Emigration to Australia

This little collection is a combination of emails and notes I’ve written to friends or in reply to posts on forums with regard to emigration - particularly with Brisbane in mind.  Our family emigrated here from England in Jan 2000.  The page still needs structuring and editing into some nice webpages but for the moment, here it all is in one long document with headings. I originally created this webpage in 2001, and have put a few updates in over the years.

If you’d like to be kept update when this page changes, please send me an email. I've had many many emails from people thanking me for putting this all up, some of whom we have kept in contact and some who we have met and some who now live here... Thanks for all your responses!.... I'm glad it has been of use... and yes... we still love it here!.

Tim in Brisbane

tim@oztogo.com

 

Arrival time

Perhaps the best time could perhaps be to arrive is the height of summer, so that your children start the new year at the end of January along with all of the other children– just time for your last Christmas and New Year back home!   You would of course arrive in very hot weather, but we found it OK and our son found having a frozen water bottle with him at school (they all have them at primary school) compensated for 30+ degrees in the classroom.  It’s such a big change of life that it probably perhaps it doesn’t really matter when you join because you are bound to settle in and catch up.  I’d certainly aim for a couple of weeks off to get settled for the kids before starting school. If your home/rental doesn't have aircon then you may be in for a bit of a shock... but as long as one room has got it, you should be ok. When we arrived, we didn't have aircon from week 3 to week 6 but got along with fans just fine.

Of course if you arrive between April and September, it's going to be cooler and your children won't experience the incredible change of sitting in a classroom at 35 degrees, with their frozen water bottle sitting next to them on the desk. Don't worry about the kids though... they seem to hardly notice the change and our 10 yr old son found the heat to be no problem when we arrived in the height of the summer.

In the last 10 years more and more classrooms have got aircon, but it’s just the luck of the draw.  This year (2010) our oldest has just gone into a classroom without aircon, but has had it for the last 3 years.  However, it doesn’t seem to bother him – as long as those fans are going you can be quite comfortable at 35 deg.

Humidity and Temperature

Humidity?. I hear a number of people saying or asking if the climate in Brisbane is unbearably humid. Well I would say it's rarely "unbearable" - no, never really. This has just got to be the best climate in the world! Not so hot it's unbearable, and really very pleasant during the day in winter. We arrived on January 18th 2000 and were told it had been unusually mild - being only about 29 degrees. The next day the heatwave hit and it was 42 degrees max for 3 days running! We were in and out of the car, searching for property, in and out of the heat so we experienced just about the hottest Brisbane has to offer... and really it was fine despite being sweaty. Of course it was more pleasant when it cooled down to 35.

You know when it's a humid day when you step out of the car and your glasses instantly mist up!  The aircon has made the glasses freezing cold so condensation forms straight away.

Not one to like the cold much, (though I do like skiing), we enjoyed hot days in England and bought a fan when it looked like it was going to stay above 28 degrees for a while. Here, hot days are the norm, and there are a few days that stand out as being sticky, with a sticky evening too up near 30 deg overnight.  But that happens in England too once in a while.  If you have an elevated property you get more breeze which makes it very comfortable.  Most houses have fans and honestly you very quickly get used to a 35 degree day and can feel quite comfortable if the air is moving.   You may notice some sweat trickling down, maybe just a single drip!... but for some strange reason it doesn't seem a problem like it might have in the UK. Even stranger, on a 30 degree day you can genuinely feel cool, yet still notice some sweat, you just get used to it and of course there's usually aircon in cars and offices.. Sitting in my study, I certainly did keep finding it was sticky up to mid March, until I realised I was trying to get by without a fan and the air was completely still in there... a simple fan solved the problem 100%. Get out in the sun however, and it's baking! but nevertheless as long as you are drinking and have suncream on, it's manageable and after an hour or two's gardening strimming, weeding etc, you just have to have another shower. Put it this way - I would far rather face gorgeous heat which you can deal with by shade, fans, drinking and aircon, than miserable, freezing, bitter, harsh, painful and icy cold weather ! Typical weather forcast for 4months mid Nov-mid April : Mon 35, Tue 35, Wed 34, Thu 36, Fri 37. You look at the weather and think - ah just a nother nice day - a touch warm on Friday ! Another forecast - Mon 35, 32, 30, 31, 30 Thoughts : Wow, quite cool midweek!

