My name is Lesley Snell. I live on the Northern Beaches in Sydney with my husband and three children. I am a UK trained primary schoolteacher and Director of a small business on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, Australia. I have been very lucky to have moved around a fair bit. Over the past twenty years I have lived in New York City, London, Sydney, Washington.D.C. and Miami. We have moved because of my husband’s job within the airline industry. We became Australian Citizens a few years back and we are now settled here on The Northern Beaches.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Lots!!Initially it was missing our family and friends. When we had children away from family we missed the Grandparents and the support they can provide. It’s difficult to miss family events as we undoubtedly have. One of my hardest challenges has been seeing my parents get older without me being there for them.
Once you have children abroad you need to consider schools and areas you and your children want to live in. Deciding where to “Put down your roots” is no easy task and you need to figure out your priorities.
We also missed the social side of pubs and particularly High Street stores!!! (no need to mention names!)
Making new friends is also difficult – you have to be thick skinned and THROW YOURSELF into your new life!!!!
Can you tell us something about your property?
We have lived in a few houses obviously but the current one on the Northern Beaches was chosen for its location rather than looks. It backs straight onto Garringal National Park and therefore has a lot of parrots and kookaburras that wake us up every morning!
We had one week to find a house when we came over from Miami but we already knew the area well and had an idea of what we wanted so it was pretty easy for us. It’s a four bedroomed detached house with a good sized garden and a pool. Since moving we have fitted a new kitchen and two new bathrooms. We have also ripped up carpets and laid wooden floorboards.
There are a lot of 60s/70s houses around this area and many of them are in need of some TLC. Just ask Andrew Winters!
What is the property market like at the moment?
It is getting harder to find the” fix me ups” – they seem to be snapped up very quickly. Despite rising interest rates, prices are going up and the market seems fairly buoyant. Be prepared to put in some work on your new place!!!
Are you employed or self-employed? What challenges did you face in either finding employment or running your own business?
Initially I came over to Australia as a Primary School Teacher and I got a job fairly quickly. I then took some time out to be with my children at home. I now run my own business “Northern Beaches Know-How” which helps families to settle on the Northern Beaches. I enjoy sharing my experiences with my clients. I aim to make our time together informative, fun and time efficient.
I am proof that you can move abroad, be happy and live to tell the tale!
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, a lot of UK families, South Africans and families from Europe. They tell me they like the “village” atmosphere and of course the beaches.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Very friendly locals!! There’s a good community feel around here. I think it’s very important to get involved at your school and really make an effort to join in.
What do you like about life where you are?
I enjoy the fine weather and the ease of life that gives you. The beaches are of course terrific and having the pool in the garden is wonderful for the kids and their friends. Life is fairly relaxed and we enjoy our weekends in the house as well as the beautiful Northern Beaches. Our children as they get older have become involved in community groups, particularly our eldest son who has joined the Rural Fire Service. I love that Australia is a naturally beautiful place and there are some wonderful places to holiday.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Having been here a while now I don’t think of myself as leading a typical expat lifestyle. I have been assimilated into Aussie life (that happens pretty quickly once your kids go to school). Of course I miss my family and I am now dealing with the challenge of aging parents. Good friends keep in touch via e-mail and the world seems a smaller place now that the Internet, Skype etc can bring your family closer. It’s hard to get a decent curry and we do still miss the cosy fire in the pub (my husband comes from Yorkshire) but other than that there is not much I miss or dislike.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Give yourself time to adjust to your new life and be kind to yourself. Be prepared to have a “honeymoon period” of about three months – after that the reality that you are here for longer may set in. Understand that it will take you AT LEAST 18 MONTHS to settle with a family. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you find yourself a little sad and lost.
Once you have found a home, school etc get involved in them and cultivate friendships with Australians, not just expats! See if there are any local community groups you can join and give something back.
Accept that your new home is not better or worse but just different and try not to focus on what you miss. I have UK friends here that hanker for Marks and Spencers and do not attempt to find similar products here. If it’s that important you can now get your fix on line!
You know you have finally adjusted to your new surroundings when you start eating Vegemite instead of Marmite!
What are your plans for the future?
Well we are here for good really and we have no desire to return to the UK.
We have settled to allow our kids to attend local High Schools and our first one will be going to “Uni” next year. As they all have UK Passports I will not be surprised if they turn round and tell us they are going to live in Europe! If that happens I will bite my tongue and give them my blessing (as my own parents did), kiss them and wish them well…then look forward to long (lets say 8 weeks) visits with them!
I am now busy working on my new business “Northern Beaches Know-How” helping new families moving from overseas and interstate settle on the Northern Beaches here in Sydney.
Good luck to all of you embarking on your new adventure!