Moving to Sydney on a 457 Visa with a New Baby
Erin and John moved to Sydney when their daughter Cecilia was only 8 weeks old.
How’s that for adventurous! Not only were they sorting out life as a new parents, they were doing it in a new country far from family and friends.
You can follow their adventures down under on their blog LivingEZ where they share advice from finding an apartment in Sydney to deciding what neighborhood in Sydney to live.
Settling into Life as New Parents in Sydney
- Why did you decide to move to Australia? What was the reaction of your family to your decision to move permanently? Why did you settle on living in Sydney?
We decided to move to Sydney because John got an exciting job offer (through a random LinkedIn email from a recruiter). I have always wanted to live abroad, and already speaking the language was a big plus! Also, the company took care of a lot of the tedious details surrounding moving abroad (visas, moving expenses, temporary housing) so we were not taking on much risk by deciding to make the jump.
Our families were quite surprised, partially because the decision came quite quickly to them, because we hadn’t been talking about the potential opportunity publicly. I was also 7 months pregnant, so there was some worry about travelling that far with a young baby. We are also not treating this move as a permanent situation. Living so far from family comes with challenges, and we know that as our parents age we will move back home.
- What type of visa did you have when you relocated to Australia? Do you have the same visa today or are you now an Australian citizen?
We came over on a 457 skilled visa and are still on that visa.
- When you relocated did you ship a lot over or just a few boxes or nothing at all? How did you decide what to take and what to leave behind? How did you ship your things over? How did you pick what shipping company to use? Can you recommend any good resources to others moving to Australia from the US? Maybe a review site in the US for international shipping companies.
The company paid for all of our moving expenses, so the moving company packed basically everything we owned. We did give away and sell a few large items and some bicycles that we didn’t think would fit in a city apartment or make it through customs. However, we could have purged more furniture, clothes, and winter gear in hindsight. Our two-bedroom apartment in Sydney is much, much smaller than our two-bedroom townhouse in the US. We used Crown Relocation, which worked well for us. None of our items were broken or damaged while in transit, and it was such a relief to have someone else pack and unpack all of our stuff – especially with a new baby.
- Looking back on your move now, knowing what you got yourself into, what would you do differently?
Our move went quite smoothly. I have never paid for movers before, and they are certainly worth the money! Having a professional pack, load, and unpack saved us days and loads of stress. If it is at all in the budget, I would definitely recommend paying a bit extra to save you tons of time!
- What so far what has been the biggest surprise about living in Australia that you didn’t expect?
The significant price differences in certain goods. The price of coconut water is five times as expensive as what we are used to, while the price of many vegetables and fruits are a bit cheaper.
- What has been the biggest frustration or hardest part of settling into life in Australia?
When we first moved into a brand new apartment, there were tons of small issues with our unit. In the first two months we experienced a flooding washer, leaking air con unit, the stove broke, the air con unit broke, and the dryer quit working. The attitude of the apartment complex was laid-back and not very assertive about fixing all of our issues, and I am not a pushy person so I felt really uncomfortable having to call the maintenance every week or so and check up on the status of the various issues. Additionally, our rent is almost double what we were paying back home, so I felt like we were conned into this shoddily constructed building. A year later, we have had no more issues and actually love it here. It seems like there was not any quality control before the building became occupied, but we have worked out all the kinks and love it now.
- Now that you’ve lived here for awhile, what about Australia do you like/love the most?
We moved in order to have a slower pace of life, and we definitely have that in Sydney. I love being able to bike or walk most places. The outdoor café culture is awesome. We love taking time on a Sunday morning to eat breakfast and sip coffee for an hour and a half. Not having waitstaff reliant on tips can swing both ways, but it is nice not to feel rushed even in a busy restaurant with a long wait.It is great to live so close to the mountains and the beach. As Americans I feel like we blend in with all of the British and Kiwi expats. I don’t feel like a foreigner most of the time.
- How has it been socially settling in? Are most of your new friends in Sydney other expats or Australians? Have you ventured out to any of the several Sydney expat Meet-ups or events? How did it go or why haven’t you? Do you have any suggestions for someone new to Sydney that is trying to build up their social circle?
