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One Year and Three Months in Melbourne

One Year and Three Months in Melbourne

I thought it was time for me to add an update here on a late lunch break, as I remember how useful BritishExpats.com was to me especially during the first few months. A bit of background. I'm an American, who lived in the UK for about 9 years up to 2010. In 2011 I lived in Denver Colorado, and from 2012 onwards I've been here in Melbourne. So I have a UK perspective, but also an American sense of what fair prices are. My partner is Italian / Argentinian.

I thought it was time for me to add an update here on a late lunch break, as I remember how useful BritishExpats.com was to me especially during the first few months. A bit of background. I'm an American, who lived in the UK for about 9 years up to 2010. In 2011 I lived in Denver Colorado, and from 2012 onwards I've been here in Melbourne. So I have a UK perspective, but also an American sense of what fair prices are. My partner is Italian / Argentinian.

Overall, Australia is a great place.

Renting / Housing:  We initially moved to the CBD while avoiding the burbs as a 'short term' approach.  Over a year in we are extending another year having visited many friends in the various burbs – our rent was decreased and the CBD is flooded with new builds.  My commute / walk to work is 5 minutes and we avoid commuting completely – plus associated train costs and time wasted.  We know most here push the burbs for people coming in but we'd strongly suggest – even with kids – a new arrival consider the CBD for a year anyway.  We know an expat in the CBD with 2 kids – they enjoy the schools and take weekend trips out of the city, and avoid commuting so increase their net family time.  We know another stuck on a 1 hour+ commute on a good day all because he wanted a small bit of dirt and grass (they call it a garden) for his kids who stay inside all the time anyway.  To each his own though.

Prices: Much of my happiness, along with my partner's, came about once we accepted things as they are vs wishing they were like the UK or USA such as:

We now embrace the fact the Coles (grocery store) prices are randomized – bread can be 3$ today and 1.5$ tomorrow, banana prices and tomatos are so random you just have to laugh it off, Pepsi today is 2$, tomorrow 4$, Coke is double Pepsi always, etc, and occasionally a sale can be on that is amazing so you have to be ready to buy something like a kilo of coffee 1/2 price and use it later.  Finding local pubs with happy hours or cafe's with 'specials' that are often not even listed (aka a coffee is 4$ yet a coffee AND egg sandwhich morning special is 3.5$ for example) is critical. 

Even this is random – we have a local spot we like that has moved the 'happy hour' times and days on us at least 5 times – all part of the fun.  Paying up is also worth it – we now try to buy our clothing in the USA or Argentina on trips but if we must buy here we try to just pay up and at least get good quality stuff that wont fall apart after a few wears.  We've also enbranced the fact that a trip abroad often nets out cheaper vs an intra-Australia trip (So we've seen more of Asia this past year then we expected).  We also cut back on drinking wine or beer at restaurants – we will still have a bottle at home, but just found Wine and beer prices often not worth it.

Ex-pats / social life: We've found our social life includes more ex-pats vs the UK and struggle to really 'get to know' Aussie's well – as an American I found Brits to be more accepting – easier to build a deep friendship with, we find Australians nice on the surface but uninterested in building deeper friendships – not a bad thing and it could be we just have not been here long enough.  That said, we both remember good (often insulting but still good) political and world events style conversations and debates with new friends in the UK – Australians seem less interested in world events which at times we find disappointing.  (Our experience in London was that our British friends loved 'big idea' type of discussions and telling us various things America was 'doing wrong' while Aussies just don't go there)

Aussie Work ethic: I've posted on this some time ago – but in a nutshell, we've both heard the expression 'I am not putting my hand up for that' more here then we ever heard in the UK (In the USA if you say this too much you no longer have a job) and people are pretty focused on work life balance – which at least at my bank appears to mean always leaving the office at 5 pm sharp. 'Sick' leave is also used liberally and when people work from home – especially those with children – you can assume they basically won't be reachable 6 of the 8 hours a day.  Its a great culture for work life balance, but at times we are still surprised we are paid so well for so much less work vs the UK or, especially, the USA (where I was working 60-70 hour weeks prior to this move).

Australia as a whole re drives / trips: Amazing place and something I'd encourage new arrivals to go for.  We took some time before our first great ocean road drive or trip to the vineyards – it is quite amazing how much variety you have within an hour or two of Melbourne, it is a great place for fun weekend trips and when you travel off season to places like the ocean road you often have areas almost to yourselve's.

Down-sides: Very little to moan about – the only issue for us has been the sense of isolation – flying 10 hours with a stopover to Thailand for example for a 'close holiday' is still hard to get used to when we could visit the states in that amount of time from London.  No surprise to anyone reading this I am sure.  We often miss high quality museums as well – we've recently decided that instead of blowing 50-75$ on poor exhibitions in from Europe or poor theatre options at 100$-150$ a person to just save that cash and go to Europe each year to get that out of our system.  When we miss these things we remind ourselves we are also avoiding the EU with its poor economy, 30% unemployment and structural problems – in that light, missing museums and such seems easier to deal with.

All in all, a great country with great people.

BritishExpats Member "rld1177"

Originally posted in our "Update Forum." If you would like to share your story of your move abroad please email articles@britishexpats.com. Feel free to submit an article to us, or if you wish we can send you a short list of questions about your experiences.