Packing it all up: Stories and advice for moving overseas
We’re a bunch of nomads here at Creative Natives. More than half of our team have gone off in search of adventure and lived overseas, so we’ve got a bit of experience when it comes to the whole shifting your life overseas thing.
If moving overseas has been on your mind for a while – as it has been for at least 600,000 Australians – and you’re looking for first hand experiences of making the move, you’re in luck. We’ve spoken to the Creative Natives expats and they’ve told us their stories, as well as given a bit of advice too!
Enjoy the life you moved overseas for
In terms of preparation for moving overseas, I didn’t do enough. I didn’t really have a plan or a budget or anything really, so when I first arrived, I had a basic existence. I lived in a four person dorm and needed a job so badly that I walked up and down George St in Sydney handing out paper CVs! Once I got a job, the hostel I stayed at didn’t have an iron, so I had to hang up my work shirt carefully on the bunk bed so it wouldn’t wrinkle.
I had a group of mates who had come out about four months earlier and gave me a rough idea of what life out here would involve, but it’s such a shift from being a backpacker to being a grown up with limited funds. Had I known what I know now, I definitely would have had a plan of attack. You can do so much now in terms of finding a job or a place to live beforehand to relieve some of the stress.
Socially, it’s important to build a circle of people to support you. Work is a great place to make new friends, so make sure where you work is somewhere that ticks the boxes for you culturally, so you’ll meet like minded people and hopefully make friends. Say yes to every social opportunity that comes your way.
Most importantly, make sure you enjoy your life overseas. You’ve put in all this time and effort uprooting your life and establishing a new one, so don’t work a job that’s so demanding that you don’t get to experience your new city, your new country, your new life. Also make sure you’re financially prepared so you can enjoy it too!
– Ryan, moved to Melbourne in 2010
Be comfortable with things going wrong
I was pretty young when I moved overseas and in terms of planning, I didn’t do too much. The one thing I did do was make sure that I had enough money to survive – I moved back in with mum and dad for six months to save as much as possible.
When I landed in London, I got off the plane and while I knew I was staying at my cousin’s place, I had no idea where I was going. I had to buy a map at the airport (this was travel pre-Google Maps), I got the address wrong, but eventually figured out where it was and how to get there. In addition to my cousins, I had a couple of mates from Australia living over in London, but the expat community over there is absolutely massive, so it wasn’t hard to meet people and make friends. You won’t be alone for long.
Looking back at it all, so many of the people I met who also moved there from other countries have gone on to own their own businesses. I think this type of adventure gives you the life skills which are great for building a business. You need to be resourceful and figure things out yourself, self-motivated to hustle and survive and resilient when things go wrong – because things will go wrong, just like they do in everyday life. They just feel far worse because you’re away from home and you don’t have your usual network to fall back on, so get comfortable with things going wrong.
– Cal, moved to London from 2005-2010
Reach out to personal connections
There never was a plan to move to Australia permanently. I did the whole backpack around Asia thing for a few months before arriving in Melbourne in the middle of winter. While it was great that I already knew quite a few people in Melbourne, life in Australia wasn’t really what I was expecting, so I headed back to Asia and then the UK for Christmas. The plan was to head back to Australia for six more months and then come home, but I almost gave up while trying to leave the UK in the middle of a massive snowstorm – it took me three days to get out of the country!
Eventually I got back to Australia in the summertime, fell in love with the lifestyle here and realised that this was a place that I could live. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I have no regrets. Shifting your life overseas gives you tools and& skills that’ll take you far throughout the rest of your life.
If you’ve got personal connections in the country you’re moving to – family, friends, old school mates – reconnect with them. It’s vital to have a support network around you. You’re a long way from home and there will be periods where it gets tough and you’ll miss your family. They can also help when you’re trying to find a place to live or give you a couch to crash on while you’re trying to get on your feet.
