Tag Archives: migrant

The Last Five Years :: Life as an Expat

LAST 5 YRS - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
10 points to the Norbert Leo Butz fans

Very soon I shall have lived in the UK for 5 years. FIVE WHOLE YEARS. 6, really, if you count 2014 where I flew back and forth while studying, but generally I don’t.

When you live away from family I think it’s ridiculously easy to become used to living life at a relentless pace.  The years tend to be remembered by the immigration paperwork that was filled out in them.

  • 2010 was The Year I Arrived, with my Youth Mobility Scheme visa stuck neatly in.
  • 2012, The Year of the Returned Unmarried Spouse Visa (I’d used an old form that had been changed the day before I sent it), before getting the actual visa ID card.
  • 2013 was The Year of Figuring Out How to Stay in the UK, and more to the point, did I want to?
  • 2014 was The Year of Finding Mysterious Paperwork To See If I Can Get Polish Citizenship.
  • 2015 was The Year of Day Trips to Calais to Re-Enter on an EU Passport.

What immigration delights will 2016 bring? It may well have something to do with an upcoming Referendum. (Please dear God let them stay in the GD EU – I spent an awful lot of money on this).

I feel as though I can spot an expat at 50 paces these days. We all have the same characteristics:

  • You have an intimate knowledge of visa applications.
  • You irrationally fear the Border Control at any airport, even when you’re not flying!
  • You laugh in the face of people who think they deal with a lot of ‘paperwork’ – they don’t know the meaning of the word until they’ve tried to decipher what in the world the Home Office is actually asking you to prove.
  • You smile and nod blandly when friends start reminiscing about a TV program they grew up watching. Absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
  • You still think you’re quite good at a quiz but in fact have no clue about 75% of the questions.
  • You’re not quite sure if you’re allowed to vote in any of the many  elections, but turn up anyway, just in case.
  • When you meet another expat, your first 5 minutes of conversation involved working out by which convoluted means have each of you managed to emigrate.
  • You’ve forgotten which friends know each other, only to be reminded when you’re greeted with a blank look from your partner.
  • You get the guilts from booking any holiday that isn’t back to your country of origin.
  • You’re not even annoyed when Skype automatically opens each time you start your computer.
  • You never go to School Reunions, choosing instead just to stalk Facebook photos.
  • At least once every six months you have a weird few days when you’re pissed off at everyone because they’re not your family and it’s their fault.

There is something quite unique about living in a foreign country that you just don’t experience when you’re travelling through. You end up seeing such a lot of the mundanity of life that you thought you’d escaped when you left home. But somehow it’s different, because you have just a tiny bit more distance – it becomes more quaint mundanity.

You have a marked card as an expat which can sometimes feel awful. Other times it’s a bit of insurance – I can always go home if I want to.

But, all things considered, I don’t want to. 5 years in and my relationship with Ol’ Blighty is stronger than ever. At this point, going home would mean starting all over again, and to be perfectly frank, I can’t really be bothered. I feel settled and while I’m sure the next 5 years will bring plenty of events that make me feel less so, I want to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.

Kent: Europe’s Best Holiday Hotspot?

HSGS goes to Broadstairs

 

I had a couple of work colleagues choke on their tea on Wednesday morning as they perused that morning’s Guardian!

You see, dear friends, my lovely adopted home county of Kent has been listed as the best family holiday destination in Europe – I kid you not. I confess I’m rather proud!

As a matter of fact, I don’t personally find it that hard to believe as I totally adore Kent, and think it has a lot to offer culturally. More importantly the people from this county are some of the best, sexiest and most marriage-able in the world! You say biased, I say subjective. Ner ner.

We went down to Broadstairs a couple of weeks ago with the extended Hello family. A surprise visit for my soon to be Father-in-Law’s birthday. We had a wonderful time, mostly digging big holes that filled up with water, and terrorising the resident 3 year old King. It was pretty great.

It’s just occurred to me that the photo could almost have been of a beach in Australia. Funny, isn’t it, how life pans out?

This Week I Was Grateful For #5

Postes Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

 

When I meet new people, I am often asked the same question within the first ten minutes of conversation: Why would you choose Kent over Australia?

