Expat update: Month 5

People have stopped asking me how I’m settling in.

I’m taking that as a good sign; 5 months in, oh you must be set. But I’m not. I’m making great strides, sure. It’s definitely still a work in progress, as you shall soon see.

The Good

Moar visitors ¦¦ Hot on the heels of my sister departing came S’s (and now my) good friend from university days. She was with us for 2 weeks and it was great to keep the visitor train rolling. The great thing about having visitors is it’s a great excuse to take them to all the touristy sights, go out for nice meals, and generally behave as if you’re on holiday yourself (even if you have to work). Trips included outings to the Blue Mountains, and the Northern beaches. They’re classic trips for a reason!

I also just found out that my Mum’s cousin will be in town next week. Hooray! She won’t be staying with us but we’re planning to meet up as we speak. Can’t wait!

I got a haircut ¦¦ Ok, big news there Rachel…!? But seriously, this is pretty major for me. I was seriously overdue for a haircut for a very long time because I was too scared to go and try a new hairdresser. I’m not sure what I was putting it off for, it’s not as if I could have lasted until I’m back in the UK again (probably a year away at the very earliest!). So I thought well if I’m gambling I may as well gamble all the way and bought myself a groupon. I’m really pleased with the result! Here’s a little before, with me enjoying a nice brochetta:

And after, enjoying one of the Three Sisters up close:

NB Pablo!

In other Life Admin news I also found and registered at a doctors, which I’d also been putting off. The GP I saw was absolutely lovely so I’m pleased with how that’s turned out. The dentist I crossed off a couple of months ago due to a random gum issue but the sticker shock of that one put me off returning after the recommended 6 months. My teeth are pretty decent… I’ll pass thanks.

This may all sound trivial but to me it’s a sign of Settling In. For me, when I have my essential services set up, it really begins to feel like I live somewhere. Anyone else have this? Expats and/or frequent movers, how do you find your new services in your new town? Do you try and get a personal recommendation or swing with a groupon from time to time??

The weather is warming up ¦¦ Things are getting pretty toasty here in Sydney and I’m so happy about it. It’s just very pleasant at the moment, with nice warm days but cool evenings and generally a good breeze so things don’t get too intense. When things begin to get a lot hotter I may be saying something else, but I’m trying to enjoy the weather as much as I can while it’s so perfect.

The change in weather does present some issues in terms of workwear, though. I own zero hot weather work clothes – I have never worked anywhere hot before, and with air conditioning I’m always freezing in offices. But if I need to get a train/bus/etc to wherever I’m working, I’ll need to not have given myself heatstroke by the time I get there. I’m guessing that, as ever, layers will be key but I haven’t quite got it down yet. Any suggestions very welcome.

The Bad

I have no idea what to do at the beach ¦¦ So I alluded to this in a previous Ugly, just in case you subscribe to that. Someone once told me they can always tell a Brit from an Australian by how they view the beach: as something nice to look at, or a place you go to do stuff. I’ll give you three guesses which is which.

So as a wholly unprepared Brit, I had no clue what to do with myself on our recent trip to the beach. I mean, we don’t even have any beach towels yet. It was too cold to swim, but too hot in the sun, I had to cram myself in a tiny patch of shade right at the back of the beach, I blinded others with my white white skin, my drink went warm, I had no appropriate snack, and turns out that sand is not actually all that soft to sit on after a while. If I’m honest it was a bit of a failed attempt by two absolute novices.

Still, I refuse to be beaten by a bit of sand. I took notes of what others were doing around me and S and I are busy devising a future beach plan. We will need beach towels and a sun shade as a minimum, I think. I’m also considering an esky (non-Aussie speakers that’s a cool or ice box) and maybe a beach chairWatch this space.

The online vs offline balance ¦¦ I haven’t posted here for over 2 weeks. We’ve had visitors, work has been busy, etc etc. I’m normally a proponent of do what you have to do, online is not your first priority, never complain never explain. Nobody cares. But this blog has proved such a great medium for meeting new people, I don’t want to just let it slide completely. Also, I enjoy doing it. So I think I just need to plan a bit better, and get into a routine that works. Also ask for guest posters if I’m going to have visitors coming – not the rubbish “hello dear we love your blog” guest posters but actual real people whose writing I enjoy, like my sister’s. So, watch this space while I get myself together but I should be around a bit more now.

