When I first moved to Australia in 2012, a lot of things were hard. I didn’t know up from down. I didn’t have friends. I have written before about culture shock and feeling homesick. This all gets easier with time. But there are some things that don’t ease up, at least, not if you have ties to your homeland like I do. These are three things that suck about being an expat.
Australia is almost always late to the party
The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu on 26 April 2017. It became available in Australia in July. The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway in March 2011. It opened in Australia at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre in January 2017. Swedish company Spotify launched in the US in 2011 and in Australia a year later. New FDA-approved drugs, generics, and devices can take 2-5 years to reach the Australian market. Netflix Australia doesn’t have even half the content of Netflix US. Want to get your hands on the Xiaomi Mi A1 or a OnePlus mobile phone? Too bad, Australia.
Across a variety of sectors – fashion, technology, medicine, entertainment – Australia gets things months, even years, later. The reasons are varied and complex, but the bottom line is: it sucks. I want to see and discuss the latest episode of whatever or the latest piece of technology when the rest of the world is engaging with it, not months later.
Case in point: Equifax.
Equifax is a consumer credit reporting agency. It collects and aggregates personal and financial information on millions of consumers and business. For example, your birth date, driver license number, Social Security number, everywhere you’ve lived, every place you’ve worked, every credit card and loan you’ve hard. You don’t choose to be a customer of Equifax and you can’t opt out.
In September 2017, Equifax announced that they failed to patch a security hole several months prior and cybercriminals accessed the personal data of approximately 145.5 million consumers in the US, UK, and Canada. They forgot to mention Australia.
Consumers were encouraged to visit the Equifax website to learn whether they were affected. I was geo-blocked. That is, I was blocked from the site based on my geographic location. I used a virtual private network (VPN) to get around this and learned that I may have been affected by the breach. The next step was to order my credit report from Equifax and the other big two credit reporting agencies. I wasn’t able to because proof of identity is tied to a US address.
So, a major US company that I did not choose to do business with failed to secure my personal and financial data. Further, it prevents me from trying to gauge the damage and protect myself because it just didn’t occur to them that some Americans live overseas, just as it didn’t seem to occur to them to patch that security hole. Good job, guys.
Being a citizen of the world isn’t really a thing
Governments and businesses don’t know what to do with you if you’re not staying put in one place. See the Equifax example above. Another example is 2-step verification. Also known as two-factor authentication, this is a security measure in which a code is sent to your phone before you can access an account. In 2015, when I travelled to the US, I put a temporary, local sim card on my mobile phone. Do you know what happens when I tried to access an Aussie account and the company sent me that SMS code? I didn’t get it. You can work around this, of course. It’s just one of many little things that you take for granted until you’re faced with it. Measures that are supposed to protect you and make things faster and easier quickly become an inconvenience.
These are not problems specifically with being an American expat in Australia. Other expats and frequent travellers experience similar challenges. Australians also express frustrations with our technological infrastructures and access to entertainment and medicines. People move and travel and do business abroad, and the Internet created a global network that has allowed money, ideas, and culture to flow. Now we have to wait for governments and businesses to catch up.