Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad
Right now I'm packing up my life to move halfway across the world to Sydney, Australia. No big deal, right?
Right now I'm packing up my life to move halfway across the world to Sydney, Australia. No big deal, right?
This blog is all about balance. This blog is all about keeping it real. I told you the things I love about living in Australia, now it’s time for the not so good stuff. In the spirit of openness and transparency, here are the things that I don’t love about living in Australia.
Nights fall super fast in Australia. I’m used to the long twilight of the UK, particularly in summer (in the winter you don’t really notice it because it falls so early…). But here, it seems like it it bright sunshine one minute, and dark the next. If you want to enjoy the sunset somewhere, you’d better have your wits about you. And I find it makes me feel like I need to be going to bed far too early! To me, it being still hot at 8pm and also pitch black is very bizarre.
You guys, they FLY. Enough said.
I don’t mean to go on a driving related rant here because nobody likes those. But drivers here tailgate so badly, drive unnecessarily aggressively, and regularly fail to indicate. It honestly makes me, normally a very confident driver, not want to get out on the roads at all. It doesn’t help that a lot of people here drive big SUVs or utes; seeing your entire rearview mirror full of grille is quite terrifying. What if someone then switches lane suddenly in front of you without indicating? What do you do??
So you decide you’re not going to risk it on the roads but instead will take public transport. Good luck with that. For a new city, things seem to have been cobbled together rather rapidly and without a great deal of thought. So you’ve got bus stops in the middle of motorways/freeways. Bus lanes crossing traffic. No cycle lanes. No metro/underground. Small patches with great and regular train options (luckily the case where we live, which is why we picked it) and huge swathes of the city nowhere near any trains whatsoever. New train stations are being planned with no parking. No real viable intercity travel. Definitely no high speed trains or anything modern like that. No real future planning. Heck, they’re just rebuilding the tram system (at huge expense and disruption) that they tore out 50 years ago. I don’t get it.
The trains are double decker though. That’s pretty cool.
I still don’t really understand bushfires – in terms of, if you’ve never grown up with any sort of extreme weather/nature scenarios, it’s hard to fully appreciate them. I think most kids here are brought up with the knowledge of what to do if there’s a bushfire near you, but at the moment I feel totally uneducated and likely to do exactly the wrong thing should something bad happen. I live in the middle of a built up area so I’m pretty sure my fire risk is very small, but it’s definitely a risk eg when we’re travelling to more remote areas. Basically, bushfires terrify me.
I’ve banged on enough about this so I’ll keep it brief. I know it’s bad for the economy and whatnot but I secretly hope for a house price ‘correction’ so folks my age can stand a chance of getting on the property ladder. When the very ordinary flat you rent is worth $1.5m you just think why even bother?
Believe it or not, this
hovel property sold recently for just over $1m. Which was over the guide price, may I add. Don’t believe me? Check out the property info here. It makes me wonder what kind of nutty city we live in where a 2 bed, 1 bath dilapidated shell (that requires you to sign a waiver before you walk inside!) sells for over the estimated value of a million dollars.
And on that mind boggling fact, I’m off to go and cry into my smashed avo*.
What do you not love about where you live? Dish, I’m nosy.
*Sydneysider in-joke. Apparently us millennials are spending all our money on avocado on toast and that’s the whole reason we can’t afford property. Not the fact that the required deposit for this particular hovel would be $200,000 (in order to avoid paying loan protection insurance of up to 4%). Don’t forget your stamp duty of nearly $41,000 and other buying costs so let’s round that up to an even total cash requirement of $250k in savings for the pleasure of buying a home you can’t even walk into without wearing full-body PPE.
“So is it really that different from the UK, living in Australia?” This is something I’m asked on a semi-regular basis. And actually, it sort of is. But in a very subtle way.
Now that I’ve lived here a full year, I think it’s high time I shared what I’ve learned about these subtleties, in case it might help some other poor pom.