Note that above temparatures are the maximum - typically from around 2pm to 4pm, measured in the shade. Step out into the sun and it's about 10 degrees hotter in the Summer, and 4 degrees hotter in the winter. In a closed parked car, it can quickly be 15-20 degrees hotter than the outside air temperature in the summer. You get used to returning to an oven and driving off with the windows open, fan blasting, to cool it down - then close the windows and let the aircon do it's work after a few minutes. Can you do without aircon? Well yes, of course - we have friends, both OZ and UK expats, without aircon in their cars and it doesn't seem to be a problem; a friend's broke down and he didn't get around to having it fixed for 2 months.... we feel you can survive heat more than you can survive cold!

In spite of what I heard, that I wouldn't have said Samford is any hotter than anywhere else and haven't found the beach 40 mins away to be noticeably cooler. However, I did discuss this with an Ozzy mate (an aircon specialist ) and he confirmed that it is typically 2 degrees hotter here than say at Aspley just 11 miles away (8 miles as the crow flies). Well in over 10 years we didn't notice… but hey….is there really much difference between 34 and 36 ??! Of course, every area has local temperature variations and elevated areas should get more breeze (which more than compensates for an extra 2 deg). I've heard a number of friends saying they had an early morning frost in winter in the village!, but in 4 years I have never seen one with my lowest outside temperature reading for the 10 years we’ve been here being 2.8.

Where to Stay in Brisbane if visiting

House rentals simply aren't usually available except for long term, usually requesting a year's rental!  Hotels in Brisbane are almost always available - have a look at www.wotif.com for deals - always about half price booking just a few weeks before going. I think the pub in Samford is also a hotel.  There's even a couple of B&Bs here in Samford, and probably a few more dotted around the area.

I'd spend up to a week on the Gold Coast at the Mercure Resort (not the Grand Mecure) or a perhaps 5* hotel on Surfers Paradise (using wotif.com of course to get good rates $100 a night room), which is good for children. Using the cheap deals on wotif, you often don't get breakfast included, and at $25 a head it can really add up, so it's much cheaper to take a stroll to a beachfront cafe and have all you can eat breakfast for $9 each.  While on the Gold Coast, you could go to one or two theme parks -Dreamworld, Movieword, Seeworld, Wet&Wild..... and also try and book an appartment in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast for say 3 days – while there you can hire a boat to go on the river.  A day trip to Noosa from Brisbane isn’t out of the question, it’s not that far and could be convenient if you want a single base and not have to cart around suitcases all holiday. Don't miss out a visit to the villages of Montville and Maleny on the way up to Noosa- very nice mountain villages with Antique shops, a German pub etc. Perhaps visit Redcliffe, Scarborough and you could find the fish and chip shop on Bribie Island which is v.good!

Spiders and creepycrawlies

My wife was petrified of spiders in England. Before we were married, a big spider in her flat in Southampton meant she would scream, and up and leave to go to her mum's, until I got there to deal with it. When living together, she still hated any spider in the room and refused to go near letting out a huge scream, and prefered to get out of the room - my son likewise. These were two big obstacles to thinking about coming out here. 

However, they really have got used to it, I'd say after 4-6 monhs - and now casually observe a big spider and allow me to deal with it without panic, which is an amazing change! I'm sure most people don't like them, but the Huntsmans aren't dangerous, though I expect they could bite but on the whole all the creepy crawleys are more afraid of you and tend to stay out of your way. It's when you go to bed and suddenly see a huge one on the wall that gives you the creeps! Of course you are meant to shut the screen doors but the weather is so nice that often you throw windows/doors open and forget about them. So many times we've come upstairs to bed to find the verandah doors wide open, at which point we do have a check of the curtains and other places for creepy crawleys. But really in the first 2.5 years, it's only happened about 6 times, and it generates a bit of excitement catching the thing and killing it!. Yes of course they are not nice looking! and I'm sure very few people actually like them...For the last 8 years my wife doesn’t even flinch if a large spider is nearby. There's another spider here which is very creepy looking - cabbage like and light green with a dome for a body. We've only seen that 3 or 4 times and they are just as easy to catch.