I try not to sigh too loudly when asked this, but they sometimes escape. Not because I’m tired of being asked, but because I can’t believe that the people of Kent don’t realise how wonderful a place to live this fine county is.

Last weekend I went to Calais with my wonderful fiancé. We went there and back in a day (a long day, I admit), but it was such a treat, and such a wonderful punctuation mark in our otherwise delightfully (and newly) calm lives. I took the photo of the post box above on the streets of Calais, because I thought it was beautiful.

All week I’ve thought how lucky I am to be able to make a trip like this, in less time than it takes to drive from one end of Western Australia to the other.

And that, my friends, is why I chose Kent.

~

How do you feel about where you live?

Change of Direction, Change of Heart

A NEW DIRECTION - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I’ve been feeling guilty.

Sadly this is not a new phenomenon, I feel guilty about something all the time, as a rule. 

If you had asked me a year or two ago what I felt most guilty about, my answer would have included things like: not Skyping my family enough; not responding emails fast enough; that I was spending too much time in my regular day job and not being creative enough. If only I could get my act together, everything would just be…perfect…

The guilts are strong in this one.

Because I can’t work in England until I pick up some paperwork, I’ve been a temporary housewife for a couple of months. It’s been problematic for several reasons, not least because I feel guilty for not contributing financially to my household for a few months more. What it’s been great for is getting me focused on the renovation work we need to do here. I say need, the truth is we already have a wonderful home and I am so unbelievably lucky to live here, but there are some cosmetic elements we want to change to make it more ‘us’. Cue several weeks of tradespeople traipsing through the corridors measuring and delivering upsetting quotes that have commas after the £ sign.

I’ve spent an unmentionable amount of time on eBay, searching various combinations of ‘Victorian front door’ or ‘reclaimed Georgian door’ or even ‘Victorian/Edwardian front door with glass’. For a task that seems so boring straightforward, deciding to replace one’s front door means deciding to offer up weeks of your life to the Gods of Time Wasting, who’s powers seem to miraculously focus on fast-forwarding the clock to 16:30. Another day gone. Another attempt at vanquishing guilty feelings before I can sleep.

On the one hand, I find myself excited by the work and recognise it as part of a recent spell of nesting, which I think is symptomatic of my impending wife-dom. I want our home to be finished, because then it becomes our home, not just the one Mr Hello bought (he’s kinda great like that). I feel like it is valid to be excited about this.

On the other, more insidious hand I feel guilty about spending my life in this way. I’m focussed on my home at the moment, and by default that means I’m not focussed on becoming an amazing teacher or creative businessperson, or writer of great repute. I feel frustrated because I don’t feel like I am achieving at a pace I expect of myself, and then I feel more frustrated because I can’t cut myself some slack. My attendance at local events has dwindled, and I’m not sure who I am if I am not that person who is at every arts event. That’s the core of it. If I’m not a creative ‘face’ around Kent, then who am I? Am I just like the colleagues I used to turn my nose up at, who came to work and then went back to their own lives without engaging in myriad extra curricular exploits? Or does nothing change at all? Am I still Sam, just the Sam who’s priorities have changed?

Our lives change directions so suddenly it seems, so why is it so hard for our expectations to keep up?

The Everyday Rhythm

Home Office Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Week 2 of my return to England is imminent, and so I thought a little catch up might be on the cards to let you know how I’m settling in. It’s been an up and down sort of a week to be honest, but let’s start with the positives because that makes us all feel better, no?

UP:

  • Actually making it through Customs at Heathrow. Despite the fact I am doing absolutely nothing illegal, somehow the powerful stares of the Border Agency staff make me regret every decision I have ever made, particularly in the lead up to the moment when I’m asked to plonk my passport on their tiny desks. I made it through, as you may have guessed, and it was a GREAT MOMENT.
  • Home. Bed. Cats.
  • Wandering around Rochester and feeling both the foreigner and the local. An odd yet pleasing sensation.
  • Picking up long awaited packages from the Post Office. Hello engagement present vouchers and Liz Earle Skincare. Nice to meet you.
  • Having time to make dinner in the evening. I love to cook, so this is fun for me!
  • Catching up with dear friends and feeling as if nothing has changed. Em, I adore you.
  • Snuggling with Mr Hello in the morning for five more minutes before walking him into work.
  • Getting excited for phase 2 of Operation Finish The House Before the Wedding. The phase where we freak out, that is.
  • Exciting meetings with exciting people about future potentially exciting jobs. I may very well soon be an employed teacher! EXCITING.
  • Catching up with Mr Hello’s folks. They are totally delightful and indulged my loves of their son, eating lots of delicious food, and looking at old photos. A Sunday well spent.
  • Sitting in our study (above) and watching people walk past our house as I type.

