According to Australian government statistics, expat Brits make up the largest migrant community in Australia with more than 1.2 million people settled here.
On the face of it, it’s easy to understand why. The lack of a language barrier and the prospect of an outdoor lifestyle with decent weather all year round is an attractive one.
However, even with favourable conditions, it’s still a step that you don’t take lightly. It’s often a challenge to acclimatise to living anywhere some distance from your home town – especially so when it is on the other side of the world.
Read six handy tips to help you settle in to life in Australia, whether you’ve just moved from the UK, or you are planning to emigrate in the near future.
1. It pays to do your research
As with most major projects, the better your pre-planning and research, the greater your chances of success.
In the case of emigrating to Australia, the more you can find out about where you’re moving to, the better.
Your biggest aid in this regard is likely to be your laptop. The internet has clearly simplified the process of knowing what’s going on thousands of miles away.
For example, if you’re thinking of moving to a certain district, Google Street View will give you an idea of what the streets look like. Then a simple search will tell you about local facilities, the quality of the schools in the area, and the effectiveness of local public transport links.
You’re also able to find out what property prices are like and how they compare to other areas.
For a wider perspective, leading newspaper websites such as the Sydney Morning Herald or the Age in Melbourne will give you a taste of the cultural lifestyle in their respective cities, and what the key political and economic issues are.
Specialist websites such as Expat Network can also provide you with valuable information and suggestions from people who have already made the journey you’re undertaking.
You should also speak to friends and family who may already be in Australia. It’s likely they will provide important support and guidance when you’re finding your feet.
2. Find a place to live while you’re getting settled
Unless you’ll be moving into a property you already own, it’s likely that you’ll rent a home when you first arrive.
It’s a great way to become familiar with the different residential districts in and around a city, without having to commit to a mortgage and the other expenses of owning your own home.
A fixed-term rental contract will give you some security of tenure, especially if you’re unsure of your employment prospects or if you haven’t decided exactly where in Australia you may want to put down more permanent roots.
It also means you won’t have to deal with maintenance and equipment faults while you’re still getting used to living in a new country.
Most cities have a standard minimum lease term of six months or one year, although many rental companies will offer an opt-out clause.
3. Property purchase can be an attractive option
If you are moving to Australia with the intention of staying permanently, buying a property can be an attractive option.
Recent housing occupancy figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported by Savings.com confirm that two-thirds of Australians own their property – a similar percentage to the UK.
Clearly the decision to buy a property will be dependent on your plans. If it’s possible that a change in circumstances could dictate the need for you to return to the UK for more than a short period, then you may consider deferring for a time.
As well as the purchase of a tangible asset that could appreciate in value, there are non-financial benefits of owning your own home. These include the security of knowing you won’t be asked to leave by a landlord, and being able to decorate it to your tastes.
As in the UK, property prices vary based on location. It can be cheaper to buy the further out you are from a city centre, but you’ll need to factor in the local facilities and the cost of commuting.
It’s important you don’t underestimate the cost of home ownership however, both in terms of the initial outlay on legal costs and Stamp Duty, and the ongoing mortgage payments, maintenance, and charges.
4. Keeping in touch with home
In the same way that technology can help you research your move, it will also be invaluable when it comes to keeping in touch with family and friends back in the UK.
The days of airmail letters and expensive phone calls – pre-booked at Christmas – are well in the past. Keeping up to date really is a matter of just pressing a couple of computer keys.
You can speak face-to-face with family members, watch your favourite Premier League football team and catch-up on the soaps, all through your computer screen.
One word of advice we would give you, however, is that it’s important to focus on looking forward to your future, rather than dwelling too much on your past life. Overly worrying about what’s going on “back home” can make homesickness more likely.
The quicker you can get stuck in to life in Australia the better your chances of making a success of your new life.
5. Get the best possible value on your currency from the UK
When you first move to Australia, it’s likely you’ll want to transfer money you have back in the UK.
Given the way currency rates can fluctuate, and the possibility that you may be wanting to move large sums, you should look to remove currency risk by getting the most favourable exchange rate you can.
We would strongly recommend you use a currency trading expert as the rates they can offer are usually far better than a standard bank-to-bank transfer.
They can also help you access forward contracts to lock-in favourable rates up to a year in advance. This can give you certainty and remove the worry of sudden rate fluctuation.
6. Understanding the Australian healthcare system
Australia’s healthcare system is a mix of state and private care. The partnership between the two sectors is actively encouraged and more streamlined than in the UK.
The state system is known as “Medicare”. It’s funded by taxpayer contributions and central government.
You need a permanent residency visa to be eligible to access Medicare. You’ll be covered for all your hospital care and up to 75% of your primary care charges.
As in the UK, primary care is accessed through General Practitioner (GP) surgeries. They will then refer you to specialists and hospitals as needed.
As in the UK, you may well find there are delays on accessing some treatments through Medicare and you may find it advantageous to have private health insurance in place.
Also note that Medicare does not cover dental care and optician costs, so you may want to consider a private arrangement to meet the costs of these.
Get in touch
If you have any queries regarding your financial planning, please get in touch with us.
The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
This article is for information only. Please do not solely rely on anything you have read in this article and ensure that you conduct your own research to ensure any actions you may take are suitable for your circumstances. All contents are based on our understanding of ATO and HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.