If you've ever travelled or moved overseas, you are sure to have found some things a little different and strange. The following is a humorous compilation of the thoughts, feelings and observations of two couples who have swapped countries.
I’ve always dreamt of living overseas. Most of my friends did the typical year in the UK in their early 20’s, but my life was going in another direction then and I never quite made it. I was single when I set my heart, and goals on moving to the UK, what I didn’t count on was meeting someone quite amazing in the year I was going to spend in Australia before heading off on my big adventure. Luckily, he joined me on the adventure and we returned to Australia at Easter time to get married. We are Laura and Pete and we are two 30 something Australians living in the UK.
My mum is British, so I had grown up hearing tales of woe about cold winters and walking home in the dark. We left Australia on a warm mid summer’s day and were plunged into the dark, windy cold of a British winter by the seaside. Pete was somewhat more prepared than I was, and it took me a good month or so to acclimatise and be able to stay awake past 9pm! What got me the most was the sun starting to set around 2pm in the afternoon. I hadn’t counted on such an early end to the day. By the time February rolled around, the days were getting longer and we were beginning to experience some crisp sunny days with glorious blue skies. Although they are few and far between, blue bird days in the UK are really worth the wait. In my opinion the sky is far bluer here and since they are less frequent at home, much more appreciated!
Things we do
Moving to the UK has meant that we have had to become creative in how we spend our time. Being away from our established social networks and families has meant that we spend a lot more time outdoors exploring, going for walks and visiting historic sites. We travel a lot more than we ever did back in Australia, and we have visited many countries since arriving. We enjoy having lunch at quaint British pubs and are very lucky to live in an area with beautiful cliff walks and lovely woods to explore. In Australia we would tend to stay in if it was an overcast or rainy day, but in the UK we’ve learned to rug up and get on with it. If we can’t be outdoors, we tend to visit castles or old mansions and have been lucky enough to see many beautiful places.
Things we don't like
We’ve both gotten a little on the chubby side since moving to the UK. Unless you cook at home, or live in a big city, it is really hard to eat healthily here. We often bemoan the carb heavy options available and find that we are eating heavy winter foods all year round, as it never quite gets so hot that you don’t fancy warm food. Now Melbournians are guilty of road rage, but I can’t quite figure out the mentality behind British drivers. They are either speeding and tailgating you, or dangerously stopping on a major road to let someone from a side street in. We’ve just don’t get it, and have nearly been cleaned up a few times.
Imagined vs real
Pete had been to the UK for a holiday before we moved, but I had never been before. His expectations were much more realistic than mine. I imagined that it would be much more similar to Australia and that we would easily meet people and have a social network. I think that if we had moved to London that may have been the case, but we live about 1.5 hours away and there isn’t really an expat community here. Slowly but surely we have gotten to know people, which has made living here easier. Work wise, we have both found it quite challenging. Work cultures are workload expectations are very different here and we much prefer the more laid back Australian culture. We have gotten used many of the differences here now, but when people come to visit us they are often surprised about the many cultural differences and we realise how many things that we first found confronting have become somewhat normal to us.
In our opinion food in the UK ranges from delicious to down right gross. Gastro pubs offer stunning meals with delicious home cooked vegetables and succulent meat. We love local dishes such as Welsh rarebit and a Sunday roast. In comparison, the UK is rife with cheap junk food that is very bad for you. We have come across some strange foods like shrimp flavoured cheese in a tube and really do not understand why asking for mayonnaise means your food will be drowned in it. Fresh food is cheaper here and the two of us eat very well. Fresh berries are sweet, delicious and affordable to eat every day. Contrastingly, when looking in other’s trolleys it is not uncommon to see them laden with crisps, and boxes upon boxes of frozen processed foods. This was quite apparent in my job as a primary school teacher with children regularly eating dinners of pizza and fish finger sandwiches. I spent 3 days eating school dinners with the children in my class and ended up feeling so unwell that I had to pack my own lunch by day 4. You can definitely be healthy here and eat well, but with junk food so cheap and accessible it isn’t any wonder that people don’t.