Enjoying offline life in the Blue Mountains

Impermanence ¦¦ I have a bad back. In the UK, I had a special desk chair (that was the bane of everyone who ever tried to help me move house in the last 12 years) that was just right for my gammy spine and helped keep me in vague order. We didn’t bother shipping the chair over here because, as you may have gathered, it’s a bit of a beast and it would have cost a fortune. However…. my back is not enjoying the cheapy dining chair I’m currently using at my desk. And I don’t want to buy a special chair because we might only be here for another year, and the ROI on that just doesn’t stack up. But if we do end up staying, then it will be worth it. Of course we won’t know that for a good while yet, so it’s hard to make a decision. In the mean time I’ll just keep stalking Gumtree and hoping someone nearby wants to offload a decent desk chair.

The point of all this isn’t a lesson in second hand furniture sourcing, but a point about decision making. It’s hard to make decisions in life, big or small, when you don’t know where you’re going to be in a year. I always knew that. But knowing something and living it is quite different.

The Ugly

Gotcha – no Ugly last month, so you’ll get a double bill this month. Aren’t you lucky?! In case you’re new around here, I’m sharing The Ugly side of things via email so I can be more honest on things that I’d rather not splash up here for all to see.

So if you want to know The Ugly, just put your email address in the box and I’ll add you to the list. You’ll get mail from me a few days after you see this post, just to give everyone a chance to sign up who wants to.

So I need to know. What is your essential beach gear? And what do you do at the beach?

-Rachel

Linking up with Kristen and Gretch for What’s New With You and with Van, Marcella, Lauren and Isabel for Wanderful Wednesday. 

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26 Comments

  1. Jen
    5th October 2017 / 12:06

    I love your hair! It turned out really cute. I’m in desperate need of a new hairstyle.

  2. 5th October 2017 / 17:37

    Girl, I say get the chair if your back is acting up. If you end up leaving next year, then you can sell it off… And hey, I said I’d be in Sing for 2-3 years max… Um, I’m coming up to 6 years. Holy heck!!

    That’s so fun that you’re having a lot of visitors!! Haha, I love the beach!! Maybe I need to move to Sydney next… Ha

  3. 5th October 2017 / 18:26

    Thanks for the update. Your new hair looks lovely!

    As for the beach, I just sit there in cut off shorts and a T shirt under a hat, just letting the sand ease around my feet and legs….

    SSG xxx

  4. 5th October 2017 / 23:07

    Yay for all the settling in! I totally understand how the little details make you feel as though you are settling: going to the doctors, having a haircut etc. I also put off having a haircut but I’ve been with the same one here for over a year now and she’s just great! I love your shorter hair 🙂
    I’m right with you on the warming up, Spring is lovely here!

  5. 5th October 2017 / 23:51

    If you’re not used to going to the beach it can take a while to get your routine down lol. Of course my routine is different in the summer than it is in the winter, spring, or fall.

    Finding a new hairdresser is a big deal!

  6. 6th October 2017 / 05:25

    almost 6 years later and i can tell you… the settling in never really happens. or maybe that’s just me? i also feel like off centre. maybe it’s because i don’t have the essential services set up. honestly, i think you are very lucky to be in sydney because a lot of places are online and there are sites that review places, if that makes sense. where i live, it’s so small and yes places have websites but like even finding a restaurant is hard, this isn’t NYC, there are like 10 reviews on yelp or whatever. i know that sounds ridiculous and i don’t really check yelp before going out to eat, but if that’s a restaurant imagine how hard it is to find a good doctor or whatever. i finally found a new lady doctor in july, which is awesome. i’ve been to like 4 different dentists and didn’t love any of them, but that could be because they are dentists (and i keep going to ones near my home and then moving), i don’t have a GP or an eye doctor. I’ve tried the personal recommendation thing but honestly my requirements don’t always match other peoples so I just keep trying and normally choose something based on location or what comes up first in my search.
    when i used to go to the beach as a young adult, we would make forts to lay under because who wants to be burned? and i love spending time in the water. as a youngen i’d just lay out in the sun because i was an idiot. but generally, i just lay and read or hang out in the water. i think i was getting kind of over it as i grew up because i didn’t want to get burned or just lay there doing nothing, so it’s probably good i moved somewhere nowhere near a beach. though i do miss it. i miss the smell and the noise.
    i hope you find a good solution for your desk chair. you need one but i totally get being hesitant to buy something you won’t use for very long, especially when you don’t know just how long.

