Expat battle #2
Australia | USA


Since the first post in 2015, this blog talks a lot about expatriation. And the best in it are all the fun cultural differences each expat encounters when living abroad, and which are making the locals smile.

That why the “Expat Battle” was created. And the concept issimple: 2 expatriates talk about their experience in the other one’s home country.

And for this second edition, it’s Australia versus the United States.

Helen (brunette on the right pic), an Australian living in the US, contacted me a few weeks ago to be a part of the next expat battle. Of course, I said a big YES and began my quest to find her the best possible “match”….

I then met Katie (left pic), who is the author of The Accidental Australian. Her website contains beautiful pictures and the “expat” category always makes me want to jump into the next plane to Australia! You really should take a look at her work… but not before reading the battle first! 🙂


From: Poolesville, MD, USA
(a small town outside of Washington DC, about 5,000 residents)

Expat in: Sydney, Australia
(a very big city of about 5 million)

Use to speak: ‘American’ English
Now speaks: ‘Aussie’ English



From: Melbourne, Australia
(4.3 MIO inhabitants)

Expat in: Washington, DC, USA
(650’000  inhabitants in the District itself, but a lot more in the DMV)

Use to speak: English
Now speaks: English

Expat since?
 Moved to Australia in 2012, but left America in 2008 and moved to the UK for graduate school March 2013
I moved to Australia on a working holiday visa, and am now a permanent resident. I moved to experience the bright lights and wild times of U.S. politics.
Your immediate thought when you first set a foot in your country of adoption?
‘It’s so sunny and bright!’ (After moving here from a few years in the gray and drizzly UK) The first time was in New York City so I thought it was both amazing and also unbelievably huge!
Describe your hometown in 3 words?
country, cozy, community Beautiful, delicious, home
Describe your town of adoption in 3 words?

Beach, busy, beautiful

Fascinating, inspiring, challenging.
Biggest cultural difference?
It’s cliche but Australians are truly more laid-back than Americans, generally, and this extends into the workplace, organising social plans, etc. I find it suits me well, as I’m similarly laid-back,  but I’m sure it drives other expats crazy. The cost of living is also crazy high in Sydney, so this could be a big culture shock, depending on where you have arrived from. Luckily a strong economy and well-paying jobs help with this. I think the work culture is quite different. It’s a little cliche (and not always true) but I think more Australians have the mentiality of «work to live » while I find people in DC « live to work ». It makes sense – here what you do says a lot about who you are! Oh and vacation days, Australians have more vacation days and use them with absolutely no shame.
What do you love the most in your town/country of adoption?
Definitely the spectacular beaches and warm climate. Most sunny weekends I can be found snorkeling or diving along Sydney’s shoreline- it’s so amazing to live just a few kilometers from some of Sydney’s best beaches. The people! I love the people I have met in D.C. so much. You can’t walk down the street without bumping into someone who is extremely smart, really interesting and trying to change either the world or their country (or both!)
A local habit that drives you crazy?
The Australian tendency to shorten words constantly – Want a cup of tea and a cookie this afternoon? That becomes ‘Want a cuppa and a biccie this arvo?’, a bastardization of the English language, which sounds sloppy and doesn’t seem to save all that much time. That’s one habit I refuse to pick up. I don’t know if I will ever get used to everyone wearing their college shirts/hats/sweaters all the time. Maybe it’s because Australians don’t have the same attachment to their universities but I find it so bizarre. I always think it’s funny to learn the names of colleges I’ve never even heard of by seeing people working out.
What do you miss the most from your hometown/home country?
(besides family and friends)

Probably just the convenience of everything- shops and businesses stay open late, so you actually have time to run errands after work. And just the familiarity of everything- while I love Australia, America will always technically be ‘home’.

I miss being so close to the beach and heading to the coast on the weekend. I also miss how beautiful Australia is, it’s just such a different landscape from anywhere else in the world. 
A culinary specialty you love from each place?
Home : Maryland crab cakes

Sydney : The strong Asian influence in Sydney means incredible Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants everywhere, which I really enjoy.

Home : Melbourne breakfasts are the best in the world.

New place : Anything fast casual – Sweetgreen, ShopHouse, Cava, Chipotle. And Trader Joe’s, the most magical place on earth.

Biggest difficulty in your everyday life?
Which beach to go to on Saturday mornings? Seriously though, life in Sydney is pretty incredible, but is an expensive place to live, which can be a big stress. My difficulty at the moment is probably more working full time, plus having writing projects and my website  always on the side, so enough time to get everything done is a challenge, but not one that is specific to life in Australia. Right now? I have to say the political climate is really challenging.
A local habit you developed really quickly?

Wearing sunscreen everyday! I never used to, but the sun is insanely strong here, in part due to the hole in the Ozone layer, so anyone can get sunburned really quickly, even if you’re only outside for a short time. In fact, even now I sometimes still forget, so this is a good reminder to myself…

I really picked up being open to meeting new people all the time. I feel like Americans are so open and friendly that it’s easy to start conversations in so many different spaces.
A funny situation which would have never happened in your home country?
I did an epic road trip through the Australian Outback a few years ago, in a caravan, and out of nowhere, two emu darted out in front of the car. They’re pretty big, would have done some serious damage. It was slightly terrifying, and not sure if car insurance covers damage by emu.

I also recently ran into the former Australian Prime Minister at the airport- in America, with Secret Service, no one would ever get even close to a president, but Australia is much more casual. He was just drinking a coffee and reading the paper with his family, no one bothered him at all. In the states he would have been swarmed by people.

So many funny accent conversations. The other day I was hanging out with my 4 year old nephew and his friend, and they found my accent the funniest/weirdest thing ever – Oscar became Oskaaa, car became caaa etc. I also developed a really cheesy (and somehow Southern) fake American accent to use with automated answering services, much to the entertainment of all of my friends.
Would you ever go back home?
Yes, it’s always an option, but am very happy in Sydney- fantastic quality of life, beautiful weather, and well-paying jobs make it a very attractive place to live. Yes absolutely! Although the world is small, America is very far away from where I grew up and where so many friends and family live.
An old habit you cannot quit
(and which is weird where you now live)?

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…you can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take America out of the girl…

Eating vegemite of course. It’s wonderful and delicious, but I haven’t been able to convince any of my Americans that our national salty yeast spread is a winner.
A last word in your new language?
Crikey, mate! Good on ‘ya for taking the time to read this, cheers. This has been fun y’all!

Thanks a lot, both of you!
You can follow Katie on her website, Facebook and Instagram and Helen on her Twitter account!.

Have you been living abroad for a day, a week, a month, or a decade? Reach out if you want to be a part of the next expat battle! 

And here are the previous episode:



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