DOWN:

  • Turns out it’s not that much fun not having a job. On the one hand, there is more time for Parks and Recreation viewing, but on the other there is more time for getting the guilts about being a burden on society, and more to the point a burden on Mr H. Plus it’s a bit boring.
  • No Polish passport as yet, which means no working until it arrives. A couple more weeks, but then hopefully I will have that burgundy booklet it my hot little hand!
  • Missing my family. Goddamn it, why do I have to feel the feelings?
  • Extreme hair has arrived. Something in the British water takes a while for me to adjust to, and in the meantime my hair freaks out in an unmanageable way, making me feel more self conscious than I already was. Thanks Life!
  • To top it off, I am having a particularly bad skin phase, hence the timely arrival of the Liz Earle goodies.
  • I have a wedding to co-plan in six months. How, where and why did that happen? Last time I checked, it was over a year away. God preserve me.
  • It’s effing cold here and I am a delicate flower who has become accustomed to a certain level of UV radiation every day.
  • This may well be the most boring thing in the world to approximately everyone, but last night I had a dream that Hannibal Lector (yep, that one) was showing me his latest victim, and opened up a hole in the ground to reveal a naked and screaming Jodie Foster within. I was subsequently stabbed. Got a bit freaked out by that one, I must admit, and it was only worsened by the fact that when I checked the time it was only……11:57 pm. Not even midnight, shamefully. I then had to calm myself down by reading blogs and looking at silly gifs on Tumblr until 2am. Whoops.

Hope all is well in your lives. Seeing as I am currently a member of the unemployed, I suspect I will be dropping in to HSGS Headquarters on a semi regular basis. Here’s to seeing a bit more of you!

9 Superficial Things I’ll Miss About Australia (No, it’s Not the Weather!)

Perth Weather Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
But the weather ain’t half bad, just sayin’

It’s a truth universally acknowledged by a certain resident of Kansas that there’s no place like home. There are just some certain comforts that make you feel safe and secure, and while many of these are now available thanks to globalisation, there are a few silly things about Australia that I know I wistfully think of when back in Ol’ Blighty. Let’s get listing, shall we?

  • The Size of Avocados – Being a part of the avocado lovin’ family that I am, this is *quite* a significant thing. Avocados in  Australia are deliciously bloody huge, creamy and ripe. On several occasions in the past I have had the misfortune to buy several avocados in England that have proceeded immediately from rock hard to completely rotten, totally bypassing any edible stage. This is important, you guys.
  • Availability of Great Coffee – Look. It’s a lot better in Kent on the coffee side of things now, then it was in 2010 when I first came here. There are still many crappy tearooms selling crappy dishwater style coffee, but you can actually get a flat white here now, Lord be praised. But it’s just not quite as easy as popping down the road to Mooba, Lawley’s or Milkd, like I could in Perth. Heaven is a coffee flavoured place on earth. That’s a song, right?
  • Grill’d & Jus Burger: 
Grill'd Burger
Click for Source – Chi (in Oz)’s Photo Stream

 

Don’t know if there is much more I can say. Burgers. Delicious delicious burgers. Chunky chips. Before you say it, no, I         don’t live in London and no, Byron Burger is just not the same. Suitable replacement suggestions very welcome indeed.

