From London to Melbourne in 5000 posts!

What the hell – other people do an update on an annual anniversary; I’ll do one on a post count anniversary!

We started our second emigration journey in about August 2005. Our first one had been to New Zealand in 1996, where my wife is from originally. Suffice it to say that it was not successful, we found New Zealand to be so expensive with such low wages that living there was not financially sustainable, and we returned to the UK after 18 months. We did see, however, that there was an opportunity to have a good lifestyle if you could cope financially. We never considered Australia at the time.

Our twin girls were born in England in 2005. Almost immediately my wife started to get feelings of wanting her new family to be nearer her extended family, which was hardly surprising. Additionally, my work in the UK had my entire team on a proposed redundancy program which was expected to be a done deal, and I figured if I had no job in the UK and no job down under the playing field would be a bit leveller. So we started investigating New Zealand again, with some trepidation. Once bitten twice shy! Then we found out from a friend that New Zealand citizens and their spouses could emigrate to Australia on a temporary 5 year visa called the TR444/461 visa. I also started investigating permanent residency options and found, with the help of agents on this site that I would be eligible for PR in a couple of years, assuming the rules and my circumstances did not change too much in the meantime. So we investigated Australia with the idea we would enter as temporary residents and apply for PR once I was eligible.

Now, where to live in Australia? We needed somewhere that could provide me with a well-paid job. Without this then the whole exercise was pointless. We wanted somewhere where we could improve on our lifestyle in London. Otherwise we may as well have stayed in London where we had a very good life already. So we wanted to live near a beach, on a decent sized block, in a nice house, in a good area within reasonable commute of a large city. These became our requirements. We had previously visited Brisbane and Sydney, so we included these as candidates. Melbourne was somewhere that would be on the list based on its size; however we didn’t know anything about it, so we started researching using this site and others to find information. We hoovered up information any way we could. An Aussie girl in my accounts department must have got tired of all my questions – amazingly once we moved down under she was living 9 doors down from us! We quickly ruled out Sydney as the property market was just too expensive for us to be able to achieve what we wanted to do. So it was down to Brisbane and Melbourne, and Melbourne was looking much better for jobs.

We’d pretty much made up our minds on Melbourne based on our remote research when my work dropped the bombshell that I would NOT be made redundant. This shook me a bit as it was expected redundancy was certain. I had a pretty good job in London and it would be a hard decision to leave it voluntarily. So we decided that for a bit of a holiday we’d do a reccie of both Brisbane and Melbourne to firm up our ideas of whether Australia was for us, and also take the kids to see relatives in NZ.
I’ve dragged these out before, and for those of you that are not bored of my reccie reports, you can view them here –

Brisbane - http://britishexpats.com/forum/showthread.php?t=413388
Melbourne - http://britishexpats.com/forum/showthread.php?t=412993

We ended up choosing Melbourne, fell in love with it really, the beautiful city centre with its combination of old and new architecture, the lovely Yarra river running through it, the beautiful city parks, the café culture and the fantastic trams. We adored all the beaches and the surrounding countryside. We met some lovely people there who are or have been posters on this website and really felt very at home. It just felt right for us.
So we returned to the UK and started making the extensive plans needed to emigrate. We had already sold the house, as we knew we would need a bigger house whether we emigrated or not, so we did all the other preparation including getting the temporary visas, organising the container etc.

On June 1st 2007 we were off! We had timed this, believe it or not, to take maximum tax advantage of both the UK and Australian tax regimes. We took the tube to Heathrow with our 2 million kg of luggage and I surrendered my Oyster card to London Underground for a rebate. The chap behind the counter said “don’t you want this any more?”, I said, “no, I’m emigrating to Australia”. He looked at me sadly and said “Take me with you….”