One final piece of advice – do your research. Look into where you want to live and who you want to work for. Do you want to live in want to live in the middle of a thriving city, by the beach or somewhere completely different? As a creative, do you want to work at an agency or in-house? They all vary greatly and will give you a completely different lifestyle, so start Googling.
– Dave, moved to Sydney in 2012
Say yes to everything
I was a student when I moved overseas as I went on exchange to Rutgers University in New Jersey, United States. I was away for seven months, so it was short and sweet, but one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life – so if there’s any uni students reading this, go on exchange!
You’ll challenge yourself and build close knit friendships with people from different countries. My friends and I ticked off some of those typical US college experiences that you don’t get here in Australia – we went to frat and house parties, had the quintessential Spring Break experience in Miami, attended college basketball games, saw people rocking up to class in PJs (I couldn’t bring myself to do it) and so much more. We had the most amazing time.
My number one piece of advice, whether you’re on exchange or not, is say yes to everything. On my second or third day, I was invited to a party for all the new undergrad exchange students and I was unsure whether or not to go, as I was a Masters student and felt too old. I’m also an introvert and parties where I know no one are hard for me. I’m so glad I did go, because at that party I found my people for the rest of the semester.
Your new co-workers invite you out for a drink? Say yes. An in-person training opportunity comes up? Say yes. Your neighbour invites you over for coffee? Say yes, say yes, say yes.
– Leah, moved to New Jersey in 2014
Go over with an open mind
I came to Australia with the idea of staying for one year on a working holiday visa. My plan was to travel and do some temp work as I didn’t take any time off between uni and a corporate job in the UK, so I was looking to take things easy.
I started working for a couple of guys I knew from home who just started a property and construction recruitment company. I was their very first employee and was hired in an operations role. The company grew quickly and one day they said to me, “I think you’ll be good in recruitment. Why don’t you give it a go and we can sponsor you so you can stay longer”. I was really hesitant to say yes as I was worried about what happened if I hated it and decided to go home after they spent all this money sponsoring me? I would have felt so guilty. Luckily a friend talked me into staying and the rest is history!
I would definitely recommend moving overseas with an open mind. You may move over thinking one thing and then the exact opposite happens. Life will provide you with opportunities, you just need to be open to what’s in front of you, especially if it’s different to the plan in your mind.
Also, do your due diligence. If you’re moving your career overseas, research what the market is like and speak to people who work in your field in your desired location. Connect with people on LinkedIn and build up your network so they know who you are when you’re applying for jobs – it’ll make it that much easier.
– Charlotte, moved to Sydney in 2010
Take some time to find your feet
I did absolutely zero planning or preparation. I had been saving to buy a house because that’s what you do at a certain point in your life, but I wasn’t super keen on it. I started thinking about travelling long term instead and then I caught up with a uni mate who was planning on moving to Australia and she asked me to come with her. Four weeks later, I was on a plane to south east Asia and then six months later, landed in Melbourne in June with just a bunch of t-shirts and shorts.
I had a very open mind when I arrived. If I liked Australia, I would stay and if I didn’t, I would head back home. I ended up staying because I loved the way of life here – the weather is better, salaries are generally better, people are nicer and I feel that Australian companies value an employee’s personal time much more.
Don’t plan too much, otherwise you may find yourself locked into a house (or housemates!), suburb or job that you don’t like. Obviously figure out whether or not you can get a work visa and save up enough money so you can live without working for about four weeks, but once you’re there, take some time to find your feet. Go explore different areas to figure out where you want to live and think about what your priorities are when it comes to a job and your lifestyle. Once you’ve done that, then get everything sorted.
Also, a sunny and warm Christmas is great, but it doesn’t beat a winter Christmas in the UK.
– Cam, moved to Melbourne in 2017
Inspired by our stories, learned from our mistakes (you definitely need to do more preparation than what we all did!) and are thinking of moving your career and yourself overseas? Get in touch with our team!
If you’re keen to learn about opportunities in the UK, reach out to our UK Managing Director, Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re thinking of moving your career to Australia, reach out to our team at email@example.com.