This one fully blew my mind. And got S fully grumped at by a so-called laid back Sydneysider when he got it wrong. This makes no sense to me. In the UK we drive on the left hand side of the road, same as the Australians, and we all speak English. In the UK, as any Londoner worth their salt will know, you stand on the right of an escalator. So why do they stand on the left of the escalators here?!
The parking signs here are beyond complicated. It’s 6.24pm on a Tuesday. Can I park here???
I have been known to have to park, get out, study the sign for a good five minutes, do a google, and the move on because I’m still not sure. On the plus side, parking machines here take cards which is extremely sensible and gives me a huge sense of relief every time I approach a meter.
You know that horrible noise of the underneath of your car scraping against something hard and unyeilding? The one that makes you wince, suck in your breath and go “ooooohhhhrrrrrr”? Yeah that happens about once a week here when turning into driveways, ramps, shopping centres, etc. Despite going extremely slowly and taking things at an angle, the kerbs just keep coming to get me. They’re massive, and unforgiving. Partly it’s because I don’t drive an SUV, and partly it’s down to the gutters and drains built to withstand Sydney downpours, but it’s miserable and I don’t like it.
I am from a country of stone or brick houses. Those are really your two options, materials wise. So to find a significant proportion of houses being wood makes me wonder how it’s not just going to fall down around my ears one day. It does make renovations a heck of a lot easier though, as I have learned through watching The Block.
I don’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a tie to work in London. But here in Sydney CBD there were ties a-bristling at a breakfast meeting I went to a few months ago. People here generally dress up super smart for work, which is an interesting contrast to the laid back image of Australia. Designer labels are big here, too. It’s been quite a shock for my charity shop loving self.
If you’ve ever been to Bangkok you’ll know what I mean when I say shopping mall culture. Instead of a familiar British high street, with a mixture of modern and ancient buildings all happily rubbing alongside each other and a familiar suite of shops (WH Smiths, Boots, M&S, Topshop and 17 betting shops) you’ve got shopping centres (called malls here) at the centre of the community in Australia. They will usually have a similar set of shops as well (Kmart or Big W, Woolies, Coles, Target, Sportsgirl, and a juice bar) but all set in a (usually very nice) mall. As well as free loos (!) and plenty of air conditioning there will usually be a food court which has its very own culture that I’m only just beginning to understand. Shopping malls have their pros and cons vs high streets, of course, but I have to say I am enjoying the novelty of the mall experience.
Compared to the general cost of living, eating out isn’t quite as expensive as it is in the UK. Ok, it’s still a long way from being described as cheap, but in the context of everything else in Australia being extremely expensive, eating out is only quite expensive. One game changer is the aforementioned food courts, which can actually have some pretty decent restaurants in and are a perfectly acceptable place to go for an evening meal.
Also sushi is a lot cheaper here. And better.
In the UK, you can only buy one pack of 16 painkillers (paracetamol or ibuprofen) at any one time to try and cut down on overdoses. Fair enough, however I have chronic pain and my husband has some issues too so 8 pills each was generally not enough to get us through the 2-3 weeks we’d have between trips to the shops. And the last thing you want to do when you have pain is travel to the shops just to buy pain relief. So I’m (selfishly) quite glad that there are no restrictions on how many painkillers you can buy in one go here. Hooray!
The first time I heard someone refer to someone else as a ‘wog’, I gasped. Turns out, it’s not a rude term here, and refers to people of Mediterranean-ish origin. I say ish because it can be used pretty widely, but it’s generally not considered to be offensive. I still won’t say it anyway. Oh and there’s also a brand of cheese here called ‘Coon’.
I am a big fan of Cadbury’s, having lived just down the road from their famous Bournville factory for a 3 years when we were newlyweds. But over here it’s like having walked directly through the looking glass into alternate universe Cadbury’s – it’s not just the standard Dairy Milk, Bournville, Cadbury Caramel… Here there are banks and banks of different flavours. You’ve got some old favourites like Top Deck (one layer of milk chocolate, one of white) which will always be around, then the limited editions of which there seems to be a new one every week. At the moment there are a lot of Spiders, which is not a nod to the venomous flora here but rather to a milkshake with ice cream in, apparently known here as a Spider. Who. Knew.
