Gina is now settled back in Australia, but read about her interesting journey as an expat.
Tell us a little about yourself,
1 Where do you live now and how long have you been there?
I live on the beautiful Central Coast of NSW about a 1.5 hour drive north of Sydney on the east coast of Australia.
2 What do you love about where you live now?
Mostly I love the fresh air and being located close to so many beautiful beaches.
3 What brought you to this location?
We are originally from Sydney and while living abroad my husband would return to Sydney for work. He realised on these return visits that he did not want to move back to Sydney. He loves boating and asked if I would consider moving to QLD but I had been away from family and friends for years and I really had my heart set on returning to Sydney. The central coast was his next suggestion and I figured that I was still close enough to family and friends in Sydney and we could all enjoy coastal living as our family loves boating and the beach.
How it all began:
4 Where was your first assignment, how long were you there?
5 What was your reason for moving abroad in the first place?
It all began when my husband was offered an opportunity to move to the UK for work. We had always wanted to live and work in the UK as travel to Europe is so accessible. We thought the boys were a good age to go on an adventure.
6 Did you travel alone, with kids or with a partner? How would you describe your first experience?
We set off to the other side of the world as a family of 4 with our two boys aged 9 and 6. We returned home 2 years later with an extra passenger, our daughter who was born in the UK.
I would describe my first expat journey as lonely and scary. I found out the day that we moved into our new house that I was pregnant. This news was totally unexpected and came as quite a shock to us all. I didn’t know anyone in the UK. My husband had already started work, the boys were enrolled in different schools about a 40min drive away from home as the local village school didn’t have any vacancies at present. I was lonely, scared and missed my family terribly. I was really really homesick, crying every day (I blame this on pregnancy hormones aswell). My husband was very worried about me and organised for my Mum to fly over and stay with me and help me settle into our new expat journey. There were many times initially when I just wanted to pack our bags and go home.
When my beautiful Mum arrived she reassured me that everything would be ok. She stayed for 6 wonderful weeks and we had many laughs getting lost on the A12 and M25! I just couldn’t get my bearings!
After standing on my own in the school yard each day at pick up time, I wondered how I was ever going to make friends. Most of the Mum’s were huddled in groups chatting and laughing in the cold and grey afternoon. I longed to be with my school Mum friends back home. I eventually introduced myself to a Mum from school whilst helping out with a school activity. This Mum had heard about our family from her son and she invited me to join other Mum’s each Tuesday morning for coffee on the High Street. I was so excited to be invited and looked forward to making some new friends. Things were slowly falling into place. I can do this I thought to myself.
The expat adventure
7 Where have you lived so far?
On our return to Australia, after a couple of months of socialising and introducing our daughter to friends and family, we started getting restless. We had moved back into our old house, the husband had gone back to his old work and the boys had started back at their old school. So what now? We had been travelling so much the past 2 years, we were always in the midst of planning our next holiday destination. Would you believe I was missing the UK? I was missing my dear friends and the beautiful village and countryside that we lived in.
Less than 6 months back in our old life, we were again packing up our home and moving overseas. This time it was to Asia, Kuala Lumpur. Much closer to home this time. By now I felt like I could live anywhere. I survived having a baby in a foreign country with no support from family and friends. My family was thriving, happy and healthy.
When we moved into our gated estate in Kuala Lumper, wow what a different experience this was from my one in the UK. On my first visit to the club house in the estate where we lived I had the most lovely and friendly women coming up to me and introducing themselves. I was told about the Book Club that I must come to, the playgroup that I need to bring my daughter along to, offers to take me shopping for the best groceries, asking does the husband want to join the other husbands golf group. I was swept up in their warm embrace straight away.
8 If you could sum up your expat life in a 3 words, what would it be?
Challenging, Adventurous, Exciting
9 How would you define your experience as an expat?
I had two very different experiences as an expat. The first was initially scary and lonely but I ended up loving living in the UK. The husband and I have often considered (for a moment) of returning there to live one day. Living in south east Asia was very different. The expat bubble that we lived in was full of great times and it was an easy lifestyle. Three years of haze, limited access to clean beaches, always being on guard for you personal safety was enough for me. I was ready to come home when our 3 years was up.
The one thing in common for both of our postings was the wonderful friendships that we all made. I have some beautiful life long friends who I cherish and miss dearly.
How has being an expat changed you?
The whole expat journey showed me that I was a lot stronger than I ever believed I was. I will always go out of my way to make people feel welcome and included. I make a conscious effort to appreciate the little things in life that I missed so much when living abroad. Fresh air, clear blue skies, the beach, family and friends.