Expat Interviews: Gwen John, An Australian Living in LA

Ex·pa·tri·ate: (n) a person who lives outside their native country.

Each year, CORT Destination Services supports thousands of individuals and families through the challenges inherent in relocating for work. Our Destination Services Consultants help assignees discover great neighborhoods, find the right home, choose the best school, and get settled into their new community with less stress and more confidence.

We occasionally invite an expatriate to share their thoughts about the experience of moving to, and living in, the United States. Our latest Expat Interview is from Gwen John an Australian national living in LA. We hope you find Gwen’s remarks to be both fun and informative. We would love to hear from you. Please share your insights on the expatriate experience in the comments section. Thank you.


Gwen John



Industry that brought you to the U.S.:


Are you alone on this assignment?

No, I’m here with my husband and two kids, who are now 15 & 17. (They were 10 and 12 when we moved).

Is this your first international assignment? If not, where else have you lived?

No. We lived in Shanghai for two years. We repatriated to Sydney for two years, then moved to LA.

Was the decision to move to the U.S. easy or difficult for you and your family?

It was easy—but it wasn’t. Our logic was people have to bust a boiler to get to Hollywood, so if you’re offered the chance you should take it. We had nothing to lose—if we didn’t like it we could just go home! On the other hand it’s hard to leave family and friends behind. We were about to start a major renovation on our family home, but luckily we were able to put that on hold before building started.

What is one American tourist attraction that you have visited?

We’ve done a few, but I suppose being an LA attraction, I should say Disneyland.

What is your favorite American saying or slang word?


What word or saying from your native language do you find yourself using often because it just doesn’t translate well to American English?

Nothing really, as most words and phrases translate. I like to keep my friends on their toes though by using my words for things instead of theirs. For example I say holiday instead of vacation and tracky dacks or jumper instead of sweats or sweatshirt. I also like to throw thongs in there just to get a reaction!

Is there anything that you really miss and can’t find in U.S. stores?

We can buy Tim Tams here now and all the other food we love we stock up on, so we’re fine on that front. I miss everyday white sandwich bread. The American varieties are so sweet and literally last for weeks, so I hate to think about the preservatives they put in it. I miss good old Baker’s Delight (Aussie peeps will understand!).

What is your favorite American food?

That is probably the toughest question I have ever been asked! I mean America isn’t exactly known for its cuisine.

Fill in the blank. Americans are:

Very friendly, welcoming people.

Sometimes I wish Americans:

Weren’t so politically correct. Sometimes you have to peel back several layers before you get to the essence of people and what they think.

What has surprised you (good or bad) about life in the U.S.?

How easy it is to shop from home: online shopping is the best.

The best thing about being an expatriate is:

Travelling, getting to know a country really well and making new friends.

The worst thing about being an expatriate is:

Feeling like a duck out of water: you’re familiar with the surroundings and you can survive, but it’s not quite home.

If you could relocate anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’d like to go back to Asia. I’ve always wanted to do a stint in the Philippines. I’d also be happy to move to London for a couple of years.

Imagine that a good friend just called to tell you that he/she has accepted an assignment in the U.S. What advice might you have for them as they prepare to relocate?

Think really carefully about it. Healthcare is a nightmare here, so make sure you’ve researched your benefits before making a decision. Also look at the place—America is so different. Even in LA you have a number of different experiences depending on where you live. America can remind you of what you see on TV, but it’s also really different. Don’t commit without visiting and speaking to people whom you trust in the town/city you’re moving to.

Last thoughts:

Being an Expat is the greatest gift you can get, but it isn’t without its sacrifices. Sometimes you lose sight of your identity and you never quite belong anywhere—you’re a visitor to your host country and you’re different when you’re at home.

If you’d like to find out more about Gwen and her life in LA, check out her blog: http://itstartedinla.com/