Relocating to Australia
From: Edenvale, Gauteng, South Africa
Lives In: Perth, Australia
Last year, Michelle Johnstone Ho and her family decided that Perth was the perfect place for them. I chatted to her about her experience so far, and asked her to share some tips about relocating to Australia.
Here’s what you need to know about relocating to Australia.
1. Why did you decide to move to Australia?
When I started dating Des – my husband – he had already started his application for Australia. He wanted to keep his options open because he wasn’t very optimistic about the future of South Africa. He decided on Australia because the weather and culture are similar in many ways. So really, Australia was decided for me when I met Des.
Our visas were granted in 2013 and we need to activate them, so we planned our 1st trip to the land down under.
Our 1st stop was Perth and I fell in love immediately. I cant really explain it, but something about Perth just felt right. Over the first three days of our trip, it was clear to me that Perth was the perfect place to raise a family.
After our 2013 trip Perth was set in our hearts. Here’s some of the things I love about Perth
* It’s not a big city – no hustle and bustle
* Beautiful open parks for children to play
* If you live outside the city center you can have a really “country” type lifestyle with the comforts of a modern home
* Public schools are great
* The BEST thing of all, Perth beaches are out of this world
2. How long was the relocation process (from start to finish)? Any weird red tape that you hadn’t considered?
The visa process took over a year, but that was because of our personal circumstance, as well as dealing with the South African home affairs department and getting the necessary documents – police clearance etc… These are the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to getting the ball rolling.
Once our visas came through, Des and I decided to make the move and we put a date in our minds. Everything, from start to finish, took 6 months. But you have to remember that Des had to give 3 months’ notice at his company, we had a house to sell, and we had decided to take along all our belongings so that included shipping everything.
Over this time I did a lot of research on Perth – living expenses, schools and public transport for different areas. We knew going over both Des and myself would not have work and we would have new set up costs (rent, day to day living costs, hiring a car), so we needed to ensure that we had enough money to get us through at least 6 months.
This takes planning… lots of planning.
3. Were there any surprise costs you hadn’t considered?
We didn’t really have any surprising costs, because of the research I had done and reading blogs from other South African that had gone over. But there are a lot of “small” things you have to consider:
* paying for new car registration license this is about $600.00 (AUD) per year
* Converting your SA driver’s license to an Australian license is about $55.00 every 4 years
* Setting up your Medicare (government health system) and Centre Link (government funding)
* Schooling for young children – Australia is 1 year ahead of South Africa
* Getting household content insurance, fires are a big threat in WA and we don’t want to lose anything we cant replace. (In our 1st year, we have been evacuated from our house twice due to bush fire, thankfully we have lost nothing)
4. Did you work with a relocation specialist?
No, we did it on our own. I believe that if you do your research it can be done, you don’t want to be spending unnecessary money – you will need all the money you can get once you arrive.
We only used an agent to assist us with our visas, everything else was done on our own.
5. What has been the biggest adjustment for you?
The biggest thing for me personally was adjusting from being a working/career woman to a stay-at-home mom. This was hard for me and for a while I was depressed out it, but I joined my daughter’s school’s fundraising committee and through that I met the most amazing people. I started networking again and got busy, joined the gym and got out. These things changed my life.
Living in Australia (Perth WA) is easy. The sun shines, the weather is warm and the winters are wet but not too cold. To be honest, this move has not been difficult at all.
6. What is the best thing about relocating to Australia?
Wow… I have so many…
* Living in a town that is safe for me and my family. I mean, we ride our bikes in the evening. I never did that in South Africa.
* The beautiful parks for our children to play
* The Swan Valley wine farms that are just 10 min away
* The beaches
* Great public transport system
* Petrol prices are not regulated so you can shop around for cheap petrol
The biggest thing for me and my family is the safety aspect. We don’t have an alarm system, no security gates or bars on our windows and doors.
7. What is the worst thing about making the move?
The FLIES…. The flies in summer are crazy. You cannot walk outside in the heat without being attacked by at least 10 flies at a time.