One of the things you'll notice when you go in the supermarket, as well as the huge variety of chocolate, is the huge variety of bug sprays! Some barrier spray for outside helps keep spiders and ants from crawling in, and any general spray inside slows the spiders down until you can squash them. Those huntsman are quite bulky... they don't just squash down to nothing... there's quite a bit left! Once the thing is immobilised, I put toilet paper over it and then smash it! When we moved in and first looked up at our verandahs, there were little beige blobs all over it... looking like blobs of chewing gum! We learnt these were spiders eggs..... and the easy answer... pressure spray... gets rid of them real quick! It's just another thing to bear in mind when you are clearing up outside! You can also spray the house, or get it sprayed professionally... inside and out. Inside, someone comes and sprays cupboards, cracks everything.... I'm not sure what they use. Outside, they spraw all around the gutters, under the eaves, under the verandahs etc. It certainly seems to keep it much clearer of spiders. I have done this myself using "Pidgeon's Pest Controller 500" Group 1B insectiside – “professional use only - not for residential use” plus a host of serious warnings on the bottle.

Now Redbacks are the poisonous spiders that you do get sometimes - and they don't look scary because they are fairly small and thin - yet after a while, you begin to feel casual about that too..... treating them really only as significant as a wasp - ie something you avoid but just stay calm and deal with it if you happen to see one.  The main thing to watch for is perhaps look under your outdoor furniture if you're about to move it. Spray under there too once in a while... also in the corners of your garage or shed, they like going there. A couple of years ago, we seemed to be getting quite a few redbacks in the house, until we found the crack where they were and sprayed inside. We didn't see any for over a year, then just last week we found one in the garage. He's disappeared before we could get rid of him so I've left a can of bug spray nearby, ready for him.

Once my wife called on the mobile in fright, in our 4th month here, - saying a really fast and absolutely massive spider had just run across the living room...she claimed it was as big as a mouse- so I had to come back from my friend's house to find my wife perched feet up on a chair....and we searched the edge of the living room for it. I was quite edgy myself having heard the size... but it turned out that it really was a mouse after all. 

Quite honestly, spiders are easy to deal with and you will find the fear eases up fast...just spray them to slow them down, then squash them! and you really won't find too many though it's amazing how far they can stretch a web across two trees 20 metres apart.

We did have a spider appear in the car just once as we were about to get back in... and it started to rain. I had to run back to the supermarket and buy some spray.. then come back and try and search under the seats. Quite a difficult job as they know you're after them... but knowing it was in there, there was absoutely no way we were about to drive anywhere! On that subject... it's a good idea not to leave the car doors open at home.... and invitation for a snake to come in. Not that it's likely, just something you don't do !

Now it's the ants that are the real problem! They all bite... just stand still on the barefoot for a while, and you could well get bitten. But a large black ant or a green ant bites painfully and the pain is around 50% of a wasp sting in intensity. If one gets stuck in your shoes it carries on biting and you soon know about it !  But it doesn't stop you sitting down for a picnic... but the moment an ant appears, brush it away quick! You can get "ant sand" to sprinkle over your brick paths to get rid of them. If your child runs up crying and obviously been bitten - get their teeshirt off and make sure there aren't any more ants crawling around. When our daughter was 2 she was bitten by quite a few for a couple of minutes, crying like mad, until we realised they were still there and brushed them off!

If you are actually right by trees - within metres of the property, then you might get more creepycrawlies. Otherwise I don't think you get more in rural areas... in fact funnily enough we've not seen a big spider (only the one redback) inside for 6 months. But they are all bigger than in the UK! – just have some spray handy.

Snakes – seen a few – they are very timid and stay away from you – but don’t approach them and you’ll be fine. My wife hasn’t seen one in 2.5 years. I saw a python in the undergrowth – if I was in England I would have called the zoo! In fact a snake did chase my friend on his tractor, but honestly encounters are so few and far between or non existent that I wouldn’t worry about it. I hear that some friends see a snake... it all depends on the vegetation around you.

