreign country I would like to share some of my experiences – perhaps you could tell me some of yours.
1. America is NOT Australia
I use the analogy – they both quack like ducks, walk like ducks, eat duck food – but hang on, one is not a duck. The subtleties of America and its differences to Australia are probably what made it exciting to visit and ultimately difficult to get used to
2. This Place Is Full On
America does not stop – ever. Well maybe right now, but it is full on, faced paced and will run you down if you stand in the way. The pace of life here is frightening – no wonder they suffer exhaustion and other social challenges.
3. The Sport Is Hard To Get Into
They have, what feels like, advertising driven sport, stop start and no one else in the world really plays it (except basketball).Although I do love Ice Hockey.
4. It’s Like Government in the 90s All Over Again
It feels here that America didn’t get the memo on e-government. Dealing with government here takes bureaucracy to a whole new level. But I suspect that is also because it is all new, we are new, we are foreigners – oh and it is government after all.
Setting Up In A Foreign Country
Wow there isn’t enough space or time for everything so here’s what came to mind:
- They don’t care if you are from overseas and never lived here – you should just know.
- You know in your 40s you enjoy decent status with insurance and credit – but it resets in a new country – welcome to being a 16 year old driver…
- Your visa determines your status which determines what you have to do financially, and legally. You need to know everything – legal status, immigration status, financial standing… we needed social security numbers, bank accounts, drivers licenses, electricity accounts, phones and the list goes on
- Getting the kids set up in school, deciding to home school one and navigating that space all the while dealing with them missing their friends – whilst we were missing our friends too
- Leaving summer and arriving mid winter – enough said
- Going shopping for the first time – easy huh? What it a Rock Melon called? Why cant I find Pumpkin and for goodness sake where’s the Vegemite and Tim Tams 🙂
- Starting work – meeting my new team who were 9 hours drive away, getting out on the road, using slang or colloquial that is seemingly cute at first but grows thin on your clients, only having enough work to just cover the bills on day one, trying to figure how you are going to build a business network and grow your income.
So What Can You Do To Settle In Well?
- Be clear on why you want to move to another country.
a. Business Goals
b. Personal Goals
c. Family Goals
- Find ways to connect to your new community
a. Kids sport
b. Community groups
c. Existing connections
- Understand that even in a similar style country it is all different and that’s ok!
- Maybe its time to pick up new hobbies
a. Mountain Biking
- Research your host country – ask lots of questions – get curious
a. Read history – real history
b. Listen to both side of an equation
c. Hang out with people smarter than you that love to converse
- Be patient – its all different – yes all of it
- Be prepared for culture shock – its as real as mask breath
So What Did We Find? And How Does It Help You?
Americans are different, but my kind of different.
They are intense, passionate, and warm and friendly. They love their country and lead really full lives (especially families). They are hard to understand – and maybe that’s because we put them in one “American” bucket which really is highly spurious.
When we put aside our prejudices, our “why isn’t it like Australia”, our “we miss our friends”, our “this or that sucks” we found a new life here that today hand on heart we love , the people, the country, the opportunities.
So let my journey be a lighthouse for yours – open your eyes, pay attention, be open to new opportunities, you never know how long it’s going to last so enjoy the journey.
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Where ever you are at many of the SandTracks mentors have traveled the world, lived in multiple countries and set up work or business in many corners of the world. Come and connect with the community.