Like my mate Cal, we today hit our ten year milestone of living in Aus. What I'm about to write is based entirely on my and my families experience of having made the move.
Living in Aus was never a life long dream, we visited my brother in Brisbane in 2005 for a holiday (also taking in Cains and Sydney), it was a holiday pure and simple. A couple of weeks after our return my hubby said "I could live there" (Aus), we were 40 and my thoughts had been looking toward the fact that I could take early retirement at 55. My only stipulation was that I wanted a comparable lifestyle to what we had, we'd worked hard to be in the positions that we were in as a family and at 40 I really didn't want to start all over again.
As a nurse, it was easier for me to do the skills assessment, so we sent off our via application 4 months after arriving back from our holiday and 7 months later we had our visa in our hand. We'd chosen to migrate in the January, allowing my daughter to finish primary school, she'd known her friends since nursery and for her attending the leavers service at church was very much important to her at 11 and in the grand scheme of things didn't make much difference to us. We left the UK with the thought that if we didn't like Perth then Australia was a big place and we'd try somewhere else - returning to the UK was never in our mind. Leaving family is always difficult, I was leaving my dad on his own (well able to care for himself), but we'd been a big presence in his life. When we told him our thoughts, he'd said that he had been offered a job years ago in (former) Rhodesia, my mother didn't want to go and an opportunity never came around again and he regretted it and that we should do it. He visited us several times and loved the long holidays.
We'd both managed to secure jobs prior to leaving the UK - we both took a step back career wise initially, but are now in the equivalent positions we had in the UK. We fell on our suburb by chance - as I only wanted a 30min commute from work (as initially I worked shifts/nights), we secured a 12 week furnished rental which whilst a little pricey (as were all house prices), was fantastic and our rent included all bills and the use of a car. At the 10 year mark, we're still in the same house and with the same employers.
The children settled very quickly into school and we put an offer in for a house within 2 weeks and moved in 10 weeks later. We love the suburb we live (Leeming), it's got a good community feel and has a good mix of nationalities. It's not everyone's cup of tea as it's older houses, but houses still sell very quickly and I've noticed that some are demolishing and re-building.
From an education point of view it was a little strange at first. My son was in year 2 in the uk and had homework during the week and at weekend several A4 sheets - here he didn't get much and even arriving at school you'd put your bag down and go into class, whereas his school in the uk rang a bell for the pupils to stand still, a bell to get in line and a bell to proceed ("in an orderly fashion") into school. I think we struggled with the more relaxed atmosphere than the kids did.
My kids now 21 and 17 are chalk and cheese - my daughter is studious and my son is sporty and sociable - the local HS met both their needs with my daughter being in an academic extension programme and my son being able to access lots of sports. My daughter starting her 2nd year of her Masters in secondary education at UWA and my Son his final year of HS. I don't think education is better or worse in either country, I'd like to think that my kids would be where they are now irrespective of where they lived. I think you just have to accept that it's different, Australia produces lawyers, Doctors and multiple top professions, it has universities in the top 100 list - so it does do it's job. My daughter has says that she's happy to have had her teenage years here which is good for us to hear.
Friendships were the thing that I missed the most in the early days and you have to accept that you can't immediately replicate those friendships that had developed over time, but slowly they do develop and we now have probably one of the closest friendship groups we've ever had in our lives with some being like surrogate family. Our friend turned up at the hairdressers when my daughter was having her hair cut on her 21st birthday with champagne bucket in hand to celebrate, she rang the hairdressers to ask the best time to surprise her.
I've never wanted to go back and visit the UK, we have been lucky that my dad, in-laws and one of my hubbys brothers has been out several times. Sadly, the trip became unavoidable in March when my dad passed away suddenly, the reality is that had we lived in the UK we wouldn't have got there in time as his deterioration was very sudden. So hubby and I made the trip with our awesome friends keeping an eye on the kids, who whilst technically adult, were also grieving. A promise to my daughter that we would be back for her Uni graduation a week later. I have to say that the people we dealt with from the consultants, coroners office and funeral directors were brilliant in helping us - I did think we'd have to come back for the graduation and go back again but we didn't have to. Because of the circumstances, my visit wasn't a pleasant one or social but I didn't feel that I belonged there anymore and couldn't wait to get back home.
WA has been good to us, we don't find it boring or isolated, in fact to be honest, we've probably done more than we did in the UK. Our away from work time is relaxed, we've been to concerts, shows, plays, sporting events etc., much more than we did the up. We've had holidays in WA, other parts of Aus, Singapore and USA, saving has been achievable and whilst Europe isn't on our doorstep - it hasn't really mattered to us. My daughter though did go to Europe this year and enjoyed Spain, France and Italy (Rome in particular), she called in to see her grandparents and some old primary school friends in the UK - but felt Australia was home. My son want's to see some English Football stadiums and go to a PNE game with his dad. We'll organise that later in the year for his 18th and he and my hubby, my hubby wants to do this for our boy but really doesn't want to go back to England but will do so to make his sone happy.
A better life? How do you judge it - materialistically - we still live in a detached house but have a larger garden and pool, 2 outdoor covered areas for socialising/eating and even if it rains we can still have friends over for a BBQ without decanting to the garage. Educationally, as I said i'd like to think that they'd have done ok in the UK too. Work/life balance - for us has improved, we still work the same hours, but our time at home is of a better quality, we have spent more time together as a family, doing things as a family, even eating outside at home at the weekend turns into several hours spent in each others company. What we have achieved is a sense of contentment and I've had that from pretty early on in our move and for me that makes things better. Don't get me wrong, we've had bumps like health concerns, possible redundancy - but they could have happened anywhere. Life in Aus certainly isn't perfect but if you focus and concentrate on all the things that annoy you, they'd become ingrained and stop you seeing the positive things.
So, all in all, the move for us has been a very good one, I never hated the UK, but can't imagine returning ... but then again I never imagined living in Aus - so who knows what's around the corner!!