Kids here in Oz grow up knowing these things exist, so they take some natural precautions that your kids might not. So keep warning them in the first year, such as getting them to walk around, not shortcut through some bushy area with long grass, and intentionally worrying them that there may be a snake there to allow them to build their own defenses. Best idea is to stay away from long grass and undergrowth... if it's on your property.... get that mower out!! If it's not easy to mow, use a "whipper snipper" or "brushcutter" (strimmer)!

The sound of insects at night while it's hot (Sep-Apr), is amazing! Continuous jungle sounds as if someone has put 360 degree surround speakers outside... except it's for real! Also the birds have some very strange sounds too, all very distinctive. Pop outside to throw something in the bin and hear some thudding around your feet, which will make you jump at first - but then you'll find it's almost certainly just the Cain toads which come out at night during the summer and mostly stay out of the light. I still wonder where they all go during the day. Some are massive and we've had a couple thud up against the patio doors once in a while! Australians hate Cain toads and treat them as a pest and try to introduce you to some nasty traditions such as hitting them with golf clubs. I'm sure far more get squished just driving up and down the drive. They wither away to a crispy shell very quickly in the sun!

In our third year, having got used to just about everything creepy crawly that could be thrown at us, we went to a friend’s house for afternoon BBQ. We had just been for a walk at Mount Glorious and it had been a bit muddy up there, and I was only wearing sandals. After some excitement with finding redbacks under their furniture that they thought they'd got rid of the day before, we suddenly saw the most disgusting slimy dark, fat worm like creature inching its way across the patio. Someone stepped on it and red blood oozed all over the tiles. Where the hell did that come everyone wondered? After looking around, I looked down and saw a second one right there on my foot, between two toes. I couldn't believe it, having driven for 20 minutes since ending the walk, both of them must have been there all the time..... a leech ! It was having a wonderful meal and we poured salt on its back and I think sprayed it too. Why me ???!! I thought.... and subsequently squashed that one too creating even more blood this time. The area itched for about 2 months! Well I understand that this could equally well have happened in England in a damp area, but it goes down as another Australian creepy crawly story for me!

There's another creepy thing too which happened... which I hear could equally well have happened in England, though I never came across them. Ticks! They don't just go on cats and dogs.... they get on you too if you've been in the bush so if you've been pushing through hedges, trees etc, best to check yourself when you get back inside. Some are paralysis ticks... tiny little things with a head 3-4 mm and a curved beak. It burrows its beak into your skin and you have no idea at all it is there. Then they feed off the blood, and the body gets bigger and bigger. On cats and dogs it can make them lethargic and then become ill, possibly paralysed, and can even die if they are on for too long. On humans, though the most likely outcome is an itchy area... it depends on how well you get it off. They're really difficult to remove and there's conflicting advice... some say don't pull it off... spray them with bug spray so they eventually let go voluntarily and just be patient. Others say use tweezers and grab the head taking care not to squeeze the body, and patiently tease it out, rotating the correct way and pulling back gently. Whatever.. do it wrong and apparently as it knows it's going to die, it may regurgitate toxins through its beak back into your skin. There are a whole host of allergic symptoms that can result - including massive swelling or worse.... up to 2 weeks later and even potential for serious diseases. I did completely the wrong thing. After some heavy duty hedge trimming work, I had a shower and noticed this thing on my knee. After 30 seconds of just knowing I shouldn't do anything rash... I couldn't stand it any longer because it gave me the creeps. Just touching it showed it was quite alive, wriggling it's tiny legs and intently burrowiing in further!, so I just grabbed it and pulled it off by hand. Usually you can get it of with a sharp pull, but something seemed to be left behind in my skin which I couldn’t remove. Having read about the possible allergic reactions I decided to go to the doctor by which time it seemed to have gone under the skin. The doctor used a small local anaesthetic so she could burrow around and got a small piece out and lectured me on how I had done the wrong thing! Was advised to take antihistamine just in case... though I didn't bother. I didn’t get a tick for another 5 years, but our daughter had a paralysis tick on her head and she did suffer an allergic reaction – her face swelled up so much she was unrecognisable – the face went flat and you could barely make out the features of her nose. Apparently that’s farely unusual, so we have to be careful.  Our cats and dogs have had quite a few - You have to check them quite regularly to get them off because if you don’t get them off, they – particularly dogs,  can start to get a reaction – within 24 hours they might have laboured breathing and appear wobbly on their legs…. Another 24 hours and they can’t walk.   You are talking a $700 trip to the vet for an overnight stay and an antidote. -  I guess we didn't live in such a country area in England or do enough gardening for this to have been a risk to us.
Oh - there's some scary huge grasshoppers here too...gives you a huge fright when one takes off right near you !

