From California to Perth: Chantae Was Here
I’m Chantae, a Californian currently living in Perth, Western Australia. Perth happens to be the most isolated city in the world so it truly is the wild wild west living out here and kangaroos outnumber people in terms of population.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I’ve always been open to living somewhere new, I was just never sure where! When I first met my German partner, he had plans to complete his PhD in Western Australia. Meanwhile, I had plans to travel the world. In between dodging visa issues in Europe, I visited him in Australia. I ended up liking the remoteness and adventurous lifestyle that I relocated to here a few months after my official visit. I’ve been here for two years and have loved it ever since!
2. How do you make a living?
When I first arrived, I got an immediate job serving high-end seafood at one of the local restaurants. My boss told me that he preferred to hire Americans simply because of their reputation of having good customer service. Who knows if I lived up to the stereotype though! I was plagued with not knowing the difference between tomato sauce and ketchup, what a serviette was, and how to make a lemon, lime, and bitters! I dreaded ever having to say the word “water” as it was sure to be followed up with the whole table mocking me the second I turned my back.
I secured my first “real job” working for children in the foster care system part-time. It’s a really meaningful yet challenging job that has let me see deeply into the darker parts of Australia. Even here, there are cultural differences. I advised a child to say “darn” instead of “damn” after he cursed his stubbed toe. He turned to me and said, “Damn isn’t a bad word in my country – only in yours!”
Aside from my job in social work, I also freelance write and make money through my blog. Writing is my passion so I’d like to transition into being a fulltime writer within the next few months.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Different members of my family prefer different communication methods. I text my dad daily but can’t remember the last time we spoke facetime-to-facetime. My mom enjoys phone calls on her way to work. I Skype my good friends every month or so, and keep up with everyone overall through Facebook messages. It’s incredible that the modern era lets us be so connected to everyone even though I couldn’t physically be further from my loved ones geographically. Funnily enough, my oldest family member is the most technically savvy of all! My great-aunt Betty Skypes me, Facebook messages me, and has even added me on LinkedIn!
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Western Australia?
An adventure aficionado, I love the sense of discovery and excitement that comes with exploring just an hour north or south of Perth. There’s a sense of space and remoteness that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. The freedom that comes with feeling like you’re at the edge of the world doesn’t exist in a crowded place. There’s world class waves, exceptional diving, red deserts, and forests that are all untouched by anyone else. It’s easy to feel like an old-time explorer here.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Western Australia?
While nowhere in the world is perfect, I miss the leadership-focused culture of California. Environmentally and socially, Western Australia seems to wait for the rest of the world to take action before launching a renewable energy or equality-focused program. For example, Western Australia enacted a shark cull to deal with a few shark attacks that happened here, an ineffective knee-jerk reaction that was against the advice of pretty much every major scientist. However, there are many passionate Western Australians trying to change this.
6. What do you miss most?
Aside from the obvious answer – family and friends – I miss greasy Mexican food found near the California-Mexico border! Any food labeled “Mexican” here is a pathetic, curry-spiced, imposter.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
First, I tried to meet people with similar interests by joining a yoga studio, surf clubs, and kitesurf clubs. I went through an awkward phase of inviting myself along to events – one of which was a going away party for someone I’d never met! Some of the people I met initially are now my best friends. It can be hard to push your way into already existing cliques and social circles but it’s possible if you keep persisting.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Everything I find strange, I find equally lovable. Australians seem to always have an adorable nickname for everything and everyone. Thanks is ta, utility truck is ute, afternoon is arvo, and I’ve even been wished “Merry Chrissy.” Australian’s are unusually optimistic about the outcome of things, stating, “she’ll be right!” “she’ll be apples” or “no dramas mate!” at scenarios with inevitable doom.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Australia has the reputation of hosting the world’s most deadliest creatures that are just one millimeter away from bringing you to an insufferable death. While yes, there are sharks, snakes, spiders, octopi, jelly-fish, and salty crocodiles that can take you out of this world, they’re really nothing to worry about. Usually these creatures live in the bush or open water and are more likely to kill a kangaroo than a human.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living is higher than California overall, but I’d argue that the wages are fairer here as well. Perth has a high standard of living thanks to the mining industry that has made Western Australia one of the wealthiest economies in the world. I’ve been penalized by the exchange rate since moving here, where the Australian dollar has dropped and the American dollar has risen comparatively within the past few years. This has made it nigh impossible to stay on top of my American-based student loans. Expat problems, am I right?
11. What advice would you give other expats?
The first six months are filled with the highs of experiencing something new, and the lows of struggling to make friends and find financial security. Just stick with it! Eventually you’ll find a rhythm that will allow you to enjoy the new culture and life you’re settling into. From now on, you’ll have roots in more than just your homeland and that’s invaluable.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started Chantae Was Here in late 2012 to keep my family and friends updated on my travels throughout Europe. It began as a hobby-blog, but has transitioned to something so much more. Now, I share stories of adventure, sustainability, action sports, as well as travel. It’s a place that lets me connect and reach out to others living a global lifestyle. Ultimately, the main goal of it is to inspire others to pursue their own adventures – if it does that for one person, then I’m happy.
Chantae's blog, Chantae Was Here
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