Expat Update: Month T-3

There is just so much going on in my otherwise uneventful little life right now that I’m struggling to get it all straight. So I thought I’d do an update post each month summarising what’s been going on. We’re now just under 3 months away from arriving in Australia, and so much has happened but THERE IS STILL SO MUCH TO DO.

This post will cover doing The Telling, the start of visa shenanigans, and the realisation that we have a ridiculous amount of stuff.

The Good

The supportive people ¦¦ Those people who reacted with delight to our news, who were so excited that we’d finally achieved what we’ve been working towards for so long, and who offered their unconditional support. Those people mean more to me than anything. We’ve had people who we’ve only known for a relatively short time offering us long term storage space in their loft (!), offering help with removals and packing, and just generally being incredibly supportive. It makes me feel very, very lucky.

Opening new bank accounts ¦¦ We’ve got Australian bank accounts! Here’s me looking very excited on the day we trekked to the London branch of Westpac to prove our ID and open our accounts.

Yay Westpac! Turns out they also have a currency transfer service (not that great a rate to be honest but good to know), a discount with Pickfords (excellent value, go for this), a discount with Emirates (not much use to us sadly but a good wheeze) and discounts with BUPA as well (more on that below).

Our shipping boxes have arrived ¦¦ The deal with Pickfords turned out to be a winner, so we’ve got a living room full of empty cardboard boxes right now. All we have to do is work out what to put in them and when to send them… Sounds easy doesn’t it?!

Most of our furniture is sold ¦¦ Through sales to friends and a bit of time on eBay, we’ve sold most of our big furniture. This is a big weight off my mind!

Expat chats ¦¦ I’m fortunate enough to know quite a few people who are currently, or have previously been, expats. They’ve been so kind in sharing tips and encouragement with me and it’s been invaluable. Case in point, the afternoon tea Kelly and I enjoyed a couple of weekends ago. Sadly the quality of the cake didn’t quite live up to the quality of conversation but that’s a story for another day.

Also don’t ask me why I look so suspicious. Perhaps I had an inkling of how dry the banana bread was going to be…

No more prescription food ¦¦ Ok this is a bit of a silly one, but ever since being diagnosed with coeliac disease I’ve been able to get some gluten free food on prescription. It’s very expensive to buy gluten free products and this is not a choice, it’s a disease. However, due to funding cuts, the NHS are scrapping all gluten free food on prescription (in their letter to me explaining this they tell me it’s ok though, because I can just buy potatoes and rice instead………………………….*insert slow blink*). The funding stops at the end of March. Our plane ticket to leave the country is booked for the end of March. How’s that for kismet?

The Bad

We still have so much to sell ¦¦ I had no idea we owned so much stuff. I have no idea how it happened, either, which is quite worrying. There are still a couple of big things to sell, like our car, but then there are a seemingly infinite number of small things that you never think twice about owning. Like placemats.

Don’t even get me started on clothes. I didn’t think I had many clothes – you certainly wouldn’t think so from knowing me as I wear the same 4 outfits on repeat. Yet I managed to clear out the equivalent of two chest of drawers worth of clothes and I still have a wardrobe full left. How?!

All I can say is that after this, I’m all set for a minimalist life. I don’t want to buy anything ever again.

(Please remind me of this when I’m merrily shopping for All The Things once we get settled in Sydney?)

Visa struggles ¦¦ There’s a long story with the visa, but basically once granted it’s valid immediately so my employers wanted to leave it as late as possible to apply so they weren’t wasting money. Fair enough, but then after a fair wait I was left with a long list of documents to get hold of and very little time to do so. People wouldn’t get back to me with reference letters, the insurance company we picked after much deliberation wanted us to go for a very in-depth medical assessment (needless to say they didn’t get our business, we switched providers to someone who would just take our money and be done with it! Also neither of these are BUPA. That’s another story.), and with being in opposite time zones to our migration agent in Australia any question took at least 12 hours to answer and 24 before we could do anything useful about it. Luckily we’ve now submitted so we’re just keeping everything crossed it goes through smoothly – and that we don’t have to have a medical.

We’ll probably have to have a medical.

No photos of our house ¦¦ I realised a little while ago that we don’t really have any pictures of our first home together, the little flat in Birmingham that it turns out was also my godfather’s first home with his wife (whaaaaaaaat are the chances seriously). It wasn’t anything fancy but I loved that little flat, and I wish I had proper pictures of it. All I have are some distinctly ‘atmospheric’ shots…

I always used to laugh at how my Dad would go round taking pictures of all the rooms whenever he visited one of his relations homes, rather than taking pictures of the people, but now I get it.

