My name is Karen Lewis, I come from a small town in England called Middlebrough. Those of you who know your Australian history will know this is the birthplace of Captain Cook and the place where Dorman Long are from; the manufacturers who build the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So I suppose you could say I have deep connections with Australia, Sydney in particular so when the chance of a job came up in November 2010 I accepted and I now live and work in Sydney with my husband and eventually our small dog (we are getting her shipped over from the UK).
As a Brit Abroad there are idiosyncrasies I have noted between us and our Australian cousins, and some of which I hope to share in my contributions to this blog. Also as someone who has never done anything so blood as work and live in another country I hope my experiences will help others or at least promote empathy.
I work in online marketing and have done so since graduating at Huddersfield University in 2003.
BLOGS I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN
Anything to do with being a foreigner moving to Australia – tips, hints my experiences
Reviews of the areas in Sydney I am familiar with i.e. North Shore
Working in Australia
Places of interest in Sydney
For those who have not heard the quote before it is actually referring to England and America but I definitely believe it applies to England and Australia. After all both nations speak English but upon first impressions when touching down on Australian soil I noticed subtle difference between the ways we and our Australian cousins use language and how certain things can get very lost in translation. i.e. “thongs” – in England an article of underwear, in Australia…shoes!!
Thanks to the free guidebook we picked up at the airport we now no longer had to live in the ignorance that “dunny” meant toilet! Not sure how that could be misconstrued to be anything else – “dunny” brings about all kinds of unsavoury connotations, think we could have worked that one out for ourselves.
A lot of our British colloquialisms translate across to Australia (although I will not argue who laid claim to them first) i.e. “bloke”, “bangers and mash” – (this one confused my American co-worker no end!), “scrub up” to name a few. I forget who said it but I refer to a quote by one much wiser than I to describe the initial feeling of landing in Oz – “Our Similarities bring us to a common ground; Our Differences allow us to be fascinated by each other”
The reason I am in Australia; this breath taking country, is due to my husband and I emigrating and following in the footsteps of so many of our “pommie” ancestors to the Promised Land of sun, sea, sand, surf..what more could a girl from the North East of England want. So we have embarked on this adventure pretty much blind having never even visited Australia before! Is that daring of us? Or Bonkers?! Time will tell! But so far it seems to have been a wise decision.
Arriving in Sydney
It was 8am on a balmy Sydney January morning when we stepped out from the artificial strip lights of airports and planes that had been our home for the past 28 hours to a hustle that can only be experienced at airports. People, cars, luggage; it’s the same no matter which country you are in. So far there were no real noticeable differences.
Also no killer snakes or spiders as was promised by all the slightly ignorant people back home who thanks to TV shows hosted by the likes of the late, great Steve Urwin were convinced that stepping off the plane meant certain death by Australia’s native wildlife. But no, much to their shock and indiscreet disappointment we survived and have yet to see such critters here in Sydney.
We got to the hotel and so far nobody had uttered the words “G’day” or “Barbie” and I was feeling slightly hard done to albeit probably putting too much emphasis on Australian culture from influences from the likes of Crocodile Dundee! Forgive me! But I reckon most Australians visiting the UK want to see the Queen drinking Tea in London rather than actually realising there are towns and cities north of the Watford Gap! That being said Australians tend to be a lot better travelled then us Brits. We tend to live for stereotypes, for cliché!
Given that we are approx. 10,000 miles away from the backdrop of the River Tees that I grew up with Sydney certainly feels a bit of a home away from home. After all the links in history between my “small town in Europe” where I grew up and this thriving metropolitan city are well documented.
The Harbour Bridge – build by the company Dorman Long in 1930’s was designed and constructed in Teesside; Captain Cook was born in Middlesbrough, Teesside and in fact there is a museum and hospital named in his honour. However given that I grew up in the area of his birth I knew little about him until coming here and now let’s just say it is probably best to play the Captain Cook affiliation down a bit J
The only real difference is obviously the weather. Since arriving here we have found ourselves being typically British and mentioning the weather every 5 minutes! But I think that has been the biggest change. In terms of being on the other side of the world I actually feel quiet at home!
- Sunscreen – ok all you sun worshippers like me you will be saying “ah it’s not that hot, I have sunbathed in hotter” but the one thing I did NOT release is that the hole in the Ozone everyone was bleating on about in the 80’s and 90’s is pretty much right over Australia. Australia has the highest skin cancer incidence rate in the world. Australians are four times more likely to develop a skin cancer than any other form of cancer. Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70 – this is not scaremongering its common sense. Factor 30 at least even when its overcast!
