Swiss Expat Living in Australia - Interview with Sandra

Published: 4 Nov at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Australia
A Momma's View is about a Swiss now living on the big island of Australia and writing about her journey as a homeschooling mother, a wife, a woman, an expat and her thoughts about life in general. Sandra's expat blog is called A Momma's View (see listing here)

Uluru from above
Uluru from above

Here's the interview with Sandra...

Where are you originally from?
I grew up and to this point lived most of my life in the German part of Switzerland.

In which country and city are you living now?
Today I call Australia home and love Melbourne as it provides me with all four seasons, sometimes packed into one day.

How long have you lived in Australia and how long are you planning to stay?
We have moved to Down Under in 2006. Sometimes I can't believe we are already here for 10 years. We had a great time so far and love it here. I guess that's why time went by so fast. We always hoped that we can stay for good and today I can say that this is no longer a dream as in May 2015 we received our Australian Citizenship.

There is actually snow in Australia and the skiing is not too bad either
There is actually snow in Australia and the skiing is not too bad either
Why did you move to Australia and what do you do?
Both, my husband and I have been to Australia on multiple occasions, for leisure but also for work and always loved it here. We both also always felt we did not really belong to Switzerland. Don't get me wrong, Switzerland is an amazing and beautiful country. But for some reason we both always felt we should be somewhere else. Somewhere bigger, somewhere with more space. So we got the opportunity and took it. Moved our little son and our dog and some of our belongings over the pond and settled in in no time. Australia and us... we just connected.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes. We moved as a family, my husband, myself and our little son. And then we were joined by our daughter only a short time after having moved.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I think you never really grasp what such a move is truly all about. You think that once the visa is organized and the boxes are packed and on their way most of the work is done. Truth is: It only starts there. Organizing your drivers license, phone, electricity, accommodation, bank accounts, medicare and so on is a journey in itself as often there is a history, a record necessary for you to get it. You need a financial record to rent a place, bills or so, but of course you only moved so you have nothing to show as what you've done back in Switzerland doesn't really count. And so on. So you have to find ways to make it happen and that takes time. I guess the transition from Switzerland to Australia was a fairly easy one. For one we both have been here before and "knew" the country a little bit. But then it's also very similar to Switzerland and the European way of living and organizing things. It's not as if we would have moved to an entirely different culture.
Of course living in a country will always be different than just traveling it. You only see its true face once you are actually dealing with all the daily necessities.

Then of course it's not just about organizing the necessities. It's also about building a new network.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
When we moved we didn't move for a job. We weren't moved by a company and then introduced to their network and guided along. We moved on our own. My husband did an MBA and that's how we got here. So we had to start from scratch. I guess we were lucky as the intake he was part of were from all over the world and so everyone was in the same boat. Most of them also moved with their partners and so we, the partners, got together and met each other. It helped heaps. Although we lived spread out over the city we all knew that there were people we could reach out to as they all were in the same boat.
For me, making new connections comes easy and I guess when you are out and about with a toddler and a dog you always have something to start off a conversation. But it's definitely something you need to make yourself aware of: They don't wait for you to show up and come into their lives. They have their network and their structure. You have to reach out and make the first steps. You left your routine, your structure and your network behind and it's up to you to build the new one up.
I've seen many expats over the years. Some made an effort some just floated along. I think no matter how long you're planning on staying here, you can't just count down the days till you go home. You just miss out on too much and you will find it hard. You will end up feeling lonely and homesick because you will not find people who "carry" you. It happens, you know. Some move and they know they are only here for say 2 years and they decide to not let themselves settle as they will leave again anyway. But while they are here and try hard not to settle and connect too much, they feel very lonely. Don't do that to yourself. No matter for how long you live in a country treat it as if you are there forever and build your network, make real friends, let yourself grow roots. It might hurt when you leave but you will have gained something as well.
Short answer to the question: Yes, I found it easy to make new and very good friends and they are all sorts of groups. Expats on their way through, Australians who have lived abroad, Australians and expats just like us who have made Australia their home for good.