Anyway, now it’s happening again with this house – I’ve had it on my mind for a while, but the house never seems tidy enough/it’s never light outside/we’re away or people are visiting and I just don’t get around to it. And now our furniture is starting to be dismantled and there’s stuff everywhere because we’re packing…. So I’ve decided I’m just going to take photos of how it is. I don’t care how bad it looks, I’m not submitting them to Homes and Gardens, it’s just for me to remember.

Goodbyes ¦¦ Yeah of course this one was going to feature. I’ve only said one proper goodbye goodbye so far and that was horrible, I nearly cried on the tube. And that was saying goodbye to two of my very good friends who I have been friends with for over a decade now, and although we might not see each other super often it’s always just the same when we do. I know I’ll see these girls again and it’ll be like nothing has changed. So it should have been an easy goodbye…. But it wasn’t. I dread to think how I’ll be when I’m saying goodbye to people who there is a decent chance I might never see again.

The Ugly

I’ve actually decided that I’ll be sharing The Ugly side of things via email. That way, I can share a bit more honestly on things like work and personal matters that I don’t want searchable on t’internet. Seeing as you’re all my friends, I’d just feel a bit happier doing it this way.

So if you want to know The Ugly, just put your email address in the box and I’ll add you to the list. You’ll get mail from me 2-3 days after you see this post, just to give everyone a chance to sign up who wants to.

Catch you in your inbox!

So with two months to go before I leave, what advice would you share with me?

-Rachel

Linking up with  Kristen and Gretch for What’s New With You.

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33 Comments

  1. 1st February 2017 / 16:22

    Ahhhh, so many emotions with this one. I can’t imagine the conflict between being excited about all the new things, fulfilling your dream, and anticipating life closer to your sister and all the things you love about being Down Under. But…the goodbyes. Those have got to be difficult. I’ve only had one terrible goodbye in my life and that was when I was visiting terminally ill grandparents. I hope that the excitement and the joy can help you through the rough goodbyes. You’ll still have family in the UK, right? So you’ll still be back every now and then for visits?

    At any rate, you will be on my mind these next few months! I hope you’re able to enjoy all your favorites before you start this next adventure. Best of luck to you! <3

  2. 1st February 2017 / 16:57

    Oh my, thanks for the update! I’m so excited for you! And I can 100% understand the bad side of this expat journey! It will be all worth it once you get to Australia – keep the goal in mind. Goodbyes were my least favourite part, that never gets easier.

  3. 1st February 2017 / 17:58

    I would seriously be losing my mind!! I get anxious before weekend trips so a big move like this would be insane. My husband has done several big moves like this in his lifetime, so he’d be cool as a cucumber as always. Oh STUFF. I just wrote a post about how much I hate it. You definitely realize how much you have when it comes down to moving or getting rid of every single piece. Hope the Visa stuff gets resolved quickly.

  4. 1st February 2017 / 18:23

    I can’t believe how stressful it must be to wait until the last minute to get all of your Visa stuff in order. I understand why they wanted to wait, but still! And seriously, talk about perfect timing as far as moving when the funding would run out for your prescription gluten free food. I can’t believe that that was the basis of the answer for you. It sounds like England seriously needs to work on getting GF food more accessible, and hopefully Australia will be tons better!

  5. 1st February 2017 / 18:27

    I’m so glad moving from Germany to Norway didn’t require a visa and yet I still had some nervous breakdowns! No idea how you manage it but it looks like you’re in control! 🙂

  6. Jen
    1st February 2017 / 18:41

    Wow what an update! It really is amazing how many parts there are to a move, even more than you would think at the start. I know I’m far away but if I can ever be of help please let me know! 🙂

  7. 1st February 2017 / 19:41

    Aaaaah how exciting!! Great idea getting your bank accounts sorted in advance, I didn’t get my bank account sorted until I arrived in Italy and it just did not work ahaha. That sucks about gluten free food on the NHS, sure ok it is possible to live on carbs like potatoes and rice but I bet this will really affect a lot of people who might just say screw it and eat gluten-containing food again :/ xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua | Life, Travel, Italy

  8. 2nd February 2017 / 04:37

    Of course, I want to hear about “the ugly”, and I’m hoping there will be some way I can help make it feel not so ugly.
    When a girlfriend of mine moved from America to Italy, she had an open house/everything is for sale day. So, things like placemats or candlesticks or an adorable picture hanging in her bathroom of an antique claw foot tub (I remember this so specifically because my mother bought it), it was all for sale! And, also, random friends and cousins and such (like mothers of best friends) could pop by to say goodbye as well. Her mother was there serving snacks and drinks. Her attitude was everything must go, and if she could make $5 on a set of 4 placemats, well, that was at least a coffee in Italy that didn’t come from her current bank account.