  • Cheap Public Transport – The People of Perth might disagree with me, but public transport is sooooo much cheaper there than in England. In the Motherland there is no such thing as a grace period, meaning you need a new ticket  every time you jump on the bus. For a non-car-owning citizen such as myself, this becomes rather problematic. Terribly interesting too, don’t you agree?
  • David Jones Foodhall – I’m not saying that there is no equivalent in England. There is. It’s a tiny little shop known to the locals as Marks & Spencer, the greatest English shop of them all. But M&S is missing one crucial thing in my book, which gives my beloved DJ’s the advantage. That crucial element is the World’s Greatest Sushi Bar. I don’t know what it is about David Jones Sushi, but it’s bloody delicious and quite cheap really. It shall be missed.
  • Frosty Fruit Icy Poles – Also known as quite a depressing icy pole if you’re a normal person, but the WORLD’S GREATEST SWEET TREAT when you’re trying to watch what you’re eating and are desperate for some kind of cold sweet treat on a hot Australian Summer’s day. It’s the little things you miss, you know?
  • Tax Returns – Stay with me here guys. We don’t have to do these in England, but in Australia if you earn over X amount (I’ve forgotten how much because it’s been too long since I had a proper job :-/) you need to do a tax return, and if you’re lucky, it ends up that the Government owes you money and you get a nice little deposit into your bank account. A form of enforced savings, if you will. Luckily I’ve never had to repay any tax, although I know people who have, and that’s not fun in the slightest. But when I was saving for my travels, I worked three jobs and paid a lot of tax, and ended up with a $4,000 refund waiting for me come tax time. Thanks very much!
  • No Electric Showers – Just typing out ‘electric shower’ makes me go a bit funny. Water pressure in Kent is technically known as ‘a bit shit’ and so if your bathroom is on the first floor or above you need an electric pump to get your shower on in the morning. In Australia I had the full force of outback water blasting me in the face every day, and by golly I’ll miss it. My English shower feels like a combination of being spat and weed on at the moment, and let me tell you, it’s not as fun as it sounds. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. I’d also like to point out that in England you’re not allowed so much as a powerpoint in the bathroom (you are in Australia!) but you can have an electric shower? MADNESS.
  • Knowing How to Do ‘Life’ Stuff – Now this isn’t quite as superficial as the rest, but it’s something I’ll certainly miss. When you’re a local or a native citizen to a country, you end up just somehow knowing how life works, as if you’d picked it up by osmosis throughout your life. When you’re an immigrant, you forfeit that knowledge and so it just takes you that little bit longer to work stuff out. How to get a driving license, why you need a TV license, who pays council tax, what the hell council tax even is, who can vote and where. Having lived here for a few years, I’m much better than I used to be, but there are still times where I feel like a stranger, and I make the odd misstep. But I guess that’s life!

I returned to Rochester at about 9pm on Tuesday night, and it was incredibly surreal. I haven’t yet quite consolidated the fact that I’m back in my own house, with my own cats and my own fiancé. I haven’t yet begun to miss Australia too much, although I’m prepared for that to hit me when I am least prepared, as I’m sure those of you who have travelled will recognise.

9 Superficial Things I’m Looking Forward to in England

Rochester Cathedral 2013 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Rochester Castle 2013 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
Rochester Cathedral & Castle in January 2013

You may or may not have suspected there are some rather important reasons why I can’t wait to get back to England. I’ve built a life there, and there are lots of lovely people I’ve missed hugely while I’ve been back in Australia. But I thought today, I’d focus on the trivial things, those little stupid things you notice are different when you move to a different country. So without further ado, here are the 9 Superficial Things I’m Looking Forward to in England:

