Tag Archives: Australia

Would you ‘go places’ if you had the chance?

I have been thinking a fair amount about the different places I have lived and worked throughout my life. Kind of logical as I am just about to make another move in a couple of months….

The other day we ran into some people we know already for years. They are from South Africa although from Portuguese origin.

We got talking about emigrating and they told me that they had lived in Australia since 1999. At the time they had thought about emigrating for a while and had explored several European countries including Portugal.

As it was always while ‘being on a holiday’ they realised that it would be very hard to choose a country suitable to move to without having that holiday feeling.

However South Africa got too much for them.  They applied for a residence permit for Australia, got it and moved with two little girls to a country where they had never been before. There was not a job lined up, no house, no nothing. They just went and took their chance!

places, moving abroad, living simple, budget

Places I lived and worked

We all know that ‘holiday feeling’ that makes you want to stay and live in the place where you just had that wonderful time. I definitely have that. I have special places everywhere, in Australia and in many European countries. Australia however has been the only country giving me that feeling and where subsequently I emigrated to.

I lived in London for a total of 5 years. However I did not really choose to live there. It happened to be the home town of, my then, boy friend who is now my husband.

Places, London, view, UK, cloudy day

View of London from St. Paul’s Cathedral on a cloudy summer day

It seemed better that I came to London because I had more chance to find work there. Keith had tried to find a job in the Netherlands but struggled to do so. He did have a stint as a cook in a Dutch prison but that was not exactly the career of his choice!

London was certainly not my favourite as it is such a huge city. It is so different from places I was used to such as The Netherlands and Switzerland. I was hanging out in Switzerland a fair bit doing season work in restaurants. I love the country, still do and hopefully one day I get to spend some time there again.

places, Wengen, mountain view, village

Walking uphill away from car-free Wengen where I worked two winter seasons and visited friends many times.

There are still very good friends living there.  I worked with them in 1985 in Wengen, a ski village in Berner Oberland. We have spent countless New Years eves together, saw each others kids grow up, are all foodies and love cheese!

Kind of essential for living in Switzerland because during the winter months it smells of cheese fondue and raclette everywhere.

Place, Switzerland, Wengen, cheese fondue

The table has been set for a cosy cheese fondue dinner despite it being summer! Swiss people do not tend to eat cheese fondue in the summer…. I do!

One of my ideal destinations

One of the places I personally had set my mind on was the Italian part of Switzerland, Ticino. This is the area of Lugano, Locarna, Ascona and the Lago Maggiore. Ticino is on the sheltered south side of the Swiss Alps and has a unique warmer climate than other parts of Europe on that latitude. I adore that area and speak the language.

At the time I had almost achieved a one year Swiss residence permit but then I met my future husband on an Australian trip. We tried at a later stage to get in to Switzerland but it was virtually impossible for Keith to get a work permit there at the time. So we left for Australia instead…..

Places I have moved to..

It makes me think about reasons why people move places. I moved to Zurich, Switzerland because I had organised work and a summer season work permit during my Uni holidays. As I loved it in Zurich,  I actually returned for 5 more summers.

I joined Keith in London because he was living there and I wanted to be with him. It wasn’t always ‘roses’ during that time especially the first half year when I had a job I did not like very much. I had to travel 1.5 hours by tube to get there and back.

I like to illustrate what travelling for 1.5 hrs meant in the context of a country like The Netherlands. It would be like travelling more than half way across the country to get to a job I did not like.

But hey, when you move to another country you kind of start at the bottom. I found that out while living in UK and Australia. As a result I am now a firm believer that this is the case for many people who emigrate.

Reasons to move to Australia

We moved to Australia because of the weather, nature and its laid back way of life. We knew that these factors were very much part of the Australian way of life as we both had spent time in the country before we emigrated.

Australia has a wide range of weather types, from tropical in the North to moderate and rather harsh in Tasmania and South West Australia. But it is all there.

places, Clovelli beach, Sydney

The rocky end of Clovelli beach, Sydney. One of our favourites places to hang out when we had young kids.

The scenery in Australia is in one word beautiful. However the ironic thing is that a large percentage of Australians don’t explore it. After all Bali is so close and so are Fiji and other tropical islands. And these destinations are often cheaper than travelling in Australia.

We have often looked at taking the kids to Central Australia to see Ayers Rock and The Olgas. I can assure you, it requires a bit of saving!

So in the end I have had a number of reasons why I decided to change countries. They were obviously strong enough to make a commitment. And now I have decided to return to Europe. What are my reasons, you could ask?

