Monday, May 9, 2011

So You're Thinking of Moving to Australia . . .

Maybe you've stumbled upon this blog because you are considering a move to Australia.  It's a big decision- leaving everything you know behind and heading to the other side of the world.

When the opportunity was first presented to us we weren't at all sure we wanted to do it.  But now, after 2 years in this lucky country I can say that coming here was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

This is a personal blog.  It's a recount of our time here and most of it is probably only interesting to my family and friends.  But, over the past 2 years I have met a surprising number of people who "found" me through this blog.  They are just like me:  typical American moms moving to Sydney for a few years.  And some things are universal for us expats.  We all have worries and questions.  We're all concerned about driving on the "wrong" side of the road and we're all baffled by the strange flavored potato chips (as evidenced here, here, and here).  We're all experiencing the same things and most of us spent the months leading up to the big move stalking expat bloggers trying to get as much info as possible about what might lie ahead.

So, in the interest of paying it forward, here are my top 10 tips to help others who may be looking into an expat assignment in Australia.

1.  Get a good relocation agent to help you.  We used Nuss Relocations and the service was very thorough.  Our agent set up over 20 property viewings for us, drove us all around the city, showed us schools, rental furniture warehouses, local amenities, and gave us references for doctors and other local service providers.  Be aware that rental property prices are quoted per week.  There are heaps of expats living on Sydney's lower North Shore (Mosman).  If you end up in this suburb, email me and I'll hook you up!

2.  Set up a Vonage account and bring the box with you.  You can actually use your current US phone number.  When you hook your Vonage box up here, anyone in the US can pick up the phone, dial your old number and it will ring at your new place in Australia.  Keeping in touch with friends and family is tough and believe me, people will be even less likely to call you if they have to deal with placing an international call.  It is also really handy to have a US phone number for all sorts of things.  And when you go home for visits you can just take the box with you and have a working phone again.

3.  Buy an Apple TV or a Slingbox.  Australian TV is pitiful-  unless you like watching 3 hours of Two and a Half Men every day.  Do yourself a favor and find a way to get your American TV fix.  And while you are at it, make sure you keep your iTunes account registered as a US account.  If you switch to an Aussie account you will only have access to content released here.

4.  Bring your kindle.  Books are crazy expensive here (I'm talking $40 for a paperback!).  See #3 about keeping your amazon account registered in the US.

5.  Get a set of these Sydney (or whatever city you're moving to) City Walk cards. These have been a wonderful resource for us and have helped us explore this beautiful city.  Strangely enough, they are very hard to find here.

6.  Spend some time on Yanks Down Under.  This forum is full of helpful American expats who are great at answering questions and giving advice.

7.  If you've got preschoolers, get your name on the waiting lists ASAP.  There are 2 basic options for the 2-5 year old crowd:  Preschool and Long Day Care.  "Preschool" means school hours (usually 9:00-3:00).  There is no such thing as half day preschool.  Long Day care is like preschool but with extended hours.  Long day care is typically more expensive than preschool ($100/day or more) and you do not get weeks off for the school holidays.   Many long day care centres run a preschool-like program.  Most traditional "Preschools" have waiting lists that can be 2+ years long.

8. Start a T-Shirt collection.  Get t-shirts from all the interesting places you visit while you're an expat and from all the activities your kids are involved in abroad.  Then, when you leave, have them made into one of these super cool T-Shirt quilts.  Great way to remember your time as an expat!  (Wish I would have thought of this at the beginning of our stay).

9.  Check out Gumtree.  It's like the Aussie version of Craigslist.  I've used it to find everything from a nanny to a piano.  Gumtree is a great resource.

10.  Just do it.  "Home" will always be there, waiting for you.  Take a chance, expand your horizons.  I'm so glad we did.

Linking up at



Florida Girl In Sydney said...

What an awesome post!!! I have screwed up several of these-- heard of slingbox, but never did it-- can I still? have no idea?? apple tv??

And never did the Vonage thing? Wonder if we should??

But that was all great advice-- especially love the tshirt quilt and people should definitely know about the preschool thing!

Cristina Bras said...

You're such a clever lady.

Natasha said...

Great post Jenny. Your advice would really help anyone thinking of making the big move to Oz. I am so glad you have warned people about our lack of TV channels! If it wasn't for cable I would go insane!!!

Best wishes and happy (belated) Mother's Day greetings!

Allison said...

Great post friend! Great tips! You must be feeling reflective! I agree with everything you said, I am so glad you told me about the preschool thing when I "found" you through your blog.

Love the T shirt idea, we need to get collecting! STAT!

I love my Apple TV and my vonage! I have sling box too and that has never worked as well as I wanted it too. Thats my two cents for now :)

danielle said...

Fantastic! I too am in a similar position where people "find" me and I truly love helping them out, I wish I had people to help me find my way when I moved to Melb almost 3 years ago!
VONAGE has saved us! Just as long as I remember to turn off the ringer before going to bed :)

Tar Heels in Sydney said...

Great info! I second the comment about turning off the phone at night. Nothing to do but laugh when the termite guy calls at 4 AM.

Tangles said...

Excellent post! The hubs and I would absolutely LOVE to move to Australia! I think it would be so exciting and liberating to have a giant garage sale and just move somewhere new. I would love to experience another culture!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny-

I found your blog a month ago while searching on some info about Australia. My husband was offered to relogate to Syndey and is still in negotiations. Thank you for all the info it helps a lot. It's hard to stop reading Oz(expats) blogs because even the everyday life posts are informative and helpful to see the big picture of what to expect.

Thanks again and if we ended up moving I will stop by (here) and say hi again.


ElizabethM said...

As I read this, we are watching Two and Half Men! However, just finished catching up a bit on the sling box, just after talking to a friend via my US # on skype. You nailed it Jenny! So glad I stalked you before moving here! xx

wendy said...


thanks a million! these tips are immensely valuable. in fact, i'm going to copy/paste and email this to my husband who's on a cross-country flight as i type. perhaps i'll see you around once we've settled in mosman. thanks again!

Natalia Lynn said...

I love your blog! I am living in France and can still relate to a lot of these. I love the 'just do it' one. It is soooo worth it! And slingbox is a must although we haven't got it yet, my husband watches at a friends house very often. I am so glad to have met you! Can't wait to follow along!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Funny, I'd say a lot of the same things for moving to England :) We have Vonage too & love it.

I voted for you :) Thank you for joining Post Of The Month Club! XOL

Pretty said... follower from the blog hop AND the Top 25 expat moms!

I loved australia...

good advice too about moving! Good Luck in London!


Felicity said...

I love seeing the world from others' perspectives and as an Aussie gal it's fun to read your tips for anyone thinking about relocating here.

You've given me all sorts of ideas which is always a great thing - thank you.

Felicity xx

PS visiting via HH-POTM Club

Taylor Made said...

It was interesting reading your tips being a true blue aussie girl..enjoy the adventure here..I have a sister in law that lives in the US.

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