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G'Day USA 2018 Gala
Celebrity, Posts

G’Day USA Gala the best event in LA

By an (Australian) country mile (or should that be kilometre?) G’Day USA Gala in LA is the best event in LA. Bar none. Well maybe except if I was nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe. Actually probably not even.

There’s something so comfortable about Australians that make them (us!) so easy–and fun– to be around.  I’m not sure if Americans share that opinion but I think they might.

Take the G’Day USA Gala here in LA. Held around Australia Day every year it symbolises the union and mateship between America and Australia over the years. Not only do we bring our best actors and performers over (Margot Robbie was honoured this year), we also bring chefs (Curtis Stone who really is more than just the spunky Coles guy) and great business people (eg Mr H).

AusFilm

The G’Day USA Gala in LA not only showcases and honours our great talent (mainly in entertainment) but it encourages American investment and partnerships in Australia. That’s basically how I get my guernsey–by the Australian government and organisations like AusFilm encouraging companies like Mr H’s to invest more in Australia or bring their productions to Australia.

What does it mean to be Australian?

I’ve been to a few awards shows now. I love them but there’s something so different about this one.  The schedule is jam-packed as are the awards shows (you don’t go to catch up with the people on your table) but the program is so much more fun and engaging.  And just a little bit more low key whilst maintaining its pizzaz and hoopla.  Take for example Rebel Wilson singing a duet with the very fun Hugh Sheridan.  It’s a classy number and well performed then you look down and see Rebel has her shoes off.  Clearly those shoes were far from comfortable.

Speeches

Part of what it means to be Australian is finding a very comfortable place being self-deprecating–and to hang shit on others.  When honouring Big Little Lies “other” Producer (we met her on stage during the Golden Globes but many not in the know wondered who she was) Bruna Papandrea, Isla Fisher gave the best speech.

You can only describe her words, spoken truly eloquently and from the heart, as magically Australian:

“Audiences would know Bruna had Reese or Nicole ever once given her the microphone.”

Then, “I get the shit movies and I still have to give the speech‎.”

I mean, priceless! That there is what we mean by being very Australian.  And I love it.

And a little video clip that sums up what we feel to be Australian–same same but oh so different!

The Lucky Country

I think Margot Robbie summed it up best:

“I moved to America seeking more opportunities, I bought a house here, I started a business here, I had found prosperity and success in this country.

“I’m sure many Aussies in the room know that in school we’re taught that Australia is the lucky country, and it is… but we’re also taught that the United States of America is the land of opportunity, and I’ve always thought if it that way.”

“As a girl from the lucky country living in the land of opportunity, I can say with absolute certainty, when you have opportunity collide with luck, incredible things can happen.”

(Thanks to Variety for the quote as I was too busy enjoying to scribe!)

Whenever people ask me if we’re staying here in the US they’re shocked when I say no.  It’s because we are from the lucky country and we don’t have to escape to have a better life. I love my Australian life. But what I haven’t been able to properly articulate is what Margot Robbie so eloquently put it: we are given an opportunity here in the US and we’ll make the most of that opportunity given we’ve been given some good fortune and opportunity.

Changing Tune

While we had Jess Mauboy performing, Delta and Human Nature that’s not what I’m talking about!

With Mr H away in India I was lucky enough to “freeload” with a friend whose fiance was off with Mr H in India.  None of us thought anything of it–I got to go to my fave event, Mr MGM got to go with someone with his special person being away (me!) and Mr H didn’t have to feel bad that I would miss out on the event.

But oh the reaction from the Americans was hysterical. They were almost embarrassed we were there together.  A little chuckle from one couple, a little red-faced was another and the smirks and giggles as we might have been “swinging” was mentioned.

“And they’re OK with it?”

“Of course they are, they enabled it!” I said somewhat surprised at their reactions.

More awkward laughter.  I almost felt like I was doing something wrong then.  We’re friends with no ulterior motive, no Hollywood sleaze or miss intentions yet I felt like eyes were on us.

It was, needless to say, very strange indeed.

Oh, did someone say Jess Mauboy? Yeah, here’s a little selfie we took:

 

I Still Call Australia Home

If we were write a post, though, on the differences between Australians and Americans it would have to be the ending.  So very LA!

The Americans are out the door rushing to valet as soon as our second national anthem is playing. If they’re lucky they’ll beat the queues and get out of there ahead of the others.

The Australians are pouring another glass of wine and singing proudly with the celebs, politicians and diplomats up on the stage ready to party on at the after-party.  Yep, the fun is only getting started as everyone–celebs, politicians and all–are headed to the after party.

I’ve posted a few moments on my Instagram story and preserved them as a highlight so hop on and relive it with me!

Oh yeah, Michelle was in that one

Unlike Awards Shows’ after parties there is no second red carpet or necessary outfit change, it’s time to let your hair down.  Apart from a couple of big names (deeply disappointed Margot Robbie didn’t party on but I did hear she wasn’t feeling well) everyone was up on the dance floor and having fun catching up.

Not one to shy away from the action I had a lovely catch up with Kim Ledger (Heath’s father who took the Lifetime Achievement award for the late, great Heath Ledger). As we were talking I had this surreal moment when I was describing what Mr H does.  I explained he (well not he “he” but he he) was responsible for putting Christopher Plummer in the place of Kevin Spacey for the movie “All the Money in the World.” Struggling to come up with the name though I said, you know, the J Paul Getty movie, something money. His reply was, oh yes, Michelle was in that one. Doh. Of course, Michelle Williams, that Michelle, no one much. Oh LA!

But we were chatting away being perfectly normal.

You’re The Voice

Then there was the finale as the whole crowd was singing, “You’re the Voice” by John Farnham.  In groups we stood side-by-side singing at the top of our lungs. I didn’t see that at the Golden Globes After Party.

No sir, Australians love to party and don’t mind letting their hair down. They’re not too important to be singing and interacting with anyone who wants and it all makes for a mighty fine evening.

G’Day USA Gala in LA

It was the same last year.

And I hope to find out it will be the same next year too!

Maybe I’ll find an Australian designer to “dress me” next year.

xx It Started in LA xx

Here are some write-ups in the Australian press on the event:

Herald-Sun

SMH

Red Carpet thanks to Vogue

 

The last time we celebrated Australia Day
My LA story, Posts

The last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA

Do you celebrate Australia Day in LA? Did I tell you about the first and the last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA? It was a doozy.  So much so that it was about four years ago.  Each year I think about holding another Australia Day party and each year I get cold feet.

This year is no different.  Given it falls on a Friday I asked my son if he wanted to have some mates over to celebrate Australia Day. I had it all planned in my head.

Drinks

Drinks are easy: Australian beer, Australian wine and Australian soft drink (that would be “soda” to you Americans and “pop” to you Brits.

Fortunately I was sent some Bundaberg Ginger Beer from my now best mates over at Bundaberg (keep them coming guys!).  So I had the drinks covered, not just from the soft drink side but Bundaberg Ginger Beer (synonymous in our house by the generic name of just “Ginger Beer”–in other words there is no other ginger beer) makes the best Moscow Mules. Like EVER!  Tick.

Food

Also very easy–although much easier when my mates Garlo’s was in town. (Taking a minute’s silence to mourn their loss).

So a simple Barbie–snags (sausages) in bread for the kiddos and some prawns (shrimp) for the grown ups. Throw in some mini pies and sausage rolls to start with and I’ll bet you’re salivating right now.

Of course there would be pavlova and Tim Tams for dessert and if everyone was lucky we’d break open the stash of party mix.  What wouldn’t be on the menu is breaking open our (very small and sacred) stash of Violet Crumbles.  What would be even more mouth-wateringly scrumptious would be to break open some Golden Gaytimes. How I wish we could package them up and bring them home with us.

For those of you not in the know, Gaytimes are the most divine ice-creams you can buy–the epitome of heaven on a stick.

Side note for my Aussie mates. Did you know Wonderpies in Melbourne has a Golden Gaytime Pie? Seriously. Seriously. When I head home again I’ve got them lined up to send me a few.  I hear they’re bloody good.

Golden Gaytime Pies

Golden Gaytime Pies

Sidenote two, we got very excited to see some product growth in the Gaytime family to the Gaytime Cornettos–Gaynetto for short.

Oh ‘Straylia you’re the best #pc #gaynetto #itsok #tryitnow

A post shared by Gwenny John (@spunkygwenny) on

 

Themeing

Back to the would-be party. Obviously the theming was covered. I brought over Australia Day flags and other paraphernalia when we moved over so one flag as the tablecloth and another flag flying proudly and a bit of blue & white colouring to finish it all off.

So with everything set to go in my mind it’d be great to celebrate where we’re from and share a lot of love from Australia.  So what went so wrong last time we had an Australia Day party?

The last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA

It’s a good story. And perhaps enough dust has settled for me to be able to pick myself up off the floor and tell it. I was reminded of it last Friday night at a dinner party where we played out the events with friends that were also there that day.

The stage was set

We’d been here in LA about six months so our social circle was growing. It was time to invite some of our mates over to the house.  My son asked if he could invite a couple of other mates over. “Of course,” I answered in delight. “Let’s invite the parents too.”

So everyone came along. It was mid afternoon on Sunday–rare for here in LA so I must have got everyone on a good weekend. I made party pies and sausage rolls. We were all excited. That was actually the first slip up although I seemed to get away with it. There are a lot of Jewish folk here in LA with a good percentage of my friends Jewish and I forgot all about the fact I was making sausage rolls from pork sausage meat. Rooky mistake, plenty more food no worries.

Everything was going swimmingly

We were pouring wine, chatting and having a lovely Sunday afternoon.  It actually–in one of those small world LA type stories–turned out that three of our guests at some point in their lives went to the same boarding school outside London.  They weren’t in the same year but there was crossover for sure and we’re talking one party, three guests, one boarding school.  In England.  I mean boarding school isn’t even that common here let alone in England.

Conversation was flowing, we were getting to know new friends and life was good.  Australian music playing in the background and everyone was having fun.

The Slap

No, not The Slap. That’s another famous Australian BBQ that didn’t end well.  It may not have been the actual slap but it sort of felt like it.

Our house in Beverly Hills was on a hill and the house was carved into the hill so if you imagine our backyard was a hill.  It wasn’t nicely terraced or landscaped so it could be played on but from time to time there would be some hill play.

This wasn’t hill play. One of the boys apparently ran up the hill and hid in the bushes.  Everyone (his parents and the boys) were looking for him and he wasn’t coming out.  The kids knew it was up there so we could smell a rat–someone wasn’t happy.  Oops.

Long story short there was an altercation with his little brother. I was so nervous one of the kids did something to upset him.  Well it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Although the kids didn’t know they did anything. We suspect he didn’t like my son meeting new mates and including him.  But that’s what we do back home–the more the merrier.

Extraction

So the dad, in his fine Gucci shoes and Ralph Lauren Polo shirt tucked into his beautiful designer jeans (with matching Gucci belt) had to go up the hill and pull a great big extraction in front of a huge crowd of onlookers.  We were worried for the kid, it wasn’t like it was normal behaviour.  I mean it was not a good look for our party either.  Welcome to 90210 you’ve just upset people.  Oops.

The beginning of the end

Yeah, it was basically the last time we hung out with that family in any real way. I think there were casual Sunday drinks that didn’t last long.  And, it could have just been me but I think the parents might have been doing their best to be really obnoxious so we wouldn’t want to hang out with them anyway.

The next I heard some mutual friends were catching up with them and the word was the mum said, “let’s just catch up the two families,” as they hadn’t done anything with the two of them for a while and they just needed to catch up.

So that was it. Six months in and one friendship gone.

One door closes another one opens

The funniest thing was that ending of a friendship–if you could call it that–opened up so many more doors for me.  People whom I first met and thought I was nice were curious onlookers because they thought it was odd I was friends with this family.  Apparently I missed a couple of warnings but I’m glad I did. I don’t (didn’t) mind finding out for myself.

It turns out that they find it hard to keep friends.  I remember at the time being quite down in the dumps about it. It was a bit too early to be losing friends and was it me? Was I not cut out to live the 90210 life?

It turns out I was. I just needed to experience a little Real Housewives of Beverly Hills action before I could tell the tale.