  • Buying wine in the supermarket – Look, rumour has it this is possible Over East in Australia, but it hasn’t caught on yet in ye olde Perth. It’s just so darn convenient to pick up a bottle when you’re getting your week’s veg as well. This is definitely a plus point of English Supermarkets
  • Having a bazillion supermarkets to choose from – In Australia we have Coles, Woolworths and IGA as the three biggest food markets. Even then, I’d go so far as to say that IGA is more like the UK Co-op, usually smaller stalls and can be a tad more expensive. It is a co-operative of smaller outlets though, so you don’t feel too bad spending the extra $$$. In England, you’ve got your M&S, Sainsbury, Morrison, Waitress, and Tesco, not to mention online shopping through Ocado. I just love the variety. What can I say, I’m just interesting like that
  • Boots – Oh my god Boots. Not the footwear kind, but this kind. There is no equivalent in Australia. Let that just sink in for a moment. There is no equivalent in Australia. I would say that Priceline would be the nearest, but it’s nowhere near the ‘institution’ level that Boots has reached in the UK, plus it’s a lot less common and much smaller stores. I’m looking forward to having several aimless wanders around my local, contemplating all of the many potions and lotions they stock. Oh yes.
  • Getting post on Saturdays – I’m pretty sure getting post is quite exciting for most people these days, even if a lot of the letters I get aren’t handwritten letters. But it’s definitely handy having that 6th day to receive mail. It means if one is a bit slack on the old card sending side of things, one has an extra day’s leeway that one simply wouldn’t have out in the Colonies!
  • Netflix – Oh my god Netflix. I do know you can get it by some strange hocus pocus in Australia if you are into that sort of thing, but in my lovely Kentish house, it’s hooked up through our Apple TV and my god if that isn’t dashed convenient. I’m looking forward to awkwardly draping myself over Mr Hello on the sofa while we watch some BBC Drama (preferably a period piece ploise) when I get back.
  • TK Maxx – What more can I say? If you’ve never been to TK Maxx you haven’t lived. It’s an outlet shop for a wide variety of brands, but I mostly go there for the homewares. The best way to describe it is like an Op Shop/Charity Shop, but filled with new things. You aren’t guaranteed to come out with anything useful every time, but some times you may stumble across an Orla Kiely bedspread for a third of the price. Just saying’.
  • Jacket Potatoes in every single café – Evidently if you don’t serve jacket potatoes on your lunch menu in England you can GTFO. As a potato loving Pole, I see no problem with this. No delicious cheesy potatoey problem at all
  • Tuna & Sundried Tomato Baguettes from Tony Lorenzo – Now this is particular to my little neck of the woods in Medway, but I have to say, this is the best sandwich ever. I always get this when I visit. It’s just the tastiest, most satisfying thing. Apart from jacket potatoes of course. 
  • John Lewis – It really is the stupidest thing, but I truly believe John Lewis is my happy place. I feel so much more calm walking around the store, and it’s homewares section makes me feel like all is right with the world. I very rarely actually buy anything there, if I’m honest, but it’s calming white walls have an exquisite effect on me. See I told you it was superficial.

There are many reasons to celebrate returning to the UK. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the stupid things that make you happy though. This list is definitely going to make the transition from 40 degree summer madness in Perth to a nippy 4 degree England a little bit smoother.

I’ll be posting my list of trivial things I’ll miss about Australia very soon, so if this kind of thing is your jam, stay tuned!

My Weekend Has Been Spent #6

Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Sydney 1

Sydney Townhouse

Brighton Street Sydney

Museum Station Sydney

MOCA The One Hour Laugh2

Sydney Opera House and Seagull

Sydney Harbour Bridge Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha in Sydney

