I bet you read the title and thought, “Um, who do you think you are?
Let me explain.
I read this post from The Betoota Advocate and they had quoted a representative from The Australian Bureau of Statistics who said the fact that only 1 in 30 Australian expats make friends with locals is pathetic.
That got me thinking about how I hear expats talk about how hard it is to make friends with locals when they’re on a working holiday. They often end up hanging out with other expats who also have an expiry date and soon leave them.
So they cycle through friends for the one to two years they’re there, and if they are lucky enough to transition to a permanent visa, find themselves lonely because all their expat friends have left. If they leave at the end of their visa, all they did was hang out with a bunch of people who were also foreigners.
Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not.
It makes sense, because expats flock to the parts of the country that are most famous and have the best resources for temporary residents. It’s also comforting to surround yourself with people who are going through the same thing as you are.
But are you really going to experience what life is like in your new country if you construct your life so that it feels exactly like your home country?
It’s kind of like learning a new language – you can study and practice it all you want, and know how to speak it in theory, but that can’t compare to immersing yourself in an environment where they communicate in that language.
That’s why when I came here, I decided that the best way to truly experience the Canadian way of life was to make my life fully Canadian.
That meant embracing everything Canada had to offer that Australia didn’t, including its people. It also meant avoiding parts of the country that have a huge concentration of Aussies, like Whistler. So many Australians go there that is has earnt the nickname “Whistralia” and they call Australians “Jafas” which stands for “just another f***ing Aussie.”
I did so because I thought to myself, I’m not going to move to the other side of the world just to feel like I haven’t left. I want the country to feel very different and new, and it won’t feel that way if I’m surrounded by Australians.
I was so excited by this new adventure that I totally embraced my new life in Canada and kind of ignored my life back in Australia. I didn’t keep up with anything that was going on back home and I focused fully on life in Canada. I figured it would always be there waiting for me when I went home.
Obviously I don’t have anything against Australians! I’m Australian, and I love my people, of course! I just think it would have been a different experience for me if I had closed myself off to building relationships in Canada by finding my Aussie tribe and relying on them to carry me through my time here.
I couldn’t avoid it forever though. After about five years I started to get really homesick and I wanted to be around Aussies again, and I ended up finding a couple of Facebook groups and of course met some cool ones living here.
But I’m glad that at first, my social circle was mostly locals because I didn’t have the Australian way of life influencing the experience I was having in Canada, and I could see what life here was really like.
I also didn’t have the cushion of having mostly Australian friends to see me through my time there, so it forced me to make friends with locals, no matter how hard it was. Because it can be hard!
If I didn’t, maybe my experience would have been totally different. Or maybe I just secretly loved being the only Australian amongst all my Canadian friends and I didn’t want to share the spotlight!
What do you think? Is it better to seek out familiarity in an unfamiliar situation, or dive into the uncertainty of a whole new world?
Let me know in the comments!