My Expat Story

My Expat Story - The Annoyed Thyroid

My feet are always itchy and I’m always looking for a new adventure. When I’m travelling and especially when I’m travelling somewhere that I love, I always have little fantasies about upping sticks and moving there. I mean, that’s what happened when I had my epiphany the first time I went to Bondi Beach and look at me now. I’m a “real” Australian.

One of the places that I’d love to live is San Fran (and not just because my mum lived there pre-me.) While I don’t see myself living it large in California anytime soon, I am enjoying living in San Fran vicariously through Kat at Bright Lights of America. She recently answered 10 questions about her ex-pat experience and asked other patties (for want of a better word,) to do the same. I just couldn’t resist!

  1. Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, grew up on the borders of Essex/East end of London and now call Sydney home. I have an accent that’s kind of a morph between The Only Way is Essex and Eastenders. My mum sent me to elocution lessons when I was a kid to make me posher but it didn’t work. As you can see from this picture of me and my nana in Trafalgar Square (circa 1974) I’ve been loving being a tourist in my own town since way back.

  1. What made you leave your home country?

I first came to Australia in 2002 and it was love at first sight. After returning on holiday for a few years I decided something more permanent was in order so applied for a residency visa. Once that was granted, I returned to the UK for a last hurrah and met David which threw a spanner in the immigration works. Luckily, he loved Australia too and while we were in Perth on honeymoon, he decided he wanted to move down under too. We went to the immigration office in Sydney, met with an immigration lawyer when we got back to the UK and in just over 6 months, we quit our jobs, sold our flat, said goodbye to our nearest and dearest and flew off into the sunset for a new life down under. Fast forward, ten years later and we’re still here with shiny, new passports to boot.


  1. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?

There are so many expats here, being English is not surprising or unusual at all. That said, I teach English to international students and they love that I come from England but only because they love my accent. I often imagine all the thousands of people I’ve taught from all over the world all speaking English with a “touch of Essex.” That makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

I get a much more enthusiastic reaction when I’m back in the UK and tell people that I’m from Australia. That’s proper exotic that is. One the subject of exotic, koalas will always be exotic to me.

My expat story - koala

  1. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country?

The easiest part was the  wonderful weather and the lifestyle.

The hardest part was being so far away from our friends and family and having to start building a whole new social life from scratch.

my expat story - sunshine

  1. Images, word or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.

“Bonza” is definitely my favourite word and I’m rather partial to Aussie slang in general. This image sums up Australia for me. The Three Sisters is my spirit place.

Sunset at the Three Sisters

  1. Your favourite food or drink item in your new country?

Vegemite, Caramello Koalas and awesome coffee… But not together.

coffee - my expat story

  1. What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?

Running. I wouldn’t have even run for a bus in the UK let alone a half marathon. Ironically, my love of running has led to a number of run-cations both home and away, and a fitter, healthier and happier me.

Disneyland Half Marathon - Life Defining Moments

  1. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?

Love is love. We need marriage equality here and we need it now.

Love is love

  1. What do you enjoy doing most in your new country?

I actually enjoy doing everything in Australia. There’s nothing I don’t  enjoy doing so it’s pretty hard to narrow it down. I guess my favourite thing to do is get outdoors. The weather here makes it so much easier to be outside and enjoy it. I think one of my favourite things to do is run or walk around the harbour. That view gets me every time – it really is my happy place.

Harbour views

  1. Do you think you will ever move home for good?

Erm, no. (Sorry mum!) I used to say I’d never go back to the UK, unless Australia went under water and then there were those awful floods in 2011. So I have since retracted that statement. I know one should never say never, but I can’t imagine myself ever returning to the UK for anything else other than a visit. Home is where the heart is and my heart is here.

Are you a “pattie” too? Have you ever lived in another country? If you could live in any other country, which one would you choose and why?

Linking up with Kylie for IBOT

  • LydiaCLee

    I am fascinated by the reasons people choose to move countries – I love it here so I don’t know if I could live somewhere else (but I don’t know if I could live outside our suburb ever again either) but I love to travel and explore. It amazes me that people more to another country they’ve never even visited. I met a Czech woman who migrated with no English, and when I asked why (10 years in she had perfect English, obvs) she said “It was too hard to get a visa for Austria and Australia was next on the list”. The taxi driver asked her where she wanted to go from the airport and it dawned on her she had no idea. So the taxi driver said “I’ll take you to Coogee. All the packpackers like Coogee.” And she’s actually lived there ever since. (in a house now, not a hostel). I’m amazed people’s lives are shaped so arbitarily (that’s apparently not a word?)