(And in case you’re wondering those mutual friends aren’t friends with them either. Oops.)

Happy Australia Day guys and remember if you’re out and about pick up a pack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer. And if you see them a packet of Tim Tams!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS:  If you want tips on how to celebrate Australia Day in LA my mate at Bright Lights of America wrote a great guide. Cheers.

 

PPS: Yes, Bundaberg sent me some samples of Ginger Beer so this post is sponsored by them. Having said that it is no word of a lie our fave ginger beer so thanks again to the good folk over there.

Do you sell everything and rebuy it in LA or ship it all over?
Moving to LA, Posts

Do you sell everything in Australia and rebuy it in LA or ship it over?

It’s a great question: do you sell everything in Australia and rebuy it in LA or ship it over? You’ve decided to take the plunge and live the dream. Or maybe, like us, you get an opportunity offered to you on a silver platter. “You’re moving to Hollywood.” Who wouldn’t want to be moved to Hollywood when others are busting their chops to crash on someone’s couch just to live out their dream?

This is one of the topics being debated on a really handy resource and Facebook Group Australians in LA so I thought I’d pool the responses together, give you my two cent’s worth and put it up on the pedestal that is It Started in LA for all to see.  I don’t think the answer is as straight forward as it seems: like everything you have to do what feels right for your circumstances.

Selling everything in Australia

I remember when eBay first started I would collect my baby’s clothes that didn’t fit them anymore, bundle them together and get a pretty good price for them.  We’re not talking baby’s clothes now (Apple Watch 1.0 and old Beats) but I struggle to selling anything on eBay anymore that’s worth my time listing it and taking it to the Post Office to ship.  I still have an eBay pile but just don’t quite get around to listing them.

It’s not to say you can’t sell it and it’s not to say you won’t get at least something for your stuff.

Then there’s Tradingpost.com.au. I found I had slightly better luck with that site for a time. Same with gumtree.com.au  But that was around five years ago. Things change.

I lilsted our Dining Table & chairs and no one, I mean no one wanted it.  I tried every avenue.  I think the problem with Ikea and similar places is that people can get something that looks good brand new so they don’t want second-hand stuff.  I ended up bringing them to an Auction House and getting pittance for it there.

Cars

Our cars were even harder to sell.  The convertible went to an Auction house and my treasured and most loved Audi Q7 was handed to a friend who sold it for me.  The new owner ended up getting a one-way flight from Melbourne to Sydney and driving the car back again.  Seems they’re more expensive on the second hand market in Melbourne. Go figure!

The thought of buying a car again at Australian prices when we go home makes me sick to my stomach.

Rebuying in LA

It’s true things in LA (and the US in general) are cheaper than Australia.  But you still have to buy everything full price.  Unless you’re prepared to buy everything second hand.

As one active user on the Facebook group, Paulina, said, “I think it depends on your personal situation–we moved the whole family including kids. When you sell stuff you get peanuts for it and to buy everything–even though it’s cheaper it’s still a lot. Don’t forget you’ll be buying all electricals, kitchen equipment, all electrical. Most rentals come with fridges and washing machines.”

But then, as another person in the group said, “Always loads of stuff going cheap on Aussies in LA.”

And another confirmed, “just get everything new here and throw/sell/donate everything non-essential in Sydney–unless it has major major sentimental value it won’t be worth it, it’ll cost you a lot in transport and/or storage costs. LA is a transient city people are always selling their stuff cheap online you’ll be fine, seriously.”

Flea Markets

It seems this group love the Rose Bowl flea market, the first Sunday of every month in Pasadena.  After a couple of false starts I still haven’t gone.

“Also check out the Rosebowl flea markets for great furniture. We bought an awesome table and a console there. Often they’ll deliver for a small fee,” according to Liv.

Katrina also chimed in, “Sell it and start a new. Go to the Rose Bowl market and get inspired!”

For more on vintage stuff and the flea markets check my blog here.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing

Then there’s the benefit of hindsight from Sara, “There is always the chance you will move back. Sell the big stuff and see if you can store the smaller stuff with a relative. Then buy stuff here.

“We moved back and forth and really regretted selling all our stuff. It sucked having to rebuy everything. In hindsight, I wish we had hired a storage unit.”

Hindsight is great Sara, the problem is you never know how your experience is going to end up

We put stuff in storage like our fridge, washing machine and dryer and other electrical appliances we weren’t going to be able to use.  We did this mainly because we thought we’d be 2-3 years tops and we couldn’t get much money for selling them but to rebuy is hugely expensive.  Four and a half years later I dread that storage invoice!

If only we all had a Magic 8 Ball that actually worked!

Budgeting to rebuy everything new in LA

Don’t forget the wattage is different here in the US (110v) as it is in Australia (240v). One person on the Facebook page said the converters don’t really work that well but I bought a really good one (bulky but good) and my Thermomix works a treat.

You should also check the power supply as some items are now compatible with both voltages so it pays to check.

Here’s a breakdown of some “necessities” you’ll need/we bought when we arrived.  Yep, it all adds up! Don’t forget to add tax. That’s 10% (OK 9% but you get it) here in LA so don’t forget about that!

Microwave

Oster 1.3 Cu. Ft. 1100 Watt Microwave Oven from Target   $89.99

TV (let’s say one but we ended up buying a couple)

Samsung – 55″ Class (54.6″ Diag.) – LED – 2160p – Smart – 4K Ultra HD TV from Best Buys  $499.99

Vacuum cleaner

BISSELL® PowerTrak Compact Upright Vacuum Cleaner in Black/Lime from Bed, Bath and Beyond  $69.99*

* Hot tip: save those Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off Coupons for good savings

Toaster

Stainless Steel 2-Slice Toaster also from Bed, Bath and Beyond for  $19.99

Sandwich maker

Cuisinart® Sandwich Grill at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $19.99

Hand mixer

KitchenAid – KHM512IC Ultra Power 5-Speed Hand Mixer – Ice Blue from Best Buys (price matched) for $31.99

Hairdryer

I chose a Conair® Infiniti Pro Hair Dryer – Orange for $24.99.

Total spent on these items is $756.93  plus tax ($68.12) equals $825.05 and not including shipping.  Many places ship for free when you spend over a certain amount so that’s not a big deal.

Also, if you are Australian you might want to buy a coffee machine, here’s a Nespresso machine for $199 plus tax with free shipping.

Most rentals come with a fridge, washing machine & dryer.  Some even come with a microwave, but not that many.

That’s the electrics taken care of. There are lots of furniture shops around and there is the biggest Ikea in nearby Burbank–every Expat family’s favourite must-do store!

Ship it over

This is the category we belong to. Mr H’s company paid for our move and, after having our things in storage while we were in Shanghai, we jumped at the chance to have our own stuff with us.

That’s not the case for others though. One person, Clare, on the Facebook group said, “I didn’t bring anything over, and I was glad, houses here are different styles and none of my furniture would have suited the house we moved into.

“Even though we had a Company paying for our items to be shipped, we went back to them and negotiated an allowance of the same amount as they were willing to pay to ship to buy all new.”

Great tip according to another Facebook group user, Liv, who said, “One other tip is to use Jetta which is excess baggage–we packed up all our artwork in doonas and bedding and it worked a charm. Jetta are very reasonable, pick up your boxes, weigh them and then everything arrived a few days after our flight.”

[Ed: I’ve never heard of Jetta so will definitely look it up. Could be a sponsor for this page ;).]

How much does it cost to ship it over?

According to Alan, “We moved over in March last year (2017) from Sydney to LA. We used Santa Fe, they were great, cost around $15,000 for 3/4 of a 40 foot container.

Lori said, “If you shop around and do some investigating, we got a 20ft for about 5k AUD plus a little extra for removalists to help load and then unload when it arrived in LA.” That doesn’t sound too bad.

Paulina said, “My friend moved with Chez and it cost $7000.”

Kym “paid $9500 for a sole use half container (21 cubic m) inc packing and insurance thru Santa Fe. But I understand If you share a container it’s cheaper.”

What’s your experience selling things in Australia? Have you sold up shop in Australia and rebought where you are? Or did you, like us, get all your things shipped over? Let us know and help others in the process!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: None of the links or businesses mentioned sponsor me, these are just my preferences.  I am, however, looking for sponsors for this post/site. Are you a moving company who can offer great value to our readers? Are you an Auction House that welcomes clients bringing in lots of stuff to sell? Ikea, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Best Buys! If you want to jump in or offer a discount to my readers please do! If you know anyone Contact me. Cheers!

Playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony

This year I was able to watch the Golden Globes as the past two years I’ve been working. Yay! I realised as I was watching from the comfort of my living room in my black hoodie that I was playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony.

Yes the 75th annual Golden Globes awards have come and gone for another year. While this Blog has done blow-by-blow accounts in recent years by the time this comes out you will have already dissected the ceremony with write ups from the professional teams of writers and photographers covering the event on the ground. (Read: gone are the days when I think writing about them will get my a guernsey to the event, sigh). But that’s not to say I’m not going to give my humble LA opinion!

I do love the Golden Globes. I do love a good Awards show and the Globes of course kick off Awards season.

Actors and activists

I spent a lot of time juggling social media during the awards shows. I hopped on Facebook Live during the Red Carpet–just love the various medium we have to choose from to gawk!

Some of the comments–in this day and age–are still so woeful. People just think they can say whatever they like just because celebrities are in the spotlight and seem to “ask for it”, for people to say whatever they want.

It’s really interesting that popular opinion is divided somewhere down the middle when it comes to actors being activists and whether or not they should have an opinion.

I’m all for actors speaking up, especially the #timesup cause and the #metoo movement. As a mother of a girl–and one that wants to get into the industry–how can I not?

I get that some people take it all a little bit too far. Others aren’t eloquent and others rant and rave (perhaps we could say present company included) so the message might be there but it’s lost in its delivery.

But the reality is if these actors aren’t going to speak up how else are we–the general populace–going to know about these issues and how then can we do anything about it?

Celebrity Presidents

Besides people can’t have it both ways.  You either want celebrities to have their say on issues affecting our society or you don’t.

America cracks me up though.  It’s no bloody wonder Donald Trump is President. If you recall I predicted he would be–not because of anything other than America’s fascination with celebrity.

So to almost fully contradict what I said about actors being great activists, why does an eloquent celebrity automatically get put up on a pedestal to become the next President? The cries here now are Oprah for President hashtagging like crazy and talking like stupid people as if it’s really A THING. Or worse, should be a thing.

Seriously, you should hear the carry on here and the media is running with it.  It’s breaking news–“will she or won’t she; please let’s all hope she does.”

It’s great that anyone can be President. But… If there’s one thing this President should teach us it’s that being recognised doesn’t make us qualified to be President. (Yes I know there’s so many more reasons why this President shouldn’t be president but that’s not my point).

Correct, I’m not one of those people getting on the Oprah for President bandwagon.

And before you jump down my throat, I thought Oprah’s speech was inspiring and she provides a great role model for our girls.  She’s come from humble beginnings (the stuff she said about her mum made me cry) but she achieved extraordinary success.  She beat the odds, she did it.

But don’t you think we need to stop looking to celebrities to become “The President”? Come on guys, let’s help Politicians be better people, get in touch with the people and lead their country to be better.  In order to effect change at the political level you need to have political experience; you need to know how stuff is done; gets done.  It’s one of the reasons Trump is so arguably bad because he thinks he knows it all and doesn’t need to play politics.  You need to understand the law and you need to understand economics.

But wait, there’s a role for Hollywood and a role for someone like Oprah in politics.

Influencers like Oprah can work hard to change society’s beliefs, old-fashioned views and really instill change.  Maybe if she worked together with an inspiring President-to-be together they can deal with the law and popular culture at the same time. What a great combination that could would be.

Woosh-ka.  Hell I’m so inspiring maybe we can get the #gwenforpresident2020 going.

Playing spot your mates

Changing gears back to the Golden Globes.

As I was watching I squealed: there’s my girlfriend from tennis.  Immediately I texted her to say I spotted her and to say she looks very glam, green with envy.  (She texted back from the ceremony to say thank you so I guess in my own little way I was there at one point in time–on a very cool table might I add!)

