From Melbourne to Seattle: A Year On

18 Jun

It’s been a bit over a year since James and I moved to Seattle and I’m happy to say that we still love it! I was looking through some of our old photos (to try and illustrate the concept of us loving Seattle) and came across this one from our first week here.

This was in corporate housing; Mouse had found a hole in the bottom lining of the armchair and would crawl inside. We tried to block it off with pillows but he’d always find a way to squeeze himself in.

I wasn’t sure if he was recovering from the flight over or if he just liked being in there. Mouse has always liked being surrounded by fabric. I know that sounds like a super weird thing to say, but I don’t know how else to phrase it.

He got in there on his own by the way. I had the blanket on the chair (for I too like being surrounded by fabric) and that’s how I found him.

The worst is if I make the bed in the morning and forget that he’s wrapped up in the sheets. I flick the doona to straighten it and Mouse comes tumbling out looking betrayed.

But anyway, after a year of living here I think I have a better perspective of what I like and dislike about living in Seattle (and the US).

Positives of Life in the US

One of my favourite things here is online shopping; it is so much more advanced here than in Australia. And shopping in general, really. Everything is cheaper, online shipping is faster and there is so much more choice. I’m trying not to buy too much though – everything we buy is something we eventually have to ship home!

It’s also cool that we get things faster here. TV shows, trends, technology, plus random stuff like rogue taxis (Uber, Lyft, etc) and food trucks. Though it’s less pronounced than pre-internet days. I remember James said that when he was a kid, his parents visited the US and his uncle was like “you should buy this toy for your kids. It’ll be huge in Australia soon.” But his dad thought the concept of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was stupid so didn’t buy anything. =(

There’s also a lot more weird flavours of things. I’ve seen fluffed marshmallow, cake and whipped cream flavoured vodkas. I’ve actually tasted the fluffed marshmallow vodka – it smelled like marshmallow and tasted like super sweet vanilla.

I saw this beer at a local booze shop:

Some friends have tried it before and said it was absolutely disgusting. So I bought the Voodoo Doughnut, peanut butter, chocolate and banana ale instead. It smelled like super sweet doughnut and according to the guys we served it to, tasted like a doughnutty beer. It wasn’t good enough that anyone would drink it again though.

I like that they make an attempt, even if a lot of the time the flavour combos are super weird.

I wanted to try some but I didn’t really want to commit to a whole block of chocolate cheese.

The other thing that’s different here that I love are the winters. Seattle’s winter is comparatively mild but it’s still more interesting than Melbourne (I still remember James talking about running one frosty morning in his Vibrams. He was waiting for some friends to catch up and the ground was so cold he had to rest his feet on a pile of leaves).

Here is a friend’s nature strip one morning. The grass was all crunchy from the frost and you can see the footprints we left.

And of course winters mean snowboarding. Only 6 months to go!

We just bought some snowboard bags to protect our boards when we go travelling. =) Speaking of travelling, that’s another big plus about living in the US – in Australia we’re so isolated from everything, but (almost) everything is much closer here. We’ve already visited Yosemite and New York and there are so many places that I still want to see. Plus we’re much closer to Canada and South America and Europe!

Negatives of Life in the US

Obviously it sucks being so far away from family and friends. Some of our expat friends are moving back to Melbourne, friends are getting married, having kids, and we’re missing out on all of that. I email people regularly (and in fact when Cat was travelling around the US I actually talked to her less than when she was back in Melbourne) but it’s not quite the same as being able to see them whenever.

There are fewer public holidays and you get less personal leave here. When Amazon was trying to recruit James the HR guy told him that after the first year he’d get 3 weeks of annual leave. And James was like “yeah … in Australia everyone gets 4 weeks.”

Also we still don’t really understand how the health care system works. Every time we fill a prescription or go to a healthcare provider it’s a mystery whether we get billed. And even with insurance it’s pretty expensive compared to back home (though the quality of care so far has been great). Our Canadian friends feel similarly – even the ones who have been here for several years.

