|Card given to me by my girlfriends before I moved abroad.|
Moving overseas sounds very exciting and glamorous to many. Before leaving, many people will tell you how great it all sounds, how they wish they could pick up and move somewhere, how brave you are. There are others who look at you with a weird face and tell you that you're crazy. And like other milestones in life - getting married, having a child, the thrill of living overseas lessens when you settle into a new country and have to start all over again. It takes a while to figure out the logistics of your new life abroad and you mostly have to figure it out on your own. Note to anyone moving, don't move over the holiday season; it's rough. I was not happy the first year, as I felt like a lonely isolated foreigner. Like anything, it takes time, patience, effort, a positive attitude and a hopeful leap of faith.
While Australia is a modern first world country that speaks English, it is still different. I didn't realize moving here, that even with a lot of similarities, there were many differences too such as the lingo/slang, social norms, a more casual lifestyle, a different work outlook, different government, different school system, and many other aspects. Life down under is different.
3. Not everyone likes Americans
Some people love Americans and some people hate them. I've been told that Americans are so friendly, nice, energetic and fearless. On the other hand, we are brash, loud, ignorant, ethnocentric. Some despise American consumer culture as we "force" new trends, clothes, foods, holidays on them. Several times I have been asked if I'm Canadian. When I've said 'No, I'm American,' I am told, 'Oh, I thought so but didn't want to offend you as Canadians hate it when I ask them if they're American.' Gee, thanks...
4. When in Rome, be a Roman
You have to be willing to be flexible and adapt to your new country. No one cares if they do it differently in the US; you are not in the US anymore. Learn the local colloquial expressions, try new foods, don't complain how the prices/government/schools/holidays etc are different from your home country. Be where you are; adapt to your new home.
That said, nostalgia comes at unexpected times - whether its a food you miss, a smell that reminds you of home, a person that looks like an old friend, holiday memories creep their way out of your memory. It is this nostalgic that can make you long for home.
6. Building friendships requires time and effort.
Moving overseas, I had no friends and I found it a real effort to establish new friendships. It is easy to make acquaintances if you put yourself out there but finding a few good friends can be hard. Australia has a small population (24 million) with 8 capital cities. Most people live in and around the cities so the women I've met have family and friends they have known for 20+ years. Many are not looking for new friends. I actually made a friend strategy last year choosing a few women I really liked and focusing on building a friendship with them. This was worth the unexpected effort.
7. You can reinvent yourself.
Since you have left everything behind and are starting over again, you can recreate yourself. No one knows your past history and you may try things you haven't tried before. You can also change your behaviors and hopefully improve upon your shortcomings.
8. As an ex-pat, you become more independent, self reliant, confident and resourceful.
Since you have said goodbye to everything you know and moved to another country, you now have to rely on one person - yourself. You will have to step out of your comfort zone to navigate a new place, solve problems, and do a lot on your own. With successes and failures, you will be stretched as a person and will learn that you are capable of more than you thought you were capable of.
9. Living abroad changes you.
Living in another country gives you a new perspective of your home country. When you are removed from all you know, you develop views on your country from a personal perspective (eg. friends, family, work) and from a macro perspective (eg. culture, government). Because of your new perspective, you will feel changed. I often feel like a stranger in a strange land both in Australia and the US. In Australia, I will never completely fit in because I am a foreigner. In the US, I find my friends and family haven't changed much but I have. The US looks very different to me now that I have been away for 5 years.
10. You may not want to return home.
After living abroad, you may not want to return to your home country. We recently got our permanent residency (aka green card). If you told me when we moved here that I would be staying, I would have laughed. Then again, life is a journey full of surprises. I have learned you need to take that leap of faith and enjoy the ride.
Thai food was foreign to me when I moved here but very popular in Australia. There are Thai restaurants all over Sydney and it's become one of my favorites with the fresh flavours, spices, curries, noodle dishes, lovely soups, etc. I have always been intimidated to make it as recipes call for spices and condiments that I don't usually have in my cupboard. However, I saw a recipe in one of my cookbooks and thought why not give it a try? I had no problem finding the noodles, fish sauce, chile sauce, soy sauce in the Asian section of the grocery store. I found this dish easy to make, full of flavor and versatile as you can chose your type of meat. It is also nice for those gluten-free easters who may be craving pasta as rice noodles are gluten free.
Easy Pad Thai
adapted from Everyday Food:Great Food Fast
by Martha Stewart Living
Serves 4 as a main, 6+ as an appetizer
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
12 ounces/350 grms rice-stick noodles
1/3 cup tomato based chile sauce
1/3 cup lime juice
5 tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
4 cloves garlic, minced OR 4 tsps of garlic from a jar
500gm or 1 pound of your choice of meat - shrimp/prawns, pork, chicken, tofu
3 cups of Bean Sprouts
8 Scallions/shallots, cut into 5cm/2inch pieces
Possible Garnishes - chopped roasted peanuts, lime wedge, lemon wedge, bean sprouts, red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro/corriander, 1 scrambled egg
1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove from heat and add all the rice noodles. Soak for 4 minutes until softened. Immediately drain in your sink and rinse noodles under cold water until they are cool.
2)In a small bowl, whisk together chile sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce.
4) Using the same skillet, add the other 2 tablespoons of oil and coat the pan. Then add the noodles and chile sauce mixture and stir through for 1-2 minutes, so that sauce coats all the noodles.
5) Cut up the bean sprouts and then add them, the scallions and shrimp to the noodles. Over medium to high heat, stir for 2 more minutes.
6) Serve topped with garnishes if desired.