6 months in. The story so far…

G’day!

We wanted to write an update for our blog today, to mark the six month anniversary since we left the UK on 22nd November. Hasn’t time flown by? It really doesn’t feel like we have been away for six months!

This is going to be a fairly lengthy update, with one or two, perhaps surprising, revelations, so stick the kettle on and make yourself comfortable…

Firstly, we have now arrived in Perth, which is the state capital of Western Australia (WA). Said to be the most isolated capital city in the world, Perth is also one of the fastest growing – certainly in Australia – with approximately 800 migrants moving here every day!

Perth is a relatively new city and is at the centre of the mining boom in WA, which is driving up the cost of living here. In fact, the cost of living is incredibly high, almost to the point that you cannot afford to live here unless you are involved with the mining industry, where remuneration is higher. To give you an idea of how expensive things can be, it is not unusual to get no change from $10 (£7.50) when buying a pint of beer. Ouch!

The Mediterranean-type climate here is pretty good, with an average, annual temperature of about 20-25 degrees, although, with winter approaching, it is getting quite cold here in the evenings once the sun goes down. We hear that the summers are exceptionally hot and dry, with temperatures of 40 degrees being far from unusual. Here in Perth, people are very laid back and, they say, that WA actually stands for ‘wait awhile’, not just ‘Western Australia’. As an example, Sarah had an appointment at 11 am the other day, but was not seen until nearly 12 o’clock. No worries…

Anyway, our situation has changed since we last spoke and we have, in fact, delayed our plans of seeing the rest of Australia for the time being. We have decided to settle here in Perth, so that we can see what living and working in Australia is all about. We had planned to return to, and settle in, Sydney, however, once we started applying for jobs we soon realised that the job market is far more buoyant over on the west coast.

We have both been applying for jobs – Sarah in IT and Business Analysis, and Simon in Recruitment. Prior to leaving the UK, Simon had made a decision that he would explore an alternative career when we arrived in Australia. However, having realised the demand for good recruiters in Perth (and that they pay significantly higher wages than they do back in the UK), he has decided to stick with what he does best, and actually starts working for Rio Tinto, who are the largest MINING company in the world, tomorrow. Sarah is now a lady of leisure, for the time being anyway. She has submitted a number of job applications and we are hopeful of hearing something positive next week.

The next step for us is to find somewhere to live. Our van has served us really well – even if there were a few shaky moments in the early days – but now we need something more practical, and more homely! Imagine trying to put on a suit in the back of a van where there isn’t even sufficient headroom to sit up, let alone stand up! Plus, we need to find somewhere with air conditioning before the summertime and the impressive 30-40 degree heat. From experience, we know that our van is not a nice place to be when it gets hot outside…

We now need to decide whether we will rent a small apartment close to the centre of Perth, or if we will rent a house further out of town (where property is MUCH cheaper) and nearer to the coast. For example, you can rent a 4-bedroom house, with two bathrooms and a swimming pool for less than a 2-bedroom apartment in the centre of town, because it is 30km (20 miles) north or south of the city. Decisions, decisions…

So, getting back to our six month update, we wanted to do a ‘what have we learnt about Australia?’ blog. We have been asked many times why we chose, specifically, to come to Australia. Ultimately we wanted to explore and experience life elsewhere in the world, and to see whether the grass is greener on the other side. We were aware that Australia was the number one location chosen by UK migrants, and the influential UK media painted a wonderful picture of this mysterious land, especially with TV programme’s like ‘Wanted Down Under’, Phil Spencer’s ‘Relocation: Down Under’ and, more recently ‘Poms in Paradise’, so Australia was the obvious choice.

First and foremost, life down under is pretty special. Outdoor living is what it is all about here, and we still cannot get over the number of people that use the parks – having picnics, going for a jog, playing on the swings, throwing a ball around or playing a game of cricket. It seems as though everybody is into camping and fishing, and they love their sports, with netball and football tournaments dominating the parks at the weekends.

