7 Questions: Lauren from Seattle


Hi. My name is Lauren. I currently live in Sydney Australia. I moved to Sydney from Seattle back in 2008. I am the owner of Emerald City to Oz (http://www.emeraldcitytooz.com), a unique Sydney Travel Guide written by expats chocked full of insider information and travel tips plus hidden secrets of Sydney. I am currently working on an expat guide to Australia, written by expats for expats. You can find me on twitter, @emeraldcitytooz, or on facebook http://www.facebook.com/emeraldcitytooz where I post regular Australian Travel Deals and current Sydney events to help you plan your next trip down under.

1) What made you pack your life into a bag and become an expat?


It’s all my husband’s fault. Just kidding, but it was his job that moved us to Sydney. He is a computer programmer working in health care and was contacted by an American company that has an office in Sydney. After many long discussions and several phone interviews we decided to move out to Sydney. Our friends and family were a bit surprised by our decision at the time, as neither of us had ever been to Sydney. The few people we talked to who had absolutely loved it. When we asked if they would move there given the opportunity they all without fail said “In a heartbeat.” Now after living here for four years I understand their conviction. Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and you can’t beat the weather. Australia as a country continues to surprise us. There’s so much to see and do here that our travel list just gets longer and longer.

As far as being an expat, if you like to travel then consider living for a few years as an expat. It’s life changing. You will really get to know yourself and gain a very different perspective of the world at large. I know that for us we often discuss the next place to move to. Catching the travel bug is one thing and easy to cure but once you’ve been bitten by the expat bug there is no returning home.

2) Can you think of a single moment that occurred while living as an expat, which made you completely change your viewpoint on something you strongly believed in before you became a traveler?


Living as an American abroad I am often surprised at how the rest of the world sees us. There’s no question America dominates the world media. This domination has lead to an exaggerated stereotype and sometimes it ain’t pretty. Just think of all the reality shows, celebrities and American politicians rolled up into one.

I find that I am often correcting this stereotyping. “Yes, I survived the American public school system without being shot. In fact, I went to a very nice public school.” “No. I have never owned a handgun nor will I ever.” “Yes, in fact my husband and I enjoy travelling and I’ve had a passport for quite a while now.” “Yes, it’s true we have orange cheese. No, I don’t know why.”

Though I cannot point out a singe moment, one of the consequences of this continuous correction is a strong self-awareness of what it means to be American. I think this is true of all expats regardless of nationality. “Yes, I’m French and no, I’m not rude.” Living as an expat means that one represents their country and can influence the opinions of others. I now think of myself as an American where as before living in the States it was obvious and never how I would describe myself. I now realize that I cannot be separated from my nationality. I will always be an American even if we continue to living in Australia for many years to come.


3) Besides the obvious language barrier, what is the scariest aspect of settling in a foreign country?


I guess I have it easy as far as language barrier goes, though I do have some funny stories of misunderstands due to the difference in Australian and American English.

I would have to say that the scariest aspect of settling in was renting our first apartment. The search was quite stressful as we were not familiar with Sydney, we did not have a credit history, and our work history in Australia was just beginning. On paper we looked like a credit risk to any Australian real estate company. Not to mention the competitive rental market in Sydney at the time of our move.

We had only two weeks booked in a hotel that the company was paying for after that we either needed to have an apartment or extend our stay and pay for it ourselves from the savings we needed for our first months rent and deposit. It was not fun but it all worked out fine in the end.


4) When people ask you about your experiences as an expat, what’s the one memory you always share?


Oh my goodness, there are so many! Australia is truly a magical place, from the unique wildlife, to the beautiful beaches, to the dramatic differences in landscape. But if I needed to settle on one memory it would probably be the time I saw a platypus up at the Blue Mountains in the lake next to the Jenolan Caves. Most Australians that I know have never seen one in the wild. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience though completely unrelated to being an expat other than the fact I had heard from a local that three platypi lived in that particular lake.


5) Do you ever find it difficult to connect with the locals of the country? If yes, why? If not, why do you think it’s been fairly easy to connect with them?


Australians are very friendly but hard to get to know. I have only a few Australian friends; in fact most of my friends are expats from the UK or various countries in Europe. I don’t think this has anything really to do with connection but rather is just how life is. As an adult, most people who have grown up in an area, or have lived in one place for a while, has a network of friends already in place. It’s not often that people really branch out of that network. Even though Australians are friendly I have found it hard to bridge that gap between acquaintances and friends. Whereas with other expats bridging that gap is much easier since we are collectively coming from the same place. I do think that if we lived in a smaller city in Australia things would be different. Sydney is a large bustling city making it difficult to find a niche group of friends.


6) What hard to get items do you wish could be overnighted from back home?


Friends and family! One thing about living in Australia is you really do feel so far away.

I have learned to get use to living without certain items mostly related to cooking and baking, for example cake flour. When I asked around for a shop that supplied cake flour, I was told that no such thing existed. I was surprised to find that in such a foodie city as Sydney I was not able to find cake flour anywhere, not even the speciality shops. Instead of hunting it down and ordering it online I instead opted to embrace Australian baking and went out and purchase a few Aussie cookbooks. I’ve never looked back.


7) Besides being able to live in another part of the world, what has been the greatest benefit of becoming an expat?


Being an expat is an amazing way to increase self-awareness and build self-confidence. It has also strengthened our relationship but not without a few growing pains along the way. When we first moved to Australia we spent a lot of time together until we built a social network of friends. Finding your independence within a relationship is important and can be difficult to do under normal circumstances but when living abroad it can be even more difficult to do. Being able to venture out on one’s own is critical and can be very good for a relationship. It’s can also be a blast! 

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