Right before I published my first post in two years, I’ve asked on Twitter what some friends would like to read about, and Mica asked for weird/unusual expat life stories. It’s been four months and twenty days since I’ve moved to this city (it feels longer) and I’ve gone through new experiences and some struggles, but none of them are weird…or unusual. It feels like my move here is a bit more tame and less exciting than my first move to Singapore (where I had my debit card eaten by the ATM within the first week). I’d like to think I’ve grown a little wiser these past few years.
I think I’ll just have to disappoint Mica at the absence of juicy stories. If anything, I’m just trying to get used to everything Melbourne is that Singapore isn’t.
One. There are seasons, and sometimes all of them in the same day. This isn’t news to a lot of people, but I’ve never been here prior to my relocation and my skin is struggling. So much that it’s been affecting my moods. My eczema flared up like flowers in spring. But seasons also mean I enjoy long walks because the temperature can be kind and most importantly, not humid.
Two. I have trust issues with Melbourne’s public transport. Buses are commonly delayed one way or another and I can’t trust the timers. I don’t know how Singapore does it so well but they do. I pay so much more for public transport here, I wish they were as reliable as Singapore. (I’m aware Singapore has its own transport issues but reliability is relative! It’s god-sent compared to other cities!)
Three. My home internet speed brings me back to the early 2000’s. The street where I live has no broadband internet (yet), and it’s so slow that I haven’t played ANY game since I’ve moved. Goodbye Overwatch skins, hello Korean dramas because who cares about pings when you’re buffering?
Four. Space. So much space. Parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, my room, the kitchen, the house. I’ve almost forgotten how to live in a home, versus living in a room. I’m renting at a suburb area not too far from work instead of the CBD to have a change of scenery (and space!) and it’s affected me. Fundamentally. I cook now. I’ve baked a million loaves of banana bread. I’ve made more food in the last three months compared to my 3 years in Singapore combined. (Well, and eating out is expensive. I can’t get a meal for $3 anymore).
Five. People seem to have life after work, and they respect your time outside of the office. I haven’t had this kind of work environment for years. It’s been the norm to bring home work, even admirable to work late hours, and hustle with work all day and still have so much more left over. This is the case for both Singapore and Manila. I feel like I get more work done in fewer hours here, and it’s not just me but with the product teams I work with. People don’t actually try to bother you about work even if it’s a 4-week leave. And those long leaves are common.
There’s a lot to like about Melbourne, especially the places where I live and where I work. I don’t have to go to Gardens by the Bay to see fresh flowers growing. My new home is surrounded by neighbours with flower gardens that it’s so destressing on the way back from the bus or to the station. I’ve passed by a lemon tree with fruits growing and I thought, That’s what a lemon tree fucking looks like!
It was the first time I’ve seen the tree with actual fruit in it, even though it’s so common and mundane and not as pretty as the song made it to be. It’s just so much more pleasant to see fruits and flowers growing in people’s gardens, right in front of their homes, on your way to work or back home.
From my office, I can walk to a street filled with restaurants. I can have Western, Asian, Middle-eastern at acceptable price points (affordable in these new standards), my favorite being this tasty Bahn Mi for under $6. That’s a full meal right there. Also the first bahn mi I’ve ever had in my entire life (never heard of it when we traveled to Hanoi in 2012).
I feel like Singapore is a much more efficient city, but Melbourne is wide and colorful. It’s probably not as safe as Singapore either, but it’s far from the chaos and misery of Manila. There’s a good balance right here, and a friend reassures me that Melbourne is the least racist city in the continent. I’ve only had pleasant experiences with people so far, and I guess that’s a good sign. When all my interactions with people, from my housemate to the cashier to the receptionist and everyone in the office, starts with “how are you?”, I’m nudged towards making a conscious effort to be friendlier, a little more extroverted and to smile a little more often.