Australia has for many years been one of the more popular expat destinations and indeed the Austrian authorities have been very keen to bring on-board skilled and unskilled workers to assist with a growing economy. Even though the Australian economy has started to flatten out with regards to growth, at least in the short to medium term, the authorities are still fairly keen to bring in as many skilled workers as possible. As a consequence, while the paperwork now required to move to Australia can be cumbersome and long-winded it is still a route which many people are looking to take.
In a recent research conducted by Expat Forum on behalf of Barclays International Banking, we will now take a look at the challenges faced by expats in Australia, how these challenges emerged and what we can expect in the future.
Loneliness (22.41% of the vote)
Anyone who has taken even the merest of glimpses at Australia will be well aware this is a vast country much of which is uninhabited and very desolate. However, those areas of Australia which are inhabited including the likes of Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth to name but a few have grown in size and attracted significant numbers of overseas visitors looking for a temporary and permanent home.
There are a number of trends emerging from our online poll which include loneliness becoming more evident as a major problem and a major issue. When you take into account the fact that Australia is perhaps one of the more vibrant and perhaps one of the more colourful countries around the world it may be difficult to associate this kind of culture and social life with loneliness. However, the truth is that if you’re uncomfortable in your surroundings or indeed you fail to integrate with the local community you could in many ways feel lonely in a crowded room.
If you’re looking to move overseas you need to appreciate that loneliness is likely to be an issue from day one and something which needs to be addressed and controlled. Sitting in the house for hours and hours looking after children, looking after the house or indeed waiting for employment opportunities will literally drive you mad. In order to alleviate at least one issue which will no doubt attract you when moving to a foreign land you need to get yourself out and about and find new friends and new social circles.
In many ways loneliness is down to a lack of confidence and a lack of somebody to talk to about issues and problems you may have. If you allow these problems and issues to grow they will move from being fairly innocuous to potentially life changing. Loneliness can also place pressure on other areas of your everyday life which can and has seen many people return home very quickly. If you’re moving overseas with a partner or even a group of family members then each and every member needs to appreciate the other. There will be times when everybody is lonely, homesick and looking for somebody to talk to, and ensuring there is somebody there at the right time could literally save days, weeks and months of heartache in the future.
Cost of living (18.97%)
Over the last 50 years or so we have seen in major change in the Australian economy and major growth in the Australian jobs market. A significant number of employment positions in Australia have been taken up by expats looking to move to a new life and indeed while the cost of living was relatively low in the early days it has picked up over recent years. While it would be wrong to suggest that the Australian economy was undeveloped until recently, there is no doubt that there was enormous potential for further growth which has in many ways been realised in recent times. However, with a growing and changing economy comes a variety of positive and negative issues.
As Australia continued to attract more and more attention from skilled workers from overseas it became very apparent that the central employment hubs around the country were becoming more and more popular and property prices were rising. Over time this has had a significant impact upon the cost of living and while there is a lag between the transformations from an undeveloped economy to a developing economy there is no doubt that the cost of living is beginning to catch up. It is also worthwhile taking into account that Australia is relatively isolated in the middle of the ocean and the cost of transporting goods to and from the country is something which needs to be taken into account, possibly more than with any other country.
There are many employment hubs around Australia and while the cost of living in all high employment areas has increased it has not necessarily been on the same scale. Therefore, if you do your homework and look around there is every chance that you will find an area of Australia which will suit your skills, your budget and your expectations. You can also resource to an international bank account to make the most of your money abroad. Those who believe that Australia has limited growth in the medium to long term may well be surprised to learn that the country was one of the first to exit the worldwide economic slump just a few years ago. Whether the country will be as quick to exit the ongoing worldwide slump remains to be seen because many believe this could last for years if not decades.
As with any country in which you are looking to make a new life you need to do your homework, you need to compare the cost of living, you need to take into account your finances and ultimately you need to decide whether you can afford the move. Experts at the wealth and investment management division of Barclays have put together a useful guide to banking in Australia that is worth taking a look at. If there is financial pressure from day one then there is every chance that this could, and for many people has, spoiled their experience of the country. Australia still has much to offer but you need to keep your eyes open, be realistic and choose the best lifestyle and the best area for you.
Cultural differences (8.62%)
Cultural differences in Australia are very much in vogue at the moment with a number of Indian expats suggesting that racism had begun to rear its ugly head. While the authorities have been very quick to condemn any acts of racism and indeed they have clamped down very quickly on instances of cultural friction, in many ways the damage has already been done. Many of the local Australian newspapers have been carrying stories of alleged racism across the country although this is a surprise to many people when you bear in mind that the Australian population contains a very high level of immigrants.
Interestingly with regards to the expat community it is New Zealand which has attempted to benefit from the ongoing difficulties between some expat communities and the domestic Australian community. A number of expats who had originally been looking to move to Australia have now veered down a very different path and New Zealand is fast becoming another consideration. This is not to say that New Zealand has never been a consideration for the expat community but the damage from the alleged racism fallout continues to impact upon the image of Australia.
In many ways Australia has been a victim of its own success because the traditional Australian culture is still seen around the world in TV programmes and documentaries when in reality it is very different to what it was 50 years ago. The Australian population are far more racially tolerant, the authorities have clamped down upon instances of friction and indeed some believe that the Australian image of “straight talking” has not helped a difficult situation. However, recent events have brought the subject of racism and cultural differences into the mainstream discussion arena which in the long run must be a very positive move.
Despite allegations of cultural differences and racism across Australia there is no doubt that the country will remain a very prominent and a very popular destination for many expats. In many ways it has everything with the weather, employment and a laid-back lifestyle (something which is often overdone on the TV). The authorities have been very keen to offer some form of protection to expat groups living in Australia and indeed the demand for skilled labour, even in these difficult economic times, is still there. There may have been some collateral damage to the Australian image in the short term but for many people this will not be long-lasting.
Relationship problems (6.90%)
When you consider a move to any country around the world and starting a new life with a very close-knit group of people it is no surprise to see that relationship problems do rear their heads on a regular basis. While many people will be alarmed to learn of potential relationship problems and relationship pressures when moving overseas, let’s not forget that these issues were still very prominent in everyday life in your former homeland!
In some ways the problem may well be exacerbated for those looking to move to Australia purely and simply because of the distance from the vast majority of countries around the world, such as the UK for example. The need to travel halfway around the world, leave friends and family behind and begin life in a new country is always going to be difficult and something which needs enormous consideration and enormous thought. However, those looking to move to Australia need to ensure that each and every member of the party is 110% behind the move and they are all “pulling in the same direction”. If one or more members are not fully committed to the move and problems do occur, as you would expect in the early days, this can ramp up the pressure on any relationship.
The ability and the need to talk, talk, talk is something which is often forgotten in the modern world but is something which can help to avoid many issues. Even if there are issues which need to be addressed it is better to have these out in the open at a very early stage rather than sit back, let them stew and become bigger issues in the future. Relationship problems can also be encountered if you are unable to create your own social circle at a very early stage when landing in Australia. With the best will in the world it is unhealthy for two people, or a group of people, to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. We all need a break, we all need a change, we all need friends and we all need to be aware of this.
The issue of healthcare is never far behind the likes of the cost of living, loneliness and relationship problems. Again, for those moving from the UK there is often a common misconception that you will be moving to a like for like situation. The truth is that the UK NHS service is unique and wherever and whenever you move overseas you will need to look at the issue of private healthcare at a very early stage. Depending upon your requirements, your budget and the size of the party moving overseas with you there will be something to suit your requirements. In case you decide to keep your current health care policy and upgrade it to get you and your relatives covered, it will be useful to have access to an international bank account that allows you to do regular payments when abroad, including your insurance’s fees.
Unfortunately there are some people who look at healthcare, and in particular private healthcare insurance, as an optional extra when looking to move to a new country. Those looking to save a few pounds by not taking out any healthcare insurance may well live to regret that move later on in life! If you are left uncovered for healthcare in many countries around the world you could literally be looking at a bill in the thousands of pounds. When you consider that a move overseas, wherever you are, will be expensive in its own right, do you really need the added risk of additional expenditure?
Healthcare cover should be something that you look at before moving overseas or at the very worst straightaway upon landing in your new homeland. Do not leave this unattended because you never know when you will need medical treatment and for just a few pounds a month you could literally save yourself some tremendous headaches in the future!
Other issues (39.66%)
For some reason the online poll has attracted a rather large number of spurious issues with regards to expats in Australia. Of the numerous additional reasons put forward by those who entered our online poll it is perhaps only the subject of “happiness” which is one that we can discuss.
Happiness is a rather vague expression although there was no doubt that anybody looking to move overseas should be looking to move to a happier lifestyle. Issues which can affect happiness include finances, loneliness, cost of living and employment to name but a number of potential pitfalls. In simple terms, if your new life is not as good or better than your current life then should you really be moving?
Australia is a country which has for many years been the centre of many expat movements because of the authority’s willingness to appreciate and encourage skilled workers to move to the country. While the rate of immigration has slowed somewhat over the last few years, as the economy has begun to mature, there is no doubt that the authorities are still very much on the lookout to increase the quality and the depth of the Australian workforce.
For some reason this particular poll attracted a number of spurious reasons and comedy answers which is a little disappointing to say the least. However, on a more serious note loneliness, cost of living, cultural differences, relationship problems and healthcare are very much on the minds of many expats. The truth is that trouble with any one of the above potential issues can have a devastating impact upon your new life as a whole and also carry over into other potential problem areas. Therefore it is vital that you keep yourself fully aware of issues which may impact upon your quality and your standard of living and also ensure that all parties are “pulling in the same direction”.
It is interesting to see that the recent accusations of racism citied by some of the ethnic expat communities in Australia have hit the headlines because Australia has for many years attracted and encouraged the immigration of skilled workers from around the world. The authorities have been very quick to clamp down upon these alleged issues as they can have a damaging impact upon the image and worldwide standing of the country as a whole. However, many people believe that these accusations will have no impact upon the medium to long-term attraction which Australia still has for many people and the number of expats looking to move to the country will continue to remain buoyant.
Australia is a country which has moved from a developing to a developed economy over the last 50 years and a country which is very much part of the international trading community. The cost of living may have increased in line with the buoyant economy but many believe the prospects of further financial and economic prosperity for the region remain very much at large.