It took me a while before I realized I could be classified as an ‘expat’. What does being an ‘expat’ even mean, apart from the fact it sounds pretty sophisticated?
I had visited Australia as a traveller in 2006 and 2008, then met my boyfriend Nick in Sydney (he’s also Dutch and was studying there for a semester) and we came back in 2011 on a ‘Working Holiday’ visa. After a year, he became sponsored by his boss, so we stayed a little longer. Living the expat life.
An ‘expatriate’ (in abbreviated form ‘expat’) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing.
How to become an Expat
Back home, I’ve been working as a primary school teacher and Nick graduated in architecture. Especially for him, finding work in Europe proved to be tough and our plan to once return to Australia for more adventures always stayed in the back of our heads.
We were both interested what it would be like to give up our house in Holland, our furniture, our jobs, say goodbye to family and friends for a while and see how far we get in a new country. Would it be possible to achieve anything in a –relative- short time span of 1-2 years? Would we be able to settle in and do what the locals do – get supermarket rewards cards and complain about the neighbours’ noise on the weekend?
The extra pay, sun, bigger beer glasses and funnier animals made the choice easy for us. It was now or never!
The first months of being an Expat
It took us about two months before we both found a job, which for Nick meant sending resumes out daily. For me it soon became clear that teaching as a non-native speaker would be near to impossible in Australia, so I changed focus and looked at my other interests. I couldn’t find any jobs that would let me do paint-by-numbers all day, so I went for the second best thing and ended up working with travellers.
Two months was a long time, and I must admit we were about to give up on it. We literally said: if we don’t find work at the end of the week, we’ll either move to another city or we’re going to try some silly jobs like fruit picking or sheering sheep at an Outback ranch. And we would have rocked that – but then everything fell into place.
Expat Life after a Year
We’ve been living in Sydney for over a year now, moving from the suburbs to the buzzing city centre and we absolutely love it. We got our own 1 bedroom apartment, can both walk to work and get enough from our jobs to keep learning and living in Sydney.
It hasn’t always been easy, after all we moved to the other side of the world and knew no-one, but I must say that we’ve done pretty good. Our life here is not over yet, even though we are looking forward to go home and move on to another adventure at the end of this second year in Australia.
In the meanwhile, let me keep you updated about our expat life in Sydney. There were a lot of things we had to get used to (like the Australian’s fetish with soy coffee, watching television in a pub and wearing costumes whenever possible), so please check back here for more of my random insights about the subject soon.