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Rita Azar, Melbourne

Who are you?

Hello everyone! I’m Rita and I’m French Canadian, born and raised in Montréal. I also have a Lebanese background. My first language is French and I also speak Arabic. I studied law and practiced as a criminal lawyer for four years in Canada. But, a trip to Italy in 2006 changed my life. I met an Australian man who, later, became my husband. I blog at The Crafty Expat about my love for words, my many hobbies and my life as an expat in Melbourne.Where, when and why did you move abroad?

After having a long distance relationship for a few years, my husband and I got engaged in February 2009. This is when the long process with the immigration started. I received my prospecting marriage visa in December 2010 and moved to Australia permanently. I married in March 2010 and had a spouse visa for two years; then, a permanent residency for just over two years and, after doing the Australian Citizenship exam, I received my Australian Citizenship in May 2014.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The most difficult thing was to learn English. I had only basic skills in this language and I couldn’t express myself fluently. I was always struggling to find my words. It was very frustrating. I decided to do some English courses and it made my life much easier!

Another challenge I faced was to find friends. I didn’t know anyone in Australia other than my husband’s family. I had to put myself out there and engage with different groups and that was not an easy thing to do. But, it all paid off at the end and I have connected with amazing people who became friends.

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Another challenge I faced was finding work. My studies and my experience as a lawyer were not recognised. I had to do my courses all over again if I wanted to be able to practice in Australia. I decided against going back to Uni to study law and I completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism instead. Studying journalism was a long lifelong dream of mine.

How did you find somewhere to live?

This was the easy part as I moved in the lovely house my husband already owned.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Heaps! I’m so lucky to live in a suburb that is very multicultural. There are many different types of cuisines and shops.

There is also a French Canadian Group in Melbourne where we can meet people, share about where we come from and speak French.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Great! It also improved a lot since I can express myself better in English. I live in a beautiful street and have amazing and very helpful neighbours.

What do you like about life where you are?

I like Melbourne for so many reasons. First, it does get cold in winter but it’s nothing compare to the harsh winter I experienced in Canada. I enjoy the weather very much. I love that the beach is only about half an hour away. I adore the fact that Melbourne is such a vibrant, artistic and cultural city where there is always something interesting happening.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I think all expat would answer the same thing to this question, being far from my family and my friends. The trip from Canada to Australia takes about 22h. It’s not everyone who can afford the time and money to come and visit. I find it difficult missing out on milestones like weddings and christenings. I can’t share the ups and downs of everyday life with my family and friends. Sometimes, I also miss the streets of Montreal very much.

But, I’m happy with my choices and my new life Down Under.

And, thank God for Facebook, Skype, Tango and all the other ways to stay in touch!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

It’s very difficult to answer this question because Australia and Canada are very similar in the way people live and think.

Perhaps I can say the Australian slang and accent. There are expressions I still don’t understand! For example, I remember when my husband said the first time: “Will put some snags on the barbie.” What!

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

I found that this is just the same than back in Montréal.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

As I said, I love that Melbourne is so multicultural and that there are so many types of food we can chose from.

Huge dislike: Vegemite! Seriously how can anyone eat that!

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

When you decide to travel to live permanently in a new country, it is very important to sit down and think why you are doing it, what will be the radical changes in your life and what do you expect for your future in your new country.

If after weighing the pros and cons you decide to move abroad, keep your doors open to possibilities. No one will give you something just because you made a huge change in your life and you will have to put yourself out there and go for what you want.

Moving abroad can be very challenging but, also, very rewarding. Don’t look back even if you face difficulties.

Remember the reasons why you decided to move and stick with them.

What are your plans for the future?

Moving permanently to Australia has allowed me to rediscover my passion for writing and my dream of being a published author so, I’m now editing my manuscript to, hopefully, be able to publish it.

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