Of course, in the winter, this all calms down … no insect sounds, no spiders, no snakes, hardly even an ant – though we never seem to escape the magpies who come down to scavenge for our chickens’ and dogs’ food.

Can’t get:

Readybreak

Weetabix - similar product "Weet-bix" shaped as a rectangle, not rounded, is a bit more coarse and doesn't soak hot milk quickly, which you want for babies.

Farleys rusks, only teething rusks which don't turn to porridge.

Prawn cocktail flavoured crisps or Skips

Melt in your mouth snacks, only crunchy crisps not too good for one year olds. (though we can find things similar to cheese puffs)

Robinsons squash - only cordials or "orange drink"

Hazlenut yoghurt. My favourite! The closest you can find is hazelnut and vanilla yoghurt -  1 in a multipack of 6.

2 in 1 Pantene shampoo/conditioner - separate bottles only

2 in 1 shampoos other makes, very thin on the ground.

large independant baby shops such as Mothercare/Adams - ony baby sections in big department stores.

Toothkind or Light Rebena - only original.

PAMPERS nappies - only Huggies which are good too - tried Snugglers which are 50% of the price, but always leaves residue, jelly crystals yuk !

Calpol but they do have other liquid paracetamol products

Strawberry Sherbets - (Sherbet lemons very hard to find but are available) - we now have our second 3kg jar sitting in the fridge which I brought back with us last time we visited England.

Strawberry, lemon or toffee bonbons – (except in a few specialist English shop at shocking prices)

Sherbet pips.

Large Johnsons baby bath - have to buy two small bottles instead.

Large packets of burgers (max 4 ! or 6 lean, occasionally 20pack of cheaper brand)

Large packs of frozen chips (750g or 1kg maximum !!!)

Sandwich Spread (this disappeared in about 2005. It was only available in small jars but it appears to have vanished)

Marmite used to be on this list … it disappeared between 2001 to mid 2002, but thankfully it came back – The UK imported product is called "Our Mate" !! in the same recognisable bottle. There is an Australian product called Marmite from Sanitarium, with a very different taste - ewwwwuuuugh !!!. The closest taste to UK marmite is Vegemite though that leaves an awful aftertaste.

Bovril – wasn’t available for ages after the mad cow scares but from late 2002 it has resurfaced.   Similar product is Kraft "Bonov"... but it's a little gelatinous and if spread on toast doesn't look the same. Tried it... tastes good, but the gooey consistency put me off , so best for making drinks I guess. Just an aside - everyone does put Bovril on toast right ?... or was it just our family??! It's always advertised as a drink, but bovril on hot buttered toast always tasted great.

I saw an article for people going the other way - leaving Australia and coming to London and was intrigued to see that they too felt the "essential foods are simply not available"... and noted the following:

    "a decent hamburger  with the lot"     (You mean beetroot!! An “Aussie” burger typically adds fried egg and beetroot along with the salad – easy enough to knock up!)

    Chiko rolls

    Twisties – (Try Nik Naks - similar shapes and strong flavours)

    Burger Rings – (there are burger flavour football crisps but I don't remember the name)

    Snakes Alive – (Hey! Starburst Rattlesnakes are the best, and Starburst (used to be called 'Opal Fruits') are in England)

    Redskins - try Fruit Salads or "Drumsticks" (chewy lollipops)

    Cheezels - not the same shape but even better product I the UK is "Wotsits"

    Freddo frogs - (yes they do have these in England)

    Cherry Ripes - (yes they do!)

    Violet Crumbles - yuk!  True - not in the UK thankfully!

