A Pom returns: the reality of life after Australia

This is one blog I’ve been meaning to write since packing up our Aussie-born pooch and 20 foot container of ‘stuff’ and waving goodbye to Down Under. I always meant to give an update on Life After Perth, but just to be sure my rose-tinted ‘happy to be home’ goggles were now a more realistic hue of clear, and to ward off all accusations of still being drunk on rolling green hills and Tesco prices, I thought I’d leave it a respectable 6 months before giving a verdict.

But time flies when you’re busy and it has been nearly 2 years since our return. More and more people have been contacting me to ask “What happened next?” People who want to be told that returning to the UK isn’t a one way ticket to WhathehellhaveIdonesville – that I’m not just another Pom that pinged the wrong way. Or, I suspect, be reassured that I’m not sat here rocking backwards and forwards in a corner, clutching a photo of a Skippy and muttering darkly to myself how we should have never left.

Well the good news is I’m still sane, I rarely rock and I never weep at the sight of a kangaroo.

Returning to a British way of life has been an interesting journey to say the least. Unlike our hasty departure from the UK 3.5 years before, the Australian exodus of 2010 was an extremely well-executed affair, with a year of meticulous planning and quite a lot of careful saving along the way.

It started with a trip back to confirm our decision, scout new areas to live and set up schooling. This was followed by 6 months of heavy-duty moving, haggling, sorting and packing – along with the selling of whatever we couldn’t afford to ship back. I thoroughly recommend a garage sale as the most effective way to clear unwanted junk. One night of preparation, 5 hours of bargaining and several 100 people trampling over our lawn later and we’d covered the cost of shipping the dog. That may not sound like much, until you realise his First Class cage back cost more than our 4 tickets combined. Whether or not he was worth the expensive remains a hotly debated subject to this day.

Touching back down on British soil was a happy occasion for the whole family. I would have happily kissed the ground, but for the fact I had half a dozen bags and a limp child hung off my person, and the Arrivals Hall floor was in need of a good scrub. It was an epic flight to say the least, but hats off to Air Asia, they may be a budget airline with a questionable line of stomach-churning Pot Noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the service was brilliant, and the cheap ‘Business Class’ sized seats ensured we arrived rested and with all vertebra working and intact.

There was no fanfare or line of excited faces waiting to meet us as we walked through. We took a taxi to the nearest Travelodge and laid there, all wide awake, wired from excitement and struggling to breathe in the unventilated room. After a few hours of listening to the kids flapping around on the sofa bed we decided to hit the road early (in the car we’d bought unseen on the Internet) and our get on with our new life. We rocked up in Norwich before even the earliest of birds were catching worms, and then, with hours to kill till the next Travelodge opened, spent several hours getting lost in the one-way system while looking for somewhere to eat.

A week after picking up the keys to our house (rented unseen on the Internet), and the fastest unpacking of a container in history, my husband disappeared in a taxi, boarded a plane and flew back to whence we had come. With a work contract still to complete in Sydney, I was left waving goodbye in the doorway of a new house, city and county, with no family or friends for miles around and 2 kids to look after till Christmas. Not quite how I pictured our happy homecoming.

The 4 months that followed were certainly a crash course in starting over. There were new roads to navigate, shops, doctors and dentists to find, schools and nurseries to start, utilities to organise and complicated contracts to decipher. Credit, I was reminded, is most certainly not your friend when you’ve left for sunnier shores.

During those long and lonely weeks I spent half of everyday on Skype and resorted to accosting strangers in the local park just to have some adult conversation. I endured a long running struggle with a tight arse landlord, a carpet that stank of cat wee and a shower that didn’t even work. I had to deal with a dippy, runaway dog, catch spiders the size of a dinner plate, buy and master a lawnmower with a mind of its own and battle through various strains of vomiting virus, ear infections and flu. And then, to top it all off, I had 6 long, glorious weeks with limited eyesight and an addiction to painkillers while I waited for my new eyes to work.

A walk in the park it most certainly was not. But despite all of the above, and the feeling rather lonely in my husband-less state, I loved every single day of being back. Even those when the temperatures hit -8 degrees and it took me 1.5 hours to travel an 8-minute journey in the snow. Or my car gave up the good fight and slid back down the icy hill with a boot load of shopping still to transport. Or the toilet cistern decided to leak through the ceiling and gave me a watery fright.

