Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Moving to Australia : pregnant and with toddler in tow!

Libby had always wanted to move to Australia but when Tom came home and told her that there was an opportunity to move to Sydney but he needed to be there at the end of the following month she ended up in the bathroom throwing up and crying while Sam howled at the door. She could not imagine any worse timing and the joy of living Downunder was replaced by certain dread! She had moved before when Sam was six months old and that was quite stressful enough but to move across the world was a thought too awful to bear.
The reality is that these opportunities often come when you have just settled into starting a family: it is the time of life when all the hard work is paying off, recognition is knocking at the door but it coincides so often with sleepless nights, teething, terrible twos and morning sickness. So how do people cope?
The first thing to do is to get help! Employing a relocation agent at your new destination can be a lifesaver. They will be able to take out so much of the legwork of steering you to the right suburbs where you will be able to connect with people at the same stage of life, arranging your first off short term accommodation, finding a new home, renting furniture until your own arrives, introducing you to playgroups, kindergartens and family assistance. They will have tips about swim school, maternal health nurses and centres, doctors, dentists, and then all the practical stuff about driving and where to buy a car, where to get your licence changed, reasonable mobile phone plans and even where to get your hair done!
Most relocation agents can start the process for you of getting removals quotations and recommending removal companies with a good reputation.  Ask each of the removalists how they make it easy on young families: choose the one which is most caring and has some thought through strategies for move day! Make it easy on yourself and get them to do all the packing for you. You can also get a valet unpack at the destination to unpack those boxes and put them away. At home enlist the help of family and friends so that you can get as organised as possible but try as far as you can to keep normal routines with your toddler. Toddlers immediately sense stress and can react badly to change so gently does it with lots of cuddles and shared quiet time  as far as possible keeping disruption to times when they are asleep or not around.
Remember when the time for packing comes that there will be some things you should leave out to take with you: a packed bag for yourself; favourite toys; snacks for you and the toddler especially but nothing too sugary, a couple of favourite books, nappies and wipes, a first aid kit, the stroller and child seats for the car when you arrive. (Make sure your car seats comply with Australian regulations). You may prefer to have a car meet you at the airport, in which case make sure they know to have a seat installed for your toddler or if you are hiring a car also ask for a seat for your little one.
Libby’s move to Sydney didn’t have much lead up time at all but thankfully her relocation consultant was exactly on the same page and was able to help her enormously. In their case they decided to secure a rental home before they arrived so that when they landed they went straight to their new home which their consultant had set up with rental furniture: suburb, home and furniture were all chosen by photos sent over emails. Libby, Sam, Tom and baby Hudson are well settled in now and love their new life but her strong sentiment to others in a similar predicament is, “Get the help and save your sanity!”

15 minutes from the city

Go to any train or tram stop fifteen minutes from any of Australia’s major cities at peak hour and you will find fifty somethings with designer clothes and shoes and smart phones alongside twenty somethings with piercings, tattoos and smartphones. Suburbs which once housed the warehouses and industries which drove the cities have been gentrified.  Old depots become trendy apartments, warehouses display  wooden beams above Italian marble kitchen benches and the terrace houses where merchants used to live are share houses with bikes along the corridors and surfboards out the back. The world has changed and the baby boomers want to taste that edgy, vibrant energy in bustling cafes and eclectic fashion boutiques without giving away too many of their creature comforts. Yet, by moving into the new apartment blocks and townhouses, often paying over the odds for the accommodation, they are squeezing out the twenty somethings who created the hipster culture they crave! Where are the twenty somethings going: back to the suburbs they grew up in at the end of the train line!

Relocation consultants who have been assisting corporates to find rental  homes in their new destination city are reporting that for older executives whose families are grown up there is much more demand for hugging the city fringes and abandoning the backyard and extra bedrooms in favour of cutting edge apartments, converted industrial buildings and renovated workers cottages. This demand pushes rental prices up and makes it tough on up and coming youngsters who don’t want huge taxi fares getting back from nightclubs at the weekend.

Part of this obsession with being close to the city is that Australian cities have reinvented themselves and are now a hive of activity at weekends with festivals, parades, markets and sporting events which carry the collective enthusiasm of the community. Events are for everyone so it is no surprise that baby boomers want to be close at hand. The cafes and restaurants and yogurt and ice cream parlours set up for a different  demographic are just as seductive places for young and older to hang out and watch the world go by ….with their smartphone close at hand! 

Relocation in the digital age

In a digital age where Facebook ‘friends’ and linked in connections are often numbered in hundreds, where speed is of the essence and we seemingly know every thought, every movement, every happening around us, it can be a lonely place out there especially for newcomers. Australia is encouraging and driving its digital revolution with great innovation and flair but as new technologies explode onto the Australia market and more people communicate with clicks and touch than spoken words there is something else happening, something all embracing which in successful in part because of Australia’s climate, in part to do with our multiculturalism and in part to do with the intrinsic values that have honed a nation. Australia’s young cities have invested in community: real physical connection, magnificent human gatherings to celebrate almost anything, assuring our many newcomers that they belong as much as the next man.

 With each oohh and ahhh as the fireworks catapult through the sky there is a wave of certainty in the commonality of the experience. The crowd holds its breath while the tightrope walker teeters high between the buildings and the people below reach out to each other with gasps and murmurs of admiration. It is addictive, that togetherness, that belonging to community and Australia does it so well!
Every weekend, all over Australia there are festivals, fairs, community markets, events which in other countries would not happen or be so well attended merely because the weather prevents such experiences happening with such regularity. We are lucky in Australia, that it can be cold, it can be wet, it can be windy and it can be incredibly hot but the chances of good weather are relatively high for a good portion of the day.
If you are new you can guarantee that you will be able to wander along to any number of events, often at almost no cost, and that the people will be genuinely friendly! This collective experience will be made up of peoples from almost every nationality because Australia is truly a melting pot of many nations and so, as well as often connecting with people because of the communality of having relocated, it is not unusual to strike up conversation with people from your home country! Even if you don’t meet other newcomers, there is a deep sense of connection n Australia which sits at the heart of its values: reaching out to others, helping ‘mates’ whether you know them or not, genuinely being interested in others. This is something as old as Australian time when aboriginal culture instilled community values and passed them down generation after generation. But there is something more than this happening as well.

Australia is taking its vibrant and dynamic art and culture into the community. Recently Melbourne staged White Night where almost half a million people descended on the city to take part in one of the most spectacular artistic triumphs in Australia. The experience was mind boggling and even as the crowd jostled to see more and more of the city on show there was a sense of collective pride. Over 300 artists across the city made Melbourne visible on an international scale but most importantly reinforced the drawing together of locals. Recent newcomers felt as much a art of the dazzling spectacle as old timers! Australia really understands taking art to the people, drawing a crowd and harnessing community energy.
The Sydney Festival, Australia’s spectacular arts and cultural festival showcases  music, theatre, dance and other events right across Sydney while every major city is doing the same thing. And then there is food! Every city has it’s community markets, farmers markets where everybody gets to know the stallholders and there is an easy opportunity to catch up with new found friends with no pressure.

You will also find that different nationalities have celebrations around the cities and this is usually a food fest as much as anything else. Again a great opportunity to meet up with others. And we mustn’t forget sport: wonderful events from triathlons to team sport to horse racing and the list goes on: Australia does it with enormous flair. There is a craving for more and more coming together in ways which are reminiscent of past ages but offer amazing opportunities to connect and Australia is right ahead of the game.