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Moving to Australia and Living on the Northern Beaches, Sydney

by Lesley Snell

My day starts the same way every day….I look out through my bedroom window at the trees in Garigal National park. Our house backs onto “the Bush” yet I am right in the suburbs of Sydney. The Kookaburras start around 5.30 a.m. followed swiftly by some pretty noisy Cockatoos !! But I love it and never really tire of the outlook.

I got here in a very roundabout way. I came with my husband in 1990 in the heady days when the company bringing you out sponsored your residency. We were very lucky in that respect. We were young and childless and we planned to stay for two years. Our departure from Heathrow was teary and gut-wrenching, and nothing can describe the feeling of watching all your worldly possessions being packed in a container and disappearing, hopefully to turn up again on the other side of the world!We loved Sydney and both of us got on with living and working here. Two years later we had our first “Aussie” child and we became Australian Citizens. In the words of the famous Kirsty and Phil we had begun to “put down roots”. Our deadline for returning back to the UK passed and we went on to have another child. The Northern Beaches was and still is a fantastic playground for young children and we enjoyed the beaches, outdoor picnics and generally the great climate. My son did not see a pair of gloves in real life until he was three and when he did he asked the lady if she played golf!!!

Later on we took our family to the States for six years and had another child!! We enjoyed our time in Washington D.C and Miami. But then in 2005 we decided to return to Sydney. We missed our Aussie laid-back lifestyle and we wanted the kids to grow up here.

Behind all these moves were, of course, some pretty challenging times looking for schools, houses and making new friends, packing and unpacking, wondering if we were doing the right thing.

Returning to Sydney we settled in the house we reside in today. At the time we couldn’t afford a beach view so went inland a few kilometres and got the bush instead. We purchased the house for its location and the sense of community surrounding it, not for its looks .In fact it was pretty dire and we have gradually renovated room by room. We have a quarter acre block with a pool. Our children attend wonderful local Government schools and they tell us they LOVE IT here! Generally schools are well-supported and very community orientated.

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We enjoy the great outdoors on a regular basis and often go camping down the coast, having bought a camper trailer a few years ago. We love the fact that we eat outside often and can walk our dog every day without getting wet! I love not having a coat, hat or gloves! I also love the fact that the washing dries!

All those years ago we choose to uproot ourselves and dive into a new life. So what have been the negatives?

We have certainly missed out on family occasions. Also, having young kids without help from grandparents is not easy. (On the plus side, grandparents stay with us for a long time when they visit and we get to have some spectacular holidays with them). The plane trip from the UK with kids is a nightmare and traffic in Sydney can be bad. Housing and living on the Northern Beaches can be expensive. In general we missed our families, pubs and M&S.

To those of you thinking about embarking on this adventure I think you are lucky that the world is a smaller place now. The Internet, Skype, mobiles and texting can all bring our families together. Hey, I can even shop online at M&S!

IF you take the plunge give yourself time to adjust. It is NOT like Britain in the sun. Join in your local community and get into the kids’ schools. It’s not better or worse, just different.
The lifestyle we have here suits our family and therefore we have no regrets. My Mum comes and “Winters” out here as often as she can, and she understands the choices we have made. My Dad died a few years ago and I planted a beautiful flowering gum tree in his memory. As I sit outside and look at it now I know for sure that he would approve of the wonderful life we have made for ourselves and our children “Down Under”.

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