    • The only reason we ended up here on the lower north shore was because I’d done some babysitting in the area and it was the only place I knew apart from Bondi! Ironically, David was in the process of applying for a Canadian visa when I met him but of course, once he met me and came to Australia, that was all history 🙂

  • Oh I love this! We moved from Melbourne to Perth for a couple of years, which is virtually a different country! 😂 (Ssh, I’ll get into terrible trouble for saying that). I loved the weather and took up cycling along the Swan River. Then I got pregnant and had to chuck it in!

    • Perth totally is a different country, at least compared to Melbourne! Melbs is an awesome place to end up though, right?!

  • I would find it so hard to leave my best friends behind and start all over again. I actually don’t think I’m brave enough!

    • I didn’t think I was either. We left some amazing friends behind but I’ve learned that our friendship does not depend on being together. And as cliched as it sounds “good friends are like stars, you don’t have to see them to know that they’re there.” Now we have a whole new circle of down under friends, which is twice as nice!

  • Sounds like you made the right move! How lucky that David was keen to move to Australia too!


    • I think I’d have come eventually and he’d have come round. Let’s face it, t’s hard not to fall in love with Australia!

  • I enjoy living in San Fran via Kat too!

  • Oh I just loved this so much! I think you are extremely brave and a bonza chick! 😉

  • Loved reading your pattie story! I love that you and David were obvs so right for each other that the thought of moving to another country was just a done deal. I always wanted to live in London for a while but never got around to it. I have lived in some very different places around Australia though which can be kind of like a new country, haha.

    • You’re so right, different parts of Australia can feel almost foreign! That’s what I love about Australia – it’s so beautifully diverse!

  • jess

    I have always wanted to live abroad, and it is still very much on my to-do list!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Aww I loved this post Sammie! So nice to hear your story. I knew bits of it but not the whole thing. And yes why don’t we have marriage equality? It is ridiculous that we don’t.

    • Argh, the marriage equality thing is quite frankly embarrassing. For me, it’s a real thorn in my Australian side!

  • What a wonderful story. I didn’t know you honeymooned in Perth. After the heatwave this past week, I’m dreaming of moving to Tasmania or London.

    • The honeymoon was a 4 month round the world voyage but Perth will always have a special place in our hearts because it’s the place of David’s epiphany! Imagine if we hadn’t gone to Perth, we might never have come to live in Australia! Perish the thought!

  • How cool. I haven’t even holidayed overseas. It is still a dream for me.

    • I love exploring overseas but Australia is hard to beat. No place has ever captured my heart like Australia has!

  • What a gorgeous story! Loved reading this! Australia is home for me too, will always be. It stole my heart a long time ago xx

  • That was great reading your story. I am glad you and Kat have ‘clicked’ too!

  • I have dual citizenship with the UK but have primarily lived in Austraila. I did do a year or so of primary school in (erm, let me think…I think Bromley?) and a few years at various times there post-school. I’ve never really touristed there though so I’d like to visit as a proper tourist. I do randomly miss my Sunday walks through random backstreets of London though.

    • I’ve never touristed in the UK either. I’ve been to so many places in Australia but so few in the mother country, it’s almost embarrassing. Weirdly, I don’t miss London at all but I do miss the people I love in it!

  • I knew bits n pieces of your story but so lovely to read it all. How cool and i think you’re one of the happiest little vegemites I’ve met!
    I have dual US/Aust citizenship and lived in the USA for most of 2000. It was fun as a 20 something but as you say… home is where the heart is. xx

  • Good things happen in Perth! Loved reading this Sammie. Australia is lucky to have you and David 🙂

    • You’re totes right about Perth! Australia might be lucky to have us but not nearly as much as we are happy to be here!

    • savan ah

      Are you in Perth? I’m in Beaconsfield… Sth Freo ish.

