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Featured Friends: Kat from Bright Lights of America


Introducing my March Featured Friends, Kat from Bright Lights of America! I've known Kat for a while now and she's one of my favorite OG Fly Away Friday and Travel Blogger friend. Kat currently resides in San Francisco and is an expat from Australia. Her travel content is based around expat life and she shares fantastic expat advice and tips for people that may be interested. Even though I moved from life in Tokyo to the United States, I'm technically not an expat because I'm dual-citizen, so I've always been interested in the expat journey. 

I absolutely loved reading her answers and getting to know Kat more. She's a lovely person, an excellent writer and a content creator in general. I personally guarantee that you're going to enjoy her content so make sure you visit her over on her blog. Now without further ado, here's Kat!

1. Tell us about yourself! 

I'm an Australian who moved to San Francisco, by way of London. Basically, I like moving around and experiencing living in new places.  My Dad was born and grew up in Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea, before moving to Australia, meeting my Mum and settling down. I blame him for my itchy feet (no, not Athlete's Foot, I mean the travel bug). The adventure of settling down in a foreign city, starting off feeling like an outsider, until one day it's home can be pretty exhilarating.

2. What made you want to start your blog, Bright Lights of America

I used to be a journalist before changing profession when I moved to California. What I loved most about journalism was being able to tell other peoples' stories and helping them out with information. So the natural progression was to start a blog. I started with telling my own story of trying to sort out life in the US and all the things I found strange. It continued with tips for other expats AND great places to visit in this awesome country!



3. You're my first expat Featured Friends! For those that aren't aware, can you tell us about being an expat?

That's a bit exciting! At its most simple, an expat is someone who moves to a foreign country to live. It doesn't necessarily mean that you'll stay in that country for the rest of your life. But if you've moved for an extended period of time, you're an expat. I began my expat life when I moved to London in 2008 and it was an absolute dream. It was freeing, it was a challenge, and it opened up a whole continent of travel possibilities. It's probably why I was so nonchalant about packing all my stuff again and moving to the US.

4. Why did you choose San Francisco? Were there other contenders? 

The more you get to know me, the more you realise that I plan exactly nothing in my life. I'm yet to decide if this is a good or bad thing. I had a friend who was living in San Francisco at the time and he was always telling me how fantastic it was. I was lucky enough that a job opened up here, the employer liked me and the government approved my visa application. I didn't consider any other countries or cities because I wasn't really thinking about moving at all.



5. What do you miss most about Australia? 

I know what this answer should be. Family and friends. And in a way, it is, but we're living in the age of 24/7 connected-ness and I can Skype or text them whenever I want to. So what I really miss most is the Australian sense of humour, and being able to use mine without offending people. I think Aussies have a reputation for being laid back and easy-going because we joke a lot. Especially in settings that may not be appropriate like office meetings, large gatherings, or after having known someone for three seconds. We make fun of ourselves, but we're also going to make fun of you. It's not meant in a malicious or mean-spirited way, it's just what we do. We also try to make light of most situations... which is what usually gets me into trouble in the US. Side note: Never make jokes at Customs.



6. What were your biggest culture shocks when you came to the United States? 

I've been here for two years now and I actually had to read through an old post to refresh my memory on culture shock. Here's the short version of my list:
 
  • Checks actually exist here and people write them and send them to you. Those people aren't just over the age of 70.
  • All the food is twice as sweet as you're used to (especially the bread). Get used to sourdough. It'll be your best friend.
  • There are gaps in public toilet doors so large that you can see straight through into the stall.
  • You have to add taxes at the checkout when buying clothes etc., which totally takes the edge off that "bargain" feeling.
  • Flip flops here are called thongs at home. But thongs here are not something you mention in polite company. You learn that the hard way.

I could go on, but I don't want to give the impression that I don't like it here. I actually love it.



7. If money or time wasn't an issue, where would you travel to and why? 

This is so tough! Scotland is my favourite place on planet earth, but I think that if money wasn't an issue I'd go to all of the Nordic countries. Mostly because I've avoided them for so long because they're so pricey. The Northern Lights are very high up on my bucket list, and I am such a sucker for old architecture and places with hundreds of years of history. I think I'd love Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

8. If someone is considering becoming an expat, what tips would you give them? 

You've probably got a little voice in your head telling you that there's a big chance that it'll all end in failure and you'll have wasted a tonne of money for nothing. Tell that voice to shut up. As long as you're (even a little) prepared, you'll be absolutely fine. If you're really worried, plan an end-date into your expat adventure and keep that in mind. 

You're going to have some really homesick days, and those first three weeks in your new country can be a little scary, but push through it. The pros have always outweighed the cons for me. The biggest piece of advice I could give is to "find your tribe". Whether it's fellow expats from across the world, or maybe just a Facebook group of people from your home country. They'll have a wealth of knowledge to help you and similar experiences for when you feel like you've done something stupid.


9. What do you hope to accomplish with Bright Lights of America? 

I really hope to inspire would-be expats to take the plunge. To make them realise that the time spent experiencing and understanding another culture or country is never wasted. Sure, I've only lived in English-speaking western countries, but you'd be amazed at how different upbringings and traditions are.

Maybe at the back of my mind, I want a record of all the cool places I've visited and things I've done so that if I ever have kids they can glance over the pictures while rolling their eyes and saying "You're so lame mum!". A dream come true.


10. Anything else you'd like to tell my readers? 

Everyone thinks Australia is crawling with mutant, venom-dripping snake/shark hybrids that are poised to strike down foreigners at every turn. It's not true! Forget about all the scaremongering. If you don't believe me, I've compared Australia's deadly animals to the US'. Frankly, the odds are in your favour. I hope this will stop people telling me that they're too scared to visit Australia.

