The Ups and Downs of Expat Life

straw hat and paper lantern placed on bamboo pole
Photo by Jimmy Chan on

Tahlia had always wanted to return to Hong Kong. She was born in the bustling territory and spent the first 15 years of her life growing up in a thriving expat community. “My dad was a civil engineer,” says Tahlia. “And went over there because the work was much more interesting and paid better, and they wanted an adventure, him and my mum.”

At 15 Tahlia headed back to Australia to attend boarding school, but over the years the city she’d spent her childhood in continued to fascinate her. “It’s a really interesting city culturally,” she says. “It’s kind of east meets west. I’d always had the itch to want go back.” Then as fate would have it, Thalia’s partner was offered a job in Hong Kong. So, she packed up and went with him.

At first everything was new and exciting, but the reality of setting up life in a foreign country soon set in. Though Tahlia had grown up in Hong Kong, she never learnt the language which made finding a job hard. She was out of work for nearly a year and this impacted her socially. Without a job Tahlia found it difficult to establish friendships. Though there’s a large expat community in Hong Kong, it’s predominately based around playing sport. “I’m not particularly sporty,” Tahlia laughs. “I found it really hard to make friends.” For Tahlia, those first months were often lonely.

Ironically, when she finally landed a job, the subject was the sporting world she’d previously shunned. Tahlia ran community engagement events for the Hong Kong Sevens Rugby series, even meeting the odd celebrity like American TV star, David Hasselhoff. The job turned out to be a lot of fun. She started to make friends and finally settle into her life.

Though at times living in Hong Kong was tough, it did have perks. Tahlia and her partner got to discover more of Asia. “We did so much travel. I’ve been to so many amazing places.” The pair visited Cambodia and Borneo, making multiple trips to Vietnam. Tahlia adds: “That’s probably one of my favourite places now.”

These days, Thalia is back home in Australia about to start a new stage in her life. “I just got a new job today,” she says. “I’ll be working on Nike as an Account Manager.” While living and working overseas is an experience she’ll always be thankful for, it also made her grateful for the life we have in Australia. “The work life balance is just incredible compared to there and our standard of living is so much better.” And though she’ll never regret her Hong Kong adventure, she loves being back in Melbourne with friends and family, living close to her mum and with her cat, Persephone. “The experience was great,” Tahlia says. “I don’t regret it. But I think people think living overseas is definitely all fun and games when it’s 100% not. I’m really, really glad to be home.”


© Amy Hutton 2018

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