Moving to Melbourne – our most frequently asked questions

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have this blog as a space where people from around the world can get in touch with me with their questions about the emigration process and I’ve made some very good friends along the way. It’s become an absolute blessing to be able to help people facilitate their move and what’s really special is seeing them make their dreams come true when they land. It’s also given me a good handle on what it is that people want to know either before they make the decision to leave their home country or after they’ve arrived so I’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had.

How did you chose a location?

Just an hours drive south east from Melbourne city is an area cushioned by crystal blue sea and filled with coastal cafes, rare restaurants and wineries known as the Mornington Peninsula. The region is also the place we chose to settle when we left Manchester and after almost two years of acclimatizing, it is starting to feel like ‘home’.

People often ask us why we chose to bring our children to live in this part of the world, probably because Australia has a similar land mass to Europe so the possibilities of where  we could have settled was immense. But having spent a year traveling Australia in 2007, both Ste and I knew that  there was nowhere else on the planet we would rather raise our children.

Before we left the UK, we would spend hours on YouTube watching little films about the Mornington Peninsula “ooo’ing” and “aaaah’ing” at drone footage over sand and surf while the kids shouted “oh can we do that?” as we watched people swim with dolphins, run on beaches and – for me – sit outside wineries enjoying the locally made beverages! It had to be somewhere really special for us to leave England behind because despite the usual complaints we had about the cold weather and dark days of winter, we were happy. It wasn’t ‘broken’ so I didn’t feel a need to ‘fix it’, which meant for me the move had to be an enhancement of the wonderful world we’d already spent our lifetimes creating.

Cue a very good friend of mine that came into my life when we lived in Hawthorn ten years ago – Dayna. Dayna told us how beautiful life on the Peninsula  part of Melbourne is and how it’s a perfect place to raise a family. We knew we wanted to live near the beach (there’s no point moving from one urban area to another, right?) but the practicalities of house prices along the coast were completely unattainable the closer to the city they were. Traveling down the coast and away from the CBD, house prices seemed to decrease slightly so it made sense to us to head that way and rent a home in an area that would be affordable for us to buy in one day. That was if we chose to stay.

How did you find a place to live when you first arrived?

We rented through Air BnB for four weeks, which allowed us just enough time (by the skin of our teeth!) to acquire a job, a long term rental and furniture to fill it with. I wouldn’t recommend shipping furniture as the thousands of pounds that it costs to do it, plus the price of renting somewhere furnished while you wait for the cargo to arrive (which takes around three months) will potentially cost more than buying it after you arrive. If you don’t want to buy brand new there is Gumtree, local Facebook pages and the usual free ads filled with everything you will need to furnish your new home when you’re here.

What about the cost of living?

I can’t speak for anywhere else in the country as I can only go off my own experiences and that’s of Melbourne, but it seems to me that the ‘Australian Dream’ consisting of coming over here to improved job prospects, smaller commutes to work leading to an improvement in family time and owning a house with a pool near the beach, is very much over. With the prices rising as quickly as they are at the current rates, becoming a home owner in this city is moving further and further from our reach and I suspect that of the majority of people who move to Melbourne now.

Jobs prospects on the Mornington Peninsula are very much dependant on your vocation, but for the majority of people, working means a commute to the city and a three hour round trip. For us this has meant Ste’s working days have increased in their duration and he no longer has as much time to spend at home as he did back in Manchester (which could be a good thing for him some days!) It’s definitely fair to say the added longevity of days for both of us plus the loss of support from family that used to allow us time-out together now and again has definitely impacted on our energy and stress levels! See Seek.com.au for jobs advertised throughout the country.

With a growth rate of approximately 16% per year, the house prices have increased dramatically since we arrived in Melbourne in 2016. We chose to rent as we weren’t sure how long we would be staying here but if we had bought a house when we landed, it would have cost us a huge portion less than the same house would cost us to buy today. The average house price in Melbourne really differs between suburbs but the median of the city is estimated at $826,000, which is almost three times the average price of a house in Manchester.

It sounds phenomenal (and it is) but when you compare that to the average annual household income of both cities (Manchester is estimated at $41,000/£24,000 and Melbourne at $81,000/£47,000 according to the 2016 Census) you can work out for yourself if you think the higher prices here are in proportion to the higher wages. The cost of living came as a massive shock when we landed and found ourselves paying over three times the price in rent for a three bedroom home as our mortgage payments were on a house of the same dwelling size in Manchester. A great place to compare prices of houses throughout Australia is RealEstate.com.au.