As another girlfriend and I were texting each other through the ceremony though I started laughing because we were playing “spot your mates”. Instead of watching who was front and centre with the cameras we were looking in the background for people we knew.  Her ex-boyfriend and his husband were there and another client of a friend of mine was there too.  Looking, looking.

You might recall my son was front and centre at the Emmy’s. I love TV and TV stars but the highlight for me was still playing spot the son!

I know, it looks like I’ve photoshopped him in doesn’t it? I haven’t!

It’s what living in LA is all about–smack bang in the middle of the Entertainment industry and it’s all good fun.  Remembering this post about how normal people actually can be, it’s still true.  And you may never actually understand unless you live here but I hope this Blog let’s you in on that insight every now and then.

 

Reese Witherspoon to be my BFF

Speaking of playing spot your mates … While everyone was ogling over Oprah, I was on team Reese. (No, that they were on opposing sides just that my girl crush was elsewhere).

How gorgeous is she? She pulls everyone together, let’s them do the talking, doesn’t get too serious but is so inspirational.  And she does it all being fabulous and a great role model for her kids. Go her. And congrats to well-deserved Big Little Lies and can’t wait for Season 2 (complete with a new female director to boot).

Back to natural faces

If there’s one thing our hopefully changing society should do it’s go back to natural faces.

I don’t know about you but living here in LA you notice everyone’s really bad faces. These fillers and over botoxing is getting out of hand. Fresh from being in Australia over Christmas the first thing that hits you is the over-worked faces on women here.  I swear the look is not to look young or natural but to look like you’re able to pay for fillers and “work”.

Let’s hashtag no more work. That goes for the blokes too.  Look after yourselves, do what you need to do for a natural look but enough of the out of the control facial distortions.

I think there could be a lot of credibility coming back at you if you start there ladies and gents.

And with that it’s over and out for me this week.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

BTW Image source/credit: Getty / FREDERIC J. BROWN from PopSugar celebrity website

Good luck, good health, good fortune for 2018
My LA story, Posts

Good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018.  Here’s to good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018.

I’ve got a (good) feeling about 2018.  I think it’s going to be a good, good year. And if that line reminds you of a popular song you might well be right. I’m singing it as I type and it’s a clue to what’s coming up.

But first I’ve got to say I had the best break. We went home for Christmas this year–which we don’t usually do–and it was so good. It was especially good to head home to Melbourne and catch up with some old and dear friends and just hang out for a while.  Thanks to our special friends for putting time aside in their busy holiday schedules to catch up: it meant the world to us.

Holidays

It’s true us Aussies associate the end of year Christmas break with summer holidays: It’s summer in Australia, school is on break for around 6-8 weeks and the Christmas/New-Year period is a great time to unwind with many offices and workplaces closing down between Christmas and New Year.

And, in Australia as with many other parts of the world (just not America or China), shops are closed on Christmas Day and New Years’ Day (they should really be closed on Boxing Day too.) So it actually feels like a real holiday.

December (and the start of January) has been really mild for us here in LA, not like winter at all.  It’s funny that people kept saying, “it doesn’t feel like the end of the year because it’s so hot” or “it doesn’t feel like Christmas with the weather being this warm”.

But for us, that’s exactly how it feels–normal.

Christmas in July

But imagine my shock yesterday at the post office when I was posting some sneakers for a friend’s son.  I casually said I hope it’s not a Christmas present (referring to the urgency of the package).

The very friendly guy asked when Christmas was in Australia.  I thought I was hearing things so replied quietly, “The same, in December.”  It’s also not unusual for people not to celebrate Christmas in LA so I thought maybe he was one of those people.

He was shocked.

“When is it? December you say? Isn’t it May or June … July?”

“No, it’s the same: December 25.”

“Oh wow, but it’s summer there isn’t it? How do you celebrate Christmas when it’s summer? I just expected it to be in the middle of the year.”

He had a very, very hard time coming to terms with–much less picturing–Christmas being in the middle of summer.

Fascinated he continued, “What does Santa wear?”

He was most intrigued! So of course I had to tell him about one of our favourite Hi-5 songs, Santa Wear Your Shorts.  That seemed to appease him.  Somewhat!

Carols by Candlelight

I hope you clicked on that link and enjoyed a sing-a-long like I did.

Back in Australia Christmas Eve tradition has it that you watch Carols by Candlelight while you drink eggnog (or wine) and wrap presents preparing for Santa’s arrival. The kids go to bed once Hi-5 has come on.

(For those non Australians Hi-5 was/is a group of kids brought together not dissimilar to the Wiggles. They had a show on TV which we were utterly addicted to. It had puppets, singing and a bit of good old educational value for the pre-school kids. They also put on sold-out concerts which we’d go to–and loved!).

Until last Christmas Eve I forgot all about that. One of the most fun days/nights I had over Christmas was singing Christmas carols with my sister-in-law and reminiscing with kids about Hi-5 like it was yesterday. Seriously, where has the time gone?

Hot or cold?

But the thing about Christmas in Melbourne (as opposed to Sydney) is that you never know if it’s going to actually be hot or cold.  You can get cold days in December. And there’s always a chance it might rain.

That always makes it hard to decide if you’ll set the table inside or outside.  That’s called a first-world Australian Christmas problem.

So, you see, just because it’s summer, doesn’t necessarily mean Christmas Day will be a hot one.  You hope it will be so you can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.  And that’s Christmas to us.

New Year

Now it’s the new year and we’re back home.  This is the third year we’ve had a New Year’s Eve party at home and it’s becoming quite the tradition.  I grew up with my parents always throwing a party so it’s a tradition that’s dear to me.

This year, while we were down a couple of regulars, it was our biggest yet.  Being an expat in LA isn’t the easiest thing. But having fun, close friends around me made me realise how lucky I am to have them.

I’m hoping 2018 will be a good, good year.

New Year’s Day

That’s the perfect segue to New Year’s Day.  A few years ago we were invited to a friend’s house. It was very spur of the moment as her mum decided to cook some Black-Eyed Peas (we’re not talking the Band) and have an impromptu afternoon/evening with friends.

You may recall if you’ve been following on for a while that was the time we almost went head-to-head with Beyonce & Jay-Z. Still one of my personal highlights as we’d flown in from Miami that morning and it was a sign we were back in LA. Maybe also the fact Mr H wouldn’t move and good old Jay-Z reversed down the narrow road for us to get passed him.  The dead giveaway was when I got my phone out to google Jay Z and Beyonce immediately bowed her head and covered her face!

Collared greens

What I didn’t realise though, that I do now, is that the Southerners have a tradition on New Year’s Day. A tradition and a superstition.  To start the year out they eat a meal of Black-eyed peas, collard greens and Ham.  All good except up until a few years ago I didn’t really realise black-eyed peas were a thing other than a band/group.

And, I wondered what on earth collared greens were. Could it be a generic name for green-leaf vegetables. Is there some significance to the “collar?” Was there something I was missing?

Apparently there was. There is no collar on those greens but it is a generic name of sorts.  Collared greens are in fact collard greens.  Learn something new every day!

Good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018

This year we were lucky enough to be invited to our in-laws place (my son’s girlfriend’s family) to ring in the new year with the good luck-/health-/fortune-bringing meal.  We had Bloody Mary’s, a beautiful meal and played some games.

(On a side note we played lifesize Jenga Australians versus Americans and for the third time–or is it fourth–the Australians won. Pressure’s on next time for sure!

Here’s a sneak peak at the deliberation of which Jenga block to remove to avoid the spill!

 

And, I have it! Footage of the Jenga fall. Aussie win!

 

And let me leave you with the meaning of those meals.

Black-eyed peas: Good luck

Collard greens: Good fortune

Ham: Good health

Apparently you can’t have collard greens without cornbread so we had that too. And no American meal is complete without Mac and cheese so we had that too!

So that’s why 2018 is going to be a good, good year. I hope it will be for you too.

Happy New Year everyone!

xx It Started in LA xx

Christmas in LA 2017
My LA story, Posts

(When will it) Begin to look a lot like Christmas

Seriously, in LA that’s a question: When will it begin to look a lot like Christmas.  Truth be told it doesn’t.  Sure you’ll get Rodeo Drive decked out in all its 90210 glory and The Grove will be the same, even a few other Malls.  But, the truth is, LA is not the American city to visit to recreate Christmas from the movies.  I know, isn’t it ironic?

Instead, Christmas is some neighbourhoods with some lights out (or on as the case may be), a few “festive few” going all out.  But on the whole you can spend most of December wondering where on earth the “holiday spirit” has gone.

And we can’t blame the fact that Christmas is only “Christmas” for half of LA. I mean, it’s the same in New York and you can’t get more “Christmas” than there right?

And, let’s face it, the greater majority of my Jewish friends “celebrate” Christmas so it’s not that either.

So what is it about LA that Christmas seems like just another day?

It might well be that life continues as normal.  It’s not all shut up like it is in Europe or Australia. I could be forgiven for thinking I still live in China.

New Year’s Eve

And New Year’s Eve here is a little flat too.  It’s definitely not the pomp and ceremony and fireworks extravaganza that it is in Australia.  Let’s face it, for the big hoo-ha that is New York in Times Square for New Year you’re only going to see a ball drop.  A ball drop peoples.

Ubering for “holiday” parties

There is one constant and that’s the “holiday party”. Being LA this year’s parties were apparently very toned down; fortunately I went to a few fun ones!

I’ve had two uber drivers with huge claims to fame. My latest one picked my accent straight away:

“Australian”.

“Yes I am, well done.” (They don’t often pick it right!)

“I went to Australia in 1983, had a great time. I was on tour with my boyfriend at the time.”

“Ok, fun,” I said. “I hope you managed to see the sights.”

“Yeah my boyfriend loved Australia so he always makes sure we got downtime.”

“Oh nice, he’d been before?”

“Oh yeah, he’s a really famous rockstar … David Bowie?”

“Oh right, OK.”

“Yeah, we toured Japan first then went to Australia, it was a wild time.”

OK stop. You’re driving an Uber and you went on tour with David Bowie. That’s serious stuff. I hope she’s all there as she’s responsible for getting me safely from A to B.

I mean all the dates and info seemed to make sense. Could it be?

Then she starts giving me advice on acting and building up an IMDB profile. OK …

Sadly our trip came to an end. Five stars to you Diane. What an entertaining trip. Say hi to David for me.

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to you all. I’m sure you won’t hear from me til the new year so take care out there. And I hope you get an uber driver with some fun stories to tell.

xx It Started in LA xx

Eating Out in America compared to Australia
Differences between America & Australia, LA Restaurants, My LA story

Eating out in America compared to Australia

There are huge differences between eating out in America compared to Australia.  And it will pay you, both as an Australian in the US and as an American in Australia, to learn what those differences are in order to enjoy a fun night out.  Otherwise you might just do your head in.

Five differences in dining out in America compared to Australia

1. Time limit

It’s time for a catch up with friends so you pick a date and a venue (hopefully that hip new restaurant that’s all the buzz) and you head out.  That’s about where the similarities between eating out in Australia compared to America ends.

In America eating out is on a time limit.  The time restraints are both cultural and the way restaurants work here.

In Australia the time limit is how long you want to hang out with your mates enjoying the food, wine & company.

2. Service

Here’s where the Americans have got spot on.  Greet the guests, serve water, take drink orders then come back for food orders.  There’s nothing worse than being without a drink. Nothing.

Sometimes in Australia this little detail can often be overlooked. Once when we were home we were seated at a restaurant for lunch and it took ages to get menus, drinks or even waters.  We were all a bit antsy.  This is the exception though.  Usually drink orders will be taken and served and the waiter will give you time to catch up before bothering you again.  I prefer it this way–unless I’m hungry of course!  But I have to have a drink in my hand–the “event” doesn’t start until you have a drink in your hand.

This approach makes a huge difference to the happiness of those dining. When Americans don’t get served straight away–even if it’s just a water serving–they start to get antsy.  They see it as bad service because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to expect.  And rightly so.

Often us Aussies feel a bit rushed when orders are taken too quickly–we like to settle in and take our time.  Except of course for drinks–can’t express the importance of drinks!

And speaking of service. The thing that really gets Australian’s goats is the fact that servers or bus people here take your plates away when your mate hasn’t finished eating. That’s right, if one person has finished their plate is gone leaving you to continue eating. We find that so rude (um, manners please) but I’m sure my fellow Americans don’t even notice it.

