1 August 2016

Annabel Symonds - Expat in Australia

Annabel Symonds - Expat in Australia

We’ve had the chance to talk to Ms. Annabel Symonds, 32, a British Expat living in Australia.

Ms. Symonds’s fate with Australia is a case of serendipity. Wanting to travel around the world for a change, she got to meet the love of her life, an Australian, during the trip and ended up moving to Sydney with him.

However, in 2014, Ms. Symonds’s working holiday visa had expired and she had to seek help from the immigration. She said, “We learnt I could come back into Australia on a Tourist Visa, then apply for a Defacto Partner Visa once the Tourist Visa had expired. Once I applied for the Defacto visa, I would automatically go onto a Bridging visa until the Defacto visa was granted. That meant I could work during the 12 months it would take for the approval.”

Job-searching also took a while, but Ms. Symonds is comfortably settled into her job and is now a marketing manager. Although cost of living is a tad high, Ms. Symonds says the higher pay helps to cover that. On the brighter side, she was delighted by the wide expat community, friendly locals, and scenic outdoor attractions. The wanderlust in her still stays, and Ms. Symonds is considering moving to South Africa one day.

Read more about Ms. Symonds’s experiences as an expat in Australia, in his full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from? What made you move out of your home country?

A: Originally from the UK, I was living in London and although I love that city, I got to a point where I needed a change. I felt like I was becoming one of those miserable people I saw everyday on the tube and I knew from that point on that I had to go and travel the world so I booked a six month round-the-world ticket in 2011.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: The round-the-world trip didn’t quite work out as planned. A month into the trip I met Steve, an Australian guy, while travelling in India at a Buddhist retreat. We fell in love and ended up continuing our travels together and then moved to his home town of Sydney.  It was all completely unexpected and although I had travelled to Australia back in 2006 for a year, I somewhat knew I would end up living in Sydney. Six years later, I had moved to Sydney with the love of my life.


Q: How long have you been living in Australia? What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in your host country?

A: I lived in Sydney for a year with Steve’s family on a working holiday visa. I had used my visa six years previously but because I did three months farm work, it entitled me to another year’s visa. You have to complete the second visa before your 31st birthday and at that time I was nearly 30. I knew I would probably never have another chance to live back in Sydney and because the dollar was so strong in 2012, it was the best country for us to live in.


We planned to stay a year to save for another trip around the world which we then left in 2013 and spontaneously came back in February 2014. We had planned to teach in Vietnam at the end of our trip but when we arrived, we knew it wasn’t for us and that Sydney was calling again.


After numerous calls to immigration, we learnt I could come back into Australia on a Tourist Visa, then apply for a Defacto Partner Visa once the Tourist Visa had expired. Because we had been living together for more than a year meant I could apply for this visa. Once I applied for the Defacto visa, I would automatically go onto a Bridging visa until the Defacto visa was granted. That meant I could work during the 12 months it would take for the approval. 

The most difficult experience I had was finding work. It can take a while, especially to get permanent work as employers were weary of my backpacking background thinking I wouldn’t be staying in Sydney long. There is a lot of competition for work here because there are more skilled people than jobs but I finally got a permanent job recently after months of working temporarily for various companies.

Learn More: Get Immigration Assistance through Visa First


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in your host country? What was your experience with these?

A: Australia has a health system called Medicare where Brits and other Europeans on WHV are able to claim free health care. Now on the Bridging visa, I too am able to claim this free health care which is very good.

Q: Are you living alone or with your family? How are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I am living with my boyfriend in our own flat at Sydney Harbour. There are many expats living in Sydney so it has been easy.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Australia? How did you manage to find a social circle in Australia?

A: Most British expats live in the popular area of Bondi but I don’t live in that suburb because I wanted to live around other Australian’s. Most of my friends are British though. They are either friends I met travelling or from school. People are incredibly friendly in Australia so it isn’t hard to make friends.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Sydney is an amazingly beautiful city. The weather is incredible here which is why there are so many things to do outdoors. I love the food, it’s amazing so I eat out a lot. There is a huge healthy eating environment in Sydney so it’s easy to find fresh, healthy food.

As a lover of fashion, the weekend markets are awesome where you can pick up some real bargains.

There are so many beaches to choose from and the best in my opinion are in The Royal National park just 30 minutes south of the city. They are deserted and absolutely stunning!

The Blue Mountains an hour and a half away are also incredible with the most stunning walk tracks around. It’s hard to believe you are so close to the city yet it feels like you are walking through a tropical rainforest. 


Q: How does the cost of living in Australia compared to your home?

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Coffee is around $3 in Sydney and in London would be around $5.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: $15 in Sydney, $8 in London

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: $40 in Sydney, $30 in London

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine in Sydney $45 - $60 in a pub, $25 in London. Cigarettes in Sydney at $30, $16 in London.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The locals are really friendly. It’s so nice walking into a shop and having a great conversation with a stranger, something you would never do in London.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Australia?

A: Positive: weather, salary, beaches, friendly people, food.

Negative: missing friends and family, it doesn’t have the buzz like London has, strict laws on drinking alcohol, police are very strict, TV is really bad, expensive cost of living, fashion is always really behind.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I do miss friends & family but you get used to it quickly. It’s easier nowadays because of social media and Skype. Skype is actually the best thing to deal with it because being able to have that interaction the other side of the world makes it a lot easier. You have to weigh up where you would rather live? It’s easy to remember only the good times but I know that when I have visited the UK in the last three years, I am always yearning to get back to the sunshine here.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Never say never is what I think! For now, this is the country I want to live in but it could change in five year’s time because there are so many countries out there. I have just come back from months of travelling through Africa and am interested in moving to South Africa one day.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: There hasn’t been anything that bad but I suppose it’s learning to accept that I can’t expect everything to be the same price as it is in England because things are generally more expensive here but the pay is higher in Sydney so it all works out OK.

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: Be open to make friends because it can be hard moving to a country where you don’t know anyone. You’ll find it easy once you put yourself out there.


If you are looking for houses to rent make sure you do the following because competition is fierce: if you find somewhere you like the look of, look round the area first and the outside of the property to get a feel for the area. Fill out the application form and get your I.D. points ready so once you see the place and you feel it is that right place for you then get your application form in straight away to ensure you get that property. I’d also call the property agent as soon as you see a place online to book a viewing. They do open inspections but if you can get in before that, you’ll have a much better chance of getting the place you want/ Domain is the best site to look for properties to rent and Seek is the best site to look for work.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Australia?

A: A great friend of mine whom I met on Instagram is another fellow expat living in Sydney called Workwear Dilemma who blogs about fashion and is a life coach.