David Rickabaugh always fantasized about visiting or living in Australia or New Zealand, but had never actively considered it, except, he says—only half jokingly, when John Kerry lost the Presidential election to George W. Bush.
He is now living in Sydney, and his decision had nothing to do with George Bush.
Back in late 2011, David was laid off from an executive position at a large corporation in San Francisco. He thought he’d land another job quickly. That didn’t happen. As he searched for options, a three-month consulting project in Australia popped up. And then, just as he was trying to get adjusted to the idea of taking a short-term project in another country, he was offered a full-time position.
He knew it would be a life-changing decision, and he jumped at it before even visiting Sydney.
“All my friends were encouraging me to ’just GO!’ And so I signed the contract and came out for a 3-week introductory visit.” He soon packed his belongings, said farewell to his friends, and found an apartment in a city half a world away.
“So far everything is going really well... I love the city, the Australian people, and my company.” At first, David said he was in a bit of shock. “Australia seemed to similar yet foreign... the people talk English, but with unfamiliar accents and words I find myself asking people to repeat themselve, and the possums here are really cute and cuddly... quite a change from North America!”
David says there were millions of little adjustments that made for a somewhat rough start... “things like how rent is quoted weekly (but paid monthly), vocabulary (to “table” something is to put it out for debate, not to set it aside), how to order a coffee (do you want a long black or a flat white?), and how to get a shirt starched and pressed well (I'm still looking!). He says he misses his friends, his family, his dog (who went to live with his parents), and of course... good Mexican food and cheap liquor (a bottle of Hendricks Gin here is $70!).”
He says he doesn’t miss the politics and hate that exists in the U.S. “Being gay in Oz may not be entirely accepted, and gay marriage is still not legal, but most laws are gay friendly, and in normal urban society people really just don't seem to care.”
David sees the world from a much more global perspective since he’s stepped off U.S. shores. “I work with Kiwis, Brits, Scots, Indians, Italians, Poles, South Africans, and Canadians, to name a few. And yes, the culture here is pretty Anglocentric and the population pretty white. But we really do see ourselves as a part of Asia, and there is a growing and dynamic Asian population. Americans are generally perceived as being overly direct and brusque, but very collaborative and ask for permission. Aussies, by comparison, I think are very polite and well spoken, but more inclined to move forward without as much collaboration.”
So is Australia the place where David will call home? “I've moved a number of times as an adult, and each time I hoped I'd like my new home city enough to want to stay there "forever". And I feel the same way about Sydney and Australia. But we'll see... "forever" hasn't worked out anywhere else. And my company is based in Milan... and spending some time living in Europe at some point sounds pretty appealing!”
He says he encourages every American to seek out an opportunity to spend an extend time abroad traveling or as an expat. “It's incredibly life changing and eye opening. And a 15-hour flight can go by really fast! ;-) “