- Housing - Look in the real estate market before you leave – getting an apartment over here is difficult due to the demand, for every place you look to rent there will be a queue of people behind you waiting for the same place! Destinations like Mosman, Bondi and North Shore are always popular. It is an idea to do some research from www.domain.com.au before you leave, check your budget and speak to the letting agents to find out when open houses are taking place. It is hard to apply from outside the country if you see somewhere you love. Usually it is a good idea to make the application in person but sign up for email alerts via domain.com.au to get ahead of the game. I event think they have a phone app! So you never miss out.
When moving your residence it is important to review your home insurance options to best fit your situation.
There are many websites offering a Home Insurance Comparison so make sure to use your due diligence and shop for the best deal.
- LAFHA – it stands for Living Away From Home Allowance. If you are lucky enough to be sponsored with an employer in Australia talk to their HR or accounts department about LAFHA, I do not understand the calculations but basically if you are working in Australia and working here means you are not in your normal place of residence i.e. 1 Smith Street, London, England – then you can apply for LAFHA which allows you to get an extra allowance on tax depending on the amount of rent you pay. There may be other conditions but it is worth investigating once you start working – more information can be found at http://www.lafha.com.au/Home.aspx
- Shopping – unlike the UK, Australia does not tend to have large supermarkets, or if they do they tend to be out of the city centre and could require a hefty bus trip to reach them. If you are lucky enough to owe a car it makes life a lot easier, although beware of toll roads! There are lots!
- Gumtree & Ebay – a god send if like us you are starting from scratch. We did not ship any furniture over from the UK mainly due to the cost so when we found a place to rent it was bare! Gumtree is bigger than ebay over here with lots of things for sale and some for free! But you will need to organise a way of collecting i.e. hire a car/van/ute. Beds and sofas are very very expensive compared to the UK and electronics like Fridges and TV are on the pricey side as well. Look at discount warehouses, house sales or notices in local shops to grab a bargain. We also found some of the cheapest clothes dryers, on appliancesonline.com.au which is another good site for assessing the prices of household appliances. Also if you are not proud (or can’t afford to be like us when we started out!) the residents of Sydney have a “clear out” about twice a month. So you could be going along a main road in a residential area and see piles of old furniture, tv’s computing equipment etc all by the side of the road. If you see something you think is in good condition you can simply take it before it is collected by the local council. We actually picked up a pretty decent coffee table this way. Be warned though, second hand furniture like this is not always in the best condition. Check out www.gumtree.com.au and www.ebay.com.au
- Cars – now we don’t actually own a car yet as they seem to be very expensive. Even the 25 year old bangers seem to go for $3000! Then there is the added expenses of Rego (registration, cars need to be registered to the state they are in), GreenSlip (Tax and 3rd party insurance combined), parking (most apartments in the CBD will not have parking and you can “buy or rent” a parking space if you need to) and Stamp duty (only really applicable on new cars). Public transport is pretty decent in Sydney and cheap and I recommend trying that first www.131500.com.au but another alternative we found was www.goget.com.au. Goget is a car share initiative which allows you to join as a member for about $49 a month then basically there are lots of cars parked around the city, you go online find one close to you pick it up and drive away for the day. You don’t pay petrol, tax, insurance or tolls! There are mileage charges but they are minimal.
- Alcohol – unlike us boozey Brits the Aussies do not allow you to purchase alcohol at your local supermarket. There are designated liquor stores if you want to buy alcohol but be warned compared to the UK it is expensive. Even in pubs you are looking at $7-8 for a “scooner” which is 2/3 of a pint.
- Creepy crawlies – now to be honest we have been pretty lucky in avoiding such encounters at the moment as I think I would be on the next plane home, but it is worth considering that the little beggars will get in your house (especially in Spring as flies are everywhere) so my advice is look at getting insect screens over your windows, or ask your landlord to look into it as an investment. In the summer months it can get hot on an evening and windows have to be kept open and this is when they will come in handy. Those living in high rises probably won’t have so much of a problem. Also invest in sprays and air fresheners that deter them from wondering into your house in the first place. Mosquitos are an issue especially near water we have found so invest in some sprays from the local shop to stop getting bitten.
- Removals – If you do not have a van at your disposal and you need to collect furniture (as bought on ebay or the like) it can be cheaper to hire “a man with van”. These guys usually advertise on Gumtree under removals or in local shops and charge about $30-45 an hour – which is cheaper than hiring a Ute or paying delivery charges from shops.
- Walking – Sydney is very hilly so if like me you are not used to walking it is always an idea to bring trainers with you in your bag for those steep climbs. The CBD is not so bad but the suburbs can be tough on the old calf muscles.
Anyway I hope this was helpful to those of you who have just arrived! Good luck and welcome to Sydney.