  • merilyn

    i love your story sammie! … so wonderfully varied!
    you were so adorable as a tiny child and you still are hun!
    travel broadens the horizons of the mind!
    mr m is a long term expat and now Austrian/ausie!:))
    I could live in the south of france!
    we are lucky to have you in Australia lovely!
    much love m:)X

    • I’m lucky to be here. Did you know all my nana’s aunts lived in the south of France? Some of them stayed there but some were patties themselves all over the world. I agree with you about the travelling. I think it must be in my blood, my mum lived in San Fran, Cape Town and later lived in France so my itchy feet must definitely be hereditary! xx

  • What a lovely post! I’m with you – Australia is home. I’d give up my UK passport in a heartbeat if I had to keep just the one passport (that’s a can of worms isn’t it in itself – I don’t know why we’re allowed to even have 2 passports but anyways…..)
    I’ve always said I feel like I was Italian in a previous life so if you really made me, I’d love to live there for a while.

    • I still think I’d have taken the Aussie passport if I had had to choose – but I’m kind of pleased I didn’t! I would love to live in Italy (if for no other reason than the food) if I could speak the language. David was applying for PR in Canada when I met him, I still wouldn’t rule it out of the equation, but I feel too old and tired to start over. And don’t get me started on the cold!

  • Funny that I feel as though I have lost my daughter to your home, her heart has found it’s place it would seem, as yours did here. xx

    • I’m sure once she’s experienced a full winter there, I’m sure she’ll be back 🙂

      • My parents thought the same thing when I moved to London. But the winter is just so dreadful that I couldn’t stay there.

        • I totally get why Brits would want to move down under but I can never get my head around Aussies who want to live in the UK permanently… WHY?!

          • London IS THE BEST PLACE EVER. There’s always something to do, somewhere to go, things to see. It’s, what, an hour train ride from Paris? You get to go to Europe for the weekend. Need me to keep listing things?

          • savan ah

            Oh, yes! Love London! I’m from Hove, one hour south, but I see much more of it now that I’m an Aussie. Covent Garden is my second home! Theatre paradise!

          • Keep listing if you like! I think we took so much in London for granted especially the proximity to Europe. I miss our weekend getaways so much!

      • savan ah

        Those low grey skies!

  • I’m so glad that you did this, it’s fun AND it’s such a great read!
    I had no idea that you were born in Cape Town, your’e so exotic. And that photo of you with your Gran is so gorgeous. I’m glad that David decided that Australia was for him as well xx

    • Thanks so much for the inspo! It was such a fun post to write. I’m not sure I am exotic but my baby photos are with beachy backdrops and Table Mountain! I was actually a baby model in Cape Town but couldn’t find any of the pics although the one of me and my nana is one of my all time favourites! Funnily enough, David was actually applying for Canadian PR when we met but Australia was the place that really stole his heart!

      • savan ah


    • savan ah


  • Exotic Koalas and backwards pollies – that’s Oz! 😀 You have the most fantastic family photos. xx

    • I do have some classics in the family album. My mum was a prolific photographer when I was a kid. Put it this way if she had had an access to an iphone back in the day, the storage would always have been full!

  • I love this so much! Like you, Jesse also fell in love with Australia on his first trip here and never looked back! There’s something magical about Sydney!

  • savan ah

    You honeymooned in Perth?! How exotic!
    Yes, I’m a Pom too. Or was! Truly Oz now! I never would have got to Uni in England! But I still love Sussex and go back nearly every year. It’s very beautiful. And sometimes I can get on with my strange pommie relies!

  • Loved reading this, I’m not and probably never will be an expat, I can barely get the hubster to go on holidays let alone move overseas!

    • I love being a pattie but it’s not without it’s sacrifices and it’s not for everyone!

    • savan ah

      Is hubster a business owner? They are the worst for sticking in the mud!

  • Hello Sammie, catching up on a quiet moment at the weekend. Good to hear your expat story. I would like to be an old lady in Australia and I remember having that notion when I first arrived aged just 23. But I’ve got itchy feet and would love to spend a few years overseas over the next wee while and then to travel on holiday A LOT… spending this year in Orange has really reminded me that I love living in new places and adore exploring.

    • Yes, my feet are always itchy. I fell in love with Canada when we were there but I just don’t know if I have another big move in me! Travelling yes, relocating, no!