We always get amped to talk with people that are from over yonder, wherever that may be! Most recently we sat and chatted with the oh so perky, Kylie Flett from Adelaide, South Australia. A global gal at heart, she’s always been enthusiastic about travel. Her trip to America threw her a curveball. She left home with intentions of a short-term stay and…Well, ten years later, we know how that went! When we spoke with her, she opened up about the highs and lows of life as an Australian in the US. She candidly shared many of her experiences in transitioning, dating, studying and now working as a PR Director in Philadelphia. Read on!
Jeta: How did you end up in Philadelphia?
Kylie: I was playing lacrosse for Team Australia and was recruited to play at a D2 school in Cleveland, Oh. (Notre Dame). I was a goal keeper and the coach was starting a program and wanted a good goalie. I said, “Oh I’ll go for a semester.” Then a semester turned into another year, then another season, then by that point I figured I might as well get a degree out of this! I was the first person in my family to go onto college. I had been going to school part-time in Australia, so it was really awesome to come over, be afforded a scholarship at a fantastic school and play the sport I love. But in my mind I always set a date to go home. I planned on coaching one summer and then the same coach that recruited me (to Notre Dame) got the head coaching job here, at LaSalle University. Then she took me to lunch and said, “You’re coming to Philly with me. You have 24 hours to decide. You’re gonna be my graduate assistant.”
Jeta: So, you left Australia not at all expecting to end up being the PR Director at Neff Associates.
Kylie: Not at all. While I was at LaSalle I was able to get my Master’s degree in Professional and Business Communications. It seemed cool to study. I walked into my first PR class and was like, “this is what I wanna do.” So I started working in athletic communications and interning for a couple of different PR agencies in Philadelphia. By the time I graduated with my Master’s, I found a full-time PR job. I’ve been lucky enough to grow at Neff and have been promoted to PR Director. I love working here. I love my team. I have great clients. A lot of our clients are restaurants in the city and it’s pretty funny to have an Australian represent a cheesesteak place (laughs). But this is the career path I was meant to follow. It took me a few years of being a lacrosse coach to realize but I got it now.
Jeta: Australia Day is coming soon. Will you be celebrating?
Kylie: I’m actually having an Australia Day party! It’s like your 4th of July. We celebrate by barbecuing and going to the beach. I’ll just have to buy some Aussie beers and make some Aussie food. Last year I cooked a 9-pound leg of lamb and meat pies, that are popular snacks. This year I’ll probably make cheese and veggie pasties. It’s like vegetables and cheese minced up with herbs and spices, wrapped in puff pastry. It’s good. And I’ll try to make a pavlova or cheat and make some type of fruit tart. Pavlova is a huge Australian dessert but it’s really hard to make. You basically make make a merengue and then bake it so it becomes this hard shell. But it’s very difficult to bake it so that it doesn’t crack. Then you put fresh whipped cream and fruit in it. That part’s easy.
Jeta: So this will be a two-in-one celebration of your ten years here and Australia Day.
Kylie: Yup, exactly. I’ll be 31 this year and it’s kinda scary to think about. I’ve spent my all of my 20’s in America. I’ve seen some of my friends a couple of times. A lot of my mates I’ve managed to stay in contact with through social media or Skype. And you forget that time doesn’t stand still just because you leave. They’re all having third kids and buying second homes by now. It is crazy! Ten years is a looong time, especially your 20’s, when everything changes. It’s a pretty interesting decade to be gone.
Jeta: So were you able to transition easily?
