Monday 19th December 2011

Expat Interviews: In Search of the American Dream

Today we meet Ruth Grau, an Australian who left her native home of Adelaide in search of the American dream. Here she shares her story.

Where are you currently living?
Redondo Beach CA, USA

Where in the world were you born?
Adelaide, Australia

Why did you move overseas and why did you choose your host country?
I was looking for a change and for career opportunities. Much as I love my home town it used to be a “old boys” kind of town so moving up into top management positions was harder for a woman. All the major companies had head offices in Sydney or Melbourne so Adelaide was not a great place to stay if you really wanted to go places. The USA offered so much more because of the size, population, equality and prosperity of the country at the time.

How long have you been living in your host country?
17 years

Who did you relocate with?
My husband

Was it hard to get a visa for your host country that was appropriate to your circumstances?
It is difficult to get a green card to be able to work. My husband had US citizenship so I applied through the US Embassy in Australia and got a Green card then became a US citizen in 2004. Getting a Green card is a challenging and time consuming process.

What is the medical care like in your host country? Do you need medical insurance and, if so, how much is it?
The first few years I lived in the US I did not have any medical insurance as it was not offered by my employer and I could not afford to do it myself. I was lucky that I did not get sick. I still visited the doctor when I went back to Australia to visit my family. I do have insurance now as we own our own company. In Australia there is medical coverage for everyone and the quality is excellent.

How do you make your living in your host country?
I am the owner and President of Springboard Vacations, a travel company that specializes in tailor made vacations to Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific Islands such as Fiji and Tahiti, and private luxury safaris in Africa. Certainly being Australian helps as we have all the insider tips of locals to really enhance the vacations we sell. We understand both the American traveler and the Australian experiences on offer. It is a perfect combination.

Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Coming form an English speaking country made the language transition easy. Naturally Americans think I have an accent and there are occasions when it is hard to make myself understood but overall it is easy! When I see a strange look on someone’s face I know I have used an Australia word or saying that people don’t understand!

Are there any local customs, laws or traditions that it is important for potential expatriates to be aware of and adhere to?
Americans are a little more private and conservative than Australians as a general rule but we have embraced Halloween and Thanksgiving – my favorite 2 American traditions!

Do you ever get homesick?
I do get a little homesick but am fortunate enough that with my job I get to talk about Australia and its virtues all day every day. We visit Australia a couple of times a year. The hardest thing is missing our nephews as they grow and the sense of guilt we have as our parents age and their health starts failing.

How long do you plan to remain in your host country?
We will stay forever. We love the US, our lifestyle and our friends. Our 2 kids aged 9 and 10 are true American kids and love the life here. There are such great opportunities for them here. Ideally when we retire it would be great to alternate living in both countries – summer here in California followed by summer in Australia – endless summer!

Have you purchased a property in your host country or do you rent? What is the cost of housing like in your host country?
We own a home in Redondo Beach and a holiday house in Palm Springs where we love to escape on weekends. We also recently purchased a commercial property for our business. LA is an expensive city to live in but most major cities are. Prices would be the same if we bought in Sydney, Australia. The countries are comparable with regards to real estate prices.

What is the cost of living like in your host country?
Some things are cheaper in the US like clothing, food etc and some things are cheaper in Australia like health care and real estate. Australia, although the same size as the US only has a population of about 20 million as opposed to the 360 million here in the US. That means the US has bulk buying power to make things cheaper. No matter what your interests are, there are always others that share it here in the USA. It is the advantage of having a large population.

What do you think about the locals?
We have a great many US friends and customers. We love our local community. We have friends through our kids schools, their sport activities and through our work. We love the eclectic mix of people in LA. Almost no one is from here, so the people you meet are most likely from somewhere else.

What are the three things you like the most about your host country?

  1. The freedoms the US enjoys.
  2. The chance to share in the American dream.
  3. The opportunities for ourselves and our kids.

What are the three things you like the least?
  1. The cost of health care
  2. The inequality of opportunity at times
  3. The current economy.

Do you have any tips for our readers about living in your host country?
Come and enjoy it! Americans love Aussies and Aussies love Americans! The 2 counties share so much but are different enough to make it an interesting partnership.

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