Work

James enjoys his job at Amazon – it doesn’t hurt that he gets to go work with his friends every day!

He got a great performance review (the peer-review comments from his colleagues were so overwhelmingly positive that his boss told him he had won the popularity contest!). I was so proud of him, and I’m sure it was a confidence booster; James has always been the smart guy at his previous jobs and he was a bit intimidated moving to a company where everyone was the smart guy.

He regrets that he didn’t get to the US earlier. If he had done his comp sci degree in the US he could have interned at one of the tech companies and started out on this career path earlier and he thinks he’d be a level or two above where he is now.

James said that IT here is so much different than in Australia (except parts of Sydney, which have a bunch of US IT companies). In Australia there are IT departments within existing industries but they’re not really the main focus – more support staff – and programmers are viewed as largely interchangeable. But in the US there are actual tech companies where the software developers are essential and they go to a lot of effort to hire excellent developers and pay them accordingly. In addition to the higher pay, the work is more interesting and more fulfilling.

It makes me so happy that James likes his job. =) We’ve been talking about staying in the US for the rest of his career, though we don’t want to buy a condo because we don’t want to be tied to Amazon specifically. We love Australia (never again will I take for granted that our country free health care for all its citizens) but the IT industry here is much better and we’ve carved out a nice little life for ourselves. 

We definitely plan on returning to Australia eventually but for now we’re looking forward to the next few years in Seattle.

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9 Responses to “From Melbourne to Seattle: A Year On”

  1. Wen June 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    sounds like a great year!!! Living abroad is an enriching experience…
    I wonder if James did his degree in U.S, you guys may never get the change to meet each other! 😉

    • pamperedhousewife June 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      Ha yes that’s true! And he probably would have bought an apartment at the height of the housing bubble and would have lost a lot of money on that too. So no regrets!

  2. Shiva June 22, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    Hi, first, I have to congratulate you on having such a good and helpful blog. We are also moving from Australia to Seattle and your blog is really useful, I got answer to some of my questions. My husband also got a job with Amazon:) it’s really a hard decision what to take and what not to take. We are really excited and at the same time thinking did we made the right decision to move and put every thing behind:)

    • pamperedhousewife June 22, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Congratulations! Hopefully your husband enjoys working at Amazon as much as James does.

      Let me know if you have any other questions because I remember having SO MANY unanswered questions when we were moving!

      • Shiva June 23, 2013 at 1:41 am #

        Hi, thank a lot, I think he will like it:) can I please ask how did u transport Mouse? We also have a puppy and we are not sure what is the best way? Also how long did it take your stuff to reach there? We also have a gas weber BBQ, is it better to bring it with us or leave it here. I am not sure that if they let us to have BBQ in balcony. I am really sorry that I asked too many questions. I really do appreciate your help. Thank you so much

      • pamperedhousewife June 23, 2013 at 2:18 am #

        Amazon recommended World Care Pet Transport for our cats and we were very happy with them. It was around 5k for both our cats but they took care of pretty much everything! I emailed with someone else who was relocating to Seattle who said WCPT quoted her $4700 for just one cat so she went with Jet Pets who quoted $2290 and were great.

        The air shipment arrived within the week and the sea shipment took a bit over a month.

        We had a Weber Baby Q and left ours at home. The one we bought here runs on propane and I don’t know if there’s an easy way to convert an Australian BBQ. It’s much easier just to buy a new one! BBQs are pretty common on balconies so you won’t run into any problems.

  3. Shiva June 24, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    Hi, thank you so much, I have to get a quote from them:) we just have few weeks left:)

  4. Vera Tong December 12, 2015 at 12:56 am #

    hi, pampered housewife :),

    I’m looking at options how to fly my puppy to Seattle from Melbourne. My husband joined Amazon recently. Could you pls let me know your email address? Mine is: tongvera@yahoo.com

    thanks a lot

    Vera

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