This is one of those "suggest what to write about" things. Suggestions are still open.
Have you ever considered living overseas? Where would you like to live, if not Sydney?
Yes, several times. The two times I came closest were when I was considering applying to do a PhD at the University of Edinburgh (one of the leading computational linguistics centres), and when I applied for an internship at Microsoft Research in Beijing, although that would have just been for a season. I was turned down for the internship, the first was more complicated and more typical of my approach to this whole issue.
I have a serious answer to this and something more fluffy below it!Serious answer
At the moment I am actively considering whether to move to the United States, specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area. That for what are basically obvious reasons. One is convenience: Andrew currently works for Google which is headquartered there and while arranging an internal transfer wouldn't be a slam dunk, it's certainly a well-trod path. It's also a really obvious place for both
of us to work, him because it's one of the major software centres of the world, and me because of that and it being one of the major geek feminism centres of the world. In addition to my Ada Initiative co-founder vaurora
and our staff member being there, it's where Double Union
is, it's where the Model View Culture
co-founders are and so on. I'll probably talk about this a bit more in answer to cavlec
's question. My involvement in that scene has corresponded to an extent with the decline of my involvement in academia and in the Australian free software scene, which means that it is increasingly where my people are professionally.
Even aside from career issues, I also have a large number of friends in the Bay Area. When I was there in July 2012, I invited people I knew to meet me for dinner and it ended up being, I think, about 14 people. I do know more than 14 people in Sydney, but getting 14 people to dinner here would not be trivial. So at a personal level, it's also increasingly where my people are.
So what's stopping me? There's a few things. Well, right now, I have an 8 week old baby, so it's not a short term thing in any case. But what's stopping me from declaring that as of, say, January 2016, I aim to be living in the Bay Area?
Obviously, also it's not just my decision, and it won't be for a long long time. (It would actually be even worse if my marriage broke up, as the custody agreements for our children would inhibit us relocating, so basically until our children are adults Andrew and I probably need to live in at least the same city.) But you didn't pose this question to Andrew and me jointly, so I'll answer for me and ignore the nuclear family issue from here. But Andrew's separate desires are one answer.
There's a few general issues with moving anywhere
: first, moving is bogus; second, being an expat is really hard; and third, family.
Moving is just so hard
. Andrew and I moved halfway across Sydney at the beginning of 2012 and we were in a slough of despond for quite some time afterwards. It's a ton of work and it's totally unsatisfying for its own sake: at the end of it, you are still living more or less the same way, in different rooms. This sounds trivial to me writing it out, but if I had a choice between reliving January 2012 (moving) or April & May 2012 (writing 100 pages of my PhD thesis in 6 weeks), I would choose April & May. If I had a choice between January 2012 and Januaries 2010 and 2014 (the months my babies were newborns), I would choose 2010 and 2014. If I had a choice between January 2012 and September 2012 (when I was hospitalised with severe cellulitis)… OK, I'd go with January then. But it is impossible for me to state how strongly I despise moving and how much work I find it to be and even if I did state it, I'm sure I'm underestimating it by at least a factor of three.
Meanwhile, on the subject of being an expat, here's a quote from me to someone else, today:
I think people seriously underrate the expat-ness of being an expat between Anglosphere countries.
It's a big decision, to go somewhere where I will always be a foreigner. (Yes, many hundreds of millions of people who have done this. Even so.) Where I will always not quite get it. Where my heart will probably never quite fully reside.
Finally, my family is here. My parents and my in-laws live just far enough away that it's not really a day trip, so we don't see them nearly as often as we might, but if we moved overseas, we'd be down to at most twice a year. My parents are not elderly and they will likely live to see my children become adults (as my own grandparents did me, albeit barely in one case) but even so.
As regards the US decision specifically, I'm also not sure I want to live in the US in general (as opposed to the Bay Area in particular), or want my children to be adults there by default. I obviously don't know everything there is to know about it, but specifically, healthcare and education concern me. I'd rather not have my children start off their young adulthood at risk of high levels of medical or student debt and at present in Australia they'd be at lower risk of it.
Australia has problems, but I know them better.
But then… on the flipside, who knows what Australia will be like in 2032, the year Lexi will be 18? (For people who've read karenhealey
's When We Wake
, I think Tegan is Vincent's age, so you can definitely think of Lexi as the far future for now.) Sovereign risk and world-historical-moment risk, it is a thing.
Returning to the Edinburgh thing for a second: similar issues held me back on that. I was happy enough to not want to do the work and take the risk of that move.Fluffy answer
As I write this tonight, we are in the process of assembling the identity documents needed to acquire Latvian citizenship (by right of descent from exiles) for Andrew and his children. Latvia is an EU country, and at present citizenship thus conveys residency and work rights to them (and to me, if I'm living with any of them, the EU is quite generous in this respect).
We're not seriously considering moving to Europe at all — although Google's offices in either London or Zürich would not be a totally left-field transfer for Andrew — but it does invite me to make a list of places in Europe I could picture emigrating to.
London: I wouldn't be thrilled about it (although only because I spent all of about two gloomy days there a decade ago), but in some ways it's almost Andrew's second city. He doesn't actually like it terribly either, but he's been there on what has to be five or six separate work trips, so in a weird way it's almost like a default second home.
Edinburgh: I'm assured it's hella gloomy in winter, but I've only visited in summer. What a great city. One of my favourite places in the world.
You'll note those are both (presently…
) in the UK. I'd be reluctant to move to any non-English speaking country without significant lead time to do intensive study of the local dominant language, and it's hard to picture anyone at the other end who'd want me enough to say "sure, move here, and for your first three months, go to fulltime language school". So it's hard to come up with places I'd realistically plan on moving to. I'd want to travel more first. Non-English speaking countries I've travelled to are France, Germany (for one night only though), Spain, the Czech Republic and Thailand. I liked them all but none of them grabbed me by the throat and screamed "homeland!" I can say I'd be reluctant to live in Bangkok specifically.
I'd also very seriously consider moving to New Zealand — which I have the right to do, as an Australian — for the right job. That would probably mean living in Wellington, on which I can't really comment because I've only spent one night there in my life and most of that was in a bar. (Seemed fine!) But I've spent about three weeks on the South Island and it is stunning. If I was aiming for a rural-ish life (I'm not), I'd move there.
In Australia itself, my favourite non-Sydney city is Melbourne. (I wouldn't say I prefer either Sydney or Melbourne to the other, at this time.) I can imagine living happily enough in most of the state capitals and the bigger non-capitals like Newcastle, although not so much more happily that I am champing at the bit to move to any of them right now.