Now be honest, many times have you typed “Sydney” or “Australia” into Google in the past few days?
How many expat forums have you registered for? Or newsletters have you signed up for?
I’m not surprised. There is a lot of information out there for expats, from forums to blogs.
So why can’t you find any answers to your questions?
It’s not like you’re asking anything hard or difficult to answer, right? Just practical info about everyday sorts of things like:
- “How much does it cost to living in Sydney?”
- “How do I open a bank account in Australia? Is that something I can do now or do I have to wait?” (psst, you can do that now ;-) )
- “What if I don’t like my new job in Sydney? Can they cancel my visa? Will I get kicked out of the country?”
- “Where should I live?”
- “What’s it really like to be an expat in Sydney?”
I remember having all those same questions and many, many more. I also remember getting on that plane to Australia and STILL not having the answers.
It’s now hard to believe that neither of us had ever even considered traveling to Australia for vacation let alone move. Not surprising, when we told friends and family about our decision to move to Sydney they had one of two responses: either they didn’t believe us, like flat out didn’t believe us, or they thought we were crazy.
Granted, it does sound a bit crazy now when I think about it but I’m quite certain that if we were moving to London or Paris, we would have gotten very different responses. Just saying.
The truth is…
Australia is mystery country to most people in the States and what we think we know usually comes from movies like Crocodile Dundee, Australia or from the Oprah Show during her trip down under.
For example, you will never hear an Australian say “Throw another shrimp on the barbie”. Or that “Foster’s is Australian for beer”. In fact, you will have a hard time even finding Foster’s Lager in Australia.
There were a handful of people we knew in Seattle who had been to Australia and they had nothing but praise for it: the beautiful Sydney Harbour, wonderful sunshine, gorgeous beaches and untouched tropical landscapes.
When we asked if they would move to Australia, the answer was always “in a heartbeat”.
To be honest, they had us at sunshine.
Seattle has an average of 58 sunny days a year compared to Sydney’s average of 240. A bit of sun after living in Seattle for 15 years sounded pretty darn fabulous.
The move came about through my husband’s work as a computer programmer at a clinical laboratory in Seattle.
One day a coworker mentioned a recruiting company that kept nagging him about different jobs in Europe and, well, just about everywhere else on the planet. While my husband’s coworker was getting annoyed, my husband was getting curious. Just what kind of positions were they looking to fill? And where?
Both of us had entertained the idea of living abroad for some time but, for some odd reason, we never discussed it with each other. Mainly because it just didn’t seem like something feasible.
Living abroad was something that happened to “those people”.
You know, THOSE PEOPLE who have fabulous lives and can just get up and move whenever or wherever they want.
Seems so silly now as, being an expat and meeting tons of other expats, I have realized that living abroad really isn’t so hard. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s definitely not fun and can be super frustrating but it’s definitely doable.
Absolutely doable, you just need the right information.
Well, cutting the story short, the recruiter had two positions that fit my husband’s qualifications: one in Basel, Switzerland and the other in Sydney, Australia.
The position in Sydney was with an American company looking for people with the same skill set and experience programming for hospitals and medical clinics as he had. In the end, it turned out to be the best match.
After a few months of interviewing and negotiations, we were ready to pack up our household and make the move.
That was back in 2008.
Fast forward to 2009, we had just moved from King’s Cross to Neutral Bay.
One evening sitting and talk with some friends, who were expats from the UK, about how ridiculous it is searching for an apartment in Sydney.
I mean, what a crazy system, only 15 minutes per apartment viewing. And the viewings were always at weird times of the day. Like a Tuesday at 2:15pm. Nuts.
That’s when we told them about our secret apartment hunting tip.
“That’s a great idea. Did it actually really work?”
“Yep, like magic. If we hadn’t of done that I’m not sure we would have been so lucky.”
“Oh my God, really? I have to tell my brother that. He and his finance are moving next month.”
Why not tell everyone?
That’s what went through my mind that night. Why not tell everyone about our apartment hunting tip.
And, why they shouldn’t rent an apartment in Kings Cross.
And, that there is no cake flour in Australia.
And, where to find the best Mexican food in Sydney.
So began my first blog: Emerald City to Oz.
Get it? Seattle is known as the Emerald City and, of course, Australia is Oz.
Yeah, no one else really got it either. Unless they were from Seattle. I should have known that it was a bad sign when I had to continuously explain my oh-so-clever domain name. #FAIL
Even with the terrible domain name, after several years of blogging, I started to get emails from people from all over the world asking me questions specifically about moving to Sydney.
What was even better was that sometimes, I knew the answer. Even if I didn’t, I usually know where to look for the answer or I knew another expat who had a similar experience and they knew the answer.
Instead of a blog, make it a guide.
Instead of writing for a blog, I started turning those emails, full of questions and my answers, into posts.
I also started contacting professionals to help out with things like taxes, as I am definitely not an expert when it comes to taxes for expats. Trust me, it’s something you do not want to mess with especially if you’re from the US. Taxes for US expats have gotten very complicated recently. Please, do some research before filing yours.
Slowly, Emerald City to Oz began to morph into a more definitive guide for expats moving to Sydney.
It was time to stop talking about the difference between American pizza and pizza in Australia, and start talking about real issues that expats, moving to Australia, wanted to know about. There will always be time to discuss pizza later.
In April 2013, Sydney Moving Guide was born.
(I know, I can’t believe no one had that domain either!)
Since then, SMG has grown by leaps and bounds. Mostly because of you. So thank you for sharing SMG with your friends and family. It’s been a huge help.