By the time hubby finally rocked up a week before Christmas life was in full swing. On his second day we went to collect the keys for a house I’d already bought – a run down, damp as a swamp, freezing, flooded old farmhouse in the middle of the rural Norfolk countryside. A few days into January and renovations began. Day after day we spent ripping down and building back up a shell of a house, while snow blew in through the open doors and we ate our diet of garage sandwiches whilst perched on upturned tool boxes wearing heat packs strapped to our bodies and 3 pairs of gloves.

6 weeks later with work still in progress we moved into the house with 2 kids and dog in tow. With bare walls and floors, no backdoor and not much a kitchen to speak of it wasn’t really an ideal living environment, but we had no plans to move for at least 10 years so it seemed worth all the ongoing hard work. Fast forward 8 months and with the house finally completed, we decided there was only one natural next step for us to take. So we put it back on the market, packed up our now 60 foot container worth of stuff (no, I’m still not sure how our possessions mutated in this time) and moved back towards the city.

This time in the sticks had taught us that rural living simply wasn’t for us. Too many unfriendly villagers with humps, dead pheasants on the road to school and the smell of ‘farm’ wafting in when we were trying to eat. So here we are again, new house, new village, another new life – and NO more plans to move.

So the big question to be answered is this: having now lived both lives and experienced the reality of a life Down Under, do I still (honestly, hand on my heart) think we made the right decision to up sticks and come back? Hell yes, every single minute of every single (sometimes) soggy day. Even when its grey outside, blowing a gale and chucking it down at great force. Or the news is full of doom and gloom, the streets of London are being burnt by delinquent rioters, petrol prices have shot up again and another great parliamentary scandal has been unearthed.

The truth of it is I simply don’t miss our old life at all.

I don’t miss our nice house or the crippling mortgage we paid. I don’t miss the high salary or the extortionate utility bills. I don’t miss the BBQ or the overpriced food we couldn’t afford to buy. I don’t miss the blue skies (well maybe a bit) or the long, cold, wet winters with no insulation, double glazing or heating to keep us warm. I don’t miss the beaches or the flies that just love to swarm in your face. I don’t miss the lack of culture or anything in the slightest bit old. I don’t miss the feeling of being trapped in the most isolated city on Earth. I don’t miss being cooked alive or keeping an eye out for sharks.

I do miss Tim Tams however. Now there was a chocolate biscuit that almost made it worth while staying.

There is one thing I’ve finally realised after our stint in Perth and that is the grass is never greener. Every country has it problems, its pros and it’s cons. Every country is run by politicians who over-promise and under-deliver. Every country has crime and drugs and those people you’d rather cross the street to avoid. Every country has bad weather and days when you think you’ll never make ends meet.

For me, England definitely wins hands down. So Rule Britannia, long live the Queen and bring out the china tea cups – it’s good to be home!

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28 thoughts on “A Pom returns: the reality of life after Australia

  1. Hi Rachel, just read and learned for the first time your experiences on your return and had no idea that Paul hadn’t returned straight away!! You know that I have an affinity with Perth but it is certainly interesting to hear your personal account. Why didn’t you let me know you were all alone in Norwich, you could have come down and spent some time with us? Anyway I am glad your happy. So sorry that we did not see you when you were in Dorset. Love to all. Trevor and Jen x

  2. I loved, loved, and let me say it one more time…..LOVED it!!! You Rachel are my Carrie Bradshaw, yes, I know, a very NY thing to say, but I can’t help myself! Your writing style is so effortless to read. Now I am wishing that I had sipped some earl grey tea while reading it, of course in a china cup darling! Sending you lots of love from across the pond xoxo

  3. Wow excellent article! Made me feel so much better about our planned escape from Perth! I know its not for me here but its scary wondering if you can go back successfully! Its a definate yes!!

    1. The hardest part is making the decision to leave and then telling people! The actual move back is fun and I’m sure you wom’t regret it for a minute. Good luck!

  4. Hi Rachel. Just stumbled across your blog – have made a similar journey recently and have been blogging about it also. Love your writing style and identify with so much of what you say. 5 months back for me after 20 years in Sydney. Loving every minute of being ‘back home’

  5. God, you have no idea how much this blog has helped me tonight.. i had no idea (till the end of course) that you’d lived in Perth.. where i have been for 11 years….. & to top it off having to deal with a chronic illness but planning to be back in England before the end of the year…
    i take this as a sign lol.. at the very least to give it a go.
    Well said at the end re: every country has its problems.. thanks : ))

  6. Hi Rachel, been back a year after living in Perth for thirteen years, struggling still but the spoodle I brought back at great cost loves it here. Not sure where I belong at the moment but enjoyed reading your blog and your similar experiences.

