Relocating to Australia from UK can be a daunting prospect for the family. Venturing into the unknown, many thousands of miles from friends, family and all that’s familiar.
But you will be pleasantly surprised to see many similarities and strong connections between the two countries. Same Head of State, English the common language, shared love of sports, to name but a few.
So our decision made, paperwork completed, medical checks done. Promises to visit made by family, friends and neighbours! Home packed and many tearful goodbyes said. Now it’s for real. We’re on the move again…
With all the practical things done and dusted, I remember sitting on the plane ready for take off. Catching my husband’s attention over our excited children’s heads, I mouth the words “it IS going to work out OK, isn’t it?” I’m here to tell you that it did…it worked out beautifully for our family.
Was it difficult at first? Honestly? Yes!
Was it overwhelming at times coping with, not only my mixed emotions, but those of the family, and all that that entails? Absolutely!
The reality is any move to a new location brings challenges but a move to the other side of the world takes it up a whole other notch. Missing family and friends is probably the greatest hurdle and it is a challenge for most ex-pats. Except for the few who may have family or friends already relocated here. For a few families it may even prove too difficult to overcome.
This was not our first international move, but first with school-aged children. From experience I knew my husband would be straight into finding his way around the new job, meeting new colleagues, new systems, new clients and coming home mentally exhausted.
Too tired to talk and faced with a wife, who may only have spoken to the lady at the supermarket checkout, or a quick hello to a Mum at the school gate – all day! Tempers can flare and doubts creep in, as to the point of it all.
I think it’s fair to say the person who is at work is probably well supported in the workplace. Being helped and orientated, kept busy and focused so for them the day flys by all too quickly. While the person at home is trying to get a handle on all that’s new for the family, and can feel somewhat isolated and adrift.
This is the sensitive settling in period when good communication is vital. It doesn’t mean a long drawn out list of complaints, which often lead to accusations and blaming. But taking the time to voice any issues or concerns honestly and openly together, will help prevent situations from spiraling. Often times the other person may not even be aware of the effect a situation is having on their spouse/partner. It has to be a team effort no one person can shoulder it all. Supporting one another and finding time to listen to each other, will give you the best chance of getting through, what can be for some, an unexpected shaky start.
For me the key was to get out and build a new network of friends…one Australian at a time! Having school age children really helped, of course because where theirs children there’s Mums and potential friends.
The local churches have welcoming teas for new arrivals. The community centres are a font of knowledge and staff are helpful and welcoming. It’s a wonderful way to start to get to know your new area and what it has to offer.
The school system is very good here, with a mix of private, State and Denominational schools to choose from. We researched the schools in the area where we knew we were going to live, before we left the UK. We wrote to them and secured 2 places for our children, as long as we were going to be living in their catchment area. Same system used by schools in the UK.
This helped us in 2 ways firstly of course because the children knew about their new school and could google it. Secondly it focused our search area for where we needed to rent our house. Renting for 6 months also allowed us to get to know the area well so that when we decided to buy…we knew where we wanted to live.
Our girls had some education gaps when they started such as Australian geography and history but they also were ahead in other areas. Within the first couple of weeks the school had a welcome morning tea for the new families, which was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the other Mums and Dads. Mums that I met that day are still friends today.
Similar to the primary schools in the UK, Mums/Dads are encouraged to volunteer for such things as canteen duty, assist with reading in class, craft days, library duties and day trips. I volunteered and it was great fun was getting to know the teachers and other Mums.
Of course it helped the girls settle quickly too. Until of course I embarrassed them then I got that look, “Mum really!” I knew then they’d be fine…..
We found the Australians to be kind, generous, hard-working people who also know how to relax and unwind. They are fiercely proud of their country and all it has to offer. They are very family orientated.
Passionate about their sports, families follow the same team for generations supporting them through the good and bad times. The similarity is obvious between the Aussies and Brits when it comes to their passion for sports.
They have a long memory when it comes to ‘discussing’ the rivalry that exists between them. Especially with Cricket, they take every opportunity to talk statistics about whose bowlers and batters are the best and who should keep ‘the Ashes.’!
Australians are wonderful hosts and make you feel welcome in their homes and friendship groups. They have an easy–going, laid back attitude to life, “no worries mate” is a very familiar phrase here even if you think there is a disaster about to happen!
Another similarity and an important one, is that English is the first language here, but they have changed it slightly to suit them! How so? Well, they love to shorten everything, as they say – “why waste time saying the full thing when you can shorten it!” For example, the Melbourne Cricket Ground is know as the MCG but it’s further shortened to ‘the G’. Afternoon is ‘Arvo’ and when you’re invited to a ‘bar-b’ I guarantee ‘snags’ and ‘chook’ (sausages and chicken) will be on the menu.
By the way, if someone asks you to “bring a plate” it doesn’t mean the hostess has invited too many people and she’s short of crockery. It means bring some food for everyone to share!
In the larger supermarkets there are a wide range of familiar grocery lines from UK. They do tend to be slightly more expensive than the local brands. While it can be a relief, initially to be able to buy what’s familiar, trying the local brands will not disappoint with their quality and variety. We are spoilt for choice, of course when it comes to fresh produce, fruit, veggies, meat and fish.
Looking for bed linen and towels? You’ll find it under the heading ‘Manchester’ in the department stores. When I asked the only explanation I could get was that it referred to the fact that the linen and textile mills were mainly around Manchester in the north of England. With the huge following in Britain for the Australian TV soaps and Detective shows, it means most newly arrived ex-pats are already fluent in the lingo!
While you’re getting to know them, be prepared for the odd tease about the ‘whingeing Poms’. It’s the nick-name affectionally given to the British who emigrated in the 60’s looking for a better life. Australia wasn’t anything like it is now and the new arrivals had a tendency to complain/whinge about everything – from the tea to the bugs, to the weather etc. Hence the name. It’s all in good fun now and if you take it seriously they do it even more!
Australians are blessed with being able to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle for most of the year, with wonderful beaches, beautiful parks and recreation areas in abundance. The lifestyle encourages families to get out and about. There is so much to see and explore.
The world class sporting facilities and the Australians passion for sport and supporting sporting events, means that there is always something happening throughout the year Tennis, Cricket, AFL, Rugby Soccer, Cycling, Motor racing, the list is endless.
There may have been a time when it was thought that Australia lagged behind in the cultural or artistic fields. That’s no longer the case, we are spoiled for choice with its wonderful Theatres, Museums and Art Galleries, Musical Theatre, music venues. World famous restaurants and a thriving café culture.
It sounds too good to be true right? But it’s all true. We came as a family not knowing what was ahead, we got over the hurdles together and embraced this magical land ‘down-under.’ In turn she has given us a wonderful way of life, awesome friends that we consider our extended family and a spectacular country for family and friends to visit time and time again!
Yes, there are the traffic jams and it can even get cold and rainy at times, but I would hate for them to think I’m whingeing….