One of Australia's many beautiful beaches
One of Australia's many beautiful beaches
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Melbourne has so much to offer. It's just a fantastic city. I love the little lanes and I would definitely recommend everyone to do some of the walks suggested in Lonely Planet. There are actually guided walks by locals and they are for free. Do it! They will tell you a lot about the history of the buildings and whatever goes on at the moment. It's just the perfect way to get to know your new city.
Then of course there are lots of sport events here too and there are tours which take you in and around all the major stadiums and grounds.
Then of course there are great little day trips you can do. Wineries to discover, hikes to do. There is an amazing Wildlife Park about an hour drive away where you can get up close and personal with Australia's wildlife. Great place to go. Head out to Philip Island to see the little penguins colonies. I truly can't list all the amazing things to do. The area is just so beautiful and has so much to offer. Embrace it, go on an adventure, ask locals what they'd suggest and just venture out!

What do you enjoy most about living in Australia?
The diversity of the country. The hot and cold we get in our area. The diversity of food that comes so natural as the cultures living here are diverse as well. The pulse of the city. The enthusiasm and the "she'll be right" attitude. Gosh, I just love it here :-)

How does the cost of living in Australia compare to home?
Yeah... oh... you got me... Switzerland is an expensive country. But honestly, Australia is even more. Not sure why but everything seems to be more expensive here. So let's just leave it at that because otherwise I will never stop...

Melbourne's skyline
Melbourne's skyline
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Australia?
None but the fact that everything is more expensive here than anywhere else...

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Australia, what would it be?
Embrace it. Everything. The ups and downs, the adventure and the challenges. Open yourself up to it, make the most of it. Take it with a smile. If you approach it in such a way, you will have a great time and Australia will embrace you.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I know that everyone else now would write missing family and friends. I understand that. It's not me though. I admit that it would be nice to have some of my friends from back home here or at least closer sometimes but on the other side it allowed me to really dive in and make new friends instead of hanging on.
Personally the hardest part was when it came down to figuring out how to be able to stay in the country for good and not knowing if we would be able to. Getting the Permanent Residency Visa is not an easy task. So those weeks and months in limbo were hard.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
As I've mentioned we are now at the point of no return. We will not move back. We were always hoping to be able to stay. We've just been back earlier this year and it was only the third time since we moved away. It was interesting and it proved that staying here is the right decision. It just didn't feel like home anymore. It was just like being a tourist in one of the tourist places meeting some of the locals again. There was a huge detachment from everything. Not from my friends, don't get me wrong, but from a general point of view. Detachment from the local sport team that was so close to my heart. Detachment from the politics, from the issue the ski resort faces, from the development (or not) it went through. I just didn't look at it the same way as I did when we were back last or still lived in Switzerland. I truly saw it as a tourist. I think I see Switzerland through the eyes of a tourist now. You love it, you care of it but it doesn't really bother you that much if certain things don't go the way they want them to go in Switzerland.

Only one of Sydney's wonderful sights: The Harbour Bridge
Only one of Sydney's wonderful sights: The Harbour Bridge
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be aware that the transition is not done by only moving there.
  2. Embrace it! Dive into the adventure with all your heart.
  3. It's a different country and you are now a guest in this country. Things are done differently. Accept it.
  4. Remember that most of the people you will meet are locals. Maybe they have moved cities or states but they have not moved country and cultures. They are used to the system and have their network. They didn't wait for you to arrive (although they are most likely happy to have you here). You have to put in an effort not them.
  5. Try to make as much out of your stay as possible. See as much of the country as you can, make new friends, learn about the history and culture. It's a great gift to have and it will make your life so much richer.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Although I write about my expat adventure it's probably not your typical expat blog. It's more of a Swiss woman, wife, homeschooling mom, think-about-everything-and-want-to-write-about-it blog.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Please do get in touch! I'm happy to help and give you some pointers on what to do and how to get organized (especially if you are moving with children).

Just email me! [email protected]

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSandra is a Swiss expat living in Australia. Blog description: My thoughts about homeschooling, health and fitness, being an expat, kids and just life in general. My personal Lifestyle Blog!
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