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Mike, Perth (Western Australia)

Who are you?

I’m a family guy first, trained as a mechanical engineer and working in the Oil and Gas services industry.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We were living in our home town of Edmonton, Canada and were offered a position by my company in Perth, Western Australia. The thought of having an “Australian Experience” on the company dime was too great to pass up.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The relocation company we worked with was very experienced moving people from the US but was very unfamiliar with Canada.They caused us a lot of additional work and needed to be managed often. I highly suggest expats who have a relocation policy to read it thoroughly and push back on relocation companies asking you to ignore what the policy says.

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The first 3 months in general was tough with temporary accommodation much smaller than the house we left and not knowing anyone or how to navigate policies and procedures and even where to buy things.

How did you find somewhere to live?

The temporary process was very challenging as temporary accommodation is expensive and hard to come by. We finally found a place through a vacation rental site. The more permanent process was frustrating until our company hired a relocation consultant to help us with the process. They seemed to be able to have more of a discussion with the rental agencies.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes, quite a few. There are expats everywhere in Perth from all areas of the world, though many are now permanent residents or even citizens of Australia. The oil and gas and mining industries are a big draw for expats here.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Wonderful. We have made friends with Australians and find them to be very friendly and very accommodating. This year one Australian friend and his family welcomed us into their home for Christmas knowing that we were so far away from family.

What do you like about life where you are?

Perth is a very outdoor lifestyle with both fantastic rivers and the Indian Ocean at your doorstep. It is a great city for anyone who leads an active lifestyle. It also has some of the best weather available anywhere in the world.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Expat life with Energy Services companies often means you are at the mercy of the company you are working for which adds a level of difficulty when you’ve brought your family along. Perth is short on cultural activities compared to many cities.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

While I think it is changing, the biggest difference is the emphasis on Education. In Canada it is a major deal to complete your grade 12 education and many employers will not hire someone without a high school education or an equivalence certificate. In Australia it is extremely common for school kids to stop schooling at Year 10 and start an apprenticeship and never complete year 11 and 12. It is very rare in my industry to see an Australian manager.

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

Much more expensive and trading hours are much different. Back home you can buy most things from morning to night every day. In Perth most things are closed at 5-6PM. Sunday trading just started shortly after we arrived which was a welcome change.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The food quality is very good for the most part once you get past the prices. Availability of fast food is a bit of an issue with very little selection. Australia doesn’t really have a specific cuisine. It took a while to find good reasonably priced places we like to eat but they do exist.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Do it. Understand the costs and what your company will provide. If you have kids, location is very important if you don’t plan to use private schools which can be very very expensive.

What are your plans for the future?

We are looking for our next expat city but would be happy to repatriate back to Canada and plan long term to educate our kids through higher grade levels and University there. The weather can be tough but there is no better place to live overall that we’ve found.

Mike shares more information about life in Australia through his blog expatchapter.

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