As the sun slowly re-emerges in the winter sky, it’s a good chance to assess the changes winter has brought. After 3 months in the UK, the shock of moving is wearing off and I’m settling into a comfortable rhythm. Life in England is pleasant, and the ability to escape to beautiful areas of the country on weekends is a joy I’m thrilled to discover.
Beautiful forests and countryside are less than an hour’s drive away, with beautiful towns full of heritage buildings and castles. After living in the suburbs of Melbourne, where to get out of the city was a least an hour’s drive, this is a refreshing change. The landscape here is green and leafy - the kind of place I’ve always dreamed about.
But settling into life on the opposite side of the world isn’t easy. Now that I’ve made it through the initial teething problems of settling into a new country (setting up a bank account, adjusting to different norms, furnishing the flat) it’s time to focus on the real work - creating a life I enjoy. The last 3 months have had their tough moments, but there’s still plenty of challenges on the horizon.
Now that I have a comfortable base and the essential parts of life admin sorted, my focus can be on the quality of living. This includes finding a social circle, fulfilling work and committing to activities. All things I previously took for granted.
Below, I’ve outlined the major steps for a move overseas, and how I plan to tackle each one. Read on, and let me know in the comments your own experiences and tips for adjusting to a new life.
The challenges of moving overseas (and how to approach them)
Setting up a bank account, finding somewhere to live, checking all the boxes for healthcare and insurance - these are all things that you take for granted in your home country. Experiencing a new country brings joy, but there’s often a different system in place that requires navigating. For this one, research is key. Looking into what is required to set up a bank account, for example, will allow you to sail through the process a lot smoother and without wasting much time.
Personally, I’m a big fan of listing what I need to set up, and what’s required to get it done. To get a bank account, I needed proof of my address here. Luckily, my boyfriend, who I moved here for to begin with, was able to secure a lease with us both on it. Which solves both the living situation and the proof of address needed. So that’s a home and finances ready to go!
Not everyone is this lucky, but there are ways around each roadblock if you’re crafty. In the UK, a National Insurance letter can be mailed to you when you sign up, which is a government issued letter that has your address. So if you need a bank account before you can sign your lease, you’re covered.
Once you have your bank and rent sorted, the rest of the basics fall into place fairly easily. It’s an expensive time opening accounts with new providers, but just bear in mind that it’s over soon enough. 3 months in, and we’re coming out of the worst of it!
Staying financially secure will definitely ease the stress as you adjust. Hopefully, you saved enough money to cover any uncertainty, but if not, then there are jobs around if you look hard enough. There’s nothing wrong with a temporary job.
Or, if you’re lucky like I was, your current job will let you work remotely. When I told my work I was planning to move, they offered me a part-time contract for remote work. Of course, it meant dropping some of the tasks that I love most (all the aspects of my role that were behind a camera sadly), but it has meant consistent income when I needed it most.
There’s a downside to working remotely of course - social isolation. You’re not working in an office surrounded by people, so a prime opportunity for expanding your social circle is gone. I’m also finding myself out of the loop with my colleagues, as there’s a lot that happens off Slack. But working part-time gives me the opportunity to fill the extra spare time with other activities and employment!
Creating a social life
It’s a daunting step to be all alone in a new city. Having photographed events and nightclubs back in Australia, I’m used to social settings coming to me. Now it’s the other way around, and I’m chasing all social leads to create a network.
Work is the easiest place to start with socialising. You already have something in common and you see each frequently. It’s a natural way to befriend someone. But don’t limit yourself!
Get involved in activities, the community, protests - anything and everything. Moving is a great opportunity to explore ideas you’ve always wanted to try, but never did. Create a diverse circle of friends and you’ll find yourself meeting all kinds of people, and with a more expansive network.
A starting place is following your interests. For me, I joined the local photography club and signed up to volunteer at an Oxfam shop. It’s a small start, but over time will develop and grow. Remember, there’s all the time in the world, so no need to rush yourself.
At the beginning, it’s all about basic interactions. Just a small chat with anyone that will listen can go a long way towards your health, and keep your conversational skills honed. Over time, you’ll meet people where a small chat isn’t enough - you simply must have a yarn for hours!
But it’s not all about human interaction. I left a beautiful Jack Russell behind in Australia, who has been my companion for 14 years. It wasn’t an easy farewell, but luckily my mum gives me constant updates on how she’s doing. To fill the paw-shaped hole in my life, I’ve signed up to websites such as BorrowMyDoggy to find local animals to love and walk during the week. I can’t tell you how much this has improved my life, especially during the weeks my boyfriend is away for work.
In a new country, it’s natural to want to explore. Finances may hold you back at first, but patience, planning and public transport will save you. Start local and keep your eye out for deals as they come your way. It may seem strange to want to leave the place you’ve just arrived in - but if you’re already in the spirit of adventuring, why stop now?
Since my arrival, we’ve been taking advantage of my boyfriends scattered friends to see the country. We’ve driven to the top of Scotland, to the capital of Wales and to the north east coast of England. If you have any friends, family or hospitable acquaintances - use them.
Finally, you’re going to miss home. You don’t know when the feelings will strike, but they will definitely come. And that’s alright. Luckily, technology has your back and you can call friends and family for a much-needed dose of comfort.
I’ve also found that watching Australian TV helps a lot. Just hearing the accents comforts me to no end and I’m instantly transported back to the streets of Melbourne. Home is never too out of reach, and really, it’s just a flight away.
Moving hasn’t been the easiest. At time it’s been downright miserable and lonely. But already, I’ve seen things I never would have seen back home and I feel myself becoming a more tolerant person. Not to mention, finally spending time with the man I love without 10,000 miles in between us.
I’m looking forward to a future spent in this beautiful country, which inspires me to pull my camera out every time I venture out. No matter how hard it gets, the trees will always set me right.