Moving overseas to a foreign country is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m so proud of myself for being courageous enough to dive headfirst into another culture and language, leaving all that is familiar behind. Living in Berlin over the past few years has seen me question the status quo, my career path and re-evaluate what I want from life. If I had never shaken things up by moving away from comfort and familiarity, I’m
not sure certain that I never would have been as inspired and hungry for life as I am right now. There’s not much about being an expat that is easy, however, and all expats, no matter where they are in the world, come to miss certain things about home. For us from the land down under, here are five things Australian expats miss the most:
1. The weather
Australians are not allowed to complain about the weather. Nope. Not in my book. I don’t want to hear it. I’ve lived through not one but two harsh northern European winters now which last close to six months in length and I’m not even exaggerating. The coldest day in Berlin I’ve ever experienced reached a top of -14 °C . You can barely even call winter a season in Australia, with the average winter temperatures hovering around 13 degrees in the positive. Australia is a pretty warm place and even in its coldest season it’s often sunny so you can get a decent hit of Vitamin D. In northern Europe, come February when it’s been grey and gloomy for almost as long as you can remember, you better make sure you get your hands on some Vitamin D supplements before you get a serious case of the SADs. Believe me. I know.
2. The beaches
Australians are beach babies. Yep, just about all of us. 85% of Australians live within 50 km of the coast and for the majority of us, having easy access to the beach is something we take for granted. The beach occupies a special place in our national identity and plays an important role to most Australians. It wasn’t until I moved to Europe that I realised that beaches here are really nothing compared to what we have back home. Sure, they can be dramatic and rocky or smooth and pebbly, and the water can be crystal clear in places like Croatia, Turkey and Greece, but if you’re someone who has grown up near golden or white sand beaches with expansive stretches of coastline where it’s not difficult to find your own little spot to have completely to yourself, you realise when you move away, how good you had it back home.
3. The coffee
In all my travels, I have never visited a place that makes a better flat white than Australia does. Sure, London and Copenhagen serve top-notch coffee, but the coffee culture just isn’t as ingrained and widespread as it is in Australia and most specifically, Melbourne. I miss the days of wandering around the neighbourhoods of Fitzroy, Collingwood, Abbotsford and Richmond, cafe hopping and knowing with absolute certainty that any place I stopped into was going to serve a killer brew. For coffee fiends like me, Berlin is a little too slow on the Third Wave front for my liking.
4. The people
There’s no two ways about it: Australians are simply some of the friendliest people in the world. They’re approachable, relaxed and open, they love a good chat at the supermarket checkout and smiles come easily to them. Indeed, one of their favourite expressions is ‘no worries’. Germans, and in particular Berliners, on the other hand, are a little bit different. Pleasantries are not commonplace here. Smiles aren’t thrown around so easily. Small talk is deemed to be inefficient and a waste of time. Interactions are curt, blunt and direct. If I come across someone who smiles at me at the post office or offers to go out of their way to help me, I find myself marvelling at how nice that person was, when really, this is just commonplace in Australia. When I visit home, I seem to always be commenting on how friendly everyone is. It’s out of the ordinary for me to encounter so many warm people so when I visit home, I walk around almost in a state of blissful wonder. I seem to have forgotten that it’s normal to be nice where I come from.
5. The food
While Berlin does have a lot of different international food on offer, I’m honestly always surprised when I read about the ‘Berlin food scene’. To be honest, I’m constantly disappointed by the quality and range of food and ingredients on offer over here and find myself often let down. I didn’t realise how spoilt I was in Australia until I moved away. I mean, I haven’t been able to find broccolini since I moved here. Am I searching the wrong markets or is it just not a thing here? What do Germans have against baby broccoli? As a lover of spicy Asian, Indian and Mexican food too, I find it so strange that there is no aisle in the supermarkets that offer shrimp paste, fish sauce or corn tortillas for purchase — staples in my kitchen cupboard! When I go home and visit the supermarkets with their fancy self-serve checkouts, payWave functions and whole aisles dedicated to international ingredients, I walk around in a awe. So much choice! Better yet, when I stroll down the streets of my old neighbourhood in Fitzroy in Melbourne and I just casually pop in for a freekeh salad with barberries, quinoa, kale, beetroot, sumac yoghurt and honeyed seeds, or a proper legit bahn mi, I know now, having been away, that I’ve been more than a little spoilt back in Oz.
Thinking of moving abroad to become an expat yourself? You might like to read the following posts:
♥ Read about personal expat experiences from lots of expats around the world in the Expats Share feature.
Are you an expat? What do you miss most about your home country?