We flew via Miami, Mexico, LA and Honolulu taking 6 weeks. In those days the luggage allowance via the US was far greater, and also we wanted somewhere cheap to “hole-up” while our container was sedately floating round the world, so we found a reasonably priced apartment on the beach in a little Mexican fishing village and stayed there a few weeks which was marvellous. We shopped til we dropped in LA, filling our cases full of cheap Levis, Timberlands etc. We stayed with my Aunt in Hawai’i, who is quite elderly and was very keen to meet the girls. On our last day in Honolulu I ate 2 whole tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream as I knew you couldn’t get it in Oz. (Thankfully it has now arrived!)

We arrived in Melbourne very late at night so we stayed in an airport hotel. The following morning our new car that we had ordered from England was delivered to the airport and so we were mobile! We spent the day driving slowly through Melbourne to a house in Mornington where we were going to be staying for our first few weeks with people we had met on this website. We spent our first few days kicking back and relaxing, doing short trips around the local area and orientating ourselves a bit.
I had set up a few job interviews from England, and if I could give any new job seekers a piece of advice it is to get up early in England and ring the agencies in Australia, don’t just email them. One of the companies who were going to interview me emailed me while I was in Mexico and asked if we could do a telephone interview. So I spent a happy couple of hours running round this little fishing village which had just about got electricity trying to find somewhere to make an international phone call without success! Thankfully they were able to wait and they interviewed me and offered me a job on my second week here. The interview consisted mainly of a discussion about AFL! I asked for a couple of weeks before I started to get myself set up with somewhere to live etc which they were happy to grant. I’m still with that same company today, where my pay is the same as it was in London (more if you take into account the drop in the pound since we arrived), the working conditions are very good, I am able to work flexibly so I work 7am – 3pm and deal with any emergencies outside those hours, it works well for them and me. The job satisfaction is not quite as good as my last job in England. That is nothing to do with the geographical location, just the job itself. I have found work in Australia reasonably similar to work in England, I get on very well with the Australians at work and have fitted right in there. I never did catch on to AFL though.

We started off renting in Mordialloc, a suburb we discovered quite by chance. We reckoned that I would be commuting by train, so we looked at suburbs between Mornington where we were staying and the city, which were on the train line. We saw a nice modern townhouse in Mordialloc to rent and that’s how we ended up there. It is a lovely family suburb, on the beach, with a creek and boat harbour with walking tracks, a reasonably vibrant high street which in the 3 years we have been here has got even more vibrant and really good facilities and schools for kids.
I lasted about 2 months commuting on the train before I bought a second car. We had never had 2 cars before, however I calculated that driving to work would give me an extra hour or more a day with my family, so that justified the expense. My commute is now a gentle drive down the Beach Road, with the sparkling blue sea on one side of the car and the multi-million dollar houses of the Beach Road on the other. It is a massive improvement to the 2 hours a day on London Underground I used to do. I often think while driving to work admiring the sea that my commute is not unlike the kind of coast road trips that people travel to other countries to do.

My wife was set on having a brand new house as many of us are. I was not comfortable with handing over 100s of 1000s of dollars to a builder who might then mess up the whole build, so I decided in the end to build the house myself. We were lucky to find a vacant block of land in Mordialloc that belonged to a local businessman who was in the process of sadly going bankrupt as his business couldn’t deal with the modern consumer market, and he was having a fire sale of all his assets. He lived next door to the block and was adamant that he didn’t want a developer putting units on there so he was quite pleased to sell to us. I started building the house in May 2009 and we were in by Christmas the same year, (gee that made it sound easy!) we now have a beautiful, contemporary, energy efficient house, we even have uPVC double glazing like in England, and we have a large back yard, 20 minutes walk from the lovely Mordialloc beach, so we’re very pleased with that. We included in the house a self-contained apartment with its own entrance. My elderly Father stays there in summer when he comes to visit us for three months. The rest of the time we make it available for new immigrants coming to Melbourne, just like we were!

Our garden is taking shape, I’m just about to build the raised beds for the veggie garden I have always wanted. We are visited by all kids of wildlife, including Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, Galahs, Rosellas and Possums. I have even seen a Kookaburra fly over.