Mr Tumnus Hyde Park Garden Sydney

Belvoir St Theatre Sydney A Christmas Carol

Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Polish Consulate Sydney

German Shepherd Mask Melbourne

  • Technically starting the weekend on Wednesday morning, when I hopped on a plane at an ungodly hour and flew to Melbourne.
  • Being greeted by my Mum at the airport
  • Seeing my Mum’s new fancy house – they’ve just bought it and it’s magazine worthy. Think modern with a Scandinavian mid century twist. Yeah. That’s good, isn’t it?
  • Scraping a couple of hours’ kip in Mum’s spare bedroom. Ugh. There’s a difference between early starts and early starts.
  • Trying not to get carsick on the way to the airport
  • Boarding a teeny tiny plane to Sydney.
  • Reaffirming my feelings that flying is not scary for me, just incredibly dull.
  • Landing in Sydney and heading to my friend’s work to drop off my suitcase
  • Realising that Sydney was ridiculously humid. Oh my god, was definitely not expecting that after the mildness in Melbourne.
  • Realising that hair products do actually work. Normally my hair would end up like Marge Simpson’s at the tiniest whiff of humidity, but it stayed perfect until I got drenched later in the day.
  • Having pizza and wine time with a dear friend that I haven’t seen for ages. (Love you K!)
  • Waking up and wandering into central Sydney.
  • Spending a couple of hours in David Jones, my favourite department store in the world. It’s like an Australian version on John Lewis, and believe it or not they do the best sushi I have ever tasted. It’s slightly better in the Perth store though!
  • Realising that a lot of Sydney is modelled on an English style of architecture. Think terraced housing, the Museum station above and big Selfridges style department stores. It was quite comforting in a way.
  • Heading the Museum of Contemporary Art. I was a little bit…underwhelmed I have to say, which is a real shame. One thing I adored though was a digital installation called The One Hour Laugh, which was simply a video of four women in somewhat ridiculous get up, trying to make each other laugh. I found myself grinning like a loon and giggling along with them. Very cheering.
  • Despairing of the fact that coffee is cheaper in Sydney than it is in Perth. :-/
  • Wandering around the Docklands, and catching views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Heading inside the Opera House, but just missing out on a tour.
  • Catching a view of a statue I have hereby named Mr Tumnus in Hyde Park.
  • Popping back to Surry Hills to see Belvoir St Theatre’s charming show A Christmas Carol. 5 Stars, would recommend. It was the most delightful reimagining of the story. Let me tell you, I get LOADS of Dickens in England where I live, which I rarely enjoy, but this was something truly heartwarming.
  • Catching some zzz’s back at my friend’s house.
  • At last completing my Sydney mission – putting in my application for my first ever Polish Passport at the Consulate. This is the only place in Australia where you can do it, which is a bit annoying for us west-siders! I was expecting it to be difficult, but the assistant was totally lovely and helped me out when my non-existent Polish became an issue!
  • Flying back to Melbourne to spend the actual  weekend with my Mum’s family. There was a German Shepherd mask involved, but I don’t think I could explain that even if I tried.
  • Catching another plane back to ol’ Perth.
  • Praising everyone who could possibly be praised for the fact I could lie down in my own bed.

 

I was incredibly lucky to have left Sydney before the terrible events in the Lindt cafe unfolded. It was a tragic event and my heart goes out to all those touched by the cruel actions of a deluded man. 

Dual Citizenship Baby!

Yesterday I received the happy news that my application for Polish citizenship has come through at last. I was lucky to be eligible through my heritage, as my grandparents were Polish refugees before they settled in Australia permanently. I pursued this route because I wanted to stay in the UK, where I’d built a life for myself, but I also wanted to be there on my own two feet so to speak, with the same responsibilities and rights as a British citizen. No immigration issues means that my marriage is focussed on the love I share with my partner, not my need to get a slip of paper from the government. This news also means that I can start to work in time for the UK Term 2, which will be fantastic and gives me the opportunity to settle into a job properly before the wedding.

Getting the news gave rise to some really profound emotions. Over this year, while back in Australia in my Grandmother’s house, I’ve reconnected to their history and the story of their journey. My great aunt wrote a memoir about their time in Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran and Uganda, which was incredibly insightful and made me realise how different my life could have been if my family had not been so resilient. It was hard enough choosing to become an immigrant when I knew I could always return home if I wanted: I can hardly imagine how difficult it must have been to realise you could never go home. Even if you did, the country you loved was no longer the same.

I feel so proud, lucky and grateful to call myself Polish. I feel as though I don’t really deserve it. I feel as though this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’m looking forward to spending some more time in Poland once I’ve settled back in Europe.

Now for some photos of the people I have to thank for this great day:

IMG_0048

IMG_0046

IMG_0314

IMG_0332

 

My grandparents, Henryk and Halina.

 

 

Bon Fête des Pères!

Sam and Steve
A little blurry film photo, but you get the idea

  We went for a walk this morning, and somehow ended up in Karrakatta cemetery. “Let’s have a look,” I said, “maybe we can find your Dad!”. Having never met the man nor seen the grave, I was perhaps a little enthusiastic. We walked amongst the headstones, as he wasn’t quite sure where it was after all these years. After a few semi-confident expressions of “I think this is the place”, at last a name, in a language I can’t understand, jumped out at me. Despite the barrier, it was intensely familiar, and I silently sounded out the syllables. A moment spent in silence, he brushed the end of the tomb with his hand. We walked home, taking the long way. He told me all about native flowers, and I listened. Happy Father’s Day Papa, I couldn’t be more grateful for you.