While there are a lot of aspects of Sydney life that I feel like we miss out on by having a child, making friends was surprisingly easy because of our daughter. As soon as we moved, I started looking up different mum and baby activities at the libraries, parks, and community centres. I ended up making the majority of my friends through a mum and baby fitness class, which consisted of 70% Australians and 30% expats. Before I returned to work I would grab coffees, hang out at the park, or just go to the library with other mums from this group. With the 8 month plus maternity leaves, I think many Australian mums are very open to meeting other people and making friends during this time.
- What advice do you have for other expats, similar you, that are thinking of moving to Australia? What has been your top 3 go to resources for expats moving to Australia?
I would consider how often you are going to make the trip home. One of the biggest reasons that we moved to Sydney is to travel, but it has been difficult to find the time since we feel obligated to return home for several weeks each year.I love reading blogs so I have relied a lot on blogs to get a feel for local culture and things to do. None of these resources are focused on expats, but since American and Aussie culture are so similar, I didn’t feel the need to surround myself with other Americans or expats. I enjoy Hello Sydney Kids for things to do with kids, Not Quite Nigella for restaurant reviews, and Timeout for restaurant and activity ideas.
- What about the spiders and snakes and all of the other dangerous critters in Australia? Have you see any or have a story to share with us? Are there as many as you thought there would be?
Ha! Love this question, because it is basically what I thought about Australia before doing research about our move. I feel like most of the really dangerous stuff is up in Queensland, so Sydney seems quite safe in comparison. Obviously sharks are still an issue, but they were common back in North Carolina as well so that’s nothing new.
- How do you stay in touch with friends and family back home? Do you have any favourite apps that you use to keep in touch to share with us?
- Ok, Let’s focus in more on Sydney. How about the cost of living in Sydney? How does it compare to back home? Do you have any money saving tips for expats that have just moved to Sydney?
The prices are definitely much higher than what we are used to, especially for entertainment and food. We discovered Aldi in Sydney (even though they were present where we lived) and use that as our main grocery source, which saves a ton of money. I also like to shop the prolific fruit and vegetable stands because you can get great prices on food that is in season. We like to eat ethnic foods, so skipping the fancy gastropubs and visiting Chinatown is a great way to eat authentic, cheaper food. There are also loads of ethnic suburbs for cheaper European and Middle Eastern fare.
- What suburbs in Sydney would you recommend to newly arriving expats? Why those suburbs?
We love living close to the city for bike commuting purposes. I would recommend checking out Waterloo, Chippendale, Redfern, and Erskineville. There are a range of units in various conditions, but you can find some hidden gems. All of these neighborhoods will also have heaps of accessible grocery stores, cafes, and parks.
- What suburb in Sydney do you think is most over looked? Why do you think that is?
I honestly think it is Redfern. Maybe it’s just because we live here, and regularly get strange looks when we tell other Australians which suburb we chose. I generally feel really safe in our apartment and on the street, even though there can be some questionable people hanging out during the day. You can’t beat the convenience for the price.
- What is one expensive that expats under budget for when they move? Were there any expenses that came as complete surprise when you moved? Is it the cost or that you just didn’t realise that it needed to be added to your moving budget?
Ours was most definitely rent! We moved over thinking it would be reasonable to spend $500, no more than $550 a week in rent. However when we saw in person what that price got you in the neighborhoods we were interested in, we moved our weekly cap past $700. The listing photos we saw online before we moved did not reflect the actual units we toured 90% of the time. The photos seemed to be taken at the absolute best of the apartment’s lifetime, and we were touring it 10 maybe 15 years later.
- What hard to find items in Australia from the US would you suggest new expats stock up on before they move?
We stocked up on a ton of stuff because there was almost no limit to what we could ship in our shipping container. But sending over a year’s supply of paper towels and trash bags didn’t save us that much money and it took up a ton of space in our apartment! For parents of young kids, I would definitely send a ton of diapers if you find a good deal. I also love almond butter, and stock up on that since it is super expensive here. John is from Texas and he desperately misses TexMex, so we brought over like 10 jars of salsa on our last trip home. I would say the best thing to stock up on is specific food items you love. Although you might not know how much you love it until it’s not readily available any more!
- Let’s try a fun Sydney Travel question. Your best friend from back home is coming to Sydney for the first time for a visit but only has 24 hours to spend in Sydney. What are your must dos for that 24 hours? Where would you take them for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Why? For example, for a specific dish or for the view or the people watching, etc.