The weather in Melbourne is fantastic. I love the changing seasons, I love the fact that the summers and autumns are hot and sunny, but not humid. I love the fact that in winter it snows in the mountains outside Melbourne and we can drive for skiing and snowplay. I love the sunny sunny winters days. There isn’t any season I dislike, the hottest days in summer can be a problem during the day, but the hot evenings on the beach watching the sun set into the sea make up for it.

Our twin girls were two when we left England, and they are now five. They are in their third year of Kinder, which seems a bit extreme – they started three year old Kinder while they were 2, which was at a local Baptist church and was truly fantastic. One of our daughters was very shy when she left England and the Kinder really brought her out of her shell. After 2 years of three year old Kinder they went on to four year old Kinder where they are now which is again, excellent and where they have made loads of friends, and they’ll start school next year at the age of 5½. We have several very good local primary schools and we have registered them at more than one as we are having a lot of trouble making a final decision.

Our social lives have been quite incredible; we seem to always be at Barbies or having friends over. Most of our friends have young children of course, however two couples who do not, have really become surrogate Aunts and Uncles to the girls, being the people we stayed with in Mornington and our old next door neighbours at our rental in Mordialloc. Our girls are spoilt rotten by both couples and we are very touched by these relationships.
We have explored a lot of Melbourne, the laneways in the city have to be seen, you can feel like you are in Paris, or Bangkok, or Milan! It is a fascinating city. My father has done some genealogy and actually found out that a very distant cousin used to own the Metropolitan Meat Market in North Melbourne in the 1800’s! The restaurants in Melbourne rival those in London, we have some favourites and I’m also lucky enough to try some out in the course of my work. The countryside around Melbourne is stunning, we love the Vineyards in the Yarra Valley and on the Mornington Peninsula, the back beaches on the Peninsula are spectacular, the Dandenongs are very pretty, I could go on for ever!

We indulge in many many activities, several of which we did not get the chance to do in England. We’ve mentioned skiing already, we do considerably more cycling now, we take the bikes down the beach path or into Braeside Park, a massive park near us, where we cycle through the gums and see beautiful coloured parrots. We go camping with friends or by ourselves down the Great Ocean Road, the Mornington Peninsula or up at the Murray River. We swim, snorkel, canoe and body board at any one of the four beaches near our house, evening walks along the beach in any season are great too. Even in winter the kids love going down to the beach and making sandcastles and collecting shells, in fact this is better in winter in many ways as you don’t have to worry about hats and sunscreen! We were also lucky enough to benefit from the stimulus package when we built the house and as we also saved so much money by building it ourselves, we have decided to buy a motor boat with some of the savings and have some fun around Port Philip and the inland lakes and rivers. We take delivery in July when the water is quiet so hopefully by the time all the expert boaters come out in September we will have had plenty of practice to avoid making nuisances of ourselves!
We eventually did get our PR in March of this year. We were forced to leave Australia for the visa grant as it was an offshore visa so we had a very pleasant 2 weeks in the Pacific islands of Vanuatu, which I can recommend to anyone. Having PR does make you feel that much more secure and certain of your future which is a good thing.
So, any downsides? For me and the kids, none. The kids are too young to have been bothered by the emigration, and now describe themselves as Australian, even though we don’t yet have citizenship. It brings tears to my eyes to watch them at Kinder singing “We are Australian” or “I still call Australia home”. I myself felt completely at home from the moment the wheels of the plane touched the ground, if not before. It has been a bit harder for my wife, despite being from New Zealand originally, she has missed her friends in England terribly. It hasn’t helped that her family in New Zealand now comes to see us less than they did when we lived in England. But there’s never been any talk of returning, the upsides of being here are just too great.

Do I have any regrets? Just one. I wish I had brought my X type Jag with me, it was a very nice car, and although it would have cost a lot to export, I did sell it for a cheap price before we left and I wish I hadn’t. So if that’s the only regret, we’ve been very fortunate and lucky with all we’ve done, although I am a firm believer that you make your own luck, and the reverse applies too.

We’re really looking forward to continuing our lives in Melbourne, we don’t have any great ambitions now apart from to continue making the best life for our girls, and to continue to enjoy our new lives. We’re so glad we came.
BB