Amy’s Tips For Settling Into Central Coast Life As An Expat
Our expat story of the month comes from Amy Butters, who has moved back and forth between UK and Australia since 2014 with her fiance Ryan. In February 2020, they packed up life in England and moved back to Central Coast permanently. She’s sharing her personal journey, including loads of tips for anyone moving to Australia in the future.
Make sure you follow Amy’s adventures of her new move to Central Coast on Instagram at @aworldunfiltered!
Why I Moved To Central Coast
My dream of moving to Australia started back in 2014 when I decided to save as much money as possible to make it a reality. When going for a job interview in my home town in Essex, I bumped into Ryan, my now fiance. His family emigrated to Australia when he was just four years old and came back to Essex to see if it was somewhere he wanted to live more long term.
Funnily enough, just three months later I had a working holiday visa in hand and we were living in Ryan’s family home on the Central Coast NSW. He jokes he was my golden ticket, and I don’t even deny it! But, in all seriousness, we definitely feel like we were just supposed to meet each other.
My mum often jokes ‘couldn’t you have fallen in love with a Spanish man?! Spain is much easier to visit!’
When my working holiday visa expired in 2015, we both moved back to England. We were renting a house, had full time jobs and we were pretty settled. Ryan always said he’d love for us to go back to Australia ‘properly’ one day and settle back on Central Coast.
We ended up staying in England for 5 years and came back to Australia for holidays during that time. We finally realised that there would never be a right time to make the Australia long term dream a reality, and we decided to take the leap… so we did.
We now live in a rented house in Terrigal on the Central Coast, and we are so happy. We are a 5 minute walk from the beach, bars, restaurants, cafes, boutique shops etc and still close enough to explore Sydney when we want to. We love being tourists, but city living isn’t for us. Ryan has friends on the Central Coast and I’ve met some of my own so we’re super happy.
We Made The Decision To Move To Australia Really Quickly
We made the decision in June 2019 and moved to Australia properly in February 2020. We organised moving back in with our parents (Ryan’s Mum had moved back to Essex at the time) and emailed our landlord the night we made the decision, to give our one month’s notice. This meant we didn’t have to continue paying £950 a month rent plus all the bills and could save a lot quicker.
I worked for Jimmy’s Iced Coffee which I absolutely loved and I was super close with management. We literally made the decision on the Friday night and I told my work on the Monday. I wanted to be as transparent as possible so I gave them 7 months notice! The founders of the company, Jim and Suze, were so understanding and supportive which I’ll always be grateful for.
Jim actually travelled Australia years before, and it was that trip that inspired him to create his own iced coffee, so he knew exactly why we wanted to give life here a good go. Their understanding made our move so much easier for me.
Applying For The Partner Visa For Australia
I entered Australia on a 3 month tourist visa. Just under a week before that expired, I lodged the Partner Visa application (subclass 820 and 801). This was the quickest and easiest route for us at the time and I’m so grateful we did this pre COVID-19.
If we applied for the Partner visa while in the UK, we’d have to wait for it to be approved before we could enter Australia and how the world is right now, we would be waiting years.
Whilst I was on the 3 month tourist visa, I wasn’t allowed to work. This was the perfect opportunity for me to compile all the information for the Partner visa. Huge thanks to Annie and Steve for their posts and videos on this site which helped hugely when completing the application! The hours spent completing forms, gathering documents and photos, printing, scanning, triple checking everything was crazy but so worth it. I also appreciated having a project during the time that I wasn’t working.
Partner Visa Tips!
My advice is, as soon as you’ve decided on the partner visa, start gathering the evidence of your relationship, there’s no such thing as too much information. Collect anything with both of your names on (wedding invitations, travel tickets, mortgage/rental documents, booking confirmations, cards from friends and family etc).
Also, get active on Facebook! Check ins, tagged photos, milestones, group photos with friends, it all will be really handy to have screenshots for the application as it shows dates.
Lastly, be super organised with file names and folders as this will make your life so much easier when it comes to attaching all the documents.
NEED HELP WITH YOUR AUSTRALIA VISA?