  7. 6th October 2017 / 07:16

    Honestly, go for the desk chair! I put off buying so many things my first year in the UK that would’ve made me feel so much more settled/at home (blender, shelves, wetsuit, spices that I’d never use up, things like that…) all because I knew there was an “end date” to my time living in Plymouth. When my second year started I just said screw it and bought the damn blender… and I was soo much happier! I finally felt settled, even though I knew I only had a year left in Plymouth. But it was nice to really feel like home, and in the end I’ve kept most of that kind of stuff in storage and the odd bits I’m selling on Ebay. I know a nice desk chair is more expensive than a blender and some spices, but the same principle applies (especially if it’s to do with your health! Bad backs affect everything!) – Anywho, glad to see you posting again 🙂

  8. Kelly
    6th October 2017 / 07:54

    Loving the new hair cut…very swish!
    I’m not to fussed about doctors and dentists but finding a hairdresser in a new city…it’s like walking a mine field.
    Buy the desk chair; we only have the expensive ones at work now as everyone seems to have a back issue…£1000 a pop and we have over 1000 bottoms in the office…yikes…the difference to my back from working from the office vs home is huge as I sit at our dining table and my back hates me. It’s a worthy investment even if you leave it behind or sell it when you leave.
    When it comes to buying large pieces of furniture, I still freak out…bought a new sofa and thought, how do I get this back home to New Zealand in my backpack…13 years living in the UK and I still ponder how I’m going to fit the washing machine in my handbag to take home when the time comes
    xx
    P.S. I still owe you an email…it’s coming, just like christmas
    P.P.S. Enjoy all the family and friend cuddles…the internet understands it’s you and not him xx

  9. 7th October 2017 / 01:19

    Hooray for having lots of visitors! I totally agree with you that visitors make for the perfect excuse to get out and do touristy things and enjoy a nice meal too! We always try to do that when we have visitors in town too! And yes, you totally need to get an umbrella and a cooler for the beach! Those are definitely priorities and I think that it’ll really help out the next time you go! And finding a new hairdresser is seriously no joke! I waited a long time to find one near our house, but I’m glad that everything ended up working out with her because she’s great!

  10. 7th October 2017 / 09:44

    It IS hard to make decisions when you don’t know your own permanence. We don’t have plans to move…but work visas are always contract-by-contract and you can’t guarantee renewal…and landlords can make sudden decisions that require you to leave…so it’s probably laughable how little we’ve made our apartment here a “home” in our last two years of living here. I’m insisting I want us to at least buy a cozy couch sometime soon, but a couch means commitment!

  11. 7th October 2017 / 15:57

    We bought a pop up tent for the beach after Leighton was born and now I don’t know how we lived without one. It’s so nice to have a shady spot and a place to keep your stuff somewhat out of the sand. Definetly finding your dr, dentist etc makes you feel settled. It took a few tries to find the right ones and now we’re moving suburbs and I’m pretty sure I will drive the 20 minutes to appointments because I can’t start over again!

  12. 7th October 2017 / 18:53

    I usually go to the beach – sit down, get up, paddle a bit, sit down … then moan I am bored!! The only beach I did not do this at was Whitehaven at the Whitsundays as I would have felt a little ungrateful! But I get ya!

    Been here 2 months – learning a lot!!! Like I can’t afford to have my hair coloured…$250 … like what!!

    Highlights though are trips with work in the outback – arrived at a school this week to see the caretaker in a ute rounding up kangaroos!! That has made my week/month maybe even year!!

  13. 8th October 2017 / 02:13

    Ohh loving the new swish hair! I dont think I ever became a beach person no matter how long I spent there. I recommend a good sun umbrella and loads of sunscreen!

  14. 8th October 2017 / 02:42

    LOL I have no idea what to do at the beach either… I feel like you definitely get a pass though. I didn’t realize how long your hair had gotten – but the cut is really cute!! I’m glad your gamble paid off!! I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my desk chair too, but I have no idea what a good chair is supposed to involve, so… if you know about that? I’m all ears. lol

  15. 8th October 2017 / 21:00

    Sooo my biggest beach tip is to get an umbrella – and a float! I don’t like swimming and get bored just standing around so a float means I can just bob along haha. I’m also not one who wants to tan (future skin cancers and leathery skin? Yah nope!) so an umbrella comes in handy when you can’t find shade!