3. Pacing

To an Australian there’s nothing worse than ordering your meal and the meal coming out five or so minutes later.  What the …? We’re just settling in. Conversation is now moving from “Hi how are you?” to “What are you having?” to “It’s time to catch up on the goss”. No, take that meal back and wait until I’ve had a chance to shift conversation gears.

Conversely, Americans are generally happy with the pace.

4. The Bill & Tipping

You’re done with the main meal, you push your plate aside, order another bottle of wine and it’s really time to shift conversation to another gear.  There’s no more eating to worry about, you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and you’re relaxed.

In America the waiter comes up to your table and asks if there’s anything else you need.  “No thank you,” you reply, lucky to make eye contact you’re deeply engrossed in conversation.  Within minutes the bill comes.  Wait, what?

In Australia it’s the same scenario except the bit about the bill.  Getting the bill is a process: you have to ask for it.

When the bill doesn’t come American start to get antsy again.  They’ve been conditioned that the bill comes to the table with a “No rush” dropped by the waiter (yeah right bullshit!)  And that’s fine. But the exact same scenario and you’ve pissed the Aussies off.

And, tipping. You might have caught the guest post from a fellow Aussie Blogger based in San Fran on what to tip here when (& how much).  In Australia (for you Americans planning holidays–or living there) we’re talking around 10% of the bill, at a cafe it might only be a case of rounding the bill up.  Our minimum wage isn’t shit like yours so you don’t need to actually pay their salary.

5. Lingering–especially for lunch

Therein lies the very important difference number five: the linger.  This is possibly the most important step in Aussies eating out 101.  You’re too full for dessert at the moment but that’s not to say you won’t have room in 10 minutes. Maybe more. Depends on the company and how the wine is going down.  The most important thing is the end of the meal is not the cue to go home like it is for Americans.

No, in America, even if the bill doesn’t come straight away service just … well … stops. The waiter is nowhere to be seen and you’re not asked if you want or need anything more.

And if it’s lunch–especially a nice long Sunday lunch–then we’re talking another hour at least.  Australians ideal scenario; the Americans not so much–especially in LA!

I miss those long lunches so much!

Merging cultures?

Like everything in life the lines are blurring.  In many Australian restaurants it’s getting harder to spend three or more hours at a table for dinner.  Australian restaurant owners are trying to get multiple sittings from their nights too.  In many cases restaurants are only offering two sittings: 6:00 and 8:30pm. Others stagger them just the same as they do here in LA.  I get it, restaurants need to make money–it’s a hard business with high overheads.  But I hope our culture stays the same as I love that laid back, casual dining feel, it’s good for the soul.

But you’ll still have to ask for the bill, and service continues and you still get some time to order another bottle of wine. Or a nightcap.

What’s dining out like in your part of the world?  Share your comments either on Facebook or below.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Edited 7/12/17 to add feedback from other Australians in LA/USA

Buying a House as an Expat in LA
Moving to LA, Posts

Buying a house in LA as an expat

You secured your lease, life is going along swimmingly but you think it’s time to lay down some roots.  Here’s a guide to buying a house in LA as an expat.

LA rent is not cheap.  Essentially, unlike in Australia, LA rent is the same as the owner’s mortgage payments plus property tax. In other words, you’re not getting a bargain and all you’re doing is helping them pay off their mortgage.

We loved the house we first signed up to but after a while it got too small for us. So I started looking around, even extending our search outside the 90210 postcode, and was shocked to find there was nothing around. Even increasing our budget by $2,000 didn’t get us what we were looking for in upgrading our humble abode.

Buying a house in LA

I started scouring websites looking for houses. My dream was a mid-century modern in the hills already done (or minor jobs to be done) with a pool and view.

The next thing I needed to do was see who would lend me the money.

I worked on a budget of our current rent figuring we had a decent buy price to get a house with everything we wanted.  Cheaper than rent plus it’s ours!

Armed with this I went to our bank, Citibank, to see what they could offer me.

With a 20% deposit and a very good credit rating we could get the money we need.  Excellent.

Credit rating

Credit rating in this country is a whole ‘nother beast of a topic.  But, in short, ours wasn’t very good or excellent; it was just good.

In a nutshell, from what I could gather it’s because of the way we manage our credit cards.  You see our limit is a limit we use each month that I’ve budgeted to pay off each month.  I don’t want a higher limit because we’ll use it, we’ll spend it and eat into our savings bucket. I’m happy and comfortable with what we have. But that means we actually use the credit limit we’re given.  That’s what it’s there for right? Wrong.

The powers that be in Credit rating land think we’re a red flag because we use the credit made available to us via our credit card. They don’t look at the fact that I pay it off each month (every fortnight actually).  I made a $10k purchase on my credit card (think of all the points!) and then paid it off once I was done so I could carry on charging my stuff to it.  But you could see in that month our credit rating drop down. I mean seriously, don’t they look at the next transaction, the one where we paid it off (and I’m talking that day people that day). Stupid.

You really think I’d learn my lesson.  Please learn for me.

No loan from CitiBank #fail

So, even though we showed that we paid our rent on time every month for two plus years, we had the deposit and money to spare in the bank, based solely on our credit rating CitiBank was a no go.

I threatened to move my accounts but haven’t bothered because it’s too convenient having a branch down the road.  But they don’t know that!

I speak of them with disdain instead of admiration now though.

Finding my dream LA house

After months of searching for my perfect Mid-century modern home it became clear that most of them are fixi-ups. Now, to be clear, this is our “rent replacement house” not our “forever house”. Being a rent replacement house I didn’t want a fix-up job, one where we’d have to take six months renovating it.  Defeats the purpose.

Securing a Realtor

You can scour the websites and research houses yourself but if you engage a Realtor early on in the piece they can start looking for places for you.

You see they have broker open houses and access to a clumsy but very good tool known as the MLS.  Just by entering the parameters you want in a search engine you can get houses sent to you weekly.  And, if they see a house while they’re looking, they can arrange for you to see it.  It can take a lot of time out of the hunting process.

Buying a house as an Expat

It can be done, buying a house in LA as an Expat.  But, you just need to be aware of a couple of things.

  1. The visa. Each Bank deals with different visas in different ways. Then depending on that there may or may not be different conditions.  As an E3 visa holder we were able to borrow money like a “normal” American.
  2. Deposit.  Some of the lenders I spoke to insisted on 30% because of our expat/visa status.  We did find a bank willing to give us a loan based on 20% though so do shop around.

Mortgage Broker

One of the people you need to secure, as well as a Realtor, is a Mortgage Broker.  There are mortgage brokers who represent several banks (as they are in Australia) but beware many Mortgage Brokers I spoke to represent only the one bank. From what I gather these guys are sole operators but work with a bank. You don’t have to pay them they must get a commission from the Bank.  So it’s a bit different and a bit strange because they’re not actually shopping the market looking for the best deal for you, they’re just offering you a Mortgage.

You can also go into your local branch and ask to apply for a loan as we do in Australia.  And, there are online guys which I would say be wary of.  I started filling forms in for Quicken Loans but then when I got to the last screen cancelled out yet I got calls from all these lenders/brokers and still get the occasional email from them (got one today in fact). Not happy Jan.

Putting in an offer

I know you’re dying to know if I found my dream mid-century modern home with very little to do, a pool and a view.  In short: no. Out of left field we found a house in “the flats” which was brand new, had a beautiful floorplan and a pool.

We fell in love. We did a quick change in search looked at a number of new constructions in the area but decided this was the house for us.  It was New Year’s eve when we put an offer in and our Realtor was in Europe on holiday.

“Oh no, you absolutely must put the offer in now because there’s less chance of other active bidders at this time,” she said.

So we did.

In the US offers must be writing and you need to think carefully about contingencies at this time.  That’s where your Realtor becomes like gold.  If they’re good at what they do, with experience they come up with all the ideas and you just say yay or nay.

Not to bore you but the offer process is very boring. If you’re looking for a bargain (which we were) then there will be counter offers and counter offers before you either bow out or settle on a price–don’t forget contingencies.  For example, in one of the seller’s contingencies was reducing the settlement time. We were all for it too (we wanted to move into our house and stop paying rent) but we weren’t sure how long the mortgage would take to get through.  But that became a “thing”.

And then, some sellers will use your offer to go back to interested parties to say look, we’ve got an offer do you want to put one in too.  That’s where a quasi auction happens. (They don’t have auctions here; too complex a system I suppose to be able to deal with it but you’d think auctions otherwise would be quite successful).

Even if a house is under offer or under escrow anything can happen.  It’s not until all contingencies are dropped that they’re comfortable it’s all going to be OK.  So for them it’s a trust issue. Our agent had to put the seller at ease and let them know that we want to buy the house just as badly as he wants to sell the house and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it happens.

Much like when you’re leasing a house, as I mention in that Blog, you need an agent who you’ve developed a good working relationship with that can go into bat for you and ensure the seller the purchase is secure.  And, as soon as you’re able to drop contingencies (like inspections and securing the money) then you’re up and running.

But, expats make Americans nervous so hook up with a Realtor that understands you and the situation. We were happy with our agent because she deals with Expats all the time and understands how the system works. A big part of it is knowing what to say.

Escrow

So here there is an Escrow agency that’s used to sort through the paperwork. They co-ordinate with the Bank, their agent and your agent to settle.  Not conveyancers or lawyers like in Australia.

On the day of settlement, you don’t actually sign the mortgage at your bank, you sign it all at the Escrow’s office.

Then once the documents are all signed at Escrow the house is yours! The agent will arrange with you to meet at your house with the keys and you’re in your very own new home.

Complex system

It’s a complex system here. As I always say everything in America is an industry designed for people to be able to make a living from. You don’t pay your agent to buy your house (the commission is split 50/50 and paid for by the seller) so use one.  It might well be the only free thing you get in the US!

You don’t get a say in who you use for Escrow but they’re arbitrary anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Actually seems strange but it’s true.

Why buy?

The way I figure it even if the property doesn’t increase in value my “rent equivalent” is paying off principal AND interest. And that money is going to me, not someone else.  Interest payments are tax deductible here although there is a cap on the mortgage amount so check first. Check with your tax accountant and please don’t take my advice as financial in any way, shape or form–you’d not only be a Wally too because I’m not qualified but seriously you need to work out if it works for you.

The property tax is a bitch but the year after we bought our tax bill was much less so we figured it balanced itself out.

You see, for now at least, interest from your principal home is tax deductible.  Barry bonus but those nutbags Trump calls his party are trying to limit the amount of tax that can be claimed so watch this space.  Sounds like a socialist thing to do in my humble opinion (and you know since moving here I’ve realised I am a socialist so it’s not a dig, just fact).

Apart from all of that we’re so happy to be in our own house. If we hadn’t have bought and ended up paying more for rent it would down-right depressing.

So if you’re sick of paying rent just know it can be done.  What have you got to lose?!

Good luck!

xx It Started in LA xx

American words to Australian
Dictionary, My LA story, Posts

American words I just don’t understand

It’s not uncommon for Americans to have no idea what I’m talking about.  We have lots of slang words and I often like to use them just for laughs.  But every now and again there are some American words I just don’t understand.

And, as much as Americans love our accent we say words differently so it sometimes takes a bit for them to understand us.

(Eg. Alternate. We say al-ter-nate, Americans say alter-nate).

Ever noticed that most non-English speaking people talk with an American accent?

I think that’s why their accents aren’t foreign to us–we’re so used to hearing them.  Whether it be on TV, the movies, a Swedish person, even Canadians (sorry, couldn’t resist. Just like you can’t tell the difference between an Australian accent and a New Zealand one, I can’t tell the difference between yours).

It usually also means we know all the different words they use.

Fanny

Yes, even “fanny”.  Fanny might not make Americans laugh but it always makes us Australians (and Brits etc) laugh out loud–rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

To let you in on the secret, in Australia a fanny is your vagina.  So imagine how funny it is for us when we translate your politically correct sentence, “I have a sore fanny” or “We need to take our fanny packs with us”: what pres tell is a vagina pack, dare we ask what we need it for and where do we get it?

For the 1% of Australians who might not know, and if you haven’t already worked it out, fanny to Americans is a bum.