According to website Numbeo.com, the cost of food is also an average of 32% higher in Australia than it is in the U.K with bread averaged at 80% more costly and simple salad items such as lettuce a whopping 100% more expensive. Utilities such as internet is up 70% and the cost of your average monthly train travel ticket is up over 30% also. The price of petrol is the only thing we’ve found to be cheaper at 33% lower, which helps with the larger areas of land you have to travel to get from one place to another though the cost of buying a car is estimated at over 20% higher.

How about schooling?

We’ve found a lot of differences between the school systems in the two countries, but for us the main one with three children aged five and under when we arrived, was the age that school starts in this part of Australia. In England the age a child starts school is the September following their fourth birthday, whereas in Victoria children are expected to start school the year they turn five. The school year starts in January with the six week summer holidays encompassing Christmas allowing families to make the most of the beautiful summer sunshine and the year is divided into four terms, with no half term holidays.

Before primary school starts, kindergarten is where children can go for two years from age three, but the first year is not supplemented by the government and costs around $2,000 for five hours per week. For us this means a lot of money as we have twins to pay for so it is up to the individual to work out if it’s an affordable option for them. When a child turns four (depending on their visa type) they may be eligible for some support to help with the fees, which is around the same amount but gives them 15 hours of care. In England, all children are entitled to 570 free hours of childcare per year, which is usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks from the term after a child turns three. This is obviously a massive difference to take into account when budgeting for a move down under with young children. See here for more info.

I think I need to also mention the size of schools here. I can only speak from my own experience, but I have always found the primary schools in England to be fairly small with most activities taking place within the class room. Primary schools here in Melbourne remind me of British high schools due to their immense size (Ariana’s school has over 700 pupils) with facilities such as sport, art, science and language departments. We have been really impressed by the school we chose for our daughter and the opportunities to learn and play it has given to her but I do worry that navigating such a huge space from such a young age could be overwhelming for some kids.

There is also a real sense of ‘trust’ within the community as some schools here in Victoria have little to no security at their perimeters. Gates are wide open all day, sometimes leading onto busy highways and anyone can walk in or out without the need to ask for permission. This has been a massive shock to me and I have worried a lot about the problems this lack of protection of the kids that this system can bring but I’m learning to live with it!

Another element to the school system worth noting is the Victorian state government’s ‘No Jab No Play’ policy that came into place in 2015, which prohibits the enrollment of unvaccinated children in Victorian childcare services (not including primary or secondary schools). The extra vaccinations on top of the British schedule for a child moving to Victoria includes Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B. Failure to comply with the law will result in not only a refusal of education but to any potential financial support from the government also. For more information visit avn.org.au.

Missing home

If you’re lucky enough to have lived a life filled with family and friends, there’s no doubt that starting a new life in a foreign country will leave you feeling a loss like grief at times. There’s so many wonderful ways to keep in touch with everyone via social media and apps, but nothing compares to having the familiarity only a family can bring particularly when raising young children. I feel really lucky to have lived all my life without experiencing emotions such as loneliness and loss until now, and that certainly is an element of emigration that seems to be sticking around.

We had the over optimistic notion that we would be able to visit England regularly after we moved to Australia, however the cost of flights for our family of five means we need to save around $800 per month to make an annual visit. You can figure out from there, even if we want to do it bi-yearly, we’d still need to save $100 per week, which just isn’t do-able at this stage in our lives. You can see from our blog posts here and here that we did make the trip in October last year and how wonderful it was to be reunited with everyone who’s made such an effort to stay in our lives since we moved away but the grueling journey and financial hit has meant that we can’t do it again for a while. Saying goodbye to people for potentially another two or three years is heartbreaking to do and it’s the same financial burden for family and friends to visit Australia too.

How easy is it to make friends?

Making friends is something that needs to take time and I would really recommend getting established in a community that makes you feel comfortable being the first step. From there, it’s easy to meet new people either through work or the kids schools and hobbies and we have been really lucky to have met some wonderful people over the past couple of years. There is so much to do here in Melbourne and everywhere we go is so child-friendly, we have had so much fun with the gorgeous families that have come into our lives and having a support network again has made us feel more at home than ever before. Most of pictures in this particular post were taken at one of our favourite places here in the Peninsula – The Briars, which is just one example of the endless activities available for families to enjoy.

So, I’ve tried to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked most regularly here and I hope it can be of some help for some of you that are considering making the move to Melbourne. I’m always happy to answer questions through here and my facebook and Instagram pages, so please feel free to send me a message if there’s anything else you’d like to know. I’ll add to this list again very soon.

If you found this post useful, you might like more from our new Emigration page (linked in the title bar above) and please share this page with anyone you think could benefit from the information.

Love from Leyla

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