Of all the family, it’s fair to say that Mrs CBRbound is the most home-loving. And when I say home, I mean Britain, because that’s what it will always be to her. So it was with curiosity and not the occasional lump in my throat that I read her thoughts on our big move and what it has meant to her.
What did you think when you first heard us talk about moving to Canberra?
I thought, as long as it’s by the sea, hot all year round, and I can find a job, then I don’t mind where it is.
What did you think about it after we had visited Canberra?
Okay, so there wasn’t a beach in sight, and it wasn’t boiling hot – but I was pleasantly surprised. Canberra had a nice feel to it. It didn’t have the feel of a big capital city. It was easy to get around, no congestion, no toll roads, and no nose-to-bumper traffic jams. All in all, I thought it was a beautiful city, surrounded by big skies and mountains; a ‘young’ city, full of opportunities with plenty of open space and family-friendly suburbs. And it seemed to offer jobs galore.
What was the most exciting thing about moving?
There was a lot of excitement in our house during the lead-up to the move. The boys would talk about the kangaroos they were going to chase, the boomerangs they would learn to throw, the Aussie twang they would develop in their accents, while we would focus on all the positive things and just enjoy the charm of their youth and innocence. We tried not to focus on the things they (or we) would miss, but more on the opportunities that lay ahead – and this meant that the whole move experience became exciting for us all.
What was the scariest/saddest thing?
Leaving behind a lifetime of friends and family. Selling a house we loved, in a country where we had spent 10 very happy years, and putting 15,000km between ourselves and everything that was familiar. Also scary was the notion of ‘starting over’ and constantly wondering and worrying if we were doing the right thing. What if we hated it? What if the children didn’t settle? What if we wanted to go home?
What was difficult about the process of moving to Australia?
The months prior to the move were meticulously planned. We had a check-list covering everything from packing the house, taking care of the dog’s various vaccinations, selling the cars, goodbye events, redirecting mail, all while still trying to maintain a level of normality to everyday life. And all the goodbyes. They were hard. They made it feel very real.
What did you think when you first arrived?
That moment the plane touched down I thought, ‘This is it. This is us. We’re here.’ The years of talking, dreaming and planning had now reached a point of reality. We were very busy when we first arrived. We had a house to settle into, a car to pick up, medical stuff to sort out, school uniforms to buy, a job to find – There was a lot to take our mind off ‘missing home’, and it was all new and exciting.
Did it take you a long time to feel at home here?
I think we are still trying to feel at home here, in many ways. This is our new life now, but it’s still ‘new’. The house we are renting became more of a home once all our belongings, (and the dog) arrived, but I think our real home will emerge once we buy our own place. Once we have somewhere to call our own, somewhere we can put pictures on the walls, and decorate to our own taste.
Can you think of one of the first things that made you feel at home here?
Soon after we arrived, our lovely friends from Melbourne turned up laden with items to help us settle-in. With our own furniture not due to arrive for a few more weeks, they brought us beds, linen, a TV, sofa, kitchenware and everything we needed to make life easier. And more than that, they brought us friendship and a promise to always be there for us if we needed them. Without their help, kindness and generosity, those first few weeks certainly would have been so much tougher.
Can you think of anything you found difficult at first?
Salad on Christmas Day, in 30 degrees. That was difficult to digest!
What else? A year down the line, it’s hard to remember the challenges, but there were plenty. The paperwork for one. I recall that we couldn’t get a bank card until we had a Medicare card. We couldn’t get our driving licences changed without a Medicare card. We couldn’t even get a mobile phone contract without a Medicare card. It seemed this ‘Medicare card’ was a big form of ID that we would need straight away. So we went to get a Medicare card – but to apply, we needed a tax file number. What ??!! It was like going round in circles just trying to get started!
What have been the best bits about moving to Canberra?
We’ve had a year of exploring and discovering. New people, new places, a new culture. It’s been a great year. We’ve met lots of lovely people and visited some truly beautiful places, and I’ve found a job which I’m really quite enjoying. Seeing the boys settle into school, make new friends, experience different sports – that’s been great. And, for me, the lack of any language barrier has enabled me to fulfil a long-term ambition of signing up for guitar lessons (It might sound like I’m playing in a foreign language though, but I’m getting there).
What were the worst things – were they the things you expected?
The cold winter, and feeling homesick. We were warned that Canberra can get pretty cold in the winter. It’s true, it does get quite cold, especially during the night when temperatures often drop below zero. But the temperature isn’t the main problem. The lack of decent insulation in the buildings has been a shocker (it’s the one time in life I’d probably welcome a ‘double glazing salesman’ knocking at the door!) When you’re cold, you just want to be ‘home’, but home often felt a long way away and I missed my family and friends so much. I still do, but it’s summer now, and that helps a little.
What advice would you give to anyone whose family is planning to move here?
I was say ‘go for it’. Life is an adventure, and Canberra is full of opportunities for everyone, young or old. DO NOT get rid of your warm clothing thinking that you won’t need it again – you will! Try and plan ahead as much as you can before you arrive. Fortunately I have a very organised husband who ensured we had a car ready to pick up, a house ready to walk into, and a bank account in place when we touched down in Canberra. Remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s just fertilised in a different way. Be prepared to miss people, and to have days where you could easily hop on the next plane home. But, when that happens, try to remember all the reasons you came here in the first place.
What are you looking forward to in your second year in Canberra?
There’s a lot to look forward to. We’ve barely scratched the surface of all that Canberra has to offer. I’ve already got a list of concerts I’d like to see, theatre shows to go to, wine regions to explore, events to attend. Oh, and that small task of finding a house to buy! But above all, I’m looking forward to new adventures with my beautiful family, a couple of trips home to those I love and miss, and hopefully to welcoming a few overseas visitors to come and share our little bit of new-found paradise too.