Moving to Sydney on a Tourist Visa Before Applying for a 820 De Facto Partner Visa
Annabel Symonds has a wonderful blog called Londoner in Sydney where she not only shares her adventures as an UK expat living in Australia but also helps others make the move to Australia.
- 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?
I first came to Australia on a working holiday visa back in 2006 and I think I always knew I’d be calling it home one day. Whilst travelling the world in 2011 I met the man of my dreams in India who happened to be an Australian. We moved to his home city, Sydney a few months later.
What was supposed to be a six months trip has now turned into nearly 5 years! I never thought I would be away for so long but Sydney is my home now. My family is only a 24 hour flight away so it’s not too bad.
- 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?
I came into Australia with my partner on my second working holiday visa (I did the 3 month’s farm work to secure that visa back in 2006). We left a year later to travel for a year. It was tricky getting back into the country again in 2013 so I came in on a 3 month tourist visa before applying for the Visa 820 defacto partner 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 UK? Maybe a review site in the UK for international shipping companies.
Due to my situation of spontaneously moving to Sydney, I have never shipped anything over and my things are currently still in storage in UK. I am looking to ship it all over once I find the right shipping company of course. In the meantime, as someone who loves fashion, I’ve had some clothes sent over and I’ve brought things back in an empty suitcase when visiting family. In regards to furniture, I’ve bought everything in Sydney from the basics like Ikea, Gumtree and Ebay.
- Looking back on your move now, knowing what you got yourself into, what would you do differently?
The only thing I regret is that I’m still paying for storage in the UK. I wish I had shipped everything over sooner.
- What so far has been the biggest surprise about living in Australia that you didn’t expect?
The biggest surprise is I never expected to change so much for the better. Sydney has an electrifying culture to healthy living which I’ve embraced. Going from London parties to clean living has improved my life massively. Rather than wasting my weekend hungover I have the chance to really explore what Sydney has to offer. I’m currently exploring the wild swimming spots around Sydney which are totally breathtaking and most Sydneysiders are unaware they even exist.
- What has been the biggest frustration or hardest part of settling into life in Australia?
The hardest part was finding a good job. It took me at least a year to get a permanent job in which I spent the time doing temporary work. I am now working back in the entertainment industry as I was in UK and I love it.
- Now that you’ve lived here for a while, what about Australia do you like the most?
The thing I probably love the most out of anything about Australia is how friendly everyone is. I’ve had so many great conversations with complete strangers whether a shop assistant or someone waiting in line to buy something. This is something that I never experienced living in UK as people tend to keep to themselves. It leaves you with a positive, great energy for the day.
- 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?
I’ve been really lucky as my partner is Australian so he already had a circle of friends waiting for us when we moved over but I have to admit most of my friends are British. I think we all have a common ground and understanding of each other which makes it easy to build friendships.
If I were to move over and not know anyone I’d suggest to be really open. If a colleague or someone you randomly meet in a bar suggests going for a coffee then say yes. It can only lead to good things. Moving to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs would be a good start as this is where the majority of expats live. I’d also suggest joining a group like a fitness bootcamp, yoga etc which will help.
- 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?
You’re probably going to be really nervous about moving over, questioning if it’s the right thing to do. Always remember that your home is going nowhere. I find that everything is exactly the same when going back to visit so you won’t be missing out on much. You’ll just notice that you have probably changed for the better. Living in a country like Australia that is filled with sunshine year round generally makes people a lot more happier.
Don’t compare Australia to your home, it’s probably one of the worst things you can do. I spent my first year converting money back into sterling and it didn’t do me any favours. People think Australia is similar to the UK, it’s not at all. You’re the other side of the world in a completely different country so it’s never going to be the same. I am guilty of comparing Sydney to London from the pubs, food, nightlife, everything really! There’s no way anyone can compare these two cities from a national population of 22 million vs 60 million let alone the vast difference of the size of the two countries!
When I found the online Sydney city guide called Broadsheet, I could finally find out what the best cafes were in the city, to new openings and events happening in the city. It’s like Timeout but better. If you’re wondering where to start with finding a home, Domain is the go to site whilst Seek is the place to find a job.
- 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?
I used to be petrified of spiders and snakes and I was slightly worried (very worried) about seeing them in Australia. I can say I’ve only ever seen one huntsman in my home and recently saw a brown snake at a wild swimming spot. Spiders don’t really scare me anymore because as long as they are dangerous, that’s OK with me!
Funnily enough, I’ve swapped seeing foxes in London to bush turkeys in Sydney which I see every morning on my run. I very much doubt you’d see any animal that was dangerous in the main cities of Australia.
- 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?
When I arrived back in 2012 it was so expensive as the dollar was very strong. Now it works out more or less the same since it’s dropped. Housing is about the same as it was in London, food is the same (sushi is much cheaper in Aus), and fashion is more although with the help of global shops like H&M that charge the same in UK, it’s manageable. Fuel is much cheaper in Australia. It costs me $40 to fill up my car, in UK it would cost $120 although to buy a car in Australia is much more expensive. I am however earning more money in Sydney so it’s easier to save.
- What suburbs in Sydney would you recommend to newly arriving expats? Why those suburbs?
I would recommend living in the eastern suburbs when you first arrive as the novelty of being by the beaches of Bondi and Coogee are just stunning. It’s a great place especially for twenty somethings and it’s also where a lot of expats live.
