The Perth-born CNN International anchor and correspondent has lived in Atlanta, Georgia, for two decades but he’s happy to report that Aussie slang is still a language he speaks.
What took you to Atlanta?
When an ABC cable news endeavour I’d been hired for in Sydney failed to get off the ground, an adviser that CNN had sent to Sydney suggested the network talk to me. I was unemployed; I would never have had the balls to call them myself! So I became the first Australian hired for an on-air role at CNN International. Now you can’t turn a corner here without running into an Aussie.
How long did you think you’d stay?
I’d been in conflicts and seen dead bodies but anchoring live TV was absolutely terrifying. I’d never done it before. I didn’t know how long it would last. I could have screwed it up on the first night but here I am 20 years later…
How often do you get back to Australia?
I was back in 2014 to cover a story but on average I return every two to three years. My kids have been four times; they’re dual-passport holders and very proud of it.
What’s the key to adapting to a new city?
Getting to know people. I came over here on my own and a couple of people took me under their wing and helped me find a place to live. One of the hardest things when you move to the US is that you have zero credit history and you’re treated like a high-school kid applying for a credit card. I got knocked back for a Target store card!
What do you like most about living in Atlanta?
Housing is remarkably cheap compared with other parts of the country, fuel is cheap and it’s easy to get around. Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world so it’s super-convenient for direct flights to just about anywhere. And the job still excites me.
What do you miss about Australia?
The beach, the light, the smell of the bush, the attitude to life, the sense of humour. I’m lucky – I hang out with a few Australians here so I get a dose of that. The husband of Rosemary Church, another Australian anchor here, is more Australian than Crocodile Dundee so we often get together to have a good yarn.
What aspect of Australian life would you like to have there?
That easygoing interaction, that friendliness to strangers; it’s quintessentially Australian.
And what aspect of American life would you like to see in Australia?
Valet parking! The aspect of American life that I wouldn’t like to see in Australia is religion in politics and guns.
What’s your favourite bar in Atlanta?
Fontaine’s in Virginia-Highland. I lived in that area and it became my Cheers. They’d see me walking up and have my beer on the counter before I walked in the door.
Just across the road from me is a hole-in-the-wall sushi joint called Sushi Sumo Fresh. If I’m on my own I’ll pop in for dinner and sit at the sushi bar. I know the chef and the food is fantastic.
Any advice for a new expat?
Embrace where you are and how they do things. Don’t fight your new society; you have to integrate.
Which place feels like home?
In my heart, Australia is home, absolutely. Atlanta is more conservative and it has a lot more guns. But apart from that it’s a similar day-to-day lifestyle – with no beach.
What remains the most Australian thing about you?
I still use a lot of Australian slang and it’s also hard here because people don’t swear as much!