14 September 2016

Sofia Machado - Expat in Kingscliff, Australia

Sofia Machado - Expat in Kingscliff, Australia

We’ve had the chance to talk to Sofia Machado, 32, a Portuguese expat who has moved to Australia with her partner. Ms. Machado who has been living there for six years, now works as a teacher and blogger.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Lisbon, Portugal.                        


Q: What made you move out of Lisbon?

A: Love. I met Paul while travelling in the Baltic countries and we have been together ever since. First Paul moved to Portugal, but after a year we started thinking, let’s live in Australia. I loved travelling and lived before in France for a year, but this felt bigger and was! I packed 20 kg of my life, rent out my place, and moved to the other side of the world. Purely for love.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Kingscliff, NSW, Australia.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Coming to a new country was the perfect time to reset our life and start all from fresh- new home, new possessions and new work… I lived in a city and knew a move to Australia for me had to have a few things: be near the ocean, have good weather, surf and preferably not in a city. So with that plan, we bought a car, and Paul drove around showing me different places for almost two months. We found a perfect compromise between having work options, great weather and surf without being in a big city. I feel we have lived in a slice of paradise ever since, living on the southern Gold Coast and northern New South Wales.


Q: How long have you been living in Kingscliff?

A: It’s been almost six years! I can’t believe how quick the time goes and how many amazing experiences this country and its people have provided me with.


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

A: It was difficult and quite stressful to apply to the government so that you can live with someone. I think there are plenty of opportunities for work in Australia, but a lot of work is done through connections- “your mates” which does make it hard at the beginning. I first came to Australia on a tourist visa, then ended up getting a student visa, studying again (which I reckon was one of the best things I did). We were finally granted a de facto visa after four years. It took time and a lot of money. Having said this, we were prepared for it. I have not heard or experienced a country where making the move is easy. I think I was very lucky to spend time as a tourist. I started off being very confused with the culture, couldn’t understand a word on the television and slowly became accustomed to Australia which helped me a lot when it came to beginning work.


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

A: I live with Paul (he is Australian) which was very helpful to understand the culture and Australian lifestyle habits. I think it was great that Paul had also experienced living abroad in Portugal. He can understand the feeling of homesickness and also have a love of travel, understands my need to keep moving!


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: In the beginning, I learnt to be myself, something I used to be very bad with. I came from a culture where you constantly are with people- it’s incredibly social. Australia is a country with a big distance. They have used to time alone and catching up with people when they can. It was strange for me not to see friends and family on a daily basis. But through study, work and blogging, I have met amazing and inspiring people that are extremely supporting and understanding of some “expat feelings”! I don’t go looking for people that are expats, though. I do have some great expat friends in Australia, and I think this is because we not only understand our feelings on living abroad but also share a similar spirit of adventure, prepared to take a risk and live all that life can be.


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

A: Being amongst nature. There is nothing like the outdoors in Australia. There are such amazing beaches, rivers and creeks so if you love fishing, swimming, snorkelling, surfing, you will love it here. The area I live in is at the foot of volcanic area (no longer active)! The valleys and mountains are just stunning. I love driving here and stopping in at little stores, usually with just an honesty box for the farmers’ fresh produce. If you enjoy walking and hiking, you definitely should climb Mount Warning. It has stunning views over famous beachside towns like Byron Bay. Take the slow roads into this town via Bangalow and enjoy great foods before seeing cosmopolitan beachside living with a laid-back nature.


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

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: AUD$4.50. It’s hard to believe that Paul and I used to go to a beautiful little shop for a great espresso for 30 cents! Definitely a downside.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: I have eaten great meals for AUD$15. I think on average you can pay around AUD$20 for a really nice meal quite easily.

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Umm, define expensive?! I don’t eat in “expensive restaurants”. I do love food and a great venue, and there are award winning restaurants that have beautiful meals for up to $60. I haven’t been to 6 stars sorry!

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

A: A bottle of wine can be $10 - $30. Australian wine is great- plenty of flavours but I really enjoy them, if you get a chance to go to wineries, take it! Cigarettes are expensive, and smoking is not as common here. There are many places where you simply can’t smoke and the government tax tobacco and have blank packets to reduce interest.


Q: How do you find the local culture and people in Australia?

A: Australians are very welcoming. It seems like what you see is what you get and this is true. People can be more reserved and a little harder to really get to know, but you certainly get a chance to know them which is different from most European countries in my experience.

Expect help when looking at a map, even in a city like Sydney. Don’t be surprised if a stranger starts speaking to you while waiting for a bus. Surprisingly, even if you are in a supermarket, the clerk may try to have a conversation with you. Yes, people are very friendly and helpful here. As strange as it sounds, it was a big shock for me!


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

A: Definitely it is too far from everywhere else in the world! It makes Australia special. It is so unspoilt and people will help you but getting somewhere- like Europe- is a big trip. Well, anywhere really. It is hours and hours in a plane to south-east Asia, US, Japan.


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

A: Skype, Skype and Skype and of course hanging out with my Portuguese friends here!


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

A: Not at the moment! I always love travel, so I have plenty of trips scheduled. Aways! But, no, I don’t have plans to move back to Portugal, as much as I miss it, and I am so happy to have a permanent visa in Australia, I wouldn’t be planning any further immigration efforts!


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

A: Definitely the distance.


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

A: Get to know people and where you live then get out there and see outside of your neighbourhood. Too often, expats stick to only what they know- their fellow expats and their local neighbourhood. Get out there!


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

A: You should definitely check out Sofiana Australia (I am totally biased here!)


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