Ever dreamt of picking up, hopping the pond, marrying a cute foreigner with a cute accent, and raising some dual-nationality babies? Humor writer and American expat Summer Land is doing just that in a little town called Mudgee (which sounds more like a cuddly koala than a place in wine-country Australia). We recently caught up to talk about her life, marriage, and family Down Under.
Summer in Wollongong, New South Wales
MIRABILE: What is the best way to experience the full Mudgee?
SUMMER LAND: Mudgee reminds me of the town in Steel Magnolias. There is no point in making a phone call while walking down the street because chances are – you’ll run into no less than five people that you know. The leaves are always changing and new flowers are always blossoming. Mudgee is wine country, so there is an abundance of wineries to have long lunches at, cafes to read a book in and the beautiful Cudgegong river to nap by. We were supposed to only stay for 6 months and it’s been four years.
[A Wino’s Guide to Mudgee]
MIRABILE: How hard was the decision to move to Australia?
LAND: Honestly – not that hard. I was 23 and looking for adventure. I also have a super supportive mom cheering me on. She always told me that the world is my playground. Plus, the world is so small now that everyone I love is just a (super) long plane ride away.
Summer and her hubby Paul in Austinmer, New South Wales
MIRABILE: Were there any expectations you brought to your marriage (to an Australian national) that you later realized were really “American”?
LAND: My expectations were pretty standard. I was expecting love, honesty, support, laughter and friendship. I believe those are universal. What I found to be different were the superficial ideas I had of what it would be like to be married. I don’t know if it’s an American thing or a Hollywood thing, but I believed you got married, joined the country club, had dinner parties, and sent out professionally photographed (and politically correct) “holiday” cards.
Married life in Australia has been quite different. First of all, there is no country club in our town. Second of all, I don’t feel like we have to keep up with appearances. There is no judgment on what types of jobs we have or where we holiday. I feel like all of our married friends (ourselves included) are genuinely happy and content with what we have.
MIRABILE: Do have other American/Australian couple friends and what do you all gripe about?
LAND: Yes! I actually have a whole hoard of American friends who couldn’t resist the lure of Australia. Of course we argue – but it’s mostly about missing readily available Mexican food and iced tea that run rampant in America. The other hard thing is that we really love America. All of our friends and family and memories are there. BUT job security, free healthcare and a much more relaxed higher education system are keeping us here. The fact that my husband gets six weeks of paid vacation time a year is reason enough alone to live in this gorgeous country. (As a couple that met through their shared love of travel, time-off is extremely important to us. The only hiccup is that we use all of it to travel to America every year because we are in our late twenties and everyone keeps getting married!)
MIRABILE: Any horror stories about becoming a resident?
LAND: It was a long process and a tad stressful, but all in all, not too hard. I’m up for dual-citizenship at the end of 2015! Advice for people wanting to emigrate: keep a paper trail!
MIRABILE: What about culture shock? Anything that still strikes you as different?
LAND: If England and the US had a baby – it would be Australia. There are so many similarities to America, but then there is that dash of posh Englishness that is really fun. The economy is strong, vocational tradesmen can support their families (no need to have to OWN the company to earn a decent wage). Mostly, the entire experience has been refreshing and a huge eye opener for me. I’ve learned that work is not the most important thing. Obviously – yes, we need money. But it’s also important to actually take a vacation and not get hung up in your career. Oh and you have to GO INSIDE to pay for “petrol” aka gas.
Summer and baby Daisy in Sydney, Australia
MIRABILE: What sort of baby vocab do they use down there?
LAND: One of my favorite memories was when my husband Paul and I were shopping for baby stuff. I was talking about a stroller, Paul was talking about a pram and the English sales clerk was trying to sell us a pushchair. Three English-speaking nationalities and three very different words.
MIRABILE: How does Australia’s maternity care compare to America’s?
LAND: I LOVED giving birth here. First of all, the support and care throughout my pregnancy was incredible. I did shared care with my general practitioner and the midwives at the hospital. The actual labor and delivery experience was very long, but never once did I feel like I was being rushed to free up a bed. In fact, everyone in the hospital wanted me to do things as naturally as possible. I ended up staying for five days in the hospital for no other reason than to make sure things were coming naturally like breastfeeding and sleep cycles. I had no complications. When I was discharged I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had no bill. The public healthcare system that we pay (relatively high) taxes into completely covered everything.
MIRABILE: Any bizarre pregnancy cravings you couldn’t quell?
LAND: I have a theory that I didn’t gain very much weight the first time that I was pregnant because all of my cravings were for American foods like Goldfish, Puffins cereal and burritos!
MIRABILE: What material does Australia give you as a humor writer?
LAND: SO MUCH. First of all, Australian humour is the BEST. They love toilet humour, and I totally have a potty mouth. But really – Australia has shown me just how ridiculously American I can be.
SUMMER LAND writes weekly for Summerlandish.com and posts videos every Monday on the Confessions of Another Blonde on the Internet channel. Her book, Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did is available for download from iTunes, Nook and Amazon, and in print from her site. Summer’s next book, I Now Pronounce You Husband and Ex-Pat, is due out in 2016.
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