British Expat Living in Australia - Interview With Russell

Published: 13 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Australia
Russell is a British expat and writer living in Sydney by the ocean, who lived in Canada by mountains and snow, and now writes about his search for a different way of life on his blog, In Search of a Life Less Ordinary (see listing here). Russell left England in 2003 in pursuit of less stress, more emphasis on the great outdoors, and for a healthier and fuller way of living life. Moving to Vancouver then Ottawa, he eventually headed south to Australia with his wife and two dogs to a life in the beautiful harbour city of Sydney. He is currently based on Sydney's Northern Beaches where he works as a professional business writer.

Meet Russell - British expat in Australia
Meet Russell - British expat in Australia

Here's the interview with Russell...

Where are you originally from?
The south of England. I left in 2003 heading first to Vancouver then Ottawa, Canada, before settling in Australia in 2006.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm currently living in Sydney, Australia.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here for 7 years. I'm a strong believer in the phrase 'never say never' and we may move again one day but, for now, this is home.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to escape the hum drum 9-5 routine of my life in the UK at that time. I wanted to experience life rather than just live it and so went looking for a lifestyle surrounded by natural beauty and bursting with new experiences. I've worked in government for the past 9 years, both here in Australia and in Canada, and I'm currently in the process of setting up a professional writing business at which will hopefully launch in March 2013.

My wife and I in Sydney
My wife and I in Sydney
Did you bring family with you?
Yes, I set out on this expat adventure with my wife and two dogs. We recently welcomed the arrival of our son, Elliot.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
There are many similarities between Australia and the UK so it doesn't generally feel like a foreign country. However, subtle differences exist and adjusting to those took time and patience.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Given that my wife is Australian, it was relatively easy to make friends. We had a pre-existing community of family and friends here, which was of great support in those first few years. With several million Brits calling Australia home, it's not unusual to bump into other expats on a daily basis; however, I mainly meet expats through my blog,

The Northern Beaches
The Northern Beaches
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There are the obvious attractions to life in Sydney – the many pristine beaches on your doorstep, walks along the coastal paths, spending an afternoon on Sydney Harbour, kayaking around Pittwater on the Northern Beaches, exquisite seafood to be sampled at most waterfront restaurants. You really are spoilt for choice here.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The weather, the beach, the laid-back attitudes. Sydney gets the most fantastic weather on an almost daily occurrence which is hard to beat. Life by the beach is a unique and very special experience and one I'd thoroughly recommend. Living in Sydney is so far removed from the life I left behind in England so I don't take any of it for granted and try to savour every moment that we're here.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
It's expensive here. As the world's third most expensive city, Sydney's cost of living is sky-high. I always felt that life in the UK was fairly pricey but, after moving to Sydney, I quickly realised that life here would never be cheap.

A different kind of Xmas
A different kind of Xmas
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The distance from the UK is the most challenging aspect in terms of an inability to see UK-based family and friends on a regular basis, the frustrating high cost of travel back particularly at Christmas, and the time difference and far too frequent occurrences of middle-of-the-night sports viewing!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Do your homework. Understand the job market, the property market, get a feel for the different suburbs and where you might like to call home. Understand the culture and the people - they will be your friends and your neighbours so make sure they appeal to you. If possible, book a fact finding trip to witness firsthand the look and feel of a place. And be completely honest with yourself - this will be a huge move, it will put stress on your family relationships, and the first few years will be harder than you imagine in terms of going back to basics and starting over. Prepare yourself adequately and you'll be set for the adventure of your lifetime.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
In all honesty, the hardest aspect has probably been with adjusting to life in such a different climate and in the opposite hemisphere to my homeland. Everything is topsy turvy here - Christmas is in summer, Easter is in autumn, shrubs flower in winter, and so on - plus the extreme heat in the middle of summer has been challenging to deal with. But you do deal with it and you do find a way to cope and come out the other side a stronger and happier expat.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
If we ever returned home, I think I'd struggle. I've been away long enough to have changed within myself whilst others back home around me won't have changed. I think I would find that difficult to handle.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Leave your baggage behind - accept that you're not in your home country and try your best not to compare the new country to home.
  2. Get up to speed fast - on-the-ground, local knowledge has to be gained quickly to ease your transition.
  3. Ditch the guilt - make the decision to leave, believe in it, and find peace with that decision or face a future of uncertainty and unease.
  4. Observe - see what the locals do, how they do it, and then try to figure out why.
  5. Put yourself out there - do what you can to integrate and engage your hosts.

View of Long Reef, a local beach
View of Long Reef, a local beach
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started In Search of a Life Less Ordinary (see link below) with the aim of sharing my experiences and adventures in making a home away from home. I wanted to give family and friends back home the opportunity to learn about where I’d been and what I’d been up to, but I also wanted to share my experiences with others either thinking of moving, about to move, or now living as an expat overseas. If you have a passion for living a different way of life and treading a less ordinary path, then this blog is probably for you.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Follow my blog (see link below) for all my contact details. You can also find me on Twitter at @russellvjward.

Russell blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. In Search of a Life Less Ordinary has an listing here so add a fan comment if you like! Enjoy this interview with Russell, feel free to drop him a comment below.

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