The downside to this is that just as you discover your new ultimate favourite flavour, it is in danger of being discontinued. Speaking from bitter personal experience.
If you know me you know I have a sweet tooth, but it’s quite tricky to find decent sweets here (all referred to as lollies, even if they’re not lollipops. It makes no sense to me either). There just aren’t that many types to choose from, and the pick n mix is usually a bit suspect, too. I really miss dolly mixtures, and Haribo, and those little 3-for-£1 packs of teeth and lips, foam bananas, milk bottles, raspberry mushrooms, fizzy cola bottles…
In the UK if you’re flying anywhere you’re generally going to be going international. Which means for every flight there’s the passport shenanigans, extensive security, liquid restrictions, and arriving 3 hours before your flight or however long your anxious tendency/traffic dictates you arrive.
Here, a lot of flying is done domestically. This means you can waltz up to the airport half an hour before your flight departs and still have time to hang around at the gate. Just as long as you’re not checking a bag. In which case you’ll probably need to get there 45 minutes before your flight leaves, just in case. Airports are smaller here, too, so there’s much less ground to cover in general.
This one blew my mind, as well. Not only is timeliness not so much of an issue, but neither are the stringent security rules we follow in the UK. Here, if you’re flying domestic, you can take whatever you like on the plane with you as long as it’s not an aerosol. That’s literally it. Yes you have to take out your laptop to go through security but it’s such a light procedure compared to the UK that it’s basically a frequent traveller’s dream.
For a little while after I moved here I kept unpacking my little ziploc bag of tiny toiletries every time I went through domestic security, out of sheer habit. That was one habit I was happy to kick once I realised I was getting strange looks from the security staff.
A final airport related realisation. Again, in the domestic terminal, you can go through security without a boarding pass. This means you are free to see people off to gates, meet folks arriving, or even hold meetings in the airside Qantas meeting rooms. Or just, y’know, sample the excellent cuisine available in the terminal*.
*NB heavy sarcasm.
So I have to know. Are you totally side-eyeing me like how did you not know this? Or do you find any of these points particularly strange?
Are you nosy? I’m nosy. I like looking into people’s houses, and into their schedules. That’s why I like tv renovation shows, and reading people’s diaries (joking… sort of). This post will hopefully bring you a bit of both – a breakdown of what I did on a random day in April. The last time I did one of these was almost exactly 3 years ago, and reading it back is quite funny because I still wear that outfit all the time (except for the blazer, which was a cheapy one from Primark and it fell apart), I still wear the same products on my face, and I wish I still had my niece to help me get ready every day. She does live a lot closer to me now though 🙂 On the other hand, it’s a bit sad because my Dad is no longer with us. I’m glad I have that day with him to remember though.
Without wishing to be too morbid, I want to freeze a day on the internet just in case I need to come back and remember it.
I also keep mistyping this as a day in the lift, which is an altogether different post. Here’s hoping I never have to write that one.
Wake up. It’s too early. Wait for the sound of the water to stop running which is my cue to go for the shower. My parents in law are staying with us at the moment, but it’s their last day. They leave at 7:30 this morning and they’re having their showers. Even though we have 2 showers, you can’t use them both at the same time because the temperature goes funny for someone. So I’m waiting my turn. Then I pull out my Monday outfit from the cupboard, dry my hair, and put on some face powder, mascara, eyebrow gel and blusher. That’s me done, folks.
I wave goodbye to our visitors as they leave with S for the airport. Hopefully the traffic won’t be too bad. I pull the breakfast and lunch I made for myself yesterday out of the fridge and put it in my oh so trendy rucksack. Time to walk to the station.
I arrive at the station as a train pulls in. I walk as quickly as I can manage at that time and jump on just as the guard blows the whistle. It’s nice and quiet this morning as it’s school holidays, so I’m not squished in amongst anklebiters playing complicated looking games on their smartphones. Oh and did I mention the trains are double decker here?
