Everyone said we must be mad! It was 1998 when my husband and I accidentally migrated to Australia.
One cold dark Scottish winter afternoon we received a phone call offering my husband a semi ex-pat package to Perth, Western Australia. We expected to be there for maybe a year on a temporary work visa. We were unusual in the oil industry in that we had never lived overseas. We were in our fifties and we thought this might be the last chance we had, but we had a daughter in University and a 16 year old daughter about to go into her final year at school, who flatly refused to come with us, plus a much loved old dog who wouldn’t die. We were settled in a lovely house with great friends and neighbours. A predictable retirement beckoned.
Australia seemed an impossible dream
Australia seemed an impossible dream but it wouldn’t go away. After much heart searching we did decide to go leaving both daughters (with their blessing) and dog behind. We thought it was only for a few months and then we’d be back with it out of our system. Well, that was 13 years ago and we are still here, now permanent residents and citizens.
Both daughters eventually settled here, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne.
Differences between Australia and the UK
Going to Oz, we thought, would be a fairly easy move to make as it is English speaking and they drive on the left. However it was the odd things that we missed. There were no front-loading washing machines back then and I had an industrial size top loader that totally mangled the clothes. Roundabouts were almost non-existent with traffic lights at every junction causing endless waiting and frustration. Second hand cars are almost as expensive as new ones, and as there is no MOT, there are lots of dodgy motors out there. Car yards were closed at the weekends. Shops closed at 6pm and there was no Sunday trading. You can’t buy wine in the supermarket but have to go to a separate bottle shop. The freeways were confusing as you can exit from both right and left lanes. Rental properties ranged from OK to disgusting. Houses are often advertised as a knockdown or rental on the premise that once they are so disgusting that no-one will rent them you then knock them down. However, we were lucky and found a lovely rental overlooking the Swan River. IKEA solved the temporary furniture problem. Opening a bank account was not easy as Australians are reluctant to accept verification and qualifications from overseas and we had a miniscule Visa limit despite being Visa customers for 30 years. Many trades are still required to re-train to Australian standards despite having worked for many years in the UK. Food and the cost of living were much cheaper then than in the UK (No longer) We dined out regularly. Australian wine was and continues to be more expensive than the same wine in the UK. We learned to order a flat white (regular coffee)
The weather makes us happy
The biggest and best change of all was the weather. After 30 years in the Scottish gloom the Mediterranean style Perth climate still makes us happy. The sun shines almost every day. The sky is blue and at almost every turn there is the sudden sparkle of water from either the river or the Indian Ocean. The beaches have to be among the best in the world. We take the parrots now for granted and no longer freak out at the occasional insect in the house. We sail, play golf, go camping and eat outside for most of the year. There are flowers everywhere the whole year round. There isn’t a season of mud, sticks and gloom.
So do we have regrets? We miss friends and family and the European way of life. With hindsight we should have insisted on permanent residency status from the beginning as temporary residency attracts higher health premiums, and overseas student fees, meaning that the girls could not go to University here. This resulted in the family breaking up much earlier than we had expected. It took 8 years to achieve residency, which was very unsettling, as each year we may have been sent back. Would we do it again? Absolutely. The sunshine affects your brain.
A new career at 60plus
At sixty plus I started writing comic verse for women of a certain age, resulting in the publication of three books plus a new career as a public speaker. I started painting again, exhibiting and selling and started teaching art to Adults. My husband has started teaching Astronomy. Both daughters have done round-the-world trips. Would we have done any of this if we’d stayed where we were – taken the safe option? I don’t think so. Life is for living and attitude is everything. If this is sixty roll on seventy!