YOUR QUESTIONS & CONCERNS ANSWERED
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We decided to ship our things over to Australia! We asked for quotes from a few different companies but again, we owe a huge thank you to Annie’s post on this site about shipping companies. We read her positive review of Doree Bonner and decided to go with them.
As we moved into parents house, we rented a storage unit to house possessions we didn’t want to part with for example; our sofa, mattress, bed frame and washing machine was still being paid off on finance so we decided that instead of selling it off cheap and having to re-purchase in Australia, we’d pay to get them shipped over. This meant we could then also ship some clothes and sentimental belongings. I’ve realised that having these from home has really helped.
Our sofa is my favourite thing ever because it’s so comfy and having that familiarity I think has helped me feel settled quicker. We had a brilliant experience with Doree Bonner and we would definitely recommend.
The only worry was how COVID-19 was going to impact the delivery. We had to wait an extra 3 weeks for everything to be quarantined etc but that was fine, it could’ve been a lot worse! The guys who delivered everything to our house were so friendly and helpful, we didn’t have to lift a finger.
One thing to note, they’ll take the protective wrapping with them if you ask, which annoyingly we didn’t realise at the time so had to distribute across many weekly bin collections!
Our family knew it would happen one day but I don’t think it made it easier. As mentioned before, we made the decision in June and moved the following February so it gave everyone (including us!) plenty of time to process it. We also did so much in that space of time to make memories etc.
All these memories mean so much more to us all now because COVID-19 has meant we wouldn’t be allowed to all be together now anyway. Our parents and a few of our friends have said they want to come and visit us as soon as possible but again, COVID-19 has put the brakes on making any plans unfortunately.
We have booked our wedding back in Bournemouth for September 2022 and we have everything crossed there won’t be an issue with travelling between the two countries. We wanted to get married here in Australia for the location/venue but we know we want our family there and it wouldn’t be possible for them all to travel here, especially our grandparents.
Finding Work In Central Coast
I was extremely lucky to find a job as I was looking for work in May 2020 – literally the height of COVID-19 and lockdown. I was really stressed because we moved into our own place and obviously had bills to pay. I was applying for everything I came across on Seek and LinkedIn but was fortunate to get a full time Marketing job, 20 minutes from where we live.
I would love to one day be self-employed so I could have the flexibility to travel (when it’s allowed!) and to have time off when friends and family visit from the UK. Ryan works from home for an insurance company based in Sydney. He’s worked there for over 8 years now, including when we were living in England. He was working Australian office hours which meant 10pm – 6am in UK time. It’s great that he’s not living like a vampire anymore and can see the daylight!
Work Life In Australia vs England
I feel like people here have a much better work/life balance. People work to live whereas people in England live to work. Success here isn’t so much climbing the corporate ladder or earning the highest salary, but your happiness and balance of your life.
One thing I’ve made a habit of is meeting a friend for coffee before work. We live a 5 minute walk from the beach so to start your day overlooking the ocean with a friend, a catch up and an oat milk cappuccino – it doesn’t get much better! The thought of doing that in England would seem insane.
In England, from Monday to Friday I would work, go home, have dinner, go to bed, repeat and leave social activities to the weekend. It’s so stupid but that was just the norm and the routine. If ever we moved back to England, I know I would take this attitude with me and make time for non work activities on work days as well as weekends.
Making Friends In Australia
When moving Down Under, I was worried mostly about how to make friends in Australia. I was so scared to start again and the thought of feeling lonely made me feel so anxious. I knew I would really struggle if I didn’t have my own group of friends and I thought who in their 20s wants to make friends? Everyone already has their friends.
I’m not naturally confident and I don’t usually go out of my way to make conversation with strangers, but I knew I really had to push myself here.
I threw myself out of my comfort zone pretty much immediately and tried some different fitness classes; boxing, yoga, pilates, bootcamp etc.
I am so incredibly grateful to have discovered Internal Fitness who has ticked so many boxes for me; meeting new people, being active and doing sociable things. I’ve made friends for life and I’m forever grateful.
The Hardest Part About Moving To Australia
The hardest part about moving to Australia was leaving my friends and family and a job that I loved, to start from scratch. I was 27 when I moved and I kept thinking at that age, we should be settling down, not starting all over again.
