Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m originally from Adelaide although I haven’t lived there for 20 years, having spent most of my working life in Sydney and the central Australian desert town of Alice Springs. For the last four years I’ve lived in Beijing and Shanghai.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: I moved to China on my own. After a period of change I decided I wanted the experience of living in a completely different culture and after backpacking around Southeast Asia decided China was the place to be. I’m not sure how I decided that, but I did, so I got a teaching job on the internet and boarded a plane to Shanghai. The job didn’t eventuate but other roles did and after the first year of complete culture shock I grew to love China. It’s a real eye-opener after the casual Australian lifestyle and if you’re curious and open to different ways it is a great place to be an expat.
Q: Why have you returned to Australia?
A: China is chaotic and controlled, centrally planned and market driven and the contrasts and contrariness of it all never cease to fascinate me. I say contrary, and I mean to an Australian such as myself, used to rules and regulations and a relaxed, laidback lifestyle that centres around the outdoors.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Adelaide, how’s the quality of life?
A: Adelaide used to be known as the City of Churches but nowadays its more known for world class wine regions (McLaren Vale, Barossa and the Coonawarra), gourmet food and great festivals, and the Ashes, I guess, if you’re a cricket fan.
Q: Is Adelaide safe?
A: One thing I miss about Beijing is that in Beijing (and Shanghai) I can walk around the city late at night on my own and always feel safe in a way you can’t in Australian cities. In Beijing and Shanghai there’s always people around so you’re never confronted with silent streets or a group of people you’d rather avoid and the shops are open until at least 10pm which also helps.
A: Australia seems very expensive after China! However, in some ways it isn’t as the things you want as an expat - in my case food like coffee, bread, wine, cheese and yoghurt are expensive. The rents are expensive too and went up about 20 per cent during the time I was there.
A: Healthcare is great.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals or those returning back to the country?
A: It is a challenge moving to a new country - even one like Australia where the locals are known for their friendliness - and it takes time to build a new life for yourself. I’ve found being an expat to be one of the most rewarding times of my life and I hope you do too. Remember there are lots of ways to get involved and even more new friends to make!
~ Interviewed December 2012