It was with some trepidation that I set off for the land down-under with my new fiancee, our two dogs and, once again, the entire contents of our house.
Third time lucky in terms of making a big move? We’d been here before. First, in moving to Vancouver from the UK. Then from Vancouver to Ottawa. And now from Ottawa to Sydney. Emotions were mixed as we packed up the house which had become our haven through the harsh winter climate, and traded in our comfort zone for the uncertainty of a new life literally on the other side of the world.
I had only been to Australia a couple of times on vacation so what did I really know of Sydney and life on the Australian east coast?
I knew nothing of the state of the economy, house prices, employment prospects, working conditions and those little details that usually come together early on to confirm a decision to emigrate.
I knew a little of the climate. Stinking hot in the summer, the ability to be sunburned on the cloudiest of days, and not a lot of rain.
|Hot, hot summers|
As for the culture… what culture? Us Brits had grown up reading the UK national press constantly taunting the Aussies for their absent culture and lack of depth to their society. The newspapers would provocatively question how a nation descended from ex-convicts and impoverished immigrants could ever develop the kind of complexity to its society, politics and history that we Europeans could arrogantly boast.
I knew about the sporting fanaticism that was a key part of the Australian psyche. True, the Aussie cricket team was in decline, the rugby union players ageing, and its Olympic achievements a thing of the past (g’day, Australian readers!); however, it was obvious that sport (both participatory and arm chair viewing) was deeply entrenched in this country’s core.
I also knew of the beach culture, of long days spent in the epic surf, of thongs (not flip flops) worn religiously, and of endless surf and pie shops lining the beachfront.
|Manly beach on a summer’s day|
The least favourite thing awaiting me was undoubtedly the local wildlife. Thoughts of vicious snakes attacking our dogs and deadly spiders creeping into my bed at night horrified me. The waters were far from safe and the bush (not forest) was a critter haven, with Englishmen the primary target. I pictured myself checking under every toilet seat, bed sheet and garden chair just to survive this harsh environment.
|Nasties in the water|
With visas in hand, dogs in cargo, and somewhat negative images on my mind, we set sail from Canada after three fantastic, eventful, inspiring years in the great white north.
We arrived at Sydney Airport in June 2006 to what I ignorantly believed would be a life full of blistering hot summers and winters, cities with no real culture or history, places rampant with beach bums and bogans, and deadly creatures at every turn.
How wrong could I be.
|A future life by the ocean|