♡♡♡

Thank you Kat for being a guest on my blog! I loved learning more about you, your background and your expat life. Since we're both in California, hopefully we can get together sometime! P.S, I giggled at the "Never make jokes at Customs" because I used to be a CBP Officer (yes, I know it's crazy that I was a federal police officer) and the only reason an officer may seem unamused is because everyone and their brothers would crack jokes! :)        

Want to read other Featured Friends? Click here.  

Want to be the next Featured Friends? The next spot available is May, 2018! Due to overwhelming response on interviews, I now have a section dedicated to bloggers wanting to work with this blog. Click here to find out more.

24 comments

  1. Haha, I love it when you say everyone is too scared to visit Oz! I haven't visited Australia yet and I do plan too, though it is a bit of a joke between us Brits that everything in Oz will kill you! #flyawayfriday

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    1. Bahaha, I feel like it's a bit of a joke between every other country in the entire world. ;)

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  2. Loved this! Kat, I love your blog. I lived as an expat in London for three years so I totally relate! Xx Moira #flyawayfriday

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    1. Awww, thanks Moira :) You made it in London for one year longer than I did! Did you love it?

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  3. So fun to learn more about Kat after following on IG! So funny about thongs. I was an expat as a kid, first in London, and was pretty disappointed the time I turned down biscuits to then learn that I had actually turned down cookies.

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    1. And for me, when I get excited by being offered biscuits, only to find out that they're not cookies ;)
      Ooh, being an expat kid must have added another layer of confusion for you Liana.

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  4. Hey Kat! Loved this interview! So my husband and I lived in Australia for two years and absolutely loved it! I totally can imagine those situations where you are joking yet (us) Americans are like oh no, not having it! I did appreciate the Aussie sense of humor. And I probably started swearing more after working in a cafe there for six months. Swearing just wasn't a big deal. I also love your observations about checks and the cracks in the bathroom stalls! I run an inn sometimes and people still write checks and I'm like, don't you want to earn some credit card points! lol! Great interview! :)

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    1. hahaha, thanks Tiffany, I'm so glad that you understand! I was a little worried that I came off as a bit stuck up with all of that. How did you go in Australia? Were we all a bit too much for you? I hope not.
      I'm glad you mentioned the swearing thing. I had to tone it down so very much when I moved here. It didn't help that I only have brothers and we lived on a farm, so swearing wasn't a huge deal (unless my mum heard, in which case, look out!).
      Yes to the credit card points! It's so strange that you wouldn't use a cc instead of cheques!

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  5. Great interview! I am always shocked at how sweet (and big!!) food is in America as well. Loving this Featured Friends series - I love learning about the people being the blogs!

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    1. (Unfortunately) I'm getting used to the giant servings. Plus I like that you can always take leftovers home for later!

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  6. great Interview!! Now I’m considering becoming an expat! #FlyAwayFriday

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    1. You won't regret it Melina, it's heaps of fun!

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  7. I love reading more about fellow bloggers and I always love reading Kat's blog when I get the chance. #FlyAwayFriday

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  8. It's nice to meet you Kat! Kana featured me on FF last year and I am also an expat :) I live in Paris, France.

    Love seeing that Scotland is your favorite place on earth. I think it's a highly underrated country. I absolutely fell in love with the Isle of Skye there. Have you been? #FlyAwayFriday

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    1. Hey Cherie! It's always nice to meet a fellow expat. And living in Paris must be absolutely amazing.
      I didn't get to visit the Isle of Skye, but I've watched an episode of Grand Designs set there so of course I need to go visit ;)

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  9. It is great to learn more about Kat since I have been following her blog for some time. I get what she says about humor. In here a lot of what you say have to be measured (more when you are in a work environment). Joking a bit can be seen as blunt or insensitive. It is not like that where I come from. We are not afraid of offending people. I am glad my coworkers have a great sense of humor and are on a happy mood most of the time. #FlyAwayFriday

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    1. Thanks Ruth, I love your blog because of the content, but it's just so clean and easy to read as well.
      I'm glad that I'm not the only one to notice that you have to be careful about what you say and where you say it. I definitely have a blunter sense of humour than not.

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  10. I loved reading this interview! I love Kat's point about how exciting and satisfying it is when a place that was once new and strange starts to feel like home. It's also always funny hearing about what sticks out to visitors to the US as being bizarre, too. I love that little reminder that things are different everywhere and no one should assume their way of life is the only one. #flyawayfriday

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    1. Thanks Caity! Hahaha, I'm STILL finding things that are different here than what I'm used to and I've been here for two and a half years. And I think I'm about to find out a tonne more. My boyfriend just proposed to me and I'm already overwhelmed.

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  11. Awesome to read more about you! Snap - I'm a journalist too and I love storytelling, which is why blogging is such a natural step. So jealous you are in SF! I visited for the first time earlier this year - what an incredible place it is!
    What great advice about finding your tribe. Can't stress that enough. I wish I had found my tribe when we were living in Fiji. I didn't quite get there and it certainly made things difficult.

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    1. Hahaha, it seems like a progression for journalists, doesn't it! LOL, there are so many awesome places to visit around the world, I'm sure that you're in an equally awesome place.

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  12. Very cool! My husband is Aussie and he hates having to add tax when buying stuff. (It is the same in Canada!). He also has a sense of humour different from North America haha. I love London and it was a great place to start when you move abroad. We hope to get to San Francisco this year. Based on your posts, it looks awesome. See you this week hopefully on Fly Away Friday! ~Janine xo

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    1. It's such an annoying thing, especially when I think that I've gotten a bargain! Then add tax. Ooh, I hope that you LOVE San Francisco as much as I do. Thanks Janine :)

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