I’m at my desk. This is officially the shortest commute I’ve ever had and I do very much enjoy it. Time for breakfast – it’s too early to eat before I leave, so I bring it to work instead. Today it’s overnight oats, my current favourite. They’re chocolate, because I’m still actually a toddler.
As I am eating my client boss arrives in to our project team room. We share pleasantries about the weekend and he continues his campaign to get me to move to Newcastle. To be fair, it’s going quite well as it does seem like a very nice place to live… [and this is where the stream of photos becomes intermittent, because I don’t take photos of work people!].
Client boss leaves for a meeting and it’s time for me to try and create some coherent looking slides from a whiteboard session we did last week. This proves to be annoyingly fiddly and I have to listen to some music to keep me going (covertly, with headphones, of course. The project team room is empty at this point which makes it vaguely passable).
It’s Tights Time. Any warmth I’ve carried in with me from the outside world has well and truly dissipated, and the arctic AC of the office has taken its toll. Time to put my tights on.
Slides, emails, admin, expenses, returning calls.. you know.
Client boss returns and announces he’s ready to start our 11am meeting early. Great! Go and fetch client co-worker who is also due to attend the meeting. By the time we get back to our room, client boss has vanished.
We break for a working lunch which means throwing down my salad whilst still amending slides. Luckily it only gets slightly messy.
We finish up the meeting. I take the opportunity to grab some fresh air and a glass of water with the lovely Sam, who lives around the corner. On the way I call my sister about her party planning, which is in full force. It’s venue decision time! I arrive at Sam’s and we have a super quick fire catch up and then I run back to the office.
I stop in at the pie shop underneath the office for some refreshment. I know client boss will be keen for some caffeine at this point and quite frankly so am I, so I pick us up the poison of our choice. Flat white for him, Pepsi Max for me (I’m branching out from diet coke and I feel a bit weird about it tbh).
Next meeting starts.
Next meeting ends with client boss running out of the door to catch his train. Byeee. I finish updating the documents we talked about and send some follow up emails.
Calls, emails, and… snack time! These are super sugary and not at all good for you but I really do like them. They come in very handy in a pinch as they’re filling and travel well.
Time to leave. I’m out the door on the dot today because I’ve got plans! This is taken during my walk home. I am impatient at pedestrian crossings, but I do like that my walk home takes me past lots of interesting things to look at. Sometimes that’s dangerous, as I do pass a fully loaded Kmart twice every day.
Arrive home and change into a comfy dinner outfit (and heels to make it look like I made an effort). My reaction when S tells me where his next company retreat might be… clue, it’s a big red rock.
Then I sit with S while he eats his tea and I spot a giant cockroach on the wall. I leave him dealing with that as I catch the bus.
I take the bus to Crows Nest – the bus driver is nice and friendly, which is always a bonus.
I’ve booked a new-to-me Indian restaurant to meet up with some of my new-to-me friends. I’m the first to arrive and I study the menu with glee. It looks good. I can’t remember the last time I had a great Indian curry – they’re hard to find here. Soon enough everyone else arrives and we set to it. The food is good and it scratches my good Indian food itch. We eat and talk and talk some more and before long it’s time to go home.
Time to get the bus home. Luckily I took my leftover curry home so lunch for tomorrow is sorted: I can tick that off my list for tonight. The bus is very rattly so excuse the blurry photo…
Bus driver changeover! The old one says bye everyone as he leaves, and the new one says hello everyone as he gets on. How friendly!
I’m back, I’ve washed my face and put my leftovers in the fridge. I just heard S get back from the cinema so it’s bedtime for us! He is blessed with the ability to get ready for bed in about 30 seconds flat, whereas I am a faffer.
S remembers the washing he optimistically put on earlier and goes to hang it out to dry.
I should point out, this was a busy day for me. I don’t always have after work plans, or during work plans, and even more rarely do I have them on the same day. I also upgraded to an iPhone 8+ and wanted to give its photos a go – what do you think of the quality? And what does a day in your life look like?