Rooter

And even rooter. There are ads for it, vans driving around with it–there are rooters everywhere. Again, our conservative American friends have a word they happily throw around that in our part of the world is a “rude word”.  If not a rude word most definitely a socially uncomfortable word for them (we don’t have a problem with it AT all).

To root is the act of having sex.  As in, “hey love, wanna root?”  Perhaps some of these Hollywood men you’ve been hearing about in the news might have used that line had they known about the act of rooting.

The rooter in America is the generic term for a drain cleaning service.  So we have business names/websites like:

Rooter Man

Team Rooter

And even Rooty Rooter. He must be a really good rooter!

Then you have every Charles-, Dick- & Harry-the-Rooter (or should I say Chuck, Archer & Parker).  All these American men publicising that they’ll come to root for you.

Speaking of rooting for you. I also know that one.  “Rooting for” is the American term for supporting your team. In a sentence, “I root for the Dodgers”. If I said I root for the Dodgers at home I’d be classed as a first class slut–some form of groupie happy to put myself out for the entire Dodgers team.

Yes, yes, our humour is very much of the gutter variety.  And we’re fine with that.

American words I just don’t understand

But there are some words that I don’t know–or don’t know the slang for might be more accurate.

At tennis my friend was coming clean that she lets her kids have their passes every so often.  We had this entire conversation with her telling me it’s bad (no it’s not), asking what I think (yeah, it’s fine) and saying they don’t do it all the time (ok, fine).

I’m looking at her thinking did I miss what the pass was for? Her kids are young, where do they need passes for? I gave a little chuckle. It’s our turn to be in on the court.  Yay, we won, off to the other side.

Then, when we got to the other side, she called me out on it. Oops! She’s so used to not understanding what I say that she recognised that blank look on my face and nervous giggle.

The “pass” was a pac (soft c–said with that American accent so the a sound is not the “ah” sound but an “a” sound that’s quick.  And so “pass” is actually short for pacifier.  As in dummy.

Oh! Yes, I know you guys say Pacifier. I just didn’t recognise “pac” I thought you were saying pass!

Dummy

So a Pacifier is a Dummy in Australia. One of our friends from Shanghai’s favourite phrase of ours is “spit the dummy” which means “chuck a hissy fit” or have a little tanty (tantrum). And no, I have no idea why we call it a dummy.

Bogan

While I’m at it I’ll give the Americans another favourite word of ours: bogan.

A bogan can be loosely translated as “trailer trash”. Traditionally they had an outfit which consisted of way-too-tight jeans, a flannelette shirt (flanno) and ugg boots.  Yes, ugg boots.  Only bogans actually wore ugg boots out in public, the rest of us only wore them at home.

Here is a bogan:

Bogans

A family full of them actually

But then things started blurring–there were cool incredibly tight jeans, flannos were deemed respectable (depending on who wore them or how they wore them of course) and ugg boots became a thing.

And bogans also became proud of being bogans.  And so the term “cashed-up bogan” was born.  This is when a bogan did good and all of a sudden had loads of money.  They would carry on being bogans but now they had lots of money to throw around. The long-standing belief then was, well, money can’t buy you class.

Americans have bogans too. Our family calls them yogans (Yankee bogans).

Thongs

I think Americans know this one but it’s one of my favourites.  We wear thongs on our feet as well. As in flip flops.

In America (& probably every other place in the world) thongs are undies.  And I know this.  But I do love calling out to the kids in public, “Don’t forget your thongs” or “Are you wearing your thongs”.

It’s important to keep a sense of humour.

So technically that was one word I don’t understand. There are more I’m sure. But that was funny and then I could share with my American audience some of the words we hold dear to our heart–and why some of your words make us laugh.

Halloween in LA

On another note I first wrote about Halloween in LA a few years ago.  I made the observation that we don’t really celebrate Halloween in Australia.  But the fact is we do.  Well many people do anyway.  It depends what neighbourhood you live in.

We get the impression we don’t celebrate it in Australia because it’s not as widespread but when you think about it not every house is dressed up and not everyone goes trick or treating here either.

It’s just more of an event here: they dress up at work, even people going about their normal business dress up.

In Australia though, we tend to dress up as “spooky” things–blood, guts and gore.  Here in the US Halloween is a giant dress up day–you can be whatever you like, it doesn’t have to be scary.  I hadn’t changed since tennis that morning so I pronounced that I was dressed as a tennis player. Tick. All fine.

Our neighbourhood decided they’d start trick or treating locally this year.  It’s a big step to be able to trick or treat in your own neighbourhood rather than going to someone else’s (which is the thing to do). We’d never think to head to someone else’s ‘hood and knock on their doors for lollies (candy).

But when houses (or streets) go all out, they go all out.  Did you catch my Instagram post where one house had a crashed 747 in their front yard? Very cool.

 

Lead up to Thanksgiving

And now it’s November 1 it’s time to fast forward to Thanksgiving–the longest and only four-day long weekend in the American holiday calendar.  And because of that I have to leave you now to research what we’ll do for the four-day weekend–we all need a break.

Enjoy the rest of the week as we head into the weekend. Catch you soon!

xxIt Started in LAxx

 

College v Uni
Differences between America & Australia, Expat tales, Moving to LA, Posts, Soapbox

Applying for College v Applying for Uni

I last left you (on this topic) when we were first understanding what the bloody hell we’d got ourselves into with our son wanting to go to College here.  We’re not up to the bit where we’re applying for college v applying for uni.

We’re doing both.

That’s mainly because of the exorbitant cost to go to College in this country. Yes that is a tone of great disdain.

You may recall I was on a little bit of a high horse (and I quote) “And I’m thinking if my son wants to go to Stanford he should bloody well be able to consider Stanford.  A College education should not just be for people who can afford it.  Right?”

Wrong.  Sort of.  Actually I was a little wrong about the cost to go to Stanford. After having toured there last summer apparently “no one actually pays full tuition for Stanford”. There are so many merit scholarships and so on that so many people who get into Stanford are eligible for that it eases the burden for the parents–and the loans for the kids.

But it’s rarely all $70k worth so when it comes down to the crunch how the bloody hell do you spare the $280k (four years at around $70k–more by next year) to send your kids (two of them so make that $560k) to get a College degree. One that will set them up perfectly only to do a Post-graduate degree for a squillion more bucks (and no we’re definitely NOT paying for that).

I digress … today I’m sitting down to chat to you about the difference between applying for College here in the US v applying for Uni back in Australia.

 

Applying for College

Wowsers. It’s time consuming applying for College.  We’ve had the advice that it’s a good idea to apply to somewhere between 5-8/10 Colleges–to be sure you get somewhere. In that mix you’re going to want to choose a couple you’re confident you’ll get into, a couple that you may have a shot at and a couple that are a “reach”.

Application fees

At around $80-$100 per application let’s start the [ca-ching] bank account depletion at $500. (She take a sip of wine).  And while we’re tallying my costs let’s not forget the $10 per school you’re applying to for the College Board to send your SAT score each College you’re applying to. Oh, and let’s add the (thankfully already forgotten) cost of tutors and the fee to actually sit the SAT.

Application forms

Only a few years ago most of the Colleges had their own application.  These applications tend to be pages long with short answer questions and an essay to answer.  These days many Colleges have tried to simplify the process by participating in the Common Application.

What each College will do then (although not all) is come up with their own supplementary questions unique to them and stuff they want to learn about you.

Sample questions

The common app features one essay your child has to write. They have a choice of seven topics although technically the last “question” is to write about anything you like so it’s infinite.

For those of you playing along at home here are the essay prompts.  Here are my favourites:

“Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”

“Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?”

You’ve got 650 words. Go.

More questions

Then places like Stanford and the “UC’s” (Universities of California) have their own questions.  Stanford has these three questions.  Minimum should be 100 words and a maximum of 250 words.

  1. The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning.
  2. Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—know you better.
  3. Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?

Berkeley (A UC–The UC) has eight extra questions and you need to answer four.  Each answer should be about 350 words.  Here are a couple of them:

“Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?”

It notes: “From your point of view, what do you feel makes you an excellent choice for UC? Don’t be afraid to brag a little.”

 

And more questions

There are also a few short, sharp questions where the answer should be no more than 50 words.  These are actually harder as you have to precise, knowledgeable and you can’t beat around the bush.  Here they are–just for fun!

“What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

“How did you spend your last two summers?

“What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

“What five words best describe you?

“When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch?

“Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

“Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time?”

 

Application due date

Then there’s when these applications are due.  There are early decisions (EDs), restrictive early decisions, non-binding early decisions, normal application, Spring applications etc.  This decision alone is a huge one.  Early decisions are due around November 1 and you can find out as early as December whether you’re in somewhere.  That’s right–you still have a whole semester left of school but you might know you’re already in somewhere.

Testing

Remember, they would have, should have or are still doing their ACT or SAT exams.  It’s actually these scores that most Colleges look at.  That and your transcript and application.  But there’s no standardised testing so it’s hard to know if your transcript means you’re good or you suck.

So, that’s the American system.  Here’s a bit about the Australian system.

 

Applying for Uni

Work out the top five courses at which uni you want to go to. Eg: Business at Sydney Uni.

List them on your Preferences sheet via UAC.

Submit.

Get your HSC marks and your ATAR.

You get a week to change your preferences based on your marks and whether you think you’ll get in.

Submit

Find out what offers you get a few weeks later.

Accept & pay.

OK, it’s not always as straight forward as that. Some courses require a portfolio or interview but essentially that’s it.

 

Pros and cons

So the US system was designed (hmmm … over engineered?) to make it easier for kids to get into a College; so it’s not so stressful to get a good mark on your ACT or SAT and basically make it fairer for everyone.  You see, kids get tutored for the ACT or SAT and those that can’t afford it don’t.  And families start so early here it’s no wonder lots of kids are stressed, over-stretched and missing out on their childhood.

The US would probably argue (and many others no doubt) that there’s too much pressure on Australian kids to get the score they need to get into the course they want to study.

Who knows which one is right.  Maybe neither? But, there’s a lot of work and a lot of extra money that goes into kids applications here in the US.  We’re not having a bar of it (well technically we are because we’re still applying) but so many people are.

I bet many of you reading this are just happy you’re not the ones having to go through this process–that you’re at the other end of it.  True.

Meanwhile, “we” continue to do question after question each weekend in the hopes of systematically and stresslessly going through the process.

She takes another gulp of wine.

xx It Started in LA xx

Securing a lease in LA
Moving to LA, Posts

Securing a lease in LA: 5 important tips

You’ve found the area you want to live in and even managed to narrow your search to a couple of house.  But now you have to secure a lease. Here are five important tips for securing a lease in LA.

As expats you may know–and understand–each country has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to credit and finance.  The US can be a tough market if you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t have established credit.

1. Secure a good agent–preferably one that understands expats

There are lots of agents in LA; not all of them good, not all of them bad. Securing an agent is a whole topic in itself but you need to find an agent that understands you, your family and your needs.  That’s why I recommend asking someone for recommendations then secure one with whom you have a good relationship.

There are so many houses in LA and not all of them good.  You could spend a lot of time looking at places that remind you of your uni days (like we did) so choose wisely.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because your situation is going to be a little out of left-field (even for LA) so you need to make sure your agent is not only good, but is on your side.  Find someone that’s persuasive and affable. At the end of the day they need to go into bat for you–to convince your future landlord that you’re going to be a fantastic person/family to rent to.

My agent, Caroline Fleck from Caroline Fleck Real Estate, tells the story of how one agent got aggressive with her because her client didn’t accept a tenancy for her clients. “The last thing you want is an agent who is going to argue with her fellow agent. She should have sold her clients to me to take back to my client–that’s what I’d do.”

Subscriber Adam Halen who thanked me very much for my site as it helped him with decisions to move his family to LA says the same thing.

“Kate Sutton, our agent,  ultimately had to “vouch” for us as solid, trustworthy and a credit-worthy family. Having someone go in to bat for you, as an agent, has credibility and professionalism to it.”

 

2.  Be ready with the cash–and lots of it!

There’s no escaping this one. At least there’s rarely any escaping this.

You’ll need three months’ deposit upfront. Rent is not always cheap in LA so that can be a lot of cash upfront.

