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.
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