Expat Magazine

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

By Mint Mocha Musings @nicoledwebb

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

What is it about Australians and muesli bars? 

You might remember at the writers conference I went to in Guangzhou, a lovely Tassie lady saved my bacon, digging into her rations to supply my rumbling stomach with a muesli bar? 

Well, it happened again the other day, here in Sydney. This time at the city dry cleaners. Picking up my clothes, she disappeared out the back, unexpectedly returning with a big smile and a muesli bar in each hand for Small Person and I!  

Maybe I just look hungry! But I highly doubt that… I think it’s just the friendly, giving nature of the good ole’ Aussie… (and perhaps their love of the humble muesli bar)! 😉 

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

My American friend made me giggle when I sent her a pic of Small Person in her new school uniform. She joked, “It’s so bloody jolly” and that pretty much sums up the whole country! 

She’s right… being back here after 6.5 years away, Australians are a pretty chirpy bunch (especially when Chinese aren’t known for cracking a smile at the best of times). 

To be honest though, as much as part of me is revelling in all the little chats with random strangers on every corner, the constant torrent of the English language everywhere you turn, for me, is almost an assault on the senses. For the best part of seven years, I’ve been able to ignore most signs, television, radio and for that matter, people!

So much white noise! 😯  

Sometimes I feel like I may need to crawl into a box to escape the overwhelming flow of information.

The prawns, the barbies, the Aussie soaps and reality TV shows, the shark sightings, the heat waves….the mozzies, the bushfires, the politics…. all that “Aussie-ness!” sure takes a bit of getting used to again. 

There’s no denying, those first few days we were a little shell-shocked, which from experience, I’m pretty sure will only intensify as the novelty of starting a new life again, becomes reality.

At the moment we’re still riding in the whirlpool that is leaving China and abruptly landing Down Under; Everything feels so familiar but at the same time, completely foreign! 

That feeling, when you open the daily newspaper and nothing really looks familiar. I remember it distinctly in both Hong Kong and China, and in the latter, never thought I’d be interested in reading their paper. Two years in, it was my daily staple.

But starting again is also amusing and a little bit of fun. (Perhaps it’s that expat addiction of doing something out of your comfort zone?)

Small Person is settling in remarkably well despite bouts of apprehension and nerves. Her first words off the plane…. “I can breathe again.”  And then later… “Mum we don’t have to worry about cars on the footpath here do we!” Then, “Why, oh why do we have to wait so long at the crossing?”

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

At the school gate we are definitely the new kids on the block. It’s a bit scary, it’s isolating but we are used to this. I keep chanting the mantra, “We’ve got this!” 

Of course, the fact that at school drop off, everyone looks like mum, is highly amusing to Small Person! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or slightly frightening…. and the fact that everyone around her can speak English is bound to be a bonus and let’s not forget the constant chatter of kids TV on tap (we’ll just overlook the small fact that she couldn’t work out how to use the TV remote)! And then…there’s the beach, after school. Enough said.

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

She still prefers rice over pizza for dinner though and I can’t see that changing anytime soon for my self described ‘Honky girl!’  

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

Xi’an’s famous Terracotta Warriors Down Under

And China, it seems, is never far from us……Down Under, there’s no escaping Xi’an! 

For me, so far, apart from the obvious (hello family – a hop, skip and jump away ….and of course, an abundance of muesli bars) driving has got to be one of the highlights! I feel like a kid who just got her license! The independence, the freedom….the music… and those blue skies! This school run couldn’t be more different. (Although I did find myself listening to Chinese radio.)

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

To be honest, driving is one of the things I was most nervous about. Driving my girl to school that first morning in my “No Birds” hire car, from the bustling city to an unknown suburb, anxiety levels were surely peaking…but ‘hello Google Maps’ and ‘hello, yes it really is like riding a bike’. *Note to expats coming home, you really don’t forget how to drive! (I must say, I’m speaking for myself here….the hotelier may have a different experience…don’t forget the hand break darling! 😉 …Oh and don’t forget to pay for the petrol!) 


Must admit the temptation to drive through the lights that take so damn long to change is strong. There’s alot to be said for the beast that is China’s constant force of moving traffic.

What you do forget is HOW much there is to organise to set up a new life! Don’t worry, I’ve got a post coming with the ‘to do’ list soon. Let’s just say, logistically, going overseas as an expat is a hell of a lot easier than repatriating. 

(Friends, if you’ve been calling, I’ll be up for air soon!!!) And if you’ve tried to call me – sorry I forgot you can actually have voice mail here! 

And what do you mean Bank Lady, “What colour bank card do I want?” There’s a choice?  And Pay Pass? What’s that! Opal ticket? Never heard of it. Do I need an E-Tag? Oh and a new medicare card! Is this small number actually my phone number? And never mind that the hotelier actually thought the buzzer we were given at a pub restaurant wasn’t to pay your credit card.  🙄 

Looking at social media is almost tiring because it is just SO instant. No VPN required and tedious spinning just to open Facebook! Going to the shops, bank, hairdresser, doctors, even buying a car….is ridiculously easy when you don’t have to keep opening your translation app to search for the right word. 

Yep, folks, this is repatriation. 

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

It’s a little like putting on an old, comfy pair of pants but they don’t quite fit. I guess it’s because ultimately it’s not a case of slotting back into your old life (and pants) because mostly you don’t really want to (Ok, I really would like to slot back into my old pants). 

It’s not because you hated your old life (quite the opposite in fact) but because things change. Things move on, obviously. And you change. You’ve seen, done and experienced things you never imagined you’d do. You’ve met people from every part of the planet… you’ve struggled and you’ve thrived. Your coping mechanisms have been stretched as far as the elastic will go. 

We left Sydney in 2010 as relative newlyweds, DINKS if you like. Double Income, No kids. Life was pretty sweet. Now we’re coming up to eight years of marriage and one kid in the bag who’s never known Australia as home. Sydney looks a lot different to us all. (And, yes, a lot more expensive!)

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

Feeling very much like expats in a new city, we’ll continue exploring our old stomping ground with a renewed enthusiasm, fresh eyes and fresh air.  There will no doubt be hiccups along the way, but as long as there are strangers offering museli bars, we’ll be right, mate.

This is Australia.

Aliens Down Under? Three Weeks In…..This is Australia

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