An Expat Living and Working in Australia – Part II

Sydney Australian expat palm tree and Harbor


In our last issue we featured Part I of Jamaican-Canadian expat Marsha Reid’s interview about living and working in Australia.  Ever heard of “footy?” Read on and learn!

Describe some aspects that are similar to life in Canada and some that are distinctly Australian.

Australia and Canada are culturally similar, as we are both English speaking Commonwealth countries with democratic parliamentary systems of government that in the past, mistreated indigenous peoples, but today, have policies in place that protect and encourage multiculturalism and inclusion. However, Australia is distinct from Canada, not only in its geography, climate, and flora and fauna, but also its love of footy (Australian football), rugby, cricket, and drinking. As one of my Aussie friends said to me, “I never trust an Australian who doesn’t drink!” As I’m not a big drinker, this has been something of a sore point for me at times.

Australians also have a distinct sense of humour, which can be crass and inappropriate. It is definitely not for the faint of heart or those who love political correctness. As a correlation, Australia also suffers from tall-poppy syndrome, where anyone who becomes incredibly successful gets taken to task and cut down to size, thus no one really stands out and is able to lead the way; mediocrity is preferred. This to me seems like a mutant strain or perversion of egalitarianism, which Australians have always claimed to cherish in their society. But to end on a more positive note, what makes Australia distinct from Canada is their strong sense of mateship and the ANZAC spirit. Friendship is everything here, and once an Aussie lets you into their life and considers you a friend, they will be loyal and stick by you thick through thin.

expat An Expat Living and Working in Australia   Part II

Marsha Reid a Jamaican – Canadian expat in Australia

What have been the greatest challenges for you as an expatriate?

There are many challenges in being an expat, but the biggest challenges are dealing with isolation, homesickness, and maintaining (or losing) your identity. I’m fortunate to have a supportive partner whose family has welcomed me with open arms, and I have some great Aussie friends too, but there are times where I feel like I’m on another planet due to cultural differences. I find that as humans, we often take the local (i.e. our personal experiences) for being universal and thus the norm, so it can be disconcerting when your perspective (which is widely accepted as ‘normal’ back home) is deemed strange or incomprehensible to someone in your new home because that’s not how things are done here. The frustration stemming from these cultural differences can result in nostalgia for your old home and all that you left behind (even the bad!), and thus homesickness can set in. And at the crux of being homesick is a sense of feeling that you don’t (want to) belong in this strange new place where things don’t make sense at times. And so you seek comfort in your cultural identity and call your family and friends back home, who, in the midst of lending an ear, marvel at the foreign words or phrases you use or note how your accent has slightly changed, or remind you how out of touch you are with the news and latest developments. And that’s when you begin to realize that you might not be so Canadian after all and that maybe you’re a little more Australian than you’d like to think. All this and more can happen on a bad day and result in a crisis inducing moment of wondering where you belong, because although “There’s no place like home”, there’s also the adage “You can never go home again.” Thus you gotta dig deep and find the sweet spot to this expat life, roll with the punches and just enjoy living betwixt and between two cultures by living in the moment. Most importantly, to quote my late grandmother’s favourite prayer, I continually ask the powers that be to, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Describe the best places to go/places to see that are under the “tourist brochure” radar.

In Sydney, most tourists hit the Opera House and the Bridge and feel like they’ve been there, done that, but if you venture a little bit outside the city, you’ll find some really cool places to see and things to do. The Lower North Shore has many beautiful local beaches that put its more famous, overcrowded sisters like Bondi to shame. With stunning views, it’s great for a swim or a chance to watch the whales migrate during the Australian winter. Also, the Inner West and the Eastern Suburbs have some amazing cafes and award winning restaurants that are worth checking out, so check out Newtown or Darlinghurst respectively. One must also enjoy Australia’s amazing coffee culture, thanks in large part to its Italian immigrants, by having a proper cup of coffee (there are a dearth of Starbucks here, and for good reason) while reading the morning paper or people watching. My partner and I do this at our local beach from time to time, and it’s on mornings like those that I’m reminded of why I’m living the sweet life.

Do you plan to return or make Australia your home?

I actually plan to be in the UK next year to continue my graduate studies, but once completed, I’ll be returning to Australia and remain there for the foreseeable future, so Australia will be our home. But as I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and love experiencing different cultures (I’ve already lived in the Caribbean, Canada, and Europe), I also know that after a few years, we’ll pack up and leave, and set up shop in another country and begin the process anew.

marshareidabout An Expat Living and Working in Australia   Part IIAbout Marsha Reid

Marsha Reid is a 30 year old Jamaican-Canadian living and working in Australia since 2009. A perpetual grad student suffering from wanderlust since she was a wee lass, Marsha has lived in four countries and traveled to nearly 20 with no plans of ceasing her nomad existence any time soon. If moving to Australia is in your future or your dreams, read Part One of Travel and Enjoy Magazine’s interview with Marsha about Australia and what it’s like to live there.

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