  7. Hi Rachel,
    I am coming to the party a little late! Currently a dual citizen living in Perth and after 7 years, hotly debating the move back to the UK for all the fear factors you note above (including dog shipping!)….and I wasn’t even browsing your blog for that info!
    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hi Rachel.
    I stumbled on your blog , which has left me with a tear, I’m from Suffolk, and love Norfolk . Ive been in Perth 51/2 yrs , and still call Suffolk home, I’ve been lucky to ‘go home’ every year for a holiday, I think I need to look at previous blogs to understand why you decided to return to the uk. I wish I was one of the many poms , god I hate that word, who say ‘ I’d never go back, what’s to go back for’, but I’m not. I have a great life here, and beautiful granddaughters, but I miss so much about home. I admire your decision and wish you much happiness ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hi Rachel,
    I am also a return home pom…had been living in Perth 13 years, never thought I would come back to the UK, but I feel I have come home now. I am staying with my sister and her partner, waiting for legalities in buying a house in a nicer area of Eastbourne, than where I lived 13 years ago.Life in Oz is now like a distant memory..my son came back with me he is 24 now , but my daughter stayed in Perth .I feel rather depressed and lonely, too much time on my hands after 10years working as a nurse..I know when we move into our house, get our dog back and our possessions we will get work and start our lives again.I would love to meet other people in the same situation as me..

    1. Hi Pam – hope things hace settled for you now. Interested to hear your son’s decision to return. Is he still happy he made that decision? My boys are 15 and 13 – i would love to return when oldest finishes Year 12 but worried may be wrong decision for them both. Must be hard that your daughter decided to stay. Aus is just too far away, can’t support ageing parents and i am so sick of the heat. Was back in uk recently and yes there are some not good points but loved the weather and countryside. So many who migrate never settle and i don’t know where home would be if we return to England

  10. Hi Rachel,
    I loved your blog. I have been in Perth for almost 8 years. I have wanted to leave for the last two. I am trapped. My two daughters are teenagers and are pretty Aussie and they do not want to leave. Nor does my husband. So a word of advice to all wanna be re locators. Don’t leave it too late if you don’t settle, go back.

  11. Interesting read. I am about to move into a house but this morning my brother send me a picture of some (proper) fish and chips and i became really jealous. Last summer i visited Scotland and i forgot i had a job and house down under. I have a long list of things i dont like about Perth. Been here 3.5 year. Staying for the passport then most likely happily move home (Scotland)

  12. PS: Here are my reasons for wanting to move back to UK but only once i get Aussie passport in 2015. 1. Quality of resturants here is terrible. Literally no-one can cook a decent meal in Perth. Chicken breast prices for thigh meat quality. 2. High prices and costs for literally everything (and i am on a v.high salary). 3. Family & friends. 4. Frickin isolated Perth, i miss having proper holidays. Past 3 years have consisted of a 28 day bender of visiting relatives when on my annual trip back instead of relaxing. 5. being close to EU and other major cities. I miss weekend trips away. Once you’ve seen the bush, you’ve seen 99% of Australia. Its largely dull with no views at all apart from Kings Park. 6. I want my boy to know his grandparents and the support they can offer (babysitting, walks etc). 7. i miss the clouds! yes you read correctly. 8. Price and quality of cars. Much lower in UK. Plus the nazi enforced revenue raising hidden speed cameras in Perth is asburd 9. Job market. Very closed in Perth. Difficult to change company. More opportunities in EU. Lay-offs are also common at the moment = mental stress. 10. I suspect come Jan, i will find Suburbia very dull indeed and will yearn for being closer to at least something remotely exciting. 11. I REALLY miss my scampi suppers and indian meals. Plus supermarkets that have aisles wider than 0.35m and at least a choice of 2 supermarkets instead of the bi-opoloy that Coles and Woolies have here.

