Back in February, I participated in an expat blog challenge that was hosted by my fellow expat Cristin, an American in Sydney who blogs over at In an Opal Hearted Country. The month-long challenge was a success and a little community unexpectedly emerged from it. In the Facebook group, we talk about blogging, post links to daily entries, and post prompts.
My blogging results are mixed. I tend to read a number of other expat blogs, but I comment little, and my own blogging has been sporadic lately. Sometimes the prompts just don’t speak to me, but the June monthly prompt does. The prompt is changes, to talk about the ways in which we’ve changed since becoming an expat.
The list of ways in which my life has changed is long. The most obvious changes are that I live in a different country, a different city, with different people. I eat different foods. I shop differently, not only at different places, but actually differently. For example, previously I did my grocery shopping on Sunday mornings with my sister and mother and only at one supermarket. Here, I don’t really have a shopping schedule. Sometimes I shop alone, sometimes with my partner. And I shop at multiple stores – Aldi for the basics, the fresh market sometimes for fruits, vegetables, and meats, and the big supermarket chain Woolworths. I don’t have a car and take public transportation. I do more housework (and I hate it). I even garden from time to time. I don’t visit book stores any more (mostly because there aren’t many left to visit and none in my immediate neighbourhood). I don’t go to the movies much since I’ve been in Melbourne because it’s so expensive. I rarely go to the beach and never go swimming. I don’t have any favourite restaurants or go-to places where I know the staff by name and everybody knows my name and my favourite drink. I don’t eat much Latin food, listen to much Latin music, engage with other Hispanics, or even speak much Spanish. I never dance any more. My spiritual community is tiny, underdeveloped, and not as supportive. I took up the djembe, photography, and birdwatching.
That’s the easy stuff. The question of how I have changed is more difficult to answer. I think I’m more relaxed than when I was living in Miami. Two things that increasingly caused me some anxiety living there are the traffic and violence/crime. Melbourne has a lot of traffic and many equally bad drivers, but people are generally kinder on the roads here. You don’t hear a lot about road rage whereas in Miami it’s not unheard of that someone gets shot over a parking spot. People in Miami are just on edge all the time. It’s not that there isn’t any crime or violence in Melbourne. There are plenty of thefts, fights, assaults, and so forth, but by and large, the rate of crime, especially violent crime, is lower in Australia.
The probability of being killed by wildlife, however, is probably higher. When I first came to Melbourne, I didn’t even want to go into the backyard much. It seemed to me a wild jungle of unexpected dangers – spiders, snakes, drop bears, killer weeds, who knows what. I’ve definitely relaxed in that area and not only do I go into the backyard quite a bit and even spend some hours weeding and tidying up, I actually like visiting parks and doing a little hiking.
Since I’ve lived in Melbourne, I’ve come to appreciate the American way of life more, and I realize now how much I took it for granted because although I knew that living in a developing country must be very different, I had incorrectly assumed that living in a place like England or Australia would be similar, but it’s not. I find that life in Melbourne is a little bit harder, a little bit more uncomfortable, than living in Miami. The things that are so commonplace, so easy, so cheap in the USA, are almost little luxuries here. Sometimes I resent that, when I get homesick. Those are a couple of ways in which I’ve changed and don’t like. I’m just a little more resentful and a little more sad.
How about you? How have you changed since moving abroad?