When we first started kicking around the idea of living in Australia for a little bit, it was hard to wrap our minds around what the everyday would actually look like. We knew some things would be pretty much the same, but what exactly would be different? After living here for nearly a year, I can say that certain elements of living abroad have really surprised me in ways I never expected.
#1 You have a different relationship with money.
The Australian currency is not the same as the US. On any given day, there’s a 25-30% swing (usually in favor of the US). The dollars do not look the same. Australia’s paper currency is colorful with clear pieces of plastic embedded in the design and everything under $5 is in the form of coins. This makes paying for things in “gold coins” (A.K.A. singles) feel like play money to me, which, in turn, makes the vibrant paper money have the same effect.
#2 You don’t really ever get “used to it.”
When you’re overseas, there’s something new to process on a daily basis. At first, I thought this would be fun. Some days it is! But other days it feels like a drag. A simple form to fill out at the orthodontist’s or school’s office has terms that need to go through some type of filter in my brain: surname, backward dates, abbreviated words that don’t make any sense, different terminology than I’m used to, etc. I’ll pick Nicola up at school and have a 5-minute conversation with another parent and only grasp 70%. Half the time I wind up repeating back to them what I think they’ve just said or I have to ask, “Wait, what did you just say? I don’t understand!” It usually ends in laughter, but this added layer hasn’t let up. The Aussie way of speaking is very sing-songy and statements sound like questions a lot of the time. (This doesn’t help.) I think I was under the impression the differences would subside a few months in, but I was definitely wrong. They aren’t as shocking as they once were, but they are still abundant.
#3 You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. All. The. Time.
Referencing back to #2, this kind of added difficulty would have sent me heading for the hills a decade ago, but now it’s just the “price of admission” to living abroad. People say things I don’t get. I have to speak up more. I have to ask questions. (Like at the grocery store, I had to ask what they called red peppers because I couldn’t find them on the self-checkout computer system. I felt so silly. Pssst…it’s capsicums.) The seasons I’ve known my whole life are flipped, bugs are way bigger than anyone in their right mind would be comfortable with, window screens aren’t a thing, no one seems to have caught on to garbage disposals (but why? they are so handy!) and you’re exposed to school rules that feel hard to comprehend (like needing a “license” to use a pen) and so forth. Everyday items have alternative names—sweaters are jumpers, erasers are rubbers—and all the stores close by 6pm (and that’s considered late). But I don’t think you get to experience different and feel comfortable at the same time. I just didn’t think it would be every day, for say a year.
It’s a journey….
On a funny note. here’s a hilarious video I came across explaining how to speak Australian that’s worth a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDb_WsAt_Z0