20 April 2017

Sandra - Expat in Melbourne, Australia

Sandra - Expat in Melbourne, Australia

We’ve had the chance to talk to Sandra, over 40, a Swiss-Australian expat who has moved to Melbourne, Australia with her family. Mrs. Sandra who has been living there for 11 years, now works as a blogger. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: We are originally from Switzerland from where we moved in 2006. It was my husband, our son, myself and our dog who did the journey.


Q: What made you move out of Switzerland?

A: The opportunity to live in another country. A country we had visited before and always liked.


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

A: Melbourne, Australia. We simply had the opportunity and took it. Things like this don’t come across you very often. When we moved we moved for good, just to make it easier to settle in, which really wasn’t that big of a deal. Over the years we were able to make it possible for us to stay for good and we are very happy about it.


Q: How long have you been living in Australia?

A: This year we will celebrate 11 great years in Down Under.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: It’s my husband, our son (who moved with us), our daughter (who was born in Australia) and me down here. And my lovely mother in law who visits us as often and for as long as possible.


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

A: Not at all. Sometimes it would be nice to see my friends from back home more often but I’m not homesick at all. We have a great network here with lovely and very close friends. Nothing to miss.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: They are really nice. I guess Australian’s are not much different than Swiss. So there was nothing to get used to.


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 there?   

A: Because we moved with the idea of staying for good it was always about settling in. I’m an outgoing person and therefore don’t struggle to talk to people. When you move around with a dog and a little boy you automatically have things to talk to with other people. We have made great friends here. Some are expats, some are locals. A wonderful mix of everything.


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

A: I guess that was the big wake-up call for us. We expected Australia to be cheaper than Switzerland but it’s not. It’s actually an expensive country to live in, at least in the Melbourne area.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Oh, you got me there… I would say anywhere between $3.50 and $4.50.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: I would say you can get a nice dish for $26 or less.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Probably $49 and up. We hardly ever eat out because we both love to cook so I can really not help you out here.

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

A: If you buy a bottle of wine you can get a decent bottle for $15 up or even less if you are willing to try. I’ve had many positive surprises in regards to so-called clean skin wines for less than $12 that were great wines to enjoy. I don’t know about cigarettes as I don’t smoke.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Australia?

A: You need a credit history or a phone bill or mobile phone contract. So try to get a mobile phone before opening a bank account. Which is tricky because in some cases you need a credit history and or a bank account in order to get a mobile phone contract… complicated but doable. Let me know if you need tips…


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: We came here on a student visa so it was actually pretty easy. I couldn’t help in regards to work visa but happy to give advice if needed for permanent residency and citizenship approaches.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Australia is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I think that Australia has a great health care system. You are well insured and well looked after.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Switzerland or Australia?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Yes we did and it’s optional in Australia. I don’t really know how it works if you are on a working visa. I heard different things from being insured by your company or being insured by the insurance in your home country to find the right insurance yourself. It’s not hard and there are a couple of options which all are good.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Australia? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I would not recommend the mover we used anymore but they are out of business anyway. They didn’t pack well and also packed things that were clearly marked to not be packed. They also labelled the boxes first of all wrong then second in Portuguese which was the language the people packing spoke but didn’t make sense for me or in general. I think you need to be totally on top of them and control otherwise you will end up packing way too much and paying for it as well. We did take way too much along. Not just because they packed things that were meant to stay behind but because we decided to take way too much along. Less is often more. And in the end, it will cost you less as well. The decision for us to move was made very quickly so that might have plaid a role as well. I would clearly list the things much better that will come along than what I did before. List and then also control the packers. Make sure they actually pack the boxes properly. We had shocking combinations and it was actually a surprise that not more things broke on their way over.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: There was no real challenge, to be honest. I guess it was the realization of being pregnant only weeks after we arrived and then finding the right GP and Obstetrician and getting used to a slightly different system. It made the settling period for sure more exciting…


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

A: It’s a beautiful and diverse country. It has so much to offer and I’m truly glad we live here and it’s our country now. Sometimes it would be nice to be a little bit closer to Europe to be able to show the kids all the different countries and the history involved. But we will simply travel there and educate them in doing so.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Melbourne is an amazing city. There are some fantastic walking tours through the city you can either look up online or in one of the Lonely Planets or simply head to the information office at Flinders Station and join one of the tours guided by locals. There are great cafés and restaurants, heaps of fantastic sports events and nice beaches too. It’s definitely worth heading further out and do some bush walking, taking on some nice hikes or visit one of the vineries in the area. It is so much and I have many recommendations, but it definitely helps to know if you want to do something over 2-3 hours, makes a day trip or head for a short road trip with an overnight stay somewhere. The Great Ocean Road is definitely worth checking out if you are happy to do an overnighter or getting up very early and getting home late.


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

A: Nope, no plans but you never know.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Settle in. Don’t try not to settle in because you are leaving again. You are missing out. Embrace it with your entire heart. Live it.


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

A: Not really. Although I’m a blogger I’m not hanging on to websites. I tend to experience or follow pieces of advice from friends or people I meet on the go.