An American Expat Working As an Emergency Teacher in Melbourne, Australia

American expat Stephanie already knew what it was like to live away from home; she was living in France prior to moving to Australia with her husband. Now she describes what life is like for her as an American expatriate in Melbourne, where she thinks the coffee is top-notch, the ethnic restaurants fun to eat at, and and the people very much in love with their sports. Museums, stores of Victorian designers and the wildlife are also very popular attractions to enjoy what this great city has to offer.

Stephanie Delage

-Where were you born?

I was born in Los Angeles, California, and have resided in NYC, Portland (Oregon), and Paris (France) before moving to Australia.

-In which country and city are you living now?

Melbourne, Australia

-Are you living alone or with your family?

I live with my French husband and our dog.

-How long have you been living there?

Two years.

-What is your age?


-When did you come up with the idea of living in Australia?

My husband and I were living in Paris and it was quite difficult for me to find work.  I'm a teacher but my poor French made it impossible to find work in a state school.  I found myself employment as a nanny but that wasn't very satisfying work.  My husband started looking for work in an English-speaking country and found a great job in Australia, so we up and moved.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

No.  My husband's work arranged everything.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

No.  Again, this was arranged for us through my husband's job.

-How do you make your living in Australia? Do you have any type of income generated?

I am a teacher and am currently working part time as an emergency teacher.  I generally work five days a week in the autumn and winter and about three days a week in spring.  In summer I am unemployed!  Emergency teaching is a great option for teachers who are here temporarily.  I found work by googling teaching agencies here.  It was really simple and straightforward.

We are working on gaining permanant residency now and when that comes through I'll look for a permanant teaching gig.

-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.

I am a native English speaker and can understand a bit of "Strine" now as well!  Australians are quite like Americans and Brits.  They are really into sport and everybody "barracks" for a footy or rugby team.  (Don't ever say you "root" for a particular team as that has an entirely different meaning here!)  Knowing about the local sport is helpful when trying to make friends.  Also helps to be into coffee as Australians make some of the cuppas in the world.  They take the humble coffee bean very, very seriously here.  Aussies drink a lot and don't really understand the notion of abstaining from the bottle. They also love their BBQs, or "barbies". Contrary to what most people think, the most common BBQ food here are not shrimps, but sausages served with white bread and ketchup.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.

Very much so.  I've been living abroad for four years now:  First in France and now in Australia, and the separation seems to bother me more and more.  My mother is older and is unable to visit us here due to health reasons.  My friends can't afford the plane fare so I only see everybody once every 12-16 months when I get back for a visit.  My husband's family lives in France and we haven't even been back to see them yet.  

Melbourne is a great city and there is loads to do here:  Lots of great bars and restaurants, lovely parks and gardens, and a few good museums.  I love going to the Botanic gardens, having a BBQ on the banks of the Yarra River, and going out for ethnic food, or a pot of beer at the pub.  If you have a car, you're within an hour's drive of wineries, hikes, beaches, and cute country towns.

-Do you have other plans for the future?

We plan on staying here until at least 2013 and possibly longer.  We may return to either the US or Europe at that point, but that is all up in the air.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?

Housing is expensive here.  We live in a two-bedroom house with garden and pay 1800 per month.  This is pretty reasonable for Melbourne as most two-bedroom houses here cost upwards of 2000.  Our house is in kind of poor condition so it was cheaper than normal.  It's about 7 km from the city center in a family oriented neighborhood.  A two-bedroom cottage in an inner city neighborhood would cost around 600,000 minimum if you were buying.

-What is the cost of living in Australia?

High!  A pint of beer costs between 9-11 dollars and a main at a decent restaurant is usually around 30-35 dollars.  A single train ticket is almost four dollars and the cost of clothes are almost double to what they are in the US.  Salaries are higher here so that helps, but they aren't high enough to really offset the high cost of living in comparison to the States.

-What do you think about the locals? 

Australians are friendly and gregarious.  Almost forty percent of Australians are foreign born so they are pretty multi-cultural and tolerant.  I've personally found it hard to make friends here, mostly due to the fact that I'm married, in my thirties, and living in a kind of "older" neighborhood. I've noticed that single expats in their twenties who live in the inner suburbs have it a lot easier when trying to meet people.  It seems that a lot of people my age already have their social groups and aren't looking to expand their network.  I do think that this is probably an issue everywhere, not just specific to Australia.  My husband has found making friends with men here has been challenging.  Australian men are really into drinking pints at the pub while watching/talking about sport, and even though my husband likes sport, he would like to find a male friend who is more interested in culture and politics.  That's been hard for him.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Australia?

Positives: Good economy, competetive salaries, fantastic nature and recreational pursuits, multicultural and cosmopolitan cities, and the best coffee in the world. 

Negatives: High cost of living, very far from everywhere.  A bit sport obsessed for me.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Australia?

Eat at ethnic restaurants!  Delicious and way cheaper than your mainstream Aussie places.  In Melbourne there are thriving Vietnamese, Lebanese, and African neighborhoods which are fun to explore.  We also shop at the local Vietnamese market, which is half the price of Coles or Safeway. 

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Australia?

Broadsheet Melbourne is an online magazine with great listings and reviews.