Beginning of 2020, I took the plunge to follow my dream of moving and working overseas.

I had to move to San Francisco, United States.

For me, it was a distant ambition that I had at the back of my mind since my university days.

When I got the call that they wanted to extend the offer, I was ecstatic.

I couldn’t believe it!

Moving and working overseas

I packed my life up from Sydney, Australia, and somehow managed to fit it all, in two 30kg bags.

To be honest, it wasn’t until I had I set foot on the plane that it finally felt real.

A part of me almost felt in denial that this was really happening.

As the time neared closer for the plane to take off, I was secretly delighted that I had the row to myself.

I finally had a moment for myself to connect with my emotions.

I had accepted the fact that I will be missing out on all the milestones of my closest friends (birthdays, weddings, childbirth, etc.).

Feeling a myriad of emotions, I suddenly felt bittersweet, excited, nervous, but more than anything, hungry for growth.

The city that I will soon be living in, renowned as the startup hub of the world, will quickly be called my second home.

Moving and working overseas sounded like the scariest thing to put myself through, but I didn’t let fear hold me back.

I want to continue to live a life with no regrets. It was the best damn decision I made in my life.

As part of working overseas, naturally, I faced a couple of challenges.

That being said, I’ve become aware of a couple of things while trying to assimilate to the cultural, societal norms here.

Beside mentally getting used to converting lbs to kgs or miles to km (which I am still not that great at), here are some things that I wanted to share based on my personal experience working and living aboard:

1. Going to the local groceries was an adventure

A simple task of buying milk at the groceries turns into an extended adventure in the refrigerator aisle.

Four fridges full and a myriad of options awaits; half and half, ultra-filtered milk, 2% reduced-fat, 1% reduced-fat, the list goes on.

That being said, I eventually found my way around and refamiliarised myself with the local brands.

2. There were times when I felt lonely

I felt homesick and isolated; there were moments where I yearned for familiarity and comfortableness.

I had moments of doubt and wanted to pack and go home (even more so under quarantine).

Realizing that this was an ordinary emotional journey, and once I recognized these emotions, those feelings faded in passing.

I not only grew as a person but also acknowledged that I have become far more self-sufficient than I initially thought.

3. The cost of living is drastically different

San Francisco is an expensive city to live in.

Finding suitable housing that was within my initial budget was difficult.

This view is probably more accurate for cities like San Francisco and New York more than most others.

Even if I did find a place within my budget, it was snatched up real quick.

After inspecting in four different neighborhoods, I eventually selected a shared room in a beautiful light-filled condo.

Also, air conditioners are unheard of here (not that it’s needed), and an in-unit washer/dryer is a rare gem.

4. Heightened awareness of cultural nuances

I became more acute to different cultural nuances.

I learned more about the meaning of certain public holidays that root back to historical events.

But more importantly, hearing it from the citizens that live here provides a different color and perspective to what I will ever read in any history book.

Celebrating the holidays like the locals and trying out local cuisines will forever offer me fond memories.

5. I inevitably learned the lay of the land

There was a steep learning curve at the beginning of my journey.

Conversations that I had so effortlessly back home became quite a mental task.

I would like medium chips, please… oh, I mean french fries!

Which aisle can I find rubbish bags..ahem garbage bags?

What do cozzies mean again?

That being said, it was an opportunity for me to share my own experience with others and share with them my cultural upbringing.

6. I got to see a different side of the city

Having the opportunity to live and take the time to explore the city is such a different experience from being a tourist.

I got a chance to immerse myself in the food, nature, culture, and more importantly, connect with people.

Moving and working overseas sounded like the scariest thing to put me through, but I didn’t let fear hold me back.

I want to continue to live a life with no regrets. It was the best damn decision I made in my life.

Rosemary Lwin is a South African born Burmese who calls Australia home. Definition of happiness: Travel, Food, Connections, Laughter, Adventure.