    I’m sure you’ve already been given this advice. Ship as little as you need to. I spent entirely too much money shipping things that I honestly did not need to keep and bring with me. Plus, there were hidden customs costs, and I got a phone call that before my items were released from customs, I owed an additional $1500(ish) dollars. The shipping company in the States claimed there would be no additional fees in Australia, but Australia customs wasn’t having it.

    I had to get not one, but two medicals. Fun times.

  9. 2nd February 2017 / 07:38

    I’m new to your blog, but what fun! Moving to another country is always super stressful and you’re left worn out but it’ll be all worth it in the end! I remember when I moved to London I was in pieces because I couldn’t open a bank account because I didn’t have a place to live yet, so the fact that you already have a bank account is amazing!! And when you’re in Oz, don’t compare it to the UK…! There are many things that you’re used to in your daily UK life that will be completely different in Oz… I thought moving to London from NYC would be easy peasy, but oh my! The UK was so different.. Hehe But now I’m in Singapore and it was easier to adjust because I wasn’t so steadfast in my US/UK ways.. 😉

  10. Nomadic clan member
    2nd February 2017 / 11:07

    Pack more T shirts and PJs than you think you’ll need! I ran dry on my recent jaunt and was only away for two weeks (meant I needed to visit Zara and a cool cheapish shop called Mo a lot instead – what a hardship!)

    Get that e-reader loaded with a ton of books – the choosing can take time (ask me for recommendations 😀😀)

    Hope I was (/am) one of The Supportive people, btw!

  11. 2nd February 2017 / 11:07

    AHHH! It’s all happening so fast! It must feel incredible to be embarking on this life-changing adventure. (And really, take me with you? The state of affairs in the US and UK is making me want to escape down under too!)

  12. 2nd February 2017 / 11:38

    I hope everything resolves in due time. We are still trying to figure things out but slowly but surely we are more settled than not 🙂 Wish you the best of luck!

  13. 2nd February 2017 / 12:12

    I am also putting together a post about our emigration journey so far! Despite this being my 7th move it is just as stressful! In fact this one more so – the visa too a long time to put together plus I had to take an English test to get the extra points (which despite having a Masters Degree I failed the first time!!!)

    At the moment it is job hunting for us, we sold our house and are renting but still have far too much stuff! Will message you as I need advise as we had considered a move cube but the big one is too big and the medium one too small! The dog has had her rabies jab so she is ready to go!

    We have 6 months and hopefully by that time we will be on holiday in Thailand on our way!

    All exciting but sooo much to do!!!

  14. 2nd February 2017 / 12:56

    As someone who has moved a lot, often at the side-eyed judgement of family, I’m excited to read “the ugly”.
    I have so many pictures of all of our houses ha ha.
    Also, does Australia have a program for GF prescription food? It IS unnecessarily expensive, even in the US.

  15. 2nd February 2017 / 15:56

    I am going on an overnight event with some youth kids this weekends & that’s enough to freak me out – I cant imagine doing such a big move. Kudos to you!!!

  16. 2nd February 2017 / 19:09

    ugh i signed up to the ugly and hadn’t published my comment so now i’m cranky. also, i accidentally put my personal email instead of my blog one RAGE but just tell me the ugly. i don’t know why the ugly comes out when you make a big decision like this but lordy it did for me too! and it got worse when i decided to stay longer.
    anyway! yay for selling things and i hope you sell everything you need to. and i feel like this time would be stressful no matter what. it’s huge thing you’re doing. i hope everything goes smoothly and you don’t have to get a medical because THEY SUCK

  17. 3rd February 2017 / 00:52

    I’m just so nebby that i have to sign up for the ugly. Interested to see what you say! I’m contemplating the expat life too, so it’s so interesting to follow your journey. Thanks for taking us along for the ride!

  18. 3rd February 2017 / 01:02

    Oh all the feels! I can relate to so much of this – I was you nine years ago. Moving overseas isn’t always easy but it’s always worth it in the end! You sound like you’re going great guns. Remember to give us a shout if we can do anything from this end 🙂

  19. 3rd February 2017 / 01:41

    SOOO exciting! I selfishly can’t wait for you to move so we can meet up 😉

    How frustrating about the visa struggles. I HATEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED the visa process so much when we went through it for Jesse because there are so many stupid things you have to put together – and a billion hoops to jump through to do it!