Pin me if you’re nosy and you know it:
Maybe it’s just because I was raised in the UK, but I personally am fairly uncomfortable with a great deal of money chat. I’ll talk directionally, but coming out with an actual figure is something I’m really not used to doing. And I don’t hear many others around me doing it, either. I mean, I get it. Boasting about money is vulgar; it comes under the same category as talking about religion or politics over the dinner table, right?
However, I think that we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater by avoiding money talk altogether – what about discussing money normally, in a non-boastful way? Talking about budgets and realistic levels of spending? As a self declared member of the expat* blogging community, I was forced to take a hard look at myself today. I did an interview with Josh from Expats Everywhere, which I have to say I really enjoyed. Josh was great and put me at ease throughout, so this isn’t a comment against him whatsoever.
But during the interview, Josh asked me about typical daily expenses in Sydney and start up costs that newcomers might expect. Obviously, this is useful for those who are considering a move to Australia. And I actually found it a little bit difficult to answer (and not just because I’m bad at mental arithmetic). I had to check myself; why can’t I share with you all how much I pay in rent each week? How much I spend in Coles?
It got me to thinking. As expats, I don’t think we talk enough about our expenses in an upfront and honest way. Knowledge is power. How realistic would it be for others to embark on our journeys, given their particular circumstances and lifestyles? And how will they know, unless we share these things with them?I think that we do a real disservice to fellow expats - and especially potential expats - when we avoid money talk or hedge our numbers. Click To Tweet
So with all that said, if you want to know how much rent I pay (and plenty more besides), you can watch my interview here.
Thanks for the interview Josh, and to Kalie for getting in touch initially.
*I know there are well-founded issues with this term, but I think that is what most people know the community as, so for the sake of ease that’s what go with.
Pin me and help a fellow expat-to-be:
Real talk. We’re currently on a holiday hiatus right now, because what with potential job changes, our string of visitors, and both of us needing new phones, travel is off the cards for the immediate future. I am not allowed to book anything. Nope. Not even so much as a road trip.
Which, of course, means I now want to go EVERYWHERE and see EVERYTHING. So I thought I’d write a list right here right now of all the Australian road trips I’m just itching to take, so that when we once again roll round to travel booking time I’m not stumped for ideas. Which would be typical me.
Courtney’s trip earlier this year inspired me, and I wish I could go for just the day – alas, Byron is a little further away for us here in Sydney. So I’d make a 4 day trip of it, and stop off for a night each way at one of the cute AirBnBs that I found en route. There’s one that’s also a cat rescue shelter, and you can share your accommodation with a cute kitty! How adorable is that?!
Anyway, once in Byron I’d definitely go see the beach but, on account of still not having quite mastered that beach thing, we’d probably wander around the town a bit as I hear it’s quite eclectic. I’d also do my very best to see 20 dolphins in a wave, because surely it doesn’t get better than that?
I’ve seen so many articles about Jervis Bay recently. The beaches look absolutely beautiful, and I’m hoping it’s got that laid back coastal vibe that the Sunshine Coast had, only a slightly shorter drive away from Sydney.
I can picture us staying near this beautiful beach, going for lovely walks – preferably on a boardwalk if I can at all find one, I’ve decided they’re my favourite kind of walk don’t ask me why, and maybe visiting Bowen Island or the Botanic Gardens. Also I could catch up on all that reading I’ve been meaning to do for ages.
The morning flight was a cracka 🇦🇺💕💦 . @polarpro PL . #SeeAustralia #bestvacations #DroneOfTheDay #DroneGear #ourplanetdaily #SydFromAbove #Australia #ILoveSydney #skypixels #travel #FromWhereIDrone #DJIglobal #SkySupply #BestOfTheDay #Travelstoke #earthpix #Ilovetoroam #Traveltheworld #Createexplore #Instagram #Beautifuldestinations #Jervisbay #Hyamsbeach
You can’t move to Australia and not make it to the red centre at some point. It costs a fortune but everyone I know who has gone says it’s worth it. I reckon this is one for a big celebration, but it’s going on the list anyway. We will make it, one of these days!
