In our fifth installment of The Expat Mama meets… we head down under for a chat with Olivia of The Wilsons of Oz (if you’re considering upping sticks with your family for the sunnier shores of Australia, this blog needs to be you go-to). The blogger, instagrammer (@the_wilsons_of_oz) and expat mama is now mid-way through a four year stint in Australia with her husband and two young kiddies (and is on city number two), so knows a thing or two about settling and resettling in a new country. And, with a limit on their time in ‘straya, the family is already pondering their next great adventure (very excited by the foodie/wino/insta-friendly destination being considered right now….).
So Olivia, where are you from, where do you live now, and how long do you plan on staying?
My husband and I and our two children Poppy (8) and Monty (4) left Somerset in the UK in 2015 with the intention of only staying in Australia for 4 years (the length of our visa) then we would look at possibly moving a little closer to home. Italy perhaps; we all adore Italy, mostly for the dreamy sunsets and the ice cream. We moved our family to Melbourne in December last year as it was a good chance for us to experience a little more of what Australia has to offer. We decided after nearly two years in Sydney that we should jump at the chance of life in another Australian city. So here we are.
What made you move?
When Mr W was offered a job in Sydney back in 2014, we were pretty excited. We had never properly considered Australia as an option as we had never been here and didn’t really know what to expect; we knew instantly however that this was too good an opportunity to miss out on.
What has your experience been like so far?
We all adore our life here in the southern hemisphere. We love the laid back lifestyle, the beach being on our doorstep, the weather being pretty awesome nearly all of the time. The fact that we can travel to Asia, the Pacific Islands, and all sorts of exotic places much more easily than if we were at home is also a huge plus for us. It’s so far removed from our life in sleepy Somerset, it’s hard to remember what we used to do. Australia is so incredibly different from what we had imagined. Just the distances between places has been a shock to the system. Australia is huge!
What has surprised you most about your move?
Daily life is very different to home. We are intrepid explorers, we have become real beach bums, and have a new found love of fast food, much to my horror! (I know, cringe!) The fast food available to us here is crazy, and I’m shocked at just how easily it ends up in our mouths. We would never have popped out for fast food at home, so I have no idea why we do it here! I blame “embracing aussie life”, because I have to blame something! Luckily, we have a good healthcare system here; however, it can be pricey if you don’t have the right health insurance package. Having been so used to the wonderful NHS the cost did come as a shock to us, but we have had great care so far, so I guess that’s the most important thing!
How does Australia compare to your home country in terms of quality of life, family benefits, career prospects, healthcare and opportunities for women?
On our visa we aren’t entitled to any family benefits, or government subsidies, I’m not sure we were at home either having said that! It makes sense to me that we aren’t really entitled to much, as we have only been paying into the Australian system for two years. I think it really varies according to visa types, but don’t quote me on that!
Moving to Australia has thrown up a few challenges for me personally. I’m still not convinced about the education system compared to the UK. I know a lot of people complain about the British system failing their children, however, I truly believe we have had to sacrifice a great education in the UK for, dare I say it, a mediocre one here. (please don’t judge me….) It might just be a case of getting used to the differences, I’m not sure though. NSW is very different to Victoria, so give me a few more months and I’ll let you know how the kids are getting on. We are now in “The Education State” so fingers crossed. Children seem to start school later here if the parents want them too. This means that my sons Prep teacher has a class of 4,5 and 6 year olds. Seems like a huge age range to me. This throws up many conversations around the dinner table of where we go for the kid’s high school and whether or not we need to move again. I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason,” and I truly believe regardless of the classroom education my children are getting, (which isn’t dreadful) just the expat life is enough of a lesson for them. That, and the opportunity to play sport like a pro!!
What has been the biggest challenge?
I think the homesickness has been the biggest challenge for me, and I guess for my daughter too. We miss our friends, grandparents, and I miss the free babysitting…. Yes, the biggest challenge for me, living here, has to be the distance from all our loved ones. 24 hours at least in the air to get home isn’t ideal, and neither is Skype when Monty just repeats the word “fart” over and over again, and Poppy always hogs the camera. You can never have a “proper” conversation over the internet I don’t think, and I really struggle with that! The time difference doesn’t help. We’re 11 hours ahead of the UK at the moment, so I only ever speak to my mum when she’s eating her breakfast in her pyjama’s and I’m shattered, and drinking wine! I find myself making friends, but at the same time holding back, trying not to get too close as I know how hard it is to leave them. It sounds crazy I know, but expat life is a little weird at times.
Would you recommend Australia to someone else?
Having said all of that, I would always recommend people to give Australia, and in particular Melbourne a go. Australia is a beautiful country, with endless things to explore. Melbourne is vibrant, funky, super kid friendly, and has been voted the “most liveable city in the world”, so why wouldn’t you come here if the opportunity arose? I truly feel blessed to be here; to be able to walk around a city like Melbourne, with everything at our fingertips, to pop to the beach and see a seal sunbathing, to paddle board above huge stingray, to travel such a diverse country, is such a wonderful treat.
What one piece of advice would you give someone who is thinking of moving to Australia?
My advice to anyone wishing to make the move to the lucky country is ‘do it!’ If you don’t do it now, you’ll never do it. Life is short, and there are so many adventures waiting to be taken, so why not start now, move a little further out of your comfort zone, and be enchanted by what you find!
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