By Lauren Redpath
It was a warm September’s night back in 2014 and I was dreary-eyed and exhausted from a 24-hour flight. Driving from Melbourne airport over the Bolte Bridge, I was trying desperately to stay awake, just to catch a glimpse of Melbourne’s skyline and the twinkling city lights – a novelty that hasn’t worn off more than two year’s in.
My first few days went by in a blur but I put that down to the jet-leg and the numerous coffee’s I was gulping down. Apparently it’s frowned upon to sit in a café just to use their wifi so I paid my way, latte by latte.
A novelty that does wear off very quickly is waking up each morning, in an unfamiliar city and remembering you’re not on anyone’s payroll. You begin to question how you’ll pay for all those lattes after a while.
But I needn’t have worried because five weeks later, I landed on my feet with my first Australian PR role – and two and a bit years later, I’m still proud to call myself a Flourisher. Settling in wasn’t hard at all – everyone drank cups of tea at regular intervals throughout the day, walks in the sunshine on your lunch hour were almost mandatory and the MD – she was everything you’d want in a boss.
The biggest challenge for me – and one I still haven’t been able to conquer – was (and is) being heard, and being heard correctly.
“Good afternoon, Flourish PR, Lauren speaking.”
“Hi, I’m looking to speak to Lauren please.”
“Yes, Lauren speaking.”
“Lorden? That’s an interesting name. Great accent by the way, you must be Irish?”
“It’s actually Lauren, a bit like Laura, but Lauren. And I’m actually from that other country, the one you thought about saying but changed your mind at the last minute – Scotland.”
“That’s awesome. Are you friends with Andy Murray? I bet you love the song ‘500 Miles’ (internal joke).”
The truth is, I actually love the accent banter and for once in my life, it’s a challenge I’m willing to let defeat me.
Living and working overseas is single-handedly the most rewarding thing I have ever accomplished. The apprehension and the doubt and all the ‘what ifs’ just make it all the more worthwhile. Enduring a 24-hour flight to get to your destination gives you a lot of thinking time.
It was during this time that I wondered how different the PR industry would be in Australia – would PR agencies do things completely different and would everything I had learnt and put into practice in the UK be transferrable.
Coming from a corporate background, where people had to search the internal directory to get your phone number, and enduring an awkward lift ride with people you’d never set eyes on before, I just didn’t know what to expect from the other side of the world.
The beauty of being a ‘foreigner’ in a new workplace is that you get to learn from others immersed in the same industry as you, that you wouldn’t normally cross paths with – and you get to share your knowledge and experiences with people who are eager and interested to hear what you have to say – even if you do have to repeat yourself to breakthrough the accent barrier.
Reassuringly, there were not many differences at all, mostly similarities – the disappointment and despair felt when TV interviews are cancelled at the last minute, were definitely on the same level. The stress of getting the weekly client report out before 5.30pm on a Friday was the same too. And it goes without saying, the feeling of complete satisfaction when seeing your client across a double page in a national newspaper, never gets old.
The biggest difference I found in the media world, was how conservative UK press is compared to Australian. In news-breaking events such as a terrorist attack or a tragic accident, UK journalism tends to hold more intricate details back than Australian reporting. I sometimes feel that Australian news reporting is a little too intrusive but that’s a personal opinion.
I’ve also noticed that news anchors and TV presenters in Australia have a little more fun on screen than their British counterparts do – sometimes us Brits can be a little too serious. But it’s those subtle differences that allow you to continue to learn and grow and feel more fulfilled, knowing that not everywhere and everyone in the world, is cut with the same mould.
It might sound like a cliché but moving overseas has definitely changed me as a person, in both my personal and work life. Having the courage to pack my bags, move thousands of miles away from what I know as life in Scotland and essentially – and literally – turning my world (and my PR world) upside down, has given me the confidence to believe in myself. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to make mistakes from time to time, you learn from them and generally speaking, you won’t make the same mistake twice – and if you do, then your mistake obviously wasn’t big enough to have an impact, so is that really a mistake?!
I’ll ponder that question while I sit on my sun lounger, writing my travel journal – I am a traveller after all!