Also, the spiders and bugs. I’ve never seen things like them before.
8. How easy has it been to blend into the local community?
Once I sorted out my own head space, it was easier to blend in. The Australians that we have met have been welcoming and friendly. They like the outdoors, sport, wine and beer so its easy – different, but easy
9. What are some of your favorite places in Perth?
* Kings Park & Botanic Gardens
* Swan Valley
*Hillary’s Boat Harbor
* Perth Zoo
* Aquarium of Western Australia (AWA)
* Elizabeth Quay and Bell Tower
*Caversham Wildlife Park
10. How would you describe the cost of living?
Now that I have recently been back to SA, I would say that things are less expensive on our overall budged. In other words, I think we get more for our money in Australia.
There are some things that may seem more expensive, but I think that’s because the South African Rand is so weak.
These are some things I can think of that are actually cheaper in Australia:
* Private Medical Aid (because we have a public health system)
* Electricity, Water, and Gas
* Car Insurance
* House hold security (we don’t even have any)
* Cell phone packages and data
I would say food, fruit and veggies are pretty similar, but I think I actually get more in Australia. The Australians believe in value for money and you get that.
Eating out at restaurants is extremely expensive. Going out for Pizza can easily cost $70 – $100 (AUD).
Appliances, house hold furniture, and beds are also expensive here.
11. How would you rate the ease of getting settled – opening bank account etc… ?
Australia has a 10 point identification check, which means they require more than 1 document to do your identification, but once you have all the required documents you can do anything with ease.
A lot of services are done online, but if you have to go into a government office everything is well organised and efficient. I can’t remember waiting more than an hour to have anything done.
Driver’s License: Easy! Straight conversion from RSA to AUS, you just need to produce 5 of the above documents and pay $55.00 for a 4 year license. Your license will be posted to you in about 10 days but they do give you a temporary license. You have 3 months from the time you arrive in AUS to convert your SA license.
Bank Account: SA has an outstanding banking facility, these in AUS are still very behind when it comes to banking. But you only need your visa and passport to open a bank account. Your bank card will be posted to you in about 5-7 days… Yes that’s right, posted to you.
Public Health: Go to your nearest Medicare branch with your visa, passport and rental agreement and all will be done for you. Your Medicare card will be posted to you in about 5-7 days.
Private Health: This was all done on line or via the phone with no medical required for any of us.
House: We are currently renting because you cannot get 100% bonds in AUS you need to have a 20% deposit and average home go for around $350 000 – $450 000, we will look into this in a year or so.
Getting the rental was the most challenging part, because of the rental policy in AUS. You have to view a property before you can put in an offer to rent. The owner then goes through all applicants and he has the final say on who will rent that property. It’s not a 1st come 1st serve. So you could look at 10 houses before you get approved. We were lucky, we looked at about 6 houses but only put 1 rental offer in and we were accepted 1st time.
Buying a Car: Easy! Same as SA. Find a car, buy the car.
Tax Number: Easy! Application was done online and the tax number is issued immediately. You need to have your 10 point of ID done so make sure you get the following done ASAP – Bank Account, Rental, Medicare/private health, Drives License.
12. What do you miss about home?
My Family and Friends, but that is a given.
The African sunset and beautiful bush life, but everything else I have here. If my family was here in Australia, I would never have a reason to go back to SA.
13. Any advice for readers considering relocating to Perth?
Take a container of your household belongings, and ship everything you can. Replacing your household contents in Australia would be so costly.It’s cheaper to pay the shipping fees.
If you need a new bed buy it in SA, beds in Australia are very expensive.
It also make settling in easier because you have familiarly things around you,
Research, Research, Research!
Don’t relocated with a half in, half out mindset. If you’re going to relocate put everything in and go, don’t look back. Remember why you made the choice to leave in the 1st place.
Perth is hot! In summer it can get to 45`C so make sure your rental/house has aircon, live North of the Swan River. The South is not as nice.
Relocating is not easy and is stressful but it is worth it in the end, I love this new land that I now call home.