    Paddle Pop ice creams - lots of similar ones like "mini milks"

    Four'n Twenty Pies – (there are loads of pies ! Best from a fish and chip shop - e.g. cornish pastie)

    lamingtons

    Fruit Tingles

    Barbecue shapes

    Golden Roughs

    Lifesavers (like cough sweets – try fisherman’s friends)

All in all, it’s clear there is far more choice in the supermarkets in England compared to here – perhaps there is more in Sydney, but I can only compare to Brisbane areas. However, there’s enough choice here for it not to be an issue.

Friends bringing food from overseas:

We have found that Customs don't mind anything being brought over that is packaged food i.e. marmite, UK Cadburys chocolate, Prawn Cocktail crisps etc. Make sure you tick the box on your declaration form that you've got food and go through the red channel, even if it was just sweets (lollies/confectionary/candy), left over sandwich or powdered milk for a baby - they pulled us up on that!....  No "Welcome to Australia, I see this is your first trip on your permanent Visa"... but - "please fill the form in properly sir and declare that you have food if you have got any food"! They were a lot nicer on a later return trip to Oz in 2002 - but were XRaying every single bag and looking in particular for food or other organic products. So just declare it - and don't worry about it because they will almost certainly just let you keep it.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you….If you have so much as a polo in your pocket, go through the red channel !

Differences

Icecream cornettos are sometimes called Drumsticks

Sweets are called "lollies"

Lollies are generally known as Chuppa Chupps

Smoked Mackerel - hard to find - best place Woolworths!

Sausages – not nearly as good as UK sausages – not many decent pork ones. Best place – again, Woolies. Sausages are also called ‘snags’ – though it often means the cheap BBQ ones.

Cod - hard to find in supermarkets. Fishfingers (even Birdseye) and fillet pieces are other white fish such as Hake.

Fish and Chips - small portions - unlike traditional fish and chip shops in England. A piece of cod served in a fish and chip shop is less than half the typical large cod in England - but costs around the same. Some places are very tight on the chip portions.. (I once counted only 15 chips – the portion was a single scoop!)

Sausage on a stick is a "Pluto Pup"

Cadburies chocalate     Much much more variety, slightly different (more cocoa) taste which is down to the different compotion used to stop it melting at 30 deg.

Lots of BYO (Bring Your own) alchohol restaurants – even restaurants that are licenced often allow BYO

Labour is about $70  an hour for skilled carpenter/restoration. "Slashers" (mowers) are also $70 an hour (from a professional company), but they do provide their own rideon mower. I believe you can find them cheaper for down to $25 an hour if you find a local tradesperson. A bobcat operator with his own machine for doing landscaping is about $110 an hour.

In the Summer, tons and tons of insects ! - incredible noise all night but you get used to it quickly. Hundreds of Cain Toads come out on the lawns just out of the light. A few go near the house and they all magically disappear in the morning. Watch where you walk in the dark, especially between trees that are less than 15 feet apart in case a spider has put a web across.

If you're looking for a mobile service provider such as a chiropodist (called a podiatrist), then look up "visiting" rather than “mobile”

Burgerking tastes the same, but is called "Hungry Jacks". No Mushroom double swiss or Big King ! Very salty fries. Free refills.

Chicken seems to have more fat - whether roast, fillet pieces or kebab (KFC identical to UK though)

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is here and the fillet or Zinger burgers are the same!  No variety meal deal (3 pieces + 2 hotwings as in the UK)

Absolutely no Alcohol in Supermarkets (though beer making kits are present) - actually recently saw some "cooking" red and white wine.

There are drive through Alcohol stores which are handy, so on your way back from the supermarket, you can easily stock up on booze - chilled of course.

All soft drink cans are 375ml rather than 335ml in the UK. The plastic bottles are 600ml rather than 500ml in the UK, and are called "buddies" though that is a trademark of Coca-Cola.

Cheese not scaled for strength (in UK 1=Extra strong, 5=mild), so you have to read each label and interpret various descriptions.