I would start at Bondi for breakfast at the Icebergs because that view is incredible and iconic. If it’s summer we would definitely take a dip in the pool, otherwise it is too cold for me! We would enjoy the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee in the morning and then head back to Bondi Junction for lunch. I am weirdly in love with the pork dumplings and crispy fried chicken at New Shanghai in Bondi Westfield, so we would stop there for lunch – I know, who goes to a mall for a local lunch spot? But my friend would trust me.We would head back to our apartment, take showers and walk down Regent street for some incredible, funky gelato flavours at Ciccone and Sons – buttermilk passionfruit is a must if it’s on the weekly menu. Then we head into the city, stopping at Town Hall to walk around the QVB and Strand Arcade, and maybe do a bit of shopping. There would most likely be a stop for a macaroon at Zumbo’s in the QVB because they are spectacular, and I am slowly trying to sample all the flavours.
Around 4pm, we take the train to Circular Quay. Admire the Opera House, Harbour bridge, and possibly peek into the Royal Botanical Garden if there’s time. I’ll make sure she gets all of the generic tourist shots! Then we take the ferry over to Watson’s Bay, so she can experience the joy and novelty of a Sydney ferry. We would walk across the park and admire a bit of the South Head section of the coastal walk, and then have dinner at Doyles (the fancy version). I have always wanted to eat at this restaurant and the sunset views would be spectacular, so I would take advantage of this opportunity to have my husband stay home with our little one.
We would probably head home afterwards because I’m boring and have never been out in Sydney. And also because her flight is early!
- How does Sydney compares with your hometown for eating out? How does the quality, selection and cost compare? Are there things you just cannot find in Sydney that are readily available back home? Or how about the opposite, are there things that you now cannot live without?
I think the quality of food is overall much higher than back home, and the prices reflect that increase. We mostly eat out for breakfast and brunch because breakfast in Sydney is epic! I would grimace at paying $25 for an omelet at home, but when it is so fluffy and decadent here it seems worth the expense. Obviously, Mexican food is hard to find since it is a long way to transport all of those spices and pepper. I would caution anyone against ordering an enchilada in Sydney, we just haven’t found anything that comes close to the correct sauce.
Sydney’s coffee is really killer. I felt like a total coffee snob when I returned home, soy flat whites all the way! I only drink drip coffee out of politeness. The gelato here is awesome as well, but I do miss the creaminess of fresh ice cream that you can find locally in the States.
- How about takeaway? What are your top three favourite takeaway places in Sydney?
We mostly get takeaway just around the apartment for a quick bite. But we do enjoy picking up decent, cheap sushi at Sushi Hub right outside Town Hall Station.
- How about Australian slang? Has there been any misunderstandings? What’s your favourite Australian expression so far?
Ha there have been many misunderstandings! I mainly just smile and nod when confused, which generally works out well.
In our first few weeks, we were completely confused by the phase “have here, take away”. It is very common in a lot of kiosk food stands, and I used to deploy my normal strategy of nodding, which just caused further confusion. We finally realized that the question is “Have here or take away”? Which made much more sense.
On another occasion, I remember searching the aisles at Woolies one afternoon looking for applesauce, and finally asked someone restocking mustard. He looked at me puzzled, and said “It’s right there,” pointing at the applesauce next to the tomato sauce and barbeque sauce. I just never thought of applesauce as a “sauce” since I eat it straight out of a bowl.
I love the frequency of the word “heaps.”
“Rare as hens teeth”
- What are a couple of your must have apps for living in Sydney?
I use TripView almost everyday to check train and bus schedules. I also love my CommBank app, cardless cash is awesome!
- Let’s run through a few of your favourites in Sydney
What’s your favourite –
- Tourist Attraction: Opera House tour was awesome and informative, the views from the Opera bar never get old
- Beach: Camp Cove in Watson’s Bay
- Picnic Spot: Royal National Park
- Favourite Spot of Brunch: Café Shenkin in Erskineville
- Cheap Eats: Eating World in Chinatown
- What is one of your must see Australian Travel Destinations? Have you added anything to your bucket list since living in Australia that you didn’t know until after you moved?
We were all about going to the Red Centre and Uluru before we came to Sydney. But now we are super excited to take a campervan around New Zealand’s South Island and do tons of hiking.
Thanks to Erin and John for sharing some great advice and tips for anyone moving to Sydney from the US. I really do appreciate it.
If you’re interested in reading more about Erin, John and Cecilia’s adventures down under, plus other parts of the world, you can find them at LivingEZ or check out their last five posts below.