    Goodbyes are so bittersweet too 🙁

  20. 3rd February 2017 / 04:25

    So many emotions. I am happy to see that you don’t forget to focus on the positive alongside the negative and the ugly. Transition to a new country is not as easy as it sounds, although seems like you are very organized and have it under control 🙂 As for the messy photos of the house, take those photos anyway, it’s the memory and even those messy corners will bring smile to your place. If you want me to, I’d be happy to edit them for you and give a bit of an atmospheric film look. Anything looks pretty with a film preset (I’m biased!) on it. Looking forward to hearing more (including the ugly) and HOEPFULLY meeting you in person this year. xoxo, nano

  21. 3rd February 2017 / 09:34

    What an adventure to be heading off on, albeit an emotional one at the moment. I hope the ugly isn’t too bad and I look forward to hearing more in the email newsletter…

  22. 4th February 2017 / 01:36

    A move always feels official when you open up a new bank account!

  23. 4th February 2017 / 04:33

    YAY for the bank account being DONE!! That’s big time!! I can’t imagine how much there is to do to move across the world… my sister has some hilarious stories about trying to get her visa at the French embassy… of course, she didn’t think they were very funny at the time. Make a list of things you want to do before you go and make sure you do those. There’s sure to be things you want to remember and hold close.

  24. 5th February 2017 / 00:30

    Wow I can’t even imagine how much there is to-do to move overseas! Good luck with everything 🙂

  25. 5th February 2017 / 13:11

    Oh didn’t know about the prescription gluten free food! We don’t have that here…but we DO have a nice range of gluten free stuff in the super markets. Yes it’s expensive ($7 for a gluten free loaf and $0.95 for a regular loaf) but it could be worse I guess. Hopefully you’ll find it all okay – you probably sussed it out when you were over.

    Goodbyes are always the hardest, but it’s not forever although it feels like it is. Good luck with downsizing and selling everything too! You never realise just how much stuff you accumulate until you go to clear it all out.

  26. 5th February 2017 / 13:25

    Ohhh so many emotions! My move to the UK was a lot less complicated than yours seems – but then again I was moving out of my parents’ house so I didn’t have any furniture to sell – and I moved with just my backpack and a suitcase so I had no boxes to ship! It seems like you have things in order, though! I can’t believe you’ve already got a bank account! Also, if you’re worried about transaction fees – I used Transferwise… it’s so much better and faster than banks and gives the actual exchange rate rather than the one that’s best for the banks…

  27. 5th February 2017 / 13:33

    Forgot to sign up for the ugly – I had a lot of flack when i moved around in my 20’s…not so much now i am now 50 but get a lot of “its a mid-life crisis dear” – like one that has lasted forever!!

    Will reply to your email as have a ton of questions! We are debating taking nothing, taking some furniture or taking everything that doesn’t move. Actually scrap that we ARE taking the dog!

  28. 7th February 2017 / 00:58

    Visa paperwork and waiting can be really stressful! I’m very proud that we’ve managed to get both China and Malaysia visas…now our visa is coming up for renewal in September and I’m just hoping that everything goes very smoothly with the renewal process! I took photos of our Michigan home right before we left and photos of our China home right when we moved in, and I’m very grateful I did so, to help with those memories. I’ve moved a lot, but it still weirds me out how a place can go from being “my home” to being the home of a complete stranger, a place where I don’t belong and will probably never see the inside of again…practically overnight.
    Your last three months is going to fly by!

  29. 8th February 2017 / 11:03

    My goodness I’m impressed at how organised you are! We’ve literally just moved back from Switzerland and we only started doing stuff a week before we moved out there. It was a lot easier with visas etc than Australia but honestly i think you’re totally on top of it! It’s amazing where stuff accumulates from…we only moved away for 15 months and we literally did another massive clear out after doing a humongous clear out 15 months ago and we didn’t even buy much stuff in Switzerland! What an exciting adventure you have ahead of you Rachel! xx

  30. 8th February 2017 / 22:36

    Good luck! I can only say, as have many others and you yourself – you DO NOT need that much stuff. I only brought clothes with me from NZ, but I definitely only wore about half of what I brought from day 1 – and even a lot of that faded quickly from rotation. If you have a question about anything in your mind… you shouldn’t bring it! 🙂 All the best with the paperwork… and the medical!

  31. 17th February 2017 / 08:32

    I always think that moving within the country is hard, I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to be moving to another country. I’m so excited for you, though. This is going to be such an incredible adventure! I can deal with packing up and selling stuff but saying goodbye to people I love is always the hardest. Hopefully they can come visit!

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