American Expat In Australia - Expat Interview With Katie

Published: 2 Dec at 3 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Australia
Despite getting stung by a bluebottle within a week of living in Sydney, Katie Dundas has found Australia to be a beautiful, welcoming country. After living the past few years in the UK, the hot sunny days are a welcome change, the jellyfish not so much. Her slightly strange blog, (see listing here), is her attempt to chronicle the (mis) adventures and experience of being an American expat living in Sydney. The unique wildlife, laid back lifestyle, and kangaroo meat barbeques are a bit different from life growing up in a rural country town in Maryland, or from life in bustling London.

The Accidental Australian

Here's the interview with Katie...

Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Poolesville, Maryland, a small rural town outside Washington DC. However, for the past few years before moving to Australia I resided in the UK.

In which country and city are you living now?
Sydney, Australia

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here about 8 months, and plan to stay at least a while longer!

The Accidental AustralianWhy did you move and what do you do?
My partner, Max, is Australian, and we moved here from London, where we had previously been living. While we both loved life in the UK, he was interested in coming back home for a while, and I was terribly curious about living in Australia. The decision was made, and almost a year later I am happy to say I’m still here. I currently work for a non-profit organization in Sydney. When I’m not working, I am out exploring the massive continent as much as I can, while attempting to avoid poison spiders, jellyfish, and great white sharks.

Did you bring family with you?
Nope, just me! But my parents, and hopefully a few other relatives will be coming to visit soon. I’m looking forward to showing them all the awesome stuff I’ve discovered over here.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I found the transition fairly easy, although the physical distance can be tough- I can’t just pop in for birthdays and holidays, like I would like to.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
There’s lots of travellers and people from all over the world in Sydney. I have made some nice friends through work, and I am also a member of the Americans Expat Group of Sydney.

The Accidental AustralianWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There’s so much to do here, I still haven’t seen it all! In the Sydney area, I recommend Clovelly Beach for fantastic snorkelling (look for the giant blue grouper), exploring the Australian Museum, and sampling Vietnamese food in the Campsie neighbourhood, to name just a few. Further afield, great weekends away can be found in Katoomba and Leura, for bushwalking in the stunning Blue Mountains, or heading down to the South Coast and checking out Kiama.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love the weather-perfect for lazy days at the beach, barbeques, and being active outdoors.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Sydney is expensive, but I’ve found the salaries here are higher than in the US.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
As I mentioned, Sydney can be expensive, and of course the distance. A 24 hour flight is pretty brutal! For that reason, I can’t go home as much as I would like to, and it makes it harder for friends to come visit.

The Accidental AustralianIf you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Make the most of every weekend. Australia is such a unique place- get out there and experience the wildlife, atmosphere, and variety that this country can offer. Airlines such as Jetstar and Virgin offer cheap fares, so it’s easy to spend a weekend down in Melbourne, the Sunshine Coast, etc. New Zealand and Fiji are just a few hours away as well.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
It can be hard being away from my family, as I know they miss me greatly, and I miss them as well. On a more technical level, I am in the process of applying for residency, which is a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare!

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be flexible and remember that things will not always be done the same way as at home-embrace the laid back, no worries Australian attitude.
  2. A friendly smile and a hello will go a long way- we’ve all been new in a strange place, but it will get easier and remember your family and friends are only a Skype call away.
  3. Make sure you have adequate health insurance-I found here that, unlike in the UK, foreign-born residents are not always automatically covered under the nationalized health care system-check what will be applicable for you, depending on your visa situation.
  4. Flights to Aus are not cheap! Try to always go with the same airline to get the miles, and check out sites such as Skyscanner to make sure you’re getting the best price.
  5. It’s cliché but always wear strong sunscreen and a hat. The sun is intense here, even if you have a darker complexion you will get burned (I’m afraid I speak from experience on that one)

The Accidental AustralianTell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog started off as a way to share my experience with friends and family back home, and fellow exapts. There’s a lot of quirky and strange things here (the platypus, for one!), and I wanted to let other people know about the funny things I encounter over here. I like to keep it light-hearted and off-beat, something you can browse through, have a laugh, and hopefully relate to.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Please feel free to contact me with any questions; I would be happy to help other expats. My email address is katiedundas{at}gmail{dot}com.

Katie blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. The Accidental Australian has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Katie, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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