Flashbacks to the start of an expat life…

You’d think a recent visit from familiar faces from Australia to stay with us would stir up feelings of missing home, a longing for familiar surroundings, family and friends. Quite unexpectedly somewhat the opposite happened and I had little flashbacks to arriving in California back in August. Don’t get me wrong, I miss home and think of people daily, but I thought it’d be interesting to share what went through my head as it surprised me…

  • I forgot the horrid feeling of jetlag arriving from Australia. The importance of ignoring the time ‘at home’ and forcing yourself to get sunshine, avoid the nap where possible and eat local time.
  • I forgot the many bad experiences we had seeking out good food for good prices, the thick cream, the oily fries, the gigantic servings and those tips! Now we know better.
  • I forgot the logistics of travel in a new place, how long it takes to drive somewhere, what road is best to take, where you park when you get there. I haven’t forgotten crazy traffic on the freeways but I feel more confident driving on them!
  • I forgot the patience required to be on hold and waste hours dealing with utilities and telephone providers, repeating my story to different customer service agents, finding the simplest thing like organising a phone plan, time consuming and draining.
  • I forgot about living in a hotel for a month trying to find somewhere we wanted to live, the joy of finally signing a lease and sleeping on thermarests for the first night in our apartment.
  • I forgot about eating with plastic sporks and using camping gear to cook, the empty fridge, the empty pantry and empty cupboards. 
  • I forgot some of the quirky differences I noticed in my first few days here, like driving on the wrong side of the road, big American cars, planes lined up to land at LAX and fast food restaurants on every second block.
The nearby bike track at dusk – the start of many local
adventures on foot or two wheels

Returning to these experiences and observations of last year made me realise I’m getting accustomed to living here. In our local area I’m familiar with how things work, where to find things and have created familiar surroundings for comfort. The local stores, the footpaths, the traffic signals, the trees and birds, the houses and the weather, these are now familiar to me, just like they were familiar to me where I lived in Adelaide.

The new familiar – palm trees and boat masts,
replacing gum trees and suburbia

Of course, there are always new things to observe and learn and experience and, if anything, these little flashbacks made me recognise how time has passed, how far I’ve come and how great the opportunity is to experience living here. The constant comparisons to Australia are fading and what’s around me is becoming normal. I’m sure it’d take longer to reach this point living in a country that didn’t speak English or have a Western culture so in many expat respects I’ve had it easy.

Like home, but slightly different!

Los Angeles as a city is becoming normal to me. And with normality, I can see it in a different way; not the overwhelmed, over stimulated type of way when I first arrived, but the slightly wiser, more calm and honest way, noticing nuances and features I missed the first time around. It’s like staring at a flower for a long time, slowly you notice details about the texture of the petals, the different colours, the little bug hiding, things you’d never notice in a glance.

I don’t feel like I’m letting go of the things I know and love so dearly about Australia, rather I’m adding to my life experience, with an ever growing appreciation of my surroundings and enjoying the beauty that can be found no matter where you live. I know I won’t be here forever, but I know the day to day life I live in Los Angeles will be unforgettable, and I intend to notice the details.

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