  16. NCM
    9th October 2017 / 23:51

    If you want some extra guest blogging you know where to come 😊😊

  17. 9th October 2017 / 23:57

    yay for all the visitors and cute hair! hehe. i really had a little laugh when you described your beach time. i guess i just grew up going in the summer (even though it was like 4 hours away) but i think living in florida has trained me on what to do. there’s actually a beach chair in my trunk at almost all times. it’s also a bit of a hassle then there’s the whole sand-is-everywhere-kill-me-now vibe i sometimes get. but at the end of the day, there’s something about the ocean that just makes everything else seem miniscule.

    xoxo cheshire kat

  18. 11th October 2017 / 07:58

    Yes, getting a doctor, dentist and hairdresser will do so much to make you feel settled. Hair looks ace btw! I love having visitors but I find they’re like buses, we wait ages for one, and then heaps come along at once! Do you know we’ve been here 9 years and are still worse than useless at the beach? We bought a sun shade tent but gave up on it because it’s too tricky to put up, hubby only likes the shade, I don’t like the sand so we have decided beaches are for walking on, looking at, and worth visiting for the cafes alongside! Hope you find a chair soon!

  19. 13th October 2017 / 05:46

    The feeling of impermanence is dreadful. Even if you are only there for another year, I hope you can find a chair that helps your back.

  20. 13th October 2017 / 07:01

    lol on the beach day disaster. Shade is a MUST HAVE. Also a chair. Sand is annoying, but it is what it is. I like to have snacks and a good book, and with the shade and chair I can sit there enjoying the sounds and the visuals all day. Love the hair cute. Glad the Groupon cut wasn’t a disaster.

  21. 15th October 2017 / 20:33

    The beach thing made me laugh :p To be honest, I’m an Aussie who is not really a beachy person (What???!!) and believe it or not I don’t think I even made it to the beach once last summer which is pretty bad considering it’s about a 10 minute drive away for me! (To be fair, we were away for a good chunk of summer…but it’s still pretty crazy).
    I hope you find a chair/solution for your back soon – back pain is awful.
    In terms of the warm weather work wear – Country Road does some nice work appropriate pants that are really comfy. The ones I have are mostly cotton so nice and cool – can’t seem to find them online at the moment but they’ll often have a whole bunch in store 🙂

    xx

  22. 18th October 2017 / 01:20

    Glad you’ve been able to find a doctor, dentist, and now hairdresser! It sounds like you are settling in well. It’s awesome that you’ve had so many visitors. I know I would love to visit Australia, but the price tag is a bit intimidating. Maybe one day.

    I’m sorry you don’t have your chair with you. You could always do like another poster suggested: buy one and then sell it off if you leave? Surely you aren’t the only one who needs a special type of chair in Australia?

    I look forward to hearing about your next beach adventure. I’m sure the more time you spend in Australia, the more you will get used to the idea of enjoying the beach. 🙂

  23. 18th October 2017 / 22:14

    My essential beach gear? I need a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, water bottle and a good, light read. No heavy literature at the beach. It sounds like you’re settling in.

  24. 19th October 2017 / 00:47

    First off this might be really random, but that Pinterest pin is gorgeous! You really designed it so nicely hehe .. Second, it really does seem like you’re settling in nicely! You’re starting to get the lay of the land and really set yourself up. Something that after over a year and a half in Chile I’m still figuring out …. Also, I love the new haircut! It really suits you nicely. I also giggled a little about your beach dilemma! I’m sure soon you’ll be a seasoned pro! Just give it time 😀

  25. 20th October 2017 / 03:59

    I only got to skim-read your last email but I have it marked as unread in my email folder to have a second go later – life’s so busy! Anyway, I have to admit, I’ve never actually been to the hairdressers in 3 years in Norway! I always cut my hair myself (let Simon help me). I just find hairdresser chit chat so awkward and even worse if it’s in another language and they start asking you all these questions about where you’re from and what you’re doing here 😀 Haven’t been to the doctors either – knock on wood!!
    And you’re so not alone about visiting the beach! Although I do enjoy the sunshine, I just end up getting sunburned and bored after half an hour and reading a book is only so much fun if you’re sitting in the indeed very uncomfortable sand…

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