Remember, Americans rely on that stupid credit rating to help them work out if you’re a worthy tenant of not. If you don’t have a credit history in the US show them what you’re like in your home country. Show them you have the means to pay the rent so they’re not stuck with a mortgage without the rent coming in from you to pay it.

 

3.  Have lots of supporting documents available

On top of the huge deposit you may also have to show an American bank account with plenty of money in it (enough to carry you through for a number of months).  Sometimes landlords accept this in lieu of the deposit.  Even in our case with an amazing landlord they wanted the cash upfront.

You may also be able to show that you have decent funds that you can call on from your home country if you need to.

Another thing that can help your case is a letter from your employer showing that you’re coming to LA with a secured job and they’ll vouch for you.  This can’t hurt so ask your employer if they’ll vouch for you IN WRITING and if you can get it, provide it–even before they ask.

The bottom line is you won’t have much credit so you need to show as much financial info as possible–just give it all to them: pay stubs, tax returns, financial statements, references, a letter from your business manager, whatever it takes.

Remember, in the US everything revolves around that stupid credit rating so if you don’t have one yet you’ve got to show that you’re worth taking a chance on.

Caroline Fleck says, “Be open, honest & upfront. The more you show the more likely they are to have faith in you.”

 

4.  Write a letter

Personalise your application by writing a letter to your potential landlord.  Add a photo of your family.

Ask to meet the landlord in person. Even if they’re not up for it it shows that you’re all in.

When we applied I wrote to the Landlord saying we loved the house and could picture ourselves at home in it. I said that we rented out our houses at home in Australia so we know what it’s like to entrust your home to strangers.

If you are from overseas you won’t have a credit history.  Tell them why and what your credit is like back home.  You want them to trust that you are good for the rent and you won’t leave them with a mortgage to pay and no rent coming in to pay it.

When we met our landlord he said he was so grateful for that letter and was very happy to receive it and approve our application on the back of it.

It can work!

 

5.  Clean up your social media

Adam Halen also recommends cleaning up your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc).  Sometimes you forget that you put your life out for everyone so make sure it says you and your family are amazing and will be great tenants.  Yes, that might mean taking down the photos of your wild going away party back at your house!

 

A couple of extra things

Consider furnished versus unfurnished. Furnished houses cost more but some people like to furnish houses with their excess furniture.  It could also help you if you don’t want to ship all your furniture over here.  And you may need furniture while your stuff makes its way over.

If you’re furnishing the house yourself there are plenty of rental companies to get you through the three months until your furniture to arrive.

During the hunt

Look up properties not selling and ask them if they’re interested in renting for 6-12 months.

With a lease you really need to work 2-3 weeks out, sometimes a month. Much longer than that might not work.  Do sus out market before hand but it’s highly likely that house you’ve fallen in love with won’t be available in three month’s time.  So either don’t fall in love or be prepared to secure it earlier than you first though.

We ended up doing just that–with not much on the market we were happy to find a house that we’d be happy to live in for a while.

Remember! You almost always end up staying longer than you think.  We ended up staying two years rather than one.

Either way good luck. It’s a real nightmare when you first come.  It will get easier I promise you!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: Need help narrowing down an area to live in LA? Check out this post.

 

Clinging to our Motherland
My LA story, Posts, Soapbox

Clinging to our motherland: US Gov and guns

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for me.  As many of you know my son is in his senior year at school.  But what does this opening sentence have to do with clinging to our motherland: US Gov and guns?

Back to School Night

Well last week we had “Back to School” night.  It’s where you go to each class the kids have in their schedule and see the teachers and get a breakdown of the class and what they’ll be studying for the year.

Master H is taking AP (Advanced Placement) US Government.  I thought nothing of it until one of the parents asks whether they’ll be discussing other systems of government.  The answer was a categoric no.  Much like the HSC in Australia the APs are taught to a curriculum guideline, the topics of which can be found in a test. That test is taken by everyone in the country taking that subject. And, a quick look at other systems isn’t covered by the syllabus–or on the test.

For those newer readers, we’re at a local private school in LA not an international one. Although, LA being LA, there are a number of expats or people who have moved to the US for one reason or another.

US Gov

I got a bit peeved by the teacher’s response. I mean he chose the subject (there were no other real choices), US Gov is US Gov right?

When I studied Legal Studies at school it was essentially studying the Australian legal system.  We covered other systems in the world but we focussed on ours.  It makes plenty of sense to understand what other countries do in order to better understand ours.

And while the answer was a categoric no she did suggest that they would weave into their discussion other systems because of the expat nature of the group. (The small class had a Canadian family, British/German, Aussies (us) and Italian. So when I eventually calmed down about how she categorically answered the question, it isn’t going to be all bad.

Expat Facebook group

Before I had a chance to calm down I posted a comment on an Expat Facebook group I belong to. I wrote:

“Here’s my gripe: couldn’t she just say there’s no time in the curriculum to discuss the other systems it’s purely a US Govt subject? That would have sufficed.

“And am I wrong to be so sad that my son will know so much more about the US system of Government and the ins and outs of the Electoral College than the Westminster system?”

I was expecting some empathy from the Aussies amongst us and some lamenting from others about the downside of Expat life where the kids often know more about the country in which they live than their homeland–their motherland.

Instead, after the Australians supported me, I was barraged with comments accusing me of trying to change the AP courses and advising me that the AP system is very strict and must be adhered to.  And this:

“With about 200 countries in the world, how could they effectively compare other systems of government while simultaneously going in-depth about the US?”

But I wasn’t asking for that … Just a bit of discussion if it fits, that’s all.  (And remember I didn’t ask the question, one of my American compatriots–in the parental sense–asked).

Potluck night

With all that behind me I went along to the Potluck night we threw for the Senior parents. We were chatting away about stuff as you do.  We were talking about what subjects our kids were doing and one of the dads said, “Are you sad that [he’s] doing US Gov and will know more about our messed up system than not your own?”

Oh my God. Hallelujah.  Thank you. Yes!

Why wasn’t one of my fellow expats able to just say/ask/empathise like this all-American dad formerly of New York and more recently living in LA?

Did someone say guns?

Well one guy did.  Made a huge statement didn’t he? We are literally walking around in disbelief.  Vegas is so close to LA, it’s in our backyard.  There’s someone you know in Vegas every week.  In fact there were people I knew in Vegas at the time and thankfully they were fine and away from the trouble.

But there’s nothing more obvious than an Australian in a gun debate. Especially in America.  I blogged about it early on when I was here for my first mass shooting. (Yep, like it’s an earthquake or hurricane, celebrity divorce or star meltdown)*.

My daughter was talking about it in school the day we woke to the news of the Vegas tragedy. One of her friends said she believed in the right to protect herself (I’m guessing she means her family not actually 15 year-old her). Miss H looked at her startled; it wasn’t something she was expecting to hear in LA amongst her friends.

Miss H said, “If there were proper gun laws then they wouldn’t have a gun in the first place would they?”

I’m happy to say I give my kids an Australian perspective when it really matters.

Australians actually have it all wrong

But actually us Australians have it all wrong.  We do. If there’s one single thing we are polar opposites with America on it’s our attitude to guns.  And never the two shall meet.  Basically, we’re like guns suck, they kill people. And Americans (not all thank-you but the ones giving you a bad rap) are like guns are so good, I get to protect myself and it’s my right to have one. So there.

Every time there’s a mass shooting in America us Australians come out like Eddie Murphy in his classic standup routine “I got an ice-cream“.

Yeah, we go

“We don’t have guns,

“You got a problem,

“We can’t afford them,

“Cause they can’t sell them,

“You have to have a licence

“And it’s really hard.”

And Americans  go, “Oh My God I’m so sorry, how do you cope?”

Then we pull out the Port Arthur story and go, “Take that!”

Then the conversation goes one of two ways.

  1. Well it’s our right to bear arms it’s in the second amendment so there. OR
  2. You know you’ve had other mass shootings don’t you? Yeah, but you never talk about them do you?

Then we get all funny (because we like to win too). We have to concede defeat. One or two situations have tragically happened (the Lindt Cafe hostage situation freaked me out).

(BTW there were three deaths including the hostage taker and 18 injured).

Yeah, all of a sudden because we let a couple of incidents slip through to the keeper in the last 21 years, that means our rules suck.  So basically it didn’t work.

“Take that Australia. We win.”

Yep. Let’s face it, when it comes to the number of psychotic mass shootings in the last (let’s just call it 10 years) you win America.

So Australia got it wrong after all.

 

Nightly Talk Shows

But not all Americans believe semi-automatic and automatic guns should be out there for anyone to buy. And use. And kill people.

I recorded every late night show to see how the comedians handled the latest tragedy. I follow them all on Twitter and I’ve tweeted and retweeted anything vaguely intelligent on the subject.

But, the problem with the way the situation here is that these guys are preaching to the converted. We share their posts on Facebook, we tweet them and post photos on our Instagram like the Pray Policy Change for America. They unite with the Australians, we look at each other and go “yeah, exactly”, we puff our chests out and wear a grin from ear to ear.

The same thing happened before Trump got elected. They think common sense should prevail.

But change won’t happen unless we stop preaching to the converted.  And not by preaching to the non-converts either. I don’t know how to talk to these people but somehow there’s a way. And once we work out that way, then we’ll start to see a difference.

But to start there are two ways. First is through education: get into the classrooms. It’s going to be a generational change that’s needed because it will never be a mindset change. Second, stop the bloody NRA from being allowed to donate money to bribe the politicians. Actually, just disband them. If politicians aren’t being paid to keep guns legal I will guarantee you their perspective will change.  And if it doesn’t, see step one.

And, because I’m one of those “converteds” here is a story including a video with some powerful statements from said Late Night hosts. Powerful statements that will fall on deaf ears yet again.

 

Immigrants

Curve ball … empathy. As I was writing the first part of this post I started thinking.

Immigration is such a huge topic and it’s so deeply dividing (what topic isn’t these days?) An expat is just a temporary immigrant really.

When you leave your family and friends behind, move to a new country to start a “better life” (for whatever reason) it’s pretty bloody hard to start afresh. You have to make new friends, experience different ways of doing things and assimilate into your new world.  Take a US Gov class instead of Australian Legal Studies.

Many people say America and Australia aren’t that different–they’re essentially the same right? (Well, my series on the differences between Americans and Australians show just how different they can be lots of times).

So what if you move to a country that’s nothing like your motherland? How much harder must it be then? We experienced it in China as expats but not as immigrants.

Just a thought if you’re down on people for clinging to their motherland.  Cut them some slack. They want to be in your country (OK, most of them–don’t get nitpicky on me) and they want to assimilate.  But sometimes, when you move away, the bond is stronger and the memories grow fonder and fonder.

Chin up!

xx It Started in LA xx

* Don’t forget to #prayforTori

Aussie taxes for Expats
Expat tales

Four Steps For Aussie Expats To Sort Out Their Australian Finances & Taxes

If you’re like me and think you should be more educated on your finances then this is the post for you. I invited Craig Joslin along to talk about four steps for Aussie Expats to sort out their Australian finances & taxes.

Craig is the founder of The Australian Expat Investor – dedicated to educating Aussie Expats to build their wealth while living abroad.  Check out his blog or get his free ebook (9 Painful Surprises For Australian Expats That Could Cost Thousands of Dollars) at www.austexpatinvestor.com.

Over to you Craig …

Four steps for Aussie Expats to sort out their Australian finances & taxes

Moving overseas is an exciting time in anyone’s life.  For some people it means adventure, for others it’s about experiencing a new culture, or perhaps it is a career opportunity.  Whatever the reason, it is important to keep an eye on your financial and tax arrangements in Australia.  With a little bit of planning, and simply being aware of some of the tax and other financial implications of moving abroad, you could save yourself a lot of money and heartache in the long run.

In this article we provide a quick overview of 4 important steps for Aussie expats in the USA to help you sort out your finances and taxes when moving abroad.

Step 1 : Understand the Difference Between Being a Resident and Non-Resident For Tax Purposes



Your tax residency has the potential to significantly impact your overall tax liabilities, and the most important questions an Aussie expat should ask themselves is Am I An Australian Resident for Australian tax purposes? 