I mean, just look. Obviously we wouldn’t climb it, because even though the climbing ban doesn’t come into effect until 2019, we do respect the traditional owners of the land and their wishes. And they wish people wouldn’t climb it. So we won’t.
I’d also love to see the rock formations of Kata Tjuta nearby, and if we could possibly manage to see it in the same trip, maybe even the Aboriginal rock art at Cave Hill. We saw a recreation of the site at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, and it was amazing. To see it in real life would be even better!
While we’re talking outback, how much more outback can you get than a trip across the Nullarbor Plain? The name means no trees, and add that to the fact that the trip involves the longest straight stretch of road in the world (143km!) and you might get an idea of what magnitude of road trip we’re talking about here. This is a bring everything with you, no shower for a week kind of a situation. This isn’t normally my preferred kind of holiday, but if we had a van like Ben, I’d do it again.
I’d rent our Ben-a-like from Adelaide and drive to Perth via Esperance, which I think would take around a week to 10 days. Depending on where you stop. Things to see along the way include indigenous art at the Murrawijinie Caves, and the remains of NASA’s Skylab which crash landed near the Balladonia roadhouse in 1979.
This is another classic that I think makes it to the top of most ‘must do Australia’ type lists. My cousin took this trip last year and loved it, so I am now jealous. She managed to avoid most of the crowds, too, so I think there’s definitely a knack to timing and order of visit.
If you can make it there for sunrise or sunset all the better. I think this must be sunset but my geography is not world famous so I’ll move on from pure speculation.
This is another one you can do via camping, campervan, or hotel and I think my preference would be campervan, all else being equal. I know myself and I faff, so if we stayed in hotels I’d never get anywhere to beat any crowds. And camping ain’t happening.
For more majestic coastline views I’d head to the slightly lesser known Sapphire Coast, aka the southern New South Wales coast. Realistically we’d probably start out from Sydney, seeing as that’s where we and the car live, but the trip would start in earnest once we hit Bermagui. That’s already 7 hours away so we might need to stop before we’ve started, if you know what I mean. However, the Sapphire Coast itself isn’t all that huge, and would only take around two hours to drive the whole thing. So a slow approach would be most welcome, perhaps basing oneself in some chichi beachside accomm and pottering to some sights during the day. Like Horse Head Rock. I’d quite like to go there.
That night I've spent on the beach in bermagui was absolutely amazing! Watching the galactic core rise above the horizon is always a transcending experience😁. Happy to have shared the experience with @russelbrewtyphotography and @petarbphotography . Getting stuck stuck by the tide on the beach for 12 hours is always more fun with companions😀 . . . . . #amazing_longexpo #longexposurephotography #ig_australia #australiagram #nightphotography #nightsky #horseheadrock #longexposure #universetoday #visitnsw #longexpoelite #nightscape #australia_shotz #magicpict #longexposure_shots #stargazing #starrynight #milkywaygalaxy #astrophotography #special_shots #rsa_night #ig_shotz #australia #astrophotography #jaw_dropping_shots
If we went between June and November I’d keep a beady eye out for migrating whales along the coastline, too.
You can see how much my blogging friends inspire my trips – I started with Courtney and I’ll finish with Lauren, who spent her mini-moon in Esperance and it looked absolutely gorgeous. If we don’t manage to do the Full Nullarbor, I think this would be a great mini version to do. I’d definitely stay in the same place Lauren did because it looks perfect, I’d definitely eat a lot, and I’d try and visit as many of those beautiful beaches as I could. What I’d do when I got there I have no idea but, details….
Next steps involve cross referencing the above with any excellent gluten free dining spots I can find, and affordable accommodation. In Australia, that’s always a gamble.
Do you have any recommendations for any of the above? I’m all ears (but don’t make them too good; remember I am on a travel booking ban).