Petrol - Premium is same as Super Unleaded - which is 98 octane. It's 4-6 cents per litre more than standard unleaded - . In 2000 it's been as low as 69c and as high as 89c.. It has been as high as $1.50,  but presently in 2010, it varies between $1.19 and $1.35 on a weekly cycle.  The price can change 3 or more times a day and fluctuates around 13%.  Since 2004 news the prices haven’t jumped around so frequently but it has become more difficult to know which day is cheap petrol day – it seems rather random – with one servo at $1.19 and the other at $1.35,  and the next day it’s the other way around.

Strimmer – Called “Whippersnipper” or “Brushcutter”

Auction – pronounced “Oction”

Corgettes – called “Zucchini” like the Americans

Aubergine – called Eggplant

Rego - Registration document (used in official governement literature!)

Air - A car "with air" means with air conditioning.

In computer speak… cache is pronounced ‘caiche’ and router is pronounced ‘rowter’ !

Shopping

When we arrived in 2000, it was a pleasant surprise to find you could use “EFTPOS” in the supermarket – using the debit card with a PIN, and even market stalls often had portable terminals. The UK didn’t get this until a few years later.  Every bank card has different accounts on it… whenever you pay you have to select from “Cheque, Savings or Credit”.   Back then you could only do a PIN for cheque and savings, but had to sign for credit card.   The UK then leapt ahead by introducing chip and PIN,  but a couple of years later we have also been able to use a PIN for credit  (though as of 2010, it is still optional).

They sometimes check your bags when you leave certain stores, particularly if you do not exit via the checkout. They even want to open the baby bag at the bottom of the pram. Signs say that a condition of entering the store is that you present your bags for inspection when you exit!!! Most don’t bother, but some do as a matter of protocol.

Plastic bags – it’s great that they pack the backs for you in supermarkets; however it never ceases to amaze me how many you get! A typical large shop will result in about 30 plastic bags. Usually only 3 or 4 items are put in a bag, and frequently only a single item !   At first it seems wasteful, but in fact they are very thin and do break easily, and also suddenly you find you can use them in the small kitchen bin under the sink, for scraping plates into before they go in the bin etc etc…. and are able to use them liberally without ever running out. They’re making a fuss now like they did in the UK about conservation and possibly charging for bags – or giving a 10c refund if you bring your own shopping bag…. yet still they put hardly anything in the plastic bags!

I originally noted that prices were rarely shown as per kg, so price comparison is difficult – but like the UK, they have finally introduced this.

Mother (and fathers)/Babies rooms in big shopping centres - with microwave, arm chairs, changing stations, childrens toilets etc - very good facility!

Water/Sewerage

Most houses on acreage, outside of the suburbs have "Biocycles" or similar system - large cylindrical tanks dug into the ground, with a full automatic mechanical and chemical system, that takes all house sewerage and turns it into clean water, which spays the grass/plants. An incredible system and you don’t have to do anything – just pay $60 per quarter for a chap to maintain it. Really useful in winter because while the rest of the grass goes brown, by moving the pipe around you can keep a large area green. I understand that rules are ever changing, and in many circumstances now you must have the drainage buried rather than spraying out somewhere.

In fact, sewerage appears not to be available outside of suburban areas, although mains water (called “town water”) can be. If your area doesn't have town water, then you use tanks which collects and filters rain water from your roof – quite common too in some acreage areas. If you have a biocycle, then be careful of what goes down the sink - on the whole it's easy, but you are advised to minimise the amount of washing up liquid, bleach used etc. Don't put oil down the sink - dispose of into a plastic bag and then into the bin.  We do the same for gravy and anything else that we might have previously washed down the sink.

Washing Machine

Washing - Some Ozzys have a thing about cold water washing (clothes) and claim it's more efficient, cheaper and just as good, and they mostly have top loaders. Well we tried it and found it fails to get anything out, so warm water washing is for us. Front loaders are available, often fancily referred to as "European appliances" [these are now becoming much more popular]. We did go for a modern top loader as they have larger loads and have the flexibility of adding clothes during the cycle.  We didn’t like the idea of the agitator in some of them – a stalk in the centre of the machine that rotates backwards and forwards as we felt it could stretch clothes.. however some modern machines have no agitator and use a combination of waterjets and waterfalls !

Dryers bought here can be normally mounted so that the controls are on the bottom rather than