If you are deemed to be an Australian resident for Australian tax purposes, then you will need to declare your worldwide income to the Australian government.  Whereas if you are deemed to be a non-resident for Australian tax purposes, then the Australian government will only be interested in your Australian sourced income.

Step 2 : Determine Whether You Will Be Considered A Resident Or Non Resident For Australian Tax Purposes

 

The Australian Tax Office use a number of different tests to determine whether you are a resident or non resident for Australian tax purposes.  There are however no conclusive rules, and your residency will be based on the facts of your specific personal situation.

 

For most Aussie expats, the most relevant test is the domicile and permanent place of abode test.  Under this test, to be considered a non-resident for Australian tax purposes, you need to demonstrate you have established a permanent place of abode overseas.  This will, among other things, require you to demonstrate that you have severed your social and economic ties with Australia, plan to live overseas for at least two years, establish a permanent home overseas, and abandon your residence in Australia (ie. selling or renting out your house).

 

It is possible, however, that under USA law you could be considered a USA tax resident, and under Australian law you could be considered an Australian tax resident.  As a result, Australia and the USA have a tax treaty (also known as a double taxation agreement) include tie-breaker tests for tax residency.  These tie-breaker tests ensure that it is only possible for you to be considered a tax resident of one country.   The tax treaty also details taxing rights of each country over different sources of your income.

 

Managing your international tax affairs can be complicated and confusing.  It is important to get your tax residency determination right, so you should discuss your tax residency with your Australian tax advisor.

 

Step 3 : Determine Whether You Need To Lodge a Tax Return in Australia

If you are deemed to be an Australian resident for Australian tax purposes then you will be obligated to continue submitting an Australian tax return each year.

 

If you are deemed to be a non-resident for Australian tax purposes, then you may still need to complete an Australian tax return.  Generally speaking if you have any Australian sourced income, (eg. rental income from property in Australia, employment income, or in some circumstances dividend income) you will need to complete an Australian tax return.

 

Completing a tax return does not, in itself, mean you need to pay tax.  In fact, many Aussie expats living abroad with negatively geared investment properties have negative taxable income in Australia.  In these circumstances, you can generally accumulate these tax losses until the day you return to Australia and so reduce your tax liabilities at that point in time.

 

Step 4 : Review Your Investments

Moving overseas can result in significant changes in the tax treatment of your share and property investments, and so it is important to review your investment portfolio when moving abroad.  I cover this in quite some detail in my special report on Australian Tax Implications for Aussie Expats.  As a result, you should review the tax implications on your investments with your Australian financial advisor to ensure the arrangements you have in place remain appropriate.

 

Two areas that have the most complications for Aussie expats are in relation to Self Managed Super Funds and share investments.

Self Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF)

If you have a SMSF, compliance with government legislation becomes increasingly difficult and non-compliance can be a costly mistake as your SMSF will be taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.  You should review your arrangements with your financial advisor to ensure your SMSF remains compliant with government requirements, and you may need to consider suspending all contributions to the fund whilst you are overseas, appointing a new trustee, or possibly shutting down the SMSF.

Share Investments

If you are a non-resident for Australian tax purposes, then the tax treatment of your Australian share portfolio can change quite dramatically.  Some of the issues to note if you are a non-resident for Australian tax purposes are  :

  • Your shares will be deemed to be sold at the market value on the day you become a non-resident for Australian tax purposes and you will be liable for capital gains tax on the deemed capital gain. The flip side however, is that as a non-resident for tax purposes, any further capital gain is not taxed in Australia. (Note, you can elect that your shares are not sold, however any further capital gains will be taxed in Australia)
  • You will need to pay non-resident withholding tax on your unfranked dividends, and your franked dividends will generally not be taxed in Australia.
  • If you have borrowed any money to invest in the sharemarket (eg. a margin loan) any interest costs will no longer be tax deductible in Australia.

 

In summary, moving overseas is a big step.  It is easy to get distracted by the urgent tasks of finding a new home, kids schooling, and a multitude of government forms and paperwork.  However, it is important to also make time to understand the taxation implications of moving overseas.  Educate yourself about the implications of moving abroad, understand how it may impact you, and then speak to your taxation or financial advisor.

 

To connect with Craig you can find him on the Web, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

Disclaimer : This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute financial or taxation advice. As this information is not advice and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness for your circumstances. Independent advice should be obtained from an Australian financial services licensee before making investment decisions, and a registered (tax) financial advisor/accountant in relation to taxation decisions.

 

 

The Emmys
Posts

The Emmy’s (recap 2017)

Did you watch The Emmy’s yesterday? For regular followers you’ll know that I’m addicted to all the awards shows. Some sources say that viewer numbers are dwindling but there has never been a better time to be a “TV Head” (not a head of TV or network but addicted to TV) than now.

The main reason we were watching

Yes it’s true I am an Awards Show junkie so I would be glued to the TV (or there in real life) no matter what. But, this year I had extra reason to watch closely.

It Started in LA had one of its own front and centre at the Emmy’s this year.  That’s right, my son was a special guest of honour hobnobbing amongst the who’s who of TV Royalty.  I joked that we better watch closely as he may turn up in one of those regular pan-to-the-audience shots, but little did I imagine he’d feature quite heavily.  And feature (almost full-screen feature) enough to send my messages going overtime only to be drowned out by my squealing and yelling.  The camera (or was that his mum & her friends?) found him the most handsome up & coming star of this year’s awards.

 

The low-down

The Emmy’s seems to have got the diversity card down a lot sooner than the Oscars.  And this year was no different.  The two trends were definitely women and ethnicity.  It’s a good thing so long as it’s not staged and tokenism.  And this year it was far from it.  We can thank Shonda Rhimes as one of the pioneers and there are many more to come.

But let’s see if it keeps going.  As fabulous as it is Big Little Lies has some serious Hollywood punch behind it.  As she was making her acceptance speech you could see Reese Witherspoon would never take no for an answer.  She reminded me of her on-screen character Madeline–she is a powerhouse tough lady and a great model for our girls.But not everyone here has her friends, influence and cashola.

Politics

Hollywood has its fair share of making itself heard in terms of political views.  Watching at home I thought it was priceless that Sean Spicer made a cameo. But many didn’t.  Good on him for being able to take the piss out of himself. It wasn’t that long ago he had nothing to laugh about. I like moments where people don’t take themselves too seriously. Especially him.  While he was Press Secretary he was anything but a laugh a minute.  I hope it means he’s human after all.

Not as many Trump jokes as I thought but enough–the undertone was there and frankly that’s all you need.  I think it’s great when people who have followers can use the attention they get to highlight issues but there’s a fine line.  I’m pleased to report that fine line wasn’t crossed.  Well done!

Fashion

Of course fashion is always the big topic on everyone’s lips. Hairdressers are booked out, stylists are stressed out and make-up artists and hairdressers are worth their weight in gold.

The trends were definitely glitter (featuring silver), plunging necklines (when oh when are they going to disappear I loathe them) and the wet look (hair).  For the men coloured tuxes was the way to go.

Here are my favourite looks.

Millie Bobby Brown. Age-appropriate, stunning and worn with class

 

Jessica Biel. On trend but actually rocked it

Issa Rae perfection in red

 

And here are my not-so-favourite looks. Whether I’m getting old or losing my touch but some people actually name a few of these in their best dressed.  Just goes to show taste is most definitely not something we all share.

Tracee Ellis Ross. Many liked it, sadly me not so much

Priyanka Chopra. I once thought she would wear a bedspread and she’d look amazing. I take it back

Sarah Paulsen. On trend but didn’t work for me, fine with the shoulder pads, love the back but the fit didn’t work for me

 

 

Gossip

One of the big discussion pieces of the night was Sean Spicer. I’m wondering where my favourite cast of Scandal was? No sign of them and it’s their last big year.

The catwalk is not the same without the gorgeous Kerry Washington.

As for me I sent the wrong reporter in. All I got this morning was a grunt, a huge shot of coffee and mumblings about a Chem quiz at school. Life goes back to normal for my 90210 son (no pity).

 

Bravo Emmy’s on a job well done. It was a good watch and with so many categories, so many shows and so many people involved in the final product I think it’s great to break the Emmy’s out into a long festival.  Next year though I’d love to upgrade my status to on-site reporter.

Enjoy your week, we’re going to continue with the hangover in LA a while longer,

xx It Started in LA xx

 

For the more insider versions of the news here are a couple of wrap ups from the big news outlets.

Vanity Fair

MSN.com

 

healthcare in the usa
Differences between America & Australia, Soapbox

Health Insurance in the USA

Updated January 24, 2018; First published September 13, 2017

It’s time to talk about Health Insurance in the USA.  I’ve bitten my tongue for the last four years but enough’s enough and it’s time to speak up. Because it’s true what you might think: the health system in the US stinks.  It bites the big one.  It totally sux.

There are three reasons I say this.

  1.  The Health system in the US relies on your employer to sponsor you through the system–to provide a health plan for you
  2.  A lot of people in the US work for small businesses who may not be able to afford to offer great health plans (see above)
  3.   Even with great health plans, seeking medical treatment can send you broke.  Seriously.

Just let me say that this is not a how-to on medical insurance in the US.  I don’t know enough about the system to write one of those.  And, while I try to educate myself on the topic it’s so difficult to navigate and wrap your head around (read: it’s so foreign to anything we think of when it comes to health insurance) that I’m sure I’ve missed stuff.

Our health insurance

We’re lucky, Mr H works for a large firm that offers excellent health insurance.  There are a range of plans to choose from that offer different costs and benefits.  Our first few years here were pretty straight forward.  We went for our annual medical checks at no cost.  Preventative care here is highly regarded here and visits are offered at no extra charge. In other words, your insurance company pays the entire cost of the $250 visit (or thereabouts depending on your doctor).

There are in-network doctors and out-of-network doctors.  The above is true providing your doctor is in your network.  Go outside your network and your health starts to get really expensive.  In-network essentially means your doctor–or health provider–has contracted with your insurance company.

So three years have gone by and all is good.  Mr H’s company pays an extraordinary amount to cover us and we pay around about the same as we paid in Australia to cover us.  We also have a credit card that the company puts money into and we put money into (pre-tax).  This is to cover us for the co-payment we have to make on many of our health expenses.  This is usually true until you’ve spent a certain amount of money and differs from plan to plan and is dependent on your organisation and the plans they provide for you.  Unless it’s a preventative visit you generally have to make a co-payment. (I guess we call this the gap in our private medical insurance in Australia).

Essentially we were paying a fortune and Mr H’s employer was paying a fortune for 4-10 doctor’s visits a year–mainly preventative care.

Don’t get sick unless you can afford it

It’s when something happens to you that is outside the norm that health insurance really starts to suck.

For example, one of the tennis coaches at school got a brain tumour.  He was one of the lucky ones, it wasn’t cancerous and it could be treated.  I’m going to quote the story from his Go Fund Me page:

“…The difficulty now is there are only a handful of neurosurgeons qualified or willing to perform this complicated procedure. And needless to say, despite medical insurance, the costs are staggering. The one neurosurgeon able to perform the surgery has no insurance contracts and is exclusive to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a hospital that MJ’s insurance is unable to contract with.

“So he’s forced to pay out of pocket, and essentially, up front.

“We’ve started this Go Fund Me campaign to help him pay for surgery, for his hospital stay, for the rehabilitation and recovery, and for whatever next steps lay ahead of him in the fight of his life.”

Oh my …

I don’t know how much the surgery, hospital visit and all the incidentals cost but let’s say it was around $500k, possibly a lot more.  I had blood tests at Cedars-Senai when I was seeing a specialist and it cost $5,792.55. No word of a lie.  This is nothing specifically against Cedars either–they all charge this much and it is a very good hospital.

So, his perspective is he’s lucky to be alive, he’s very happy he’s here to tell the tale and wouldn’t have life any other way.  I couldn’t agree more.

But seriously? Get sick and you’ll be paying off that debt for the rest of your life.

There are many doctors out there that don’t have insurance contracts.  That means they charge what they like and you put a claim into your insurance company after you’ve paid the bills.  Fine if it’s a couple of hundred dollars but gets difficult when we start to creep into the thousands, tens of thousands and … you get the picture.

And I get it, these doctors work hard to get to where they are.  They should be able to charge fairly for their services; we’d be lost without them. Or dead.  Yeah that.

