Photo credit: orion_Katerina / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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?




  1. This makes me feel a bit sad for you. I suppose it’s because I’m aware of how living in another country has it’s positives and negatives, and somehow we focus on the negatives more. Have your friends or family visited you since you’ve lived here?

    Is it possible that some of those things you used to do in Miami, you no longer do because you’re in a relationship? We do change in the course of our lives, and living with a partner is one of the major changes to our life. You’ve done a double whammy.

    I miss the swimming I used to do in Florida. There are plans to build a heated pool near to me, and when it’s finished, I plan to sign up, It won’t be the same as swimming in the warm waters of the beach, or in the pool under the palm trees, but at least it will be swimming.

    I love the killer weeds!

    I hope you don’t feel sad too often.

    • Cosette Paneque

      It’s just the circumstances – not having a car, not having a lot of friends, not knowing other Hispanic people. I’ve been to a number of beaches that were all very pretty – and rocky, with rough, icy waters – totally unsuitable for swimming. I don’t live near any swimming beaches. No, I haven’t had any family or friends visit and I don’t expect to.

  2. My daughter spent some three months in Australia and found it very different from the USA. Sounds like you have had many many changes! Good luck.

  3. so sorry to hear of your struggles. I found it was hard enough moving states in Australia. There are subtle differences everywhere. I also miss my family and friends and rarely see them. 2yrs ago I moved from Geelong to Melbourne and there began another period of adjustment. However, I’m a native and you have so many other consideration that can make it difficult. I am thinking time will allow an easing of some things. I think I would plan a trip home at some point, even if it may be ages and ages away. I think it would help me to see a time when the things/people I miss most I will be around again. I imagine when that time comes you will look at Miami with different eyes than the ones you had left with. I feel for you, really I do. Go easy and yourself and thank you for sharing this blog post and exposing some of the vulnerabilities.

    • Cosette Paneque

      I already do look at Miami differently. Part of it will always be home, but it’s definitely different. Time makes it easier as does having the support of family and friends. Thanks for your comments!

  4. living so farm from home must be difficult. i was raised in wisconsin but have spent the last 30 yrs in texas – which seems a bit like a foreign country, at times – so i can only imagine the culture shock you go through.

    wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog!

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