I usually say that I miss ‘real’ cheese, cobbled streets and little alley ways…!

places, Collioure, favourites, Languedoc

Collioure, one of my favourites in the Languedoc. Just avoid it in the high season….

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places, change, emigration, France, planning to leave





Being a stranger in your own country!

Can you be a stranger in your own country? That is something I have been thinking about several times lately. Also a couple of things things happened this week that made me want to explore this topic a bit further.

Europe versus Australia

Considering the fact we are planning to return to Europe after having lived 25 years in Australia, it is to be expected that we feel like a stranger and have a niggle of doubt here and there. Call it the fear of the unknown, apprehension, being unfamiliar or out of touch with habits and customs in Europe.

As Australia is a multi cultural society, you can expect a diversity of cultures, habits and ways of doing things. Australia is also an easy society. It is not hard to find your way around and it accommodates newcomers in a pleasant way!

Brisbane, stranger, welcome,

Welcoming strangers and showing them how things are done…..

I can remember a different scenario when applying for a national security number in the UK. It took me days to get it which surprised me a lot. I had to return home a couple of times because I did not have all the documentation necessary. It was extremely hard to find out in advance what they wanted.

Also in the UK there is no faster access for Europeans so I was in long queues together with any other stranger that wanted to get this UK identity. The staff in the ‘Home Office’ , where you apply for such documents, was neither helpful, nor friendly or welcoming.

Australia on the other hand was well organised and is ‘mostly’ very welcoming to strangers. We managed to open an Australian bank account while still in the UK. They organised the exchange from pounds into dollars and when we arrived out Medicare card, health cover was waiting for us. So money and health, probably the most immediate necessities were a piece of cake.

In the eighties in England it took my husbands mum, who at that time worked in a bank, to bend some rules and to facilitate opening a bank account for me and to get me a cheque book. It was not easy and without her I probably would not have gotten a chequebook. At the time chequebooks were the way to pay for things.

Being a stranger in France

After buying a house in France we expected to feel overwhelmed with a stubborn bureaucracy. A system where you have to submit 8 copies for everything you want to organise. That is what most people warn you for in France. I know now that those people have no idea. It is just hearsay!

contract, French contract, compromis de vente

A contract to buy a house in France. Not more complicated there than in any other country…….

Yes, the bureaucracy in France is definitely a factor to reckon with but in my experience, it is also extremely organised if you are organised yourself. We bought a house, opened a bank account, got a phone line and internet, utilities, insurance and registered with the tax office. All within a couple of weeks and all in the French language.

The only hiccup that I encountered was that my French bank seem to have lost my bank card two times over. Until a clever bank assistant realised that there were bank cards with my husband’s name. This was despite the fact that I don’t use my husbands name. I did tell them that when I applied but they still insisted on putting his name on it.

Obviously in France it not normal to use your own ‘female’ name in official capacities. The funny thing is though that Keith is not even a card holder of this bank account yet, as they need to ‘sight’ him in person before they activate him as an account holder.

Being a stranger and health funds

With the view on Europe our biggest insecurity is the health fund issue. How do you do that? I have seen ads in France that promote health insurance for expats who live in France. As Europeans we can be insured in France but you have to have a job to start it off.

Our first adventure in France may be a house sit, so what happens then when it comes to health insurance. For people our age it is important to have a decent health cover.

I am sure there is a way as there always is. I just need to find out how. This is where France is a bit stubborn. It is hard to find out about things but once you have sussed them out, it is not that hard provided you prepare yourself. I am good at that. I am extremely thorough!

Although all these things may appear a bit daunting, I also find it very exciting. The insecurity makes it interesting and once you have figured out how to do things, it gives you a real sense of achievement.

A stranger in France

Limoux, rue de la marie, centre limoux

One of the main streets in Limoux, leading to Place de la Republique

I can recall feeling like that in Limoux in 2014 when I had to kit out the house we had bought as a holiday let. The house needed to be connected to utilities and internet. And I had to find people who I could rely on such as a cleaner, a handy man and a key holder.

I managed to do that all within a month. It was quite a thrill, so much that I rewarded myself with an upgrade for my return flight to Australia. A very sweet memory!

I am sure that all will fall into place once we are in Europe. There is just that little niggle of fear to let go of all the things here and head to unfamiliar terrain. Some may say: “but you guys aren’t a stranger. You are British and Dutch so it can’t be that hard”.

True, but we left in the late eighties and countries in Europe have changed a lot. They are not familiar anymore. We know our way around a little bit but that is all. Fortunately there is Google who has an answer to most things nowadays!