The wildlife is beautiful, and I do not think that we could ever tire of seeing a kangaroo in the bush, or the beautiful birds in the trees – the types of parrots that you will only ever see in cages back home. Then there’s the dolphins that you can just happen to see at the beach and, we have been told that, if you are lucky enough, they can even swim and play with you in the waves! Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there are not spiders and snakes everywhere – in fact, we have only seen one snake and one large spider in the whole time that we have been here!

If “living the dream” is living within a 10 minute drive of the most perfect, deserted beach, with an esky full of cold beer and snags to throw on the free barbies in the park, while basking in the hot sun, then yes, life here is pretty good. And do not get us wrong – these opportunities exist for everybody. But, our pre-trip research showed us that moving to Australia is not for everyone, for a number of reasons. Aside from the obvious things like missing family and friends, we have observed the following factors that we reckon would contribute towards a feeling of “same shit, different country”:

  • For starters, the sun does not shine every day, and it does get cold. Hello prospective migrants – you need to be aware of this! Do not be fooled by what you see on the TV… 🙂
  • And it rains here, too, even outside the rainy season!
  • Crime rates are surprisingly high, with graffiti everywhere. And then there are the bad people that live here – murderers and all sorts. Fancy that! As with newspapers in the UK, it is not unusual for Australian newspapers to be full of “bad news” either…
  • Since the day that we arrived, we have found Australia to be a very expensive place. We have been told that this is, especially, the case when spending £s, but that things do become more affordable once you are earning and spending $s.
  • Unemployment is high, yet, like in the UK, there seems to be an abundance of jobs. So what’s the problem?
  • The Aussie’s love a drink! And who doesn’t, let’s face it?! But we reckon that their drink problem is as bad, if not worse, than the “binge drinking Brits”. Especially when it comes to drink driving!
  • The 40-hr working week is longer than in the UK, where we only had to work a measly 37 hours. This goes against what we were led to believe, so we will reserve our judgement on the work/life balance until we have experienced it for ourselves…
  • Politics, and the much maligned Australian government, take a regular battering, and there are even people that complain about taxes being too high. What a revelation… Sounding familiar?
  • Sadly, the integration of the Aboriginal people into the “White Australian” community does not appear to have worked as well as you would hope and, often heard screaming and shouting, or singing, at each other or anyone else, there are vagrants everywhere. This is a particular problem in the major cities, where you will find them going through bins and lining up outside the bottle shops at 9 am, waiting for their first drink of the day.
  • Then there’s the very dodgy suburbs – we’ve seen more than our fair share of those. Bordering on poverty, these are the kind of places where we certainly wouldn’t go out at night.
  • We’ve covered nearly 20,000 km in the last six months, and the drivers here are some of the worst that we have ever seen. Then there’s the “Boy Racers”, or “Hoons”, who can often be heard squealing their tyres in the distance at night.
  • And yes, the recession did hit Australia, no matter what anybody tells you. Granted, Australia was not as badly affected as other parts of the world, but we have read about it in the newspapers here, and have listened to people talking about how it has affected them.

Disclaimer: We are keen to stress that these are purely our observations and, in no way, supposed to be a gross generalisation of the entire population of Australia.

We have met so many lovely people. Generally, the Australians that we have met could not have been more down to earth and friendly. Nothing is too much bother for them, and they have all been very interested (or nosy!) to hear about our travels, offering their advice on where we should go and what we should see.

As you can see, and as we quickly realised for ourselves, we were very naive in our anticipation of what we would find when we got to Australia. To say that we were expecting some kind of idyllic paradise would be wide of the mark, but maybe we were expecting more than we have found so far… If it sounds as though we are painting a gloomy picture of life in Australia, we aren’t, we are just being realistic.

We do love it here, and we are now looking forward to settling down into new jobs, and a new home, so that we can see what “real-life Australia” is all about. To back that up, every Pom that we have met (and there’s loads of them here!) has been singing and dancing about their new life down under.

So far, we have enjoyed our holiday of a lifetime, and now we are ready for some normality. We never thought that we would say this, but I think that we are now ready to go back to work!

The story continues…