When I first landed in Melbourne as a migrant from Malaysia in 1986, I thought I had arrived in paradise. All my dreams had come true. I spoke English very well but with a Malaysian accent. I thought Australians spoke English too, but I couldn’t understand what they said! I enrolled to study for a Bachelor of Business degree with Deakin University as a mature age student. I taped my lectures because I had difficulty following what was said. These days, lectures are available online, in podcasts – unheard of in the 80s. Eventually, my hearing adjusted to the Aussie accent and I could understand the language. Slowly, I picked up Aussie slang words like, “Fairdinkum”, “G’day”, “Brekkie” and other really cool words that made me feel more like an Aussie. I even began to speak with a slight Aussie accent tinged with my Malaysian accent. Life was good.
I never thought of my migration to Australia as a relocation even though it was. Perhaps it had to do with my eagerness to leave Malaysia. Australia was home, more than Malaysia ever was. I proudly became an Australian citizen in 1992.
Life is full of interesting twists and turns. Just when I was feeling on top of the world (a very strange expression given I live in the Southern Hemisphere) with work and life, I met someone who loved to travel. I was done travelling after I came to Australia. Nothing else in the world mattered. How wrong I was to think life was going to be one long existence, working in the city and living in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs until retirement.
In 1994, I resigned from a great job, forgoing a promotion with National Australia Bank Limited, to relocate to Hong Kong where my fiancé had been working since 1993. I told myself, I speak Cantonese; people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, don’t they?
Here is where I will slip in some advice to anyone new to Australia, don’t be concerned if you still feel homesick after a year, two years or longer. It will take a while to adjust to your new country unless like me, you couldn’t be happier living here.
After living in Hong Kong for two years, I began to feel less homesick for Australia. After five years, Hong Kong left like home. After seven years and two children, we decided to return to Melbourne. Many things had changed since we left. More people lived here, the cost of living was higher and our friends had moved on. It was quite a different experience returning with half a container of our belongings and two children compared to when we left with a suitcase each. Another tip, the time it takes for your belongings to arrive can take many months. You need to think in advance about surviving that time and how you will cope. If you have friends or family who will put you up for a while, fantastic. If not, here are some viable options:
- Short term accommodation in a fully serviced apartment for up to one month (this is often part of a negotiated package when relocating for work)
- Fully furnished rental accommodation for 3 to 6 months (this is hard to achieve but sometimes available)
- Be a house-sitter (not easy to find a good fit but may be suitable for some)
- Rent a property and rent furniture and whitegoods until your own shipment arrives (this is the most suitable option)
What suburbs should you consider? This is a very good question and you need to consider these points when making your decision:
- What is my tolerance for travel or time it will take to travel to and from work?
- How much am I willing to spend on rent and travel?
- What schools are available in the areas under consideration? (If applicable.)
Once you have made these decisions, the next questions are related to your current life-style.
- Am I happy with my current life-style or do I want to make some changes?
- Do you want to live near the beach?
- Would you like to have a garden?
- Would I feel claustrophobic living in areas where houses are very close together?
- Am I shipping furniture that requires a large house?
A really good thing to do prior to making any huge decisions to relocate is to plan a visit. Keep in mind that holidays are very different to living permanently in a different country. If you are naturally adventurous, your relocation will be a huge adventure and you will take everything in your stride. If this is the first time you have left your country, be kind to yourself and give yourself the space and time to adjust. Ask yourself some hard questions, for example:
- What if I hate it after being there for 3 months, 6 months, a year?
- How long will I give myself before I return to my home country?
- Will I be financially worse off if I hate it and want to return to my home country?
- What does my work contract say about early termination?
- What does my lease agreement say if I need to break lease?
The answer to the first two questions is approximately two years. However, it is wise to examine the root cause of how you are feeling after about 5 to 6 months and if necessary, seek professional advice.
Circumstances changed which saw us move to UK in 2003. I was very excited. English! I can speak English! In spite of leaving my beloved Melbourne, I loved the experience of living in UK. We met some really lovely people who remain friends to this day, thanks to Facebook. This brings me to another tip, keep in touch with your friends and family! There are so many social networks available that is a wonderful way to keep in contact. One of the biggest difficulties anyone faces when relocating is isolation. You will need to make new friends. I can’t stress how important this is.
After 14 months, we returned to Melbourne in 2004 and have resisted the urge to live overseas again…for now.
I hope my experiences are helpful to anyone reading this and thinking of relocating. If you require professional assistance, please contact me (details below).
Many thanks for Shereen Pynoton for contributing this excellent reader story. If you would like to contribute your reader story please read more here: Requesting your Australian relocation stories.
Shereen Poynton is a Relocation Consultant. She started her own relocation business in 2008 to assist individuals and families relocating to Melbourne: Affabel.com.au. The most popular service is to secure a rental property prior to arrival.
Shereen can be contacted via email@example.com or +61 433 214 064.
For Mum’s gone 2 Aus readers, quote this article for a 10% discount, available until end of August 2013 – conditions apply.