I thought I’m never going to find friends as great as my friends in England. I’ll never find a job I enjoy as much as I did my job in England. And, mostly I’m going to miss my family so much, that I’m going to be miserable constantly.
I of course miss my friends and family like crazy but it pushes me to make the move worth it. It’s motivation to create a life worth leaving them for and I know I’m going to see them again, it’s not forever.
Thank god for technology, I keep in touch with everyone easily and some relationships are stronger because we put the effort in to catch up. One of my best friends, Hannah and I Face Time once a week religiously, which we never did when we lived in the same country!
I do worry about when we have visitors or when we go back to England. I think I’ll struggle when they leave/we return after seeing them again, but that’s just the life we’ve signed up for.
I think it’s a Winnie the Pooh quote but I think of it most days…
…How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Feeling Settled In Australia
I do feel settled, but I do also know that our life is definitely going to be flitting between the two countries forever, so I don’t think we will ever be 100% settled/committed etc to one place.
We are really happy with what we’ve achieved in less than a year and the aim is to be here until I get citizenship at the very least. This will mean that I’m able to go between the two countries much easier, without having to apply for a visa.
The thought of moving back to England, shipping belongings over etc makes me feel exhausted but who knows what the future holds. We always say ‘never say never’ but for now, we’re really happy we took the risk.
I combat homesickness by doing something to remind myself of why Australia is amazing and why we moved here in the first place. So I either book in a day to explore Sydney or go for a beach walk or bush walk or meet a friend for a beachside coffee. I also find Face Timing home really helps but I know for some that it can make it worse. I also am a big advocate for journalling and getting my thoughts onto paper. It instantly makes me feel lighter, no matter the problem.
I’m also super lucky that Ryan knows exactly how I feel and that we both relate when one is missing home. We’ll talk of fond memories and what we miss, but we make sure not to dwell on it for too long. We’ve only been here a year and I know that the longer time goes on, the harder it will get.
At the moment we can’t make plans to see family because of the pandemic, but I know having a countdown to see them will be so exciting and will help with homesickness a hell of a lot.
Cost of Living In Australia
I think I’m pretty used to it all now, but the only thing that still surprises me is the cost of the food shop! I’m still very guilty of converting everything in my head to £s which some people say not to do, but I just can’t help it!
Living wise, we were paying £950 a month for a very small, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house in Bournemouth before we moved here. We now spend a couple of hundred more a month, but we have a 3 bedroom, 3 level house, with a bathroom, en-suite and downstairs toilet, utility room, walk in wardrobe, much more modern decor, much larger and a 5 minute walk to the beach.
Bournemouth is an expensive place to live in the UK and we all know what salaries are like in the UK also. My salary here equates to only £4000 more a year (which probably disappears after tax etc!) but our quality of life is better.
One huge positive is beauty treatments, specifically laser hair removal. I can’t get over how cheap it is here and it really is a god send. I’ve always felt guilty about spending money on it, but I’m so glad I went ahead with this luxury. It was over £200 per session in England – hence why I never had it done. Here, there’s constant offers on already cheap prices and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! I spend more time in shorts, skirts, dresses and swimsuits here so it’s a great investment.
Moving To Australia Tips
I would give yourself as much time to plan and process the move as possible. I’ve moved here twice; the first time within a few weeks and the second time in 8 months. I made a list of everything I wanted to do with friends and family before I moved the second time and I’ll cherish those memories forever.
Also, really put the effort in to stay in touch with people still in England. Just because your life has turned upside down doesn’t mean your friends and family have stuff going on too. Don’t get consumed in your new life and leave them behind or your relationships will suffer.
Lastly, do everything you can to meet new people in Australia. Say yes to things you may not usually, join a fitness class or another hobby, chat to people in queues, start a conversation with market stall holders etc. People aren’t as scary as you may think and who knows what could come from it.
Oh, another thing! Don’t be fooled, it DOES get cold and it DOES rain here! The first time I moved, I didn’t even bring a coat because I thought ‘the winters will be warmer than English summers’ – I was very wrong!
A big thanks to Amy’s brilliant love story about moving to Australia. If you would like to share your moving to Australia story, simply fill out our Expat Interview form to be considered for our next Expat Story Of The Month!