  13. HI, its great to hear your story. We lived in Perth also for 5 years and mostly it felt like we had entered early retirement. You hit the nail on the head about what its like to live there. The isolation could be too much at times…you could only do Margaret River and the Swan Valley so many times and it gets old…nowhere to travel to and the other cities were just more of the same anyway. Love being home in UK. Life here is better for us, we have better jobs and a far more interesting life, more travel, more ‘real’ friends, more hobbies, more activities, a nicer home, better TV, pubs, nights out and more money in our pockets at the end of the month. I would never trade the life I have now to move back to the perth suburbs again.

    1. Hi Gayle

      I’ve been in Aus (NSW) almost 3 years with my husband and two boys (6 and 3) and I can’t help but feel I want to go back. Although it’s not as isolated as Perth where we are there are still things that I’m struggling with. There are so many factors to consider but the feeling just won’t go away. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  14. Thanks Rachel, loved your article and even made me cry. So difficult to make the decision but your account made things a lot clearer.

  15. Hi Rachel. . Was good to hear you’re story.. I have just came back to sunny old England from Sydney. . Haha.. to be honest my story is bit different. . I didn’t have a choice.. I stayed there for 5 years in total and had two jobs, a house.. everything. .but my visa got cancelled in the 3rd year.. I continued to stay.. which made me illegal๐Ÿ˜ข I got arrested and put in the detention centre in nsw— was horrible. . I left my girlfriend who I have been with for 4 years.. I love Sydney and Australia.. the weather and it’s laid back lifestyle. . And the beaches. . I never went Perth but if it’s like townsville qld I know I didn’t like that much was too hot to many flies etc. But I must say.. Sydney is a good climate. . Thing is all my family live here in England I only had friends over there and I never even visited England in the 5 years I was out there .. apart from them visiting me in my second year. . Obviously I couldn’t visit my self due to being illegal. .but I hope it gets better for me only been back 2 months and I’ve got a job and a car and moving into a flat next week.. and my girlfriend will be moving to England for good.. which I’m soo happy about.. hopefully I will feel better when she arrives. . The problem though is she from Brazil and we have to sort out visa etc so u can imagine how I feel .. 5 years from home.. 6 weeks in detention centre before flying back.. didn’t say goodd Bye to friends or even a proper good bye to my girlfriend. . I know it was my bad doing.. staying in oz.. but I had two jobs paid my taxes, a car also my girlfriend had a visa.. was trapped really. . So at the end of the day i miss Australia and would go back with a click of my fingersites if I could but I do believe me coming home was meant to be.. seeing my brother and family cousins etc.. specially my grandad parents. . I just think I need to give it time๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€.. Thanks for listening. .peace.

  16. Hi there! Just stumbled across your blog! We came back from Perth 10 years ago and are back in Suffolk! I feel exactly the same as you! I’m so glad I experienced Perth – I have no regrets and enjoyed the experience – we were there for 5 years! But the grass isn’t greener – in fact the grass put in Perth is dry and prickly!!!

    1. Hi Julie. Not so far away from us in Norfolk then! Perth certainly seems a very long time ago now, though I have (mostly) great memories of kids growing up there. At least here’s there’s none of that horrible bindi weed to pull up out of the lawn every other day!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Hi all – stumbled upon this whilst feeling particularly sorry for myself. Brisbane 10 years now and two children 15 and 13 – wondering if i can ever get back to England to live – feel it’s too late now with children the age they are. Nothing wrong with life here but it’s not England and i miss everything so much still – hard being a family of four too with no extended family here. Rachel – keen to hear how life is now? Your blog made me teary. Feel cheated that my children’s years weren’t in the UK. Hate the heat of QLD.

    1. Hi Jenny. Life is good back here and it was definitely the right decision for us to move back. It seems like a lifetime ago that we lived in Perth and I can’t say there’s really anything I miss about it. I really do empathise with your situation as I know how frustrated and upset it must make you to be living somewhere you don’t want to be. I hope things work out for you. x

    2. Hi Jenny
      I also came across Rachel’s blog about 6 months ago (ensuring I added it as a favourite on Chrome) and was so glad I did. How refreshing to hear someone else’s story like my own. We came to Qld 10 years and pretty much most days I have longed for ‘home’. Fortunately for me, after waiting very patiently my husband (a builder, who has encountered all walks of life of Australian folk) is now keen to return to the UK. I’ve also got two children of similar age, one born in UK and other in Australia – just remember, its never too late children will integrate relatively easy and just as when we arrived in Oz i’ll be finding local community groups to join to make new friends in the UK.

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