20 years ago, I arrived in Sydney for the first time. It was amazing being there. It felt so far from the UK and everyone I knew. But I was instantly intrigued by the familiarity in culture in some ways, but huge differences in terms of environment, climate and outlook. This was a place that I wanted to get to know better.
Over the next 20 years, we visited Australia 7 or 8 times, staying for the best part of 2 months on one occasion, roaming around Australia in a camper van when our son was only 18 months old. It was a great experience and I remember sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean in Manly and imagining how great it would be to, one day, spend the English winters in Australia and the British summers in the UK.
When we got back to the UK, we decided to move this dream forward on our terms. There was no rush, but we found a migration expert and put the wheels in motion. After a lot of form filling, medicals and even an English language test, we were finally given Permanent Residency to live in Australia in 2012! Ya. The very next year, we had to head back to Australia to activate the visa and then had 5 years to move there or the residency would lapse and we’d have to go through the whole process again. We then got on with life in the UK.
It actually took us the full five years to move to Australia and we arrived in Sydney on August 11th 2016. It’s hard to believe that we’ve actually been an Australian resident now for 12 months, and I feel blessed to have had this experience as I’ve learnt so much that I want to share. So, if you’re thinking of a move down under at some point, here are some of my personal insights, tips and tricks that could help make the transition just a little bit easier for you.
Where to live
Australia is a big country with a relatively small population, just 22 million people, the majority of which are settled around the coast. We decided to settle in Sydney. Why Sydney? Having travelled around the whole country, there was a familiarity with Sydney, the setting is stunning and there were a number of communities to tap into. The next big question was where to live in Sydney? I always thought that we’d live on the North Shore, but in the end spent the first 12 months in the Eastern Suberbs, next to the beach, before moving to the North Shore!
Tip: decide on your top priority and orientate yourself from there
Finding a place to live
The first two weeks in Sydney were spent in a hotel whilst we searched for an apartment to rent. This was more challenging than you’d think as the rental rules in Sydney are pretty different to the UK. Properties for ‘lease’ have 15 minute viewing slots where you see the place at the same time as your competitors and have to quickly lodge your application and hope that you get the one you want. We were lucky. Within 3 days of arriving, we’d found a place to rent, although I’ve heard of others who spent months hunting. Fortunately I heard these stories after successfully finding our place!
Tip: rent for a while and get to know the area.
Now moving from the UK where I had a large network, to a city where I knew very few people was a worry, but this is where our globally-connected network really paid off. LinkedIn was really my friend. When people I knew found out my intentions, I was connected to many people in Sydney via LinkedIn and met with them via Skype before leaving the UK. Most were just exploratory conversations and I was so grateful to the generosity I experienced and several of those early conversations have become great friends. Eventually one of those exploratory conversations led to an amazing opportunity at SumoSalad, an Australian-centric brand I’d never heard of, but given my passion for promoting the benefits of eating well, love of salad and adventurous spirit, it was the perfect fit.
Tip: be clear on the industry, culture and environment you want to work in, then network like mad
Building your network
The famous philosopher, Jim Rohn once said that ‘your network is your net-worth’ and I know exactly what he meant. When I arrived in Sydney, I knew exactly 9 people in Sydney, and I contacted and met up with most of them and they all introduced me and connected me to other people. I love meeting people and hearing their stories – I find it hugely energising. I also tapped into the communities that I wanted to be part of: the parents at the school, the expat community and the thriving wellness community. I attended interesting seminars in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and 12 months later, my Australian-based network on LinkedIn has grown from 9 to 220.
Tip: be open and proactive and make it a priority to meet people
Keeping a healthy mindset
Leaving a company I was deeply familiar with, saying goodbye to friends and family and moving to the other side of the world can be a little bit unsettling. However, I tried to keep a healthy mindset by thinking like an explorer and remaining curious like a researcher, finding out about my new land and learning from its inhabitants. Occasionally, though, usually during the night or first thing in the morning, panicked thoughts entered my mind, which were not particularly helpful. So to silence the monkey mind, I consistently applied healthy habits: quality nutrition, running and meditation to get the foundations right, and then social interaction to boost my energy.
Tip: silence the monkey mind with consistent healthy habits
Australians are all health conscious?
Living in the UK, one’s perception of Australians is often one of fit bodies and surf culture. Well, let me dispel that myth. Working for a national, healthy food brand has taught me that there are pockets of this culture in certain geographies, but unfortunately Australia has the same chronic health trends that we have in the UK and see in America. Two thirds of Australians are overweight, one third are obese and these trends are impacting the physical and mental health of Australians. We don’t have the NHS here, but we have Medicare which gives us back a percentage of the costs, so not completely free, but it seems a good, high quality system from my experience.
Links to the UK
The link to the UK is strong. Sydney started as a British penal colony after all and those roots are still evident, particularly around the Rocks area. Given that heritage, it’s not surprising to find that those early settlers decided to copy the names they were familiar with, so Sydney has its own Liverpool Street, Hyde Park, Oxford Street, Kings Cross and Paddington. There are also a whole range of aboriginal names that are hard to pronounce, but link this land to the aboriginal people who inhabited these parts for 50k years. I’ve tapped more deeply into that history recently by visiting Uluru, the most energetic and spiritual place I have ever been to.
Keeping in touch with the UK
Australia is a beautiful country, the beaches and the setting is stunning. The big issue for me and most Brits who decide to make Australia their home is its distance from the UK. With advances and innovation in air travel, distance will no doubt feel diminished, plus the growth in Virtual Reality could mean that we’re all soon able to go to a virtual party which will feel like we’re actually there in person. However, for now, it still takes 23 hours to get to London from Sydney and on top of that, it’s 11 hours ahead in time, so keeping in touch takes work. I have worked hard at this, and managed to leverage my network for business purposes as part of a ‘global ecosystem’, plus keep in regular contact with my family and friends. Tools like WhatApp, FaceTime, Zoom and Skype make it really easy and I have introduced a concept of ‘virtual coffees’ which is a more fun way to keep in touch.
The sky is always blue?
The weather is something that Australia is famous for and having lived here now for 12 months, the weather is definitely better than the UK. But it’s not always sunny, there are cloudy days and rainy days. But sunny is definitely the norm and in the 12 months I have been here, I have worn a coat only once, and a very light one at that. Winter here is like Spring in the UK, bright sunny days and a very blue sky.
Top tip: always wear factor 50 as the sun is very strong here
Creepy crawlies, snakes, jelly fish & sharks
Ok, if you’re not a spider lover, Australia may not be your preferred destination. In truth, though, I have only seen a couple of spiders. The spiders here are huge by UK standards, and there are helpful charts available that can help you check whether a visiting spider is poisonous or not. I’ve actually only seen one very poisonous red-back spider inside a light shade. I haven’t seen any snakes, although i have seen quite a few signs that they may be around, and so far, the jelly fish and sharks have kept their distance!
So there we have it. A few insights from my first 12 months of being an Australian resident. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, I assure you. I’ve had to apply grit and determination to get a job, build a business, grow a network and support my family as they settle into a new land. But it has been a hugely rewarding, learning experience for our whole family and an experience that could so easily have not happened.
What about you?
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