If you’re more into the alternative, creative scene then Newtown or Marrickville would work well. If you want to be by all the action, Surry Hills is a lovely area right in the middle of the city with access to all the restaurants and nightlife. If you are a couple in your mid thirties then Balmain would work really well. It actually has the most pubs in any suburb in Australia but it’s a chilled, upmarket place with nice cafes and restaurants and could be a town in itself.
- What suburb in Sydney do you think is most overlooked? Why do you think that is?
Anywhere over the other side of the bridge is totally overlooked. It’s known that unless you live on the other side of the bridge then there’s no reason to visit. I’m a bit biased as I do live on the other side and absolutely love it. The best part is it takes five minutes to jump on the ferry to work. With a daily commute on a boat along Sydney harbour, what’s not to love?
I also think Manly is completely overlooked. The majority of people I know don’t like Manly because of the mass tourism it attracts. I have really grown to love it, there is so much more to do there than you think and some excellent cafes, restaurants and pubs.
- What hard to find items in Australia from the UK would you suggest new expats stock up on before they move?
Australia caters quite well for the British. There’s even a British, European and South Africa isle in the supermarket now where you can get the essentials and there are a few British stores lurking around, even a British fish and Chip shop in Bondi!
The one thing I can think of is stocking up on perfume or aftershave as it’s much cheaper in UK.
- 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.
If they’re in town for just 24 hours I’d have to take them to the touristy spots. I’d make sure we start the day off with the Bronte to Bondi coastal walk for sunrise finishing up at Bondi Wholefoods for their Acai bowl for breakfast. I’d then obviously take them to see Sydney Harbour and Botanic Gardens stopping off at Quay for lunch. We’d then jump on the boat to Manly and walk along the beach to the Boathouse at Shelly Beach for an afternoon snack. Returning on the boat for sunset, I’d finish the day off at Café Sydney for dinner with spectacular views for the harbour.
- How does Sydney compare 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?
Sydney is 100% way more advanced with healthy food than in UK. When I lived in UK people would live off pre-made packaged meals, you can’t find them out here which is a brilliant thing. It’s all fresh food and the fruit and vegetables are amazing in Australia. The mangoes and avocados are just incredible! When I last went back to UK, I pretty much lived off pre-made sandwiches which are available everywhere. With the use of food courts in Australia, you can get someone to make you a fresh sandwich from scratch for the same price.
Sydney has a big influence of Asian food which is so much cheaper than in UK. You can grab a sushi roll on the run rather than a sandwich as sushi roll in Sydney will cost around $3 yet in UK I paid $9.
- How about takeaway? What are your top three favourite takeaway places in Sydney?
Due to my change of eating habits, I have never ordered takeaway in Australia! I do however go to Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen for their awesome cheap Vietnamese vegan food when I don’t want to cook.
- How about Australian slang? Has there been any misunderstandings? What’s your favourite Australian expression so far?
My boyfriend and I still have disagreements with how to say words like ‘vitamins’ and ‘data’ to name but a few! My favourite expression has to be ‘right-o’.
- What are a couple of your must have apps for living in Sydney?
- Let’s run through a few of your favourites in Sydney
What’s your favourite –
- Tourist Attraction: Wendy’s Secret Garden for the stunning views and incredible garden that sits right on the harbour. It feels like it’s actually a secret because it’s so untouched and with barely any visitors.
- Beach: City beaches include Balmoral, Shelly Beach and Camp Cove. If I’m wanting to escape the crowds, I’ll head on a hike to Little Marley in The Royal National Park.
- Picnic Spot: Governors House. It has amazing views of the bridge which is just above the Opera Bar.
- Favourite Spot of Brunch: Sydney’s first raw café, Sadhana Kitchen. The food is out of this world.
- English Pub: The Lord Dudley. It actually feels like I’m back in England.
- Weekend Market: Kirribilli Markets. It’s fantastic for fashion. Regular people set up their stands to sell their pre loved goods for dirt cheap prices. I also love Marrickville Markets for its amazing, chilled vibe and great fresh produce.
- Outdoor Cinema: St George – right on the harbour. It really doesn’t get much better!
- Place to find UK food products in the city: Coles
- Cheap Eats: I usually head to fresh blend in mosman for a $12 acai bowl to take to the beach. Miss Chu is again a good cheap dinner. Outside of Sydney is an amazing Indian temple called Sri Venkateswara serving authentic Indian food for no more than $7 a meal.
- 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?
Byron Bay is one of my favourites towns in the world. There’s something really magical about it let alone great beaches, awesome healthy food and lovely local people.
Whilst I was backpacking in 2006, I lived in Darwin and loved it there for the sunsets at Mindal Markets and access to incredible National Parks like Kakadu and Litchfield.
Western Australia is so overlooked and its beauty surpasses that of anywhere on the East Coast. My favourite place in Australia is Coral Bay (about halfway up WA). It’s a tiny town that sits on the Ningaloo Reef which I’ve found is far better than the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is actually alive and I’ve seen turtles, swam with dolphins and manta rays and seen tiger sharks there. It is an absolute gem of a place to visit.
Top of my bucket list are the Coco Keeling Islands which looks out of this world! I’d also love to visit Hamilton Island and the only two main cities of Australia I have already seen yet: Adelaide and Canberra.
Thanks so much for your time!! I really do appreciate it.