Expert Expats: Part 1

Expat professionals

Being an expat is not always easy, the tools to succeed as an expat can be evasive. There’s a LOT of information out there, so in order to easily supply our readers with the best information, we turned to some of the brightest, most experienced expats who have “made it” and are willing to share their advice with our readers. Here is part one of our series on Expert Expats.

Kirstie Jeffries: Sydney, Australia

Expert Expat in SydneyKirstie is a digital marketer by day, and a true travel blogger at heart. She is originally from Pasadena, California, and now lives the expat life in Sydney, Australia. Her travel blog has received many awards including “Top 1000 Travel Blogs.” She discusses her love for travel and what it means to “live the expat life” in her blog: vengavalevamos.com

Kirstie moved to Sydney, Australia a couple of years ago seeking business opportunities. While she misses her friends and family from home greatly, she will likely reunite with them when she returns to live in her native U.S. one day.

Read Kirstie’s interview:

What did you find to be the most difficult thing about moving to a new country?

While opening a bank account, learning the language (if necessary), finding a place to live, etc. can all be fairly daunting. They are entirely manageable with a bit of persistence. Making a new group of friends can be more challenging, especially because fellow expats are often there temporarily. This can also be the best part of moving to a new country, because you form a new family wherever you go.

Do you speak the local language? If so, when did you learn it? If not, does that present difficulties?

Now that I live in Australia, yes! Prior to this, however, I lived in Spain, where I had studied the language in school for years, but I quickly learned that using language in real life situations is much different from studying in language classes! During my time in Spain, my Spanish improved greatly, although there was always a language barrier that I can’t imagine would have ever fully gone away.

Where have you noticed stark cultural differences?

Traditions, Work Ethics, Social Situations

Do you have a favorite website or blog about your country?

TimeOut Sydney is a great way to find new things to discover in the city!

What is your best tip for people moving to or visiting your country?

Australia is going to seem incredibly expensive when you first arrive, but don’t be put off! Salaries are also much higher than most other countries here, so it all balances out. Spending $20 on a basic meal is painful when you’re new to Australia, but once you’re earning local money, it’s all fairly affordable.

Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?

The cost of living in Australia is much higher than it was in Spain, but the salaries are also a lot higher. The biggest difference for me personally is the increased cost of travel. In Spain, it was easy and inexpensive enough to hop on over to another country almost every weekend, while even just an hour flight to another Australian city can cost you hundreds of dollars.

Have you run into any bureaucratic, insurance, tax or medical issues as an expat?

As an expat in Spain, the bureaucracy drove me insane! Visas and residency cards there are a nightmare, as you’ll receive different answers and policies from everyone you speak to. By comparison, Australian bureaucracy is a cinch.

What advice would you give expats to help them fit into their new community?

Socialize with a mix of locals and fellow expats. Meeting locals is vital to integrating yourself, but you also need a group of people who understand the challenges you face as an expat and who speak your own language. Other than that, just stay positive and don’t get discouraged! Living abroad is not all fun and games, and you’ll certainly face difficulties, but you’ll always get through them.

When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog almost seven years ago when I was preparing to study abroad in Spain. Initially, it was intended to merely keep my family updated and give me a chance to record my memories, but it’s grown over the years, following me through two additional years in Spain and then two more in Australia, and now has a great community of readers.

About the author...

Pesach Woznica is a licensed CPA in Colorado State, originally from Toronto, Canada where he earned a Bachelors of Administration at York University and then extended it to an honors degree specializing in accounting. Pesach has assisted thousands of US expat taxpayers with their tax returns, FBAR, IRS audits and negotiating settlements in U.S. tax court.

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