Reader Questions 2: Electric Boogaloo

You've called the request line. How may I direct your call?
You’ve called the request line. How may I direct your call?

Well gang, the hits keep coming. You sure are a curious lot! Which I’m pretty stoked about. Anyway here are a bunch more of your questions and my long-contemplated responses.

First up, one from old high school mate Karen via Facebook:

The States are well renowned for cheap clothing, and things like eating out (as you mentioned) but they are also renowned for their very low minimum wage. In comparison to Australia’s cost of living versus our higher wages, do you find it comparable? And what things, if any, do you find overpriced?

Fair question Kaz. I knew coming over here that my salary would be WAY less than it was at home (it’s well under half), but I also pay half for rent and utilities per month than I did in Australia. Obviously my salary would probably be higher in bigger cities, but then so would my rent. But in a bigger city I’d have access to public transport, which means less money for gas/less need to drive everywhere.

My salary now is definitely livable – I have some money after bills/groceries/rent/gas every week to enjoy myself, AND I can put a little bit away in savings – so based on what I earn, things aren’t the “noticeably cheaper” that I’m used to because I’m now earning US dollars. They’re just affordable based on my wage. I believe the cost of living is slightly higher in Maine than other places, and the average wage is lower (citations needed).

So in short, I guess my sample size is a little small right now, and it’s going to differ depending on where I end up living and in what circumstances. In bigger cities I’d more likely be sharing an apartment with someone, for financial and social reasons, but in Augusta it’s not as much of an option to share a place. So living elsewhere I might have a higher salary, smaller rent and more disposable cash and feel the everyday expenditures of “living” are more reasonable, but for now it’s kinda even I guess!

And some things that aren’t comparatively cheaper, real quick: Gym (still paying $40 a month, same as back home), car insurance ($92 a month, probably more expensive than I’d pay for comprehensive back home), cable TV (same shit as home, one should have expected that).

Another high school mate, this time Tim:

How do the Yanks handle your filthy Australian potty mouth?

You’re one to talk! This actually inspired a full post of its own. Basically,  I pick my spots: Friday night at the bar with guys my age? Swear away, guv’ner. Speaking with a colleague in her 50s who I’ve known for three months and had four conversations with in that time period? I’ll watch my tongue very closely.

In saying that, working in newsrooms is basically where I learnt to swear (also, shout-out to Myer Brookside’s dock boys), so in a way it’s a part of the culture of the job. I’M A PRODUCT OF MY ENVIRONMENT OKAY?

Americans are quite polite as their default setting (save for the stereotype about Californians and New Yorkers) so I try to keep it toned down as much as possible when I’m around relative strangers. People I know better, though, get the uncensored version.

This one’s from reader Shaun, who I decidedly did not go to high school with.

I’m from S.A., so would love to know if you’ve bumped into any South Africans there

As a matter of fact I have, although only one at this stage. His name’s Francois (very Seth Efrican) and he’s married to a local girl who works with a friend of mine. He invited me to play cricket with him and some of his mates this summer, which is about as familiar as it gets, so I better start rolling the old shoulder over.

And finally, one from newspaper reader Ann who’s just stumbled across this nightmare of a blog.

 I am curious about your Australian family. What did you give up to come to Maine on this big adventure? How and why did you choose Maine?

My mum, dad and sister all live back in Brisbane, as do an aunt and a few cousins that I’m particularly close to. I also had to give up a great relationship with a girl when I moved out here, but I’m lucky that we’re still good friends and she’s been a big part of my support network a lot since I’ve relocated. And thanks to favorable time differences and a good internet connection, I can keep in touch fairly easily with family and friends via Skype or FaceTime.

As for how did I choose Maine? I didn’t – it chose me. I sent out a lot of job applications between August and November (a LOT) for positions all over the U.S., and the Kennebec Journal was the one of three that ever called back. One, in west Texas, was looking for someone less qualified (and willing to take less money), and the other one, in Colorado, never got in touch again after the initial interview.

I interviewed with the KJ the day after Thanksgiving, organized a visit to Augusta the following Monday, then by Thursday I had a job offer. The role seemed like it was written for me, and the team was a really good fit, so I decided to take it. Augusta (and indeed Maine) is very different to where I grew up, and a lot smaller, but I’m enjoying the challenges and opportunities presented by the contrast.

That’s all for this round of interrogations, gang. As always, I’m happy to be able to answer questions and points of curiosity if you’ve got them, so send ’em in!


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