All in all moving to the UK has been a testing, but rewarding experience. We have learnt a lot about what it means to be Australian and are proud of the Australian way of life. We have had many experiences that wouldn’t have been possible at home and seen sights I have only ever dreamed of seeing. I am definitely glad we came, but we still call Australia home.
Couple Two - The Brits living in Australia
G’day.. We are Ben and Jess, an English couple currently travelling Australia on a 1 year working holiday visa. Two years ago we both decided the normal routine of life – go to uni, get a job that makes your bank happy but you unhappy, get married, have children, retire.. – wasn’t for us! We declined our offers to university, worked hard, saved even harder than one year later made our dreams become our reality! We have been travelling for 9 months now, 6 of those spent in Australia.
I don’t think the weather here is something we will ever get used to! We (naively) expected Australia to be a comfortable heat all year round but how wrong were we... very wrong to say the least! We arrived in Cairns during a heat wave of 40 degrees with humidity hitting 80%. It was a killer! If you had a shower, by the time you dried and got dressed you would need another shower! On the other hand we didn’t expect there to be a winter either, well not a cold winter at least. Due to lack of planning the route of our trip according to the weather and seasons, we ended up in Tasmania mid winter. Now don’t get me wrong, we were warned it would be cold – but not 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of trousers and 5 t-shirts kind of cold! Ben even had to wear a hat to bed as our accommodation had no heating (WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?)
It was hard for us getting used to the fact that every animal wants to kill you, or wants you to kill them. Poisonous spiders, venomous snakes, 6 ft kangaroos that love playing chicken but don’t quite understand that you are meant to get out of the way of the car, crocodiles lurking in irresistibly blue waters and sharks mistaking surfers for their dinner! We had a huntsman wandering along the inside of our windscreen the other day, and although they aren’t deadly, it did nearly scare us to death! According to Google, the most dangerous animal in the UK is a cow – I have no clue how the English population has protected itself for such a long time from this ferocious beast!!!
Real vs imagined
We will be very honest here; we didn’t really plan or research our destinations before we left the UK, so our expectations were mostly based on stories told to us by our friends who had already travelled. Our basic expectations were that every Australian would have that sun-kissed, wavy beach hair with perfectly chiselled abs, but in reality it’s very similar to home with much, much nicer beaches and perhaps more Americanised than the UK. We are just about to head to Northern Territory and then Western Australia to experience proper outback Australia so, we will have to compare that in a month or so. One thing that has particularly shocked us is the distances. We knew Australia was big, but I don’t think you can imagine how big it is until you are actually here! If someone says something is down the road in the UK, they literally mean at the same street. Here, it could be as far ‘down the road’ as an hour!
Things we don't like
Biggest frustration is that shops will price items as $x.99, so you take the item up to the counter and receive no change from your rounded dollar! We have never seen a 1 or 2 cent coin so assume that they do not exist. Therefore WHY would you price something that would be impossible to give change for? Just round it to the nearest dollar! Another thing we can’t quite understand is being charged for sauces in a restaurant! Back home, you rarely have to pay for sauces in Mcds, let alone in a restaurant!! I’m sure my $20 for a burger could also pay for a pot of sweet chilli sauce. Lastly, tailgating is a really big issue for us. Back home you might have the odd boy racer pushing you along and I can take that. In Australia, it seems like everyone was taught to leave no more than 1 metre between you and the car in front! A small run around doesn’t worry us, it would do them more damage than us – however – seeing a huge lorry quickly coming up behind you with no signs of slowing down is pretty scary! We very often have to pull over in to let them pass!
Things we do like
We love how chilled Australians are! I used to hate it when you look like crap but still needing to get something from town, then bumping into someone you know feeling so embarrassed of my unbrushed hair and last night’s make up! Here, people go to the supermarket in just socks, it’s amazing! No one blinks an eye! Being able to rely on the weather is also a huge deal, if we were to plan anything outdoors at home, you can guarantee that on the day it will rain no matter what season! Having so many different climates is also something we like, you sometimes don’t even realise you are in the same country!
Follow Ben and Jess as they continue their adventures: www.benandjessadventures.com
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