Our next Expat Chat is with Eve Duddy. I met Eve when I lived in Thousand Oaks, CA., where she regularly pushed me around on the tennis court. In her elegant manner, she informed our team, one day, that she and her husband were considering a job that would take them to Australia for a few years. Though we agreed it was a sad thought to see her pack up and leave, we were excited for her chance at adventure as it was an opening door that clearly beckoned.
I have followed Eve’s journey from afar on Facebook and thought of her as someone with which any reader could relate. When I contacted Eve, she was excited to share her thoughts with us from Down Under.
This is what Eve had to say:
I was born in Switzerland to Swiss parents, who immigrated to the United States when I was about 3 ½ years old. Growing up I always felt different from my friends – we spoke a different language at home, ate different food and had different customs. As my father’s job required us to move several more times before I finished high school, I quickly learned how to adapt to a new environment and make new friends. My husband and I (and our children) also moved several times around the US while the kids were in elementary and high school. We had also done a bit of foreign travel (with and without the children), mostly in Europe.
There was never any doubt that we would move to another country if the opportunity presented itself. Australia? Absolutely! Never mind that we had never been Down Under. Or that we knew nothing about the city where we’d be living. We were ready for an adventure!
My husband John was offered a position in Brisbane, Australia in December 2008. After a bit of discussion with our children, Alex and Erin (23 and 20 years old at the time), we jumped at the chance to relocate from Southern California for “a few years”. Although Alex elected to stay in California, Erin decided to join John and I on our adventure. She was accepted as a Year 1 student (freshman) at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, one of Australia’s top universities, studying Parks and Wildlife Management.
John started his new job in December, while Erin and I waited until all the visa paperwork was complete, finally joining him in February, 2009. Fortunately there were several American expats already working at Boeing in Brisbane that had families with them, so we immediately had a social network. Although the other expats moved back to the US within about a year, having them in Brisbane when we first arrived made the transition to a new country much smoother. Of course, the fact that English was the common language also made things easy, even though I’m still learning “Australian English” – they definitely have their own words and phrases; who’d know what it means to “rug up” or what an “esky” or a “ute” was?
We found a beautiful apartment on the Brisbane River, close enough to John’s office so that he could take a ferry into the city in the morning and walk home most days, where I’d meet him halfway. He says it’s the best commute to work he’ll ever have!
After spending about 2 ½ years in Brisbane John and I moved to Melbourne in August, 2011, starting the whole process of integrating into a new city all over again, except this time we didn’t have an established social network. Erin stayed in Brisbane to finish “uni”. We chose an apartment almost in the city, primarily to take advantage of all the cultural events that Melbourne has to offer, including the Australian Open. We’ll probably be heading back to California at the end of 2013, at which time we’ll have been in Australia for about 5 years.
One of the more challenging things when we came was to keep myself busy on a day-to-day basis. We knew we would be away for at least two years – this was not a short vacation; John had a demanding job that involved frequent business travel, leaving me on my own (Erin lived on campus at UQ). Although I was allowed to work in Australia, I chose not to for various reasons. An expat friend told me shortly after we’d arrived in Brisbane that it was important to establish a routine (how right she was!), so I made a point to find a tennis league and a place to volunteer, and get a library card, things that are important to me. After some time new opportunities presented themselves, other friendships developed and I became more settled in my new life. I started learning to play bridge and began rowing again, which I hadn’t done since my college years.
What many people don’t realize is that Australia is almost as large as the US, but with only about 22 million people, approximately the population of Southern California! John and I decided to travel as much as possible and to see as much of Australia as we could while here. When possible I accompany John on business trips and combine them with vacation. We’ve traveled quite a bit along the coast of Queensland and into the hinterland of both the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, seen the Great Barrier Reef, visited too many wine regions and wineries to list (Australia has some excellent wines!), cruised from Darwin to Broome to see the Kimberley region of northern Australia, and toured the major cities of Sydney, Canberra, Perth and of course, Brisbane and Melbourne.
We’ve also had the opportunity to hike in New Zealand and to travel to Hong Kong…
…Beijing and Singapore, with more travels planned before we leave. Being in this part of the world allows easier access to places that many Americans often overlook.
I’m often asked what I miss the most about home. Apart from the obvious (family and friends), here are a few things I miss: our pets (we left 3 cats and a dog with friends and neighbors), a yard, ranch dressing, a good Cobb salad for lunch or dinner, customer service (no tipping here, and it’s evident!), iced tea (not the bottled Lipton kind), Thanksgiving.. oh, and TJ Maxx. Some of the things I’ll miss about living in Australia are: walking or using public transportation to get around, the many different cultures and nationalities around us, the galleries, theater and concerts, feeling totally safe in the city, the slower-paced lifestyle, and Tim Tams (an Australian chocolate cookie). People also frequently question me about US politics and the American way of thinking – it’s very interesting (and sometimes amusing) to see how people from other countries look at the US.
Overall our time abroad has been fantastic! What’s not to like about living in this unique and beautiful country? Sure, there were/are some tough times – we had a couple of deaths in the family, times where I was homesick and when I missed our son, our friends and our home. But we were given the opportunity to explore and experience new things, with new people in a new place. I’ve learned that apartment living isn’t so bad – I really enjoy living with a lot less “stuff”.
My daughter called me a couple of months ago and said “Mom, I just want to thank you and Dad for giving me the chance to live in Australia.” How much better than that does it get?