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stranger, change, emigration, France, Australia





Planning to leave a country after 25 years

Planning to leave a country is very likely an un-imaginable concept for many people. Most people never had to deal with it – or may not have toyed with the idea at all.

I can remember a girl friend whose husband was offered a job in a different town in The Netherlands. The town was less than an hour away and it meant a big improvement career wise.

To cut a long story short,  she could not do it. She could not face the prospect of giving up everything that is familiar. Nor could she imagine having to make new friends and leaving her family behind.

Planning to leave a country – what does it mean?

All the above factors come into play when you move. Even when you move only an hour away. However if the distance from familiarity is merely a short drive away it is not too hard to step back into that ‘other old life’.

It is a different story when you move to a different country. Many more things will be unfamiliar and it takes considerable time to adapt to new systems and ways of doing things. Even nowadays when distances seem to have gone smaller, it still requires substantial effort and ability to adapt to make a living elsewhere.

It becomes a fair bit harder when your new home is on the other side of the world. Take for instance the distance to Australia or New Zealand from Europe.

When during the fifties people were immigrating to Australia it meant you would go forever. You bought a ticket for the boat trip over, took all your worldly belongings with you and set of to create a new life on the other side of the world. Usually you would never return to the home country.

Nowadays it is very different. You can fly in 24 hours to the other side of the world. It may shock the body a little bit but it is very do-able. I think I have done it 15 times forward and backwards. People who make the move to a country like Australia or New Zealand have plenty of opportunity to see family and friends again.

Our emigration to Australia

sydney, harbourview, harbour bridge,

New Years in Sydney 1993. View from Neutral bay

We, my English husband and I, as a couple, made this move 25 years ago. We actually met in Australia as back packers. The emigration was my third trip to Australia. We both applied for skill migration. Keith was an IT professional and I was an experienced restaurant manager and both these professions were ‘wanted’.

It only took 6 weeks for our application to process successfully.  I have to admit I submitted my application from London as I had my doubts about success through the Australian Embassy in The Hague. They had not been willing give me a work permit years before my application, so why would I have a chance to get permanent residence?

We arrived in Australia in 1991 and started building our new life in Sydney where we lived for 7 years. We had two daughters and moved to Queensland. Since 2000 we have lived in Brisbane and raised our girls there who are now 23 and 17.

Planning to leave Australia

leaving, migrating, aeroplane, Australia, planning to leave

Distances seem shorter however it still takes almost 4 hours to fly from Brisbane to Darwin

We toyed with the plan to leave Australia for the first time in 2011 before the oldest would go to University and the youngest start high school. Bad economical and financial situation in Europe held us back meaning we stayed in Australia. Only realising we were committing to a new stage in the life of our kids – uni and high school.

Now 5 years further, that stage is over. Yasmin, our oldest has just received two letters containing the certificates of the double degree she did over the last 5 years. And Zoe has finished the International Baccalaureate (IB) and is keen ,or not, to go online to see her results on January 5th. That is when the IB in Geneva releases the scores worldwide.

That means there is another window of opportunity to ‘call it a day’ in Australia……

Planning to leave a country?

I believe it is a matter of mindset and it may take a couple of personality traits that is not in every one’ genes . Is it a sense of adventure? A wish to start all over again? Exploring the unknown?

I don’t know the exact answer – all the above reasons have an appeal to me. In general I find predictable ‘hard to take’ and I love challenge. Actually I function the best when I am challenged.

When you live in a country like Australia it is not hard to find similar minded people because most people here are migrants or at least the descendants of migrants. Australian only tend to call third generation Australians ‘real Australians’. The rest is all new!

UK, London, view, planning to leave

A view from St Paul’s Cathedral over the city of London on a grey summer day

Every time when we visit Europe we realise that the ‘easy’ attitude we seem to have adopted is not accessible to all. People who have never moved are in awe of our plans – inspired and at the same time horrified. But I know that planning to leave is not something they would do that easily.

There is a first time for everything

They say, it is a first for everything and maybe you get desensitised when you have emigrated before. We went from England to Australia in 1991, back to England for 2 years in the late nineties and to Brisbane in 2000. Only to return to UK in 2001 because there were no jobs in Brisbane but that trend had caught up in the UK as well.

In the end we returned to Brisbane in the end of 2001. Before that I have the experience of moving to Switzerland for work and from Holland to London to live. I am kind off a seasoned migrant and take it all in my stride quite easily. I do realise it is not that easy for many people.

It is remarkable that Australia is the country where I have lived the longest. Time will tell how we will handle the next move……

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change, emigration, France, planning to leave