But still.

This is where it gets more complicated

So, if that were me above firstly we’d die–where can I find that money to pay for the surgery? I’d have to sell everything and my family would be left with nowhere to live but lucky me I get to have surgery in a nice hospital for a few days.  Let alone trying to fund my son’s College bill next year.  (Plenty more on that I’m sure but here’s my entree story on that topic).

Secondly, I’d put the claim into my insurance.  Because this doctor is not in network I’m penalised.  Take a recent bill we had as a family.  Here is the breakdown of our “refund” quoting from an email I got from them:

“Total Charge $1025.00, out of network write off $626.36 (because we used a specialist out of my insurance network), coinsurance $119.60 (I don’t even know what this means but I assume I have to pay something to contribute), paid to member $279.04.  Please allow 7 to 10 business days to receive the check.”

I won’t hold my breath.  Out of network WRITE OFF?  Seriously? You’ve got to be joking right now.

And I can hear what you’re saying.  You’re saying, “well Gwen it’s pretty simple just stay in network and you’ll get more back and they won’t write off such a large chunk of your bill.”

Well yes, great point. But here’s where it gets interesting.  Many good doctors and specialists AREN’T in network so you immediately have fewer choices.  These doctors don’t want to be at the mercy of the Insurance companies so choose not to contract with them.  And many don’t have to.  To be fair, it’s also a big nightmare for them.

And I tried to find an in-network doctor but the good ones aren’t taking new patients and I’ve heard that even when you’re in it’s hard to get another appointment for weeks as they’re too busy–which is why they’re not taking new patients.

Let’s compare it to Australia shall we?

A doctor’s visit here is around $120. Go to a Medicare bulk billing doctor in Australia and the doctor gets $35? $45? and I pay nothing. Some doctors charge $60 or $80 and then I pay a smaller amount.  So who is the loser here? The Australian doctors or me?  Yep, both of us.

So, for the privilege of our $243.99 every two weeks we pay in health insurance–don’t forget the astronomical amount Mr H’s employer is also paying–I get $279.04 back for a $1025 bill.  (We also pay more for vision and dental insurance btw in case you’re playing along at home).  Oh, and we also may a Medicare tax and a Medicare Surtax each fortnight and God knows where that goes as there is no such thing as Medicare for us.

Deductibles, Out of Pockets and In network

Update: I took my daughter to our local “Urgent Care” because she had flu-like symptoms and couldn’t get out of bed. I just got the full bill back and the actual charge was $357.69 of which the insurance pays $266.20 and I pay $91.49.  These guys are in network! The caveat I think is that I haven’t met my deductible yet.

A deductible is basically the amount I pay until such time as I’ve accumulated the minimum amount set out by the insurance company at the beginning of the year.  Ours is $3,000. And for that we pay a lesser premium than a plan with no deductible.

We also have an Out of Pocket limit. So once we “meet our deductible” (pleased to meet you deductible you’re about to help my cash flow) then one lot of fees are removed and we only have to pay another lot (I’m being vague because I still don’t really know what). Even better is when we meet our Out of Pocket number (this year–2018–it’s $7,000) then we’ll pay nothing. Of course that’s if you’re in network. Remember if you’re out of network then there’s a high amount they just write off (which can be different every month) and you’re stung with a huge bill anyway.  Same if you’re dying (as per scenario above).

What’s Obamacare?

I don’t clearly know the answer to this question.  I think it’s the right for every person to have health insurance so if you’re my hairdresser who works for yourself and not covered under a family plan then you can sign up and pay for insurance yourself.  It’s not cheap and not every insurance company provides it. In fact, because health insurance packages differ from state-to-state, many states don’t have options like they might have here in California.  I don’t know enough about it though to speak to this.

What’s to repeal & replace?

You might have heard Trump is all set to “repeal and replace” Obama care.  I don’t know if this means people who work for themselves may no longer be eligible or whether they are trying to bring the costs down so more people can afford it because there is no substance to the arguments that get bantered around.

I do know that one of the arguments people were saying back to the politicians “on the hill” was vote for the insurance you would give yourselves.

I do also know that one of the most contentious points is pre-existing conditions.  This is one thing Trump wants dumped.  So for me, who has high blood pressure due to a pesky but controllable kidney issue, if I move health insurance providers then none of my expenses resulting in my existing high blood pressure would be covered.  I would have to foot the bill for all of it.  Nice and fair.  Way to go pollies.

What I don’t get

What I don’t get is why organisations need to pay for people’s health insurance in the USA.  It would be fine if everyone has access to it but they don’t.  Or at least it doesn’t seem to me that they do.  No, they don’t.

There’s no such thing as a public hospital so people who don’t have health insurance have to go to an emergency department, where they can’t be refused treatment, to be seen to.

I don’t get why doctors have to contract individually with the various health insurers.  Everyone has been up in arms about Obamacare raising the price of health insurance.  But shouldn’t we be looking over both our shoulders here? There are two other parties I can see play a part in this complex equation.

One is our health insurers–they’re setting these high prices. And then the doctors, hospitals and the health system in general.  Why is everything so much more expensive than it is at home?  Let’s not even start on the price of drugs here.  It feels like a conspiracy: everyone is partnered to “get the most effective price for people” yet what it is is a price where everyone can make a bit of money (read: bucket loads) and it’s got way way way out of hand.

I don’t get why the premiums are so god-damned high but you don’t get anything for it.

But back to point one (sort of): I really don’t get why every single American doesn’t have a right to healthcare.

My two cent’s worth

Cut everyone out and start again.  Everyone buy their own insurance capped at an acceptable market rate.  Have Medicare cover a set portion of every expense then medical insurance can pay for the gap.  If you can afford it then by all means you have the choice to go to a private practitioner and pay them for the extra privilege.  But, if I get a brain tumour and I can be saved like MJ was, don’t make my family eat dog food and live in a caravan park for the rest of our forseeable life just so I can be saved.

Oh and make insurance companies government run.  Sure the government is so hopeless that it could end up being shocking but everyone should be able to get medical attention.  Access to medical care is a right not a privilege.

If doctors and insurance companies weren’t spending so much time (which equals money) negotiating complex contracts the costs would drop.  If organisations are not having to pay for everyone’s healthcare then profits would be higher (or actually cost of goods wouldn’t need to be so high).

The Australian model has its flaws but it works.  I don’t see why the “greatest country in the world” has to have such a shit system.

Footnote

So I open up my piece to edit it and send out and as I’m looking through my Huffpost I see an interesting story about Bernie Sanders and his view on healthcare.  Naturally I read the story in case I learn something more to share with you.

Well blow me over guess what? It seems Bernie Sanders agrees with me. Bernie wants a Medicare system introduced here in America similar to Australia’s.

Here’s the Washington Post’s story on it.

And check out and interview with the Huffington Post & Bernie Sanders here.

Don’t worry Republican voters it will never see the light of day.  But to me that’s a huge shame.  At least a version of it.

Meanwhile, if I keep getting $279 back for every $1025 I spend perhaps I might just consider self-insuring.  I might just come out in front.  One day when I’m bored I might do some financial modelling on that one.

Have a good rest of week,

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: If you want to contribute here’s a link to MJ’s Go Fund Me page.

 

Why, what and how to tip in LA
Posts, Visiting LA

How, why and what should I tip in LA?

How do I tip in LA? I know, I know, I know.  You get to America and you’re like why do I need to tip? It costs me a fortune in tips. You might not like it but there is a logic behind tipping here in the US. I saw a great article written by a fellow Aussie who lives in San Francisco, Kat, so I asked her if she could write one for me and my readers (that’s you). She’s going to give you the low-down on the how, why and what should I tip in LA.

 

Over to you Kat!

Aussies have a terrible reputation in Europe and the US when it comes to tipping. I can say it because I am part of the problem. Social awkward at the best of times, I can never work out who expects to be tipped, who would see it as an affront and how much (or little) to give.

 

Us Aussies go on holiday or move to another country without giving much thought to the mathematical intricacies that will take up our daily life. Tipping means always having cash in your wallet – a habit that I’d long grown out of by the time I moved here.

 

I’ve suffered through many an embarrassing tipping moment in the past 18 months. From trying to work out 20% in my head in front of the Chinese takeaway (never going to happen) while smiling and talking to the hostess to staring at the tipping bowl at the checkout in the hardware wondering what I’d be tipping for exactly.

 

In the hopes of recovering our Aussie pride and becoming great tippers, here’s a list of things you need to know–who expects a tip (why) and who you should tip:

 

Parking attendant

Do you like your car? Did you invest a significant portion of your income in it? So you probably want it to be treated nicely. Round the parking fee up to the dollar and then add another couple of bucks for good measure.

 

Hairdresser

You sit inside the salon for what seems like an age. Washing, cutting, colouring, highlighting and/or blow drying. Probably talking a lot too. Those things don’t come cheap.
I wasn’t happy with the thought of adding a tip to that. But if they do a good job and you love your new do it’s customary to fork over an extra 20%.
Don’t forget the shampooist either. Tip them between $3 and $5 depending on whether they also apply your colour or toner.

 

Bathroom Attendant

(Seriously… You’ve seen Ferris Bueller, they’re there and they’re looking for a tip! -Gwen)

If you frequent the types of places that have attendants handing you towels and breath mints in the bathrooms, you probably don’t need to be reading this article. You can afford to part with a dollar or two. Don’t be stingy.

 

Uber/Lyft

Before I owned a car here I relied on Uber a fair bit and I never tipped once. It just never occurred to me to tip the driver. Even though the official Uber line is that you don’t need to tip, it’s good manners to hand over 20%, especially considering how cheap the fares are.

(Ooops–I wish I didn’t read this now Kat! –Gwen)

 

Movers

No one likes moving and I’m guessing that you’ve hired movers because you couldn’t rope your mates in with the promise of a slab of beer. It seems you have to tip every member of the moving crew between $25 and $50 each. I know, it hurts.

 

Hotel Maids

When you leave the bed in a rumpled mess, duvet and towels on the floor and junk everywhere, it’s a good idea to tip the maid between $2 and $5 each day. Maybe the price difference is dependent on the mess you make?

 

Home Delivery

The person who sat in traffic, braved the cold, wind, rain or heat to bring you food because you were too lazy to go out and get it yourself, deserves a tip. Stop being such a tightarse and hand over 20% online while you’re ordering or have some cash ready for when they make it to your door.

 

Bartender

I don’t understand this one. Seriously, you stand behind a bar and take the twist top off a bottle or pull a beer for me. Does that really require a tip? Yes. Give the bartender some loose change or a $1 bill. A cocktail’s going to set you back a little more though.

 

Waiter/Waitress

Sure they get paid minimum wage, which means $10.50 in LA. Imagine trying to pay your rent and bills on $10.50 an hour? That’s why they have to live off tips. So if you don’t like the food from the kitchen but the service was great, don’t penalise the waiter/waitress by withholding the tip. Give them the customary 20% and thank your lucky stars that you’re not in their shoes.

 

(I researched this one day, actually.  And, to make it worse, they don’t actually get that whole 20%.  First they have to “tip out” the runners and the maître d’.  So, if you’re short-changing them their 18-20% then they’re the ones that get screwed. It’s a hard way to make a living so cut them a little slack. –Gwen)

 

Car Wash

Not that it’s been necessary with all the rain we’ve been having, but sometimes it’s worth getting your car washed by someone else. Sling between $2 and $5 their way, depending on the kind of wash you’ve asked for.

Personal Care

Things like waxing, facials, manicures and pedicures fall under this category. Don’t just sit there and switch off, only to realise an hour later that they’ve done something you don’t actually like. Pay attention! Tipping between 15% and 20% is plenty.

 

(I went to the Hotel Bel Air for a facial not so long ago and they automatically added 20% so don’t be surprised when big hotels do that–they’re probably more than familiar with those of us not used to tipping. And yes, it does bring the price of that treatment right up there!–Gwen)

 

Those are my tips on tipping. Now give me your opinions or tell me if I’ve missed someone. 

 

Thanks Kat. If you like Kat’s work hop on over to her Blog and have a good read.

You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

I hope you understand a little more about why you actually should tip rather than bury your head in the sand!  It’s not the person’s fault, it’s the system!

xxIt Started in LAxx

 

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