Kylie: Horrible. I hated it. My first two years, I really had a tough time. People don’t think about this concept of home sickness and having cultural differences since I’m from an English-speaking, western country. I don’t look different. I sound a little different, even though now my accent is so diluted. But there are a lot of differences and all of these things are very huge factors. Between the weather being different and the food, especially in the midwest. Ohio grew on me but it was hard in the beginning. Australia is such a melting pot of cultures with a lot of different Asian cultures. I was used to being able to go out for Vietnamese, Indian or Filipino food. Making that transition to Cleveland, it was all American Chinese! Language definitely played a part too. Once I was walking on campus and a girl came up to me and said, “nice kicks.” I had no idea what she was talking about! I just stared at her like she had four heads. She probably thought I was such a bitch. And in some of my behavioral psychology classes I had a tough time using the term “Black” for people. The term “black” in Australia for indigenous people, or aborigines, is still not a kosher term. I’ll never forget this girl in the middle of the class called me out for always using African-American. It was a culture shock for both of us! I still don’t feel comfortable using it because that’s very derogatory for the aboriginal population, who most commonly have darker skin. And in class, I was a good student but my professor and I just could not see eye-to-eye. In Australia, it’s considered rude to answer someone with ‘what’. So once, I didn’t understand her and I said, “I beg your pardon?” She took it as me being uppity or combative. Then she said, “WHAT did you say??!”. So then I took it as her attacking me. This professor and I just could not get it together. There was a lot of awkward silence in that class. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to look back on that experience and see why. Now I can laugh but at the time, I wondered why I should have to change my behavior. But sometimes it’s easier to just assimilate. But even that’s hard because you don’t want to lose who you truly are.
Jeta: You’re actually making me want to go visit Australia.
Kylie: Thanks! I mean, as a culture I think we’re a little more laid back. Dating in America was really difficult for me. Australian women are a little more upfront. I learned quickly that a lot of American men were a little intimidated. I swear a lot and that’s more appropriate in Australian culture. Here, American guys want that American girl next-door. They want to party with girls like me but they don’t want to settle down. And I think there’s more give-and-take in relationships in Australia.
Jeta: That was my next question. I wanted to know the difference between American men and Australian men.
Kylie: We’re a little more European-influenced in Australia. So, in my experience, men in Australia are a little more fashion-forward. They tend to wear their clothes more fitted. Here, there’s this association of if you’re into fashion, you must be gay. Obviously that’s very polarizing. Also, Australian guys are a little more laid back. And women are more outspoken. Here, I’ve noticed that women are a little tougher on other women. It’s hard here. I feel like women should be embracing other women. It’s not a groundbreaking concept.
Jeta: I agree.
Kylie: Also, here, I think the disparity is a lot more obvious. If you look at Mount Airy, Germantown and Chestnut Hill. Those are interesting areas because you can have some real poverty in some areas and multimillion dollar mansions blocks over. In Australia the middle class is a lot larger.
Jeta: If you could bottle up one thing from home and bring here, what would it be?
Kylie: I’d probably be an ass not to say my friends and family. I’m missing my nieces grow up. I’ve only been home twice. After them, I’d say weather or food, as silly as it sounds. I really took for granted how close I was to the beach. Now, I only get to the beach once a season and that concept to me is still entirely foreign.
Jeta: And what from the US would you take back to Australia?
Kylie: I really love Thanksgiving! That’s one cool American thing to get into. Regardless of the controversy that Thanksgiving was built on, the tradition that it is today is a day to celebrate with family and eat pie and watch football. And really talk about what you’re thankful for, which we don’t often do with friends and family. That’s definitely a tradition I’d like to continue. And the hardest to leave behind would be the friendships. Over this past decade, I’ve really found family.
Jeta: What’s one of our customs that you could leave behind?
Kylie: I think it’s the concept of paid maternity leave being nonexistent. And then of course (not having) free healthcare. And back home education is just easier. I had friends in college (Notre Dame) that would go to school one semester then take the next off to work. That’s so scary to me, the concept of education being so hard to attain. It’s limited and really classist.
Jeta: What in the US reminds you of home?
Kylie: Certainly not this bloody snow! When I was 20, I saw snow for the first time. I loved it. It was magical. I still get excited when it snows the first time, then it turns to slush and I’m breaking my ass (laughs). But I visited a girlfriend in San Diego and while I was walking down the street, I could smell eucalyptus. They have a lot of eucalyptus trees out there. And the sun was shining over the trees. Something about that scent just brought on the nostalgia. I felt like I was home.
Jeta: Last Question. How do you feel about Philadelphia?
Kylie: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of places while I was coaching but ultimately I love Philadelphia. I love how accessible it is. It’s a big city but it’s still not overwhelming. It’s relatively affordable. My quality of life here is great. I rent an apartment that would probably be an $8,000 apartment in New York or San Francisco. But we’re definitely not paying that much! I love working in Old City, where the oldest street in America is right up the block. It’s kinda cool. And we do have a great food and restaurant scene here.
Happy anniversary and happy early Australia Day!!!