Vivienne and family in Australia

Talking Point: Does life Down Under really beat life in the UK?

When Vivienne Dockerty’s daughter decided to emigrate to Australia with their grandchild, Vivienne and her husband decided to sell up and move Down Under to be closer to their family as well as take full advantage of the glorious sunshine and Aussie way of life… So why have they decided to return to the UK for good? Here Vivienne tells her story


Vivienne and family in AustraliaWhen my daughter and her husband decided to emigrate to Australia, naturally we were devastated. We were very close to our little grandson, having looked after him while his parents worked, so within a month of them leaving, after only being able to speak to them on a badly performing Skype, we too decided that we would put our house up for sale and move to Adelaide.

No matter that we’d never been to the place, knew nothing about Australia other than they had koalas and kangaroos, we missed them so much, we would have lived in Iceland if that was their choice.

We set off first on a voyage of discovery, after doing our homework on parent visas, house ownership and medical care, via the Australian immigration website. After twenty four hours of uncomfortable journeying, we found ourselves in a huge queue at Adelaide airport, awaiting scrutiny by a drug buster dog and eagle eyed personnel at Customs, but within an hour we were in the arms of our excited daughter and our adorable grandson, then driving away to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal.

Sun, Sea and Sand...It was great looking out of the car window at the sunshine dappling on the sapphire sea, sandy beaches, lush green hills in the distance and a feeling of space. And had I just seen a pelican sitting on a riverbank? Wow. Everything we saw was a huge revelation, although we were a bit disappointed when we saw graffiti everywhere.

When we got to the rental house it was like walking into an ice box. Although on reflection, we supposed it had to be cool inside, in an effort to combat the heat of the summers in Adelaide which can get as high as 40 degrees, but did everywhere have to be green or white? Even the bedroom furnishings were a cool green, carpets, as well as the duvet, with white venetian blinds on the window and a green painting on the wall. This was our accommodation for our two month holiday. Brrr!

The landlady had left us a substantial Welcome Pack, so we had some lunch, then got our heads down for an afternoon nap. Later we went walkabout, breathing in the beautiful smell from the eucalyptus trees, watched a bit of Aussie telly, then headed off to shiver in our double bed.

Next morning we went to look at some show houses in a place called Seaford, as because we were non-residents we had to buy a new house, so that the existing housing stock was still available for Aussie buyers. That was fair enough, we thought, feeling flush with money, as the exchange rate was in our favour, giving two dollars fifty for each English pound and, we’d heard before we left the U.K that we’d got a buyer for our house. We felt excited, today was the beginning of the rest of our life.

The development was on the side of a hill and most houses on the first phase had a view or glimpses of the sea, but we were told by the agent there that all the houses were sold and it would be a few months before more land would be released. Our spirits fell, as we wanted to have our house sale done and dusted before we went back to the U.K. She suggested that we went further south to a place called Aldinga, as there was a huge housing development being built.

As we drove through the picturesque area of the Willunga Basin, travelling along an old country road, with fields of wheat, olive trees and grapevines and, in the distance grassy covered hills, we felt at home. The place was tranquil and although our daughter warned us that we would be out in the sticks and might feel isolated, we didn’t really care. We found a house, open plan and three bedrooms, but as it wasn’t new and there wasn’t time to be involved with the Foreign Investment Bureau, we put it in our daughter’s name.Vivienne's Grandson in Australia

Nine months on we left our native shores, sad to leave our friends and extended family, but everyone had the offer of a free holiday.

We had a great time buying furniture, taking walks along the beach, sightseeing and having our grandson to stay, as this was our great adventure and we were where we wanted to be. We joined a local church, where we were made welcome by the congregation, our daughter introduced us to other Brits and, most of all we had another grandchild. For the first few months life was golden, but don’t they say the grass is always greener…? Suddenly things began to niggle and nothing seemed to be as we thought.

It all started when the land across the road was built on and suddenly we had hordes of noisy children playing games in front of our drive. Skateboards hurtled along the road, trampolines appeared in every garden, then the quiet young men who lived next door decided to rent out their house to a family and return to the city where they worked. The development became a place for young families and not for couples who were getting on a bit.

During this time, we were waiting for our parent’s visas. Initially we were on a tourist visa and as the time got nearer for it to expire, we were suddenly faced with the dilemma of going back to the U.K . We had our $30,000 apiece ready, which would buy us into Medicare, all we needed was the nod from immigration, travel to an offshore country such as Singapore and have our passports validated! Our time to leave got nearer and panic began. We took a trip to the city, hoping we could get some advice from the local immigration office, as ours was in Perth. They were less than helpful, saying we had to return to the U.K and wait.

We felt angry. Here we were with the money waiting in an Aussie bank; we’d bought a house and car, contributing to the Australian economy and dare I say it, other people were being allowed in for free! Okay, you have to feel sorry for asylum seekers, but not all are genuine refugees. I decided to send an email to the offshore visa place.

Vivienne Sampling the Austraian Way of LifeIt appeared that there was a list and we were half way up it, but because some contributory parents were having difficulty selling their houses in the U.K in order to fund their application, we had shot up it. If we could make arrangements to have medicals, police checks and lodge $14,000 dollars with Centre Link in case we fell on hard times, it was likely that we would get our permanent visas soon. Whew!
So by the middle of June, nine months after we had moved from the U.K, we became permanent residents of Australia, after having a nice little holiday in Singapore while we waited for validation and we had a party to celebrate.

Then one day we met an estate agent, who suggested we have a look at some of the houses that he was selling and he would handle ours. That sounded great and this time we would look for a place where there were no aggravating children. We had plenty of time to look, because if Real Estate in Adelaide was anything like the U.K, we’d have a long time to wait before moving. This time though we couldn’t buy just any house we wanted, because the exchange rate was beginning to bite into our income, i.e $40,000 had been reduced to $25.000. Suddenly there was a sharp descent in the value of our pound.
We began to look at the cost of living in Adelaide. When we had left the U.K permanently our pension increases were frozen and with no reciprocal healthcare we couldn’t be ill. Yes, there are public hospitals here, but I believe there is a long wait for operations and most people if they can, choose private care. Payment has to be made to see a doctor (some of it returned), prescriptions paid for, as is dental, optical and ambulance cover and, to top it all the price of utilities goes up and up each year. And how can a tub of yogurt or a box of tea be one price one week and double the next, then down again the following week? And why is petrol cheap one day, up another and back down again a few days later? It made us think.

Then our estate agent gave us shock, as a few weeks later a young couple put down a deposit on our house. Christmas was two months away and we had booked a little holiday, suddenly we had four weeks only to find another place!

Sun, Sea and Sand...In hindsight, we were dazzled by this beautiful big house, but it cost every penny of our sale money and most of our savings. It’s on a main road and a long way from the church and where we lived before in Aldinga.

It wasn’t until we got back from holiday that we felt isolated. We appeared to have vanished from our new friends’ radar and began to feel rather vulnerable, especially with the increasing reports of crime.

To top it all, the woman from the rental house next door became a nuisance. On the day that she arrived on our doorstep to wish us well in our new home, we hadn’t realised she was a frequent visitor to the looney bin. She had a part time boyfriend, who would sit on her patio until well into the early hours, drinking, smoking and shouting. In the daytime she would tap us up for food or cigarettes and, when she wasn’t looking into our bedroom windows, she was using our driveway as a shortcut.

After a sleepless night from listening to the two of them wrangling, I told my husband that I wanted to move again. Naturally he wasn’t pleased and said that our next move would be back to Britain. “What are we doing here anyway?” he said. “After spending sixty years in England, all we do in this country is sit around waiting for a telephone call to look after the grandchildren.”

Sun Sets on their time in Australia...His words made me think and this is where the Whinging Pom comes in. We took for granted what we had in England, not realising what a beautiful place we lived in until we watched “Escape to the Country” on Aussie T.V. Why had we never visited those villages in the Cotswolds, or the wild coastlines of the north, the rugged hills of Scotland and the beautiful beaches in Wales? We’ve been too busy booking package tours to Spain and Cyprus, that’s why.
We took for granted the free N.H.S, when you could pick up the phone, make a doctor’s appointment or ask for an ambulance to call. Our retirement pensions, which okay might not be a fortune, could help us live quite comfortably. And the houses are warm, mainly thanks to the way they are built for a colder climate, with central heating and double glazing, something that is unheard of in Adelaide. The houses here are built for extreme heat conditions, but one forgets that the winters can get cold here too.

We are now back in the UK and looking forward to enjoying all that nice warm rain on our English holidays, not having to keep swatting pesky flies or watching out for white-tipped spiders, shopping at Asda, buying clothes at Marks and Spencer, visiting the doctor for free and able to think of money in sterling, as I never quite got used to that dollar thing. Okay, we’ll miss the grand-kids, but we can still come out for holidays and we’ll get a better Skype!

If you have enjoyed reading “ A Whinging Pom”, take a look at or to see Vivienne’s other stories.

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Jonathan Smith-Squire

Jon Smith-Squire is a reporter at Sell Your Story UK, The Magazine. A psychology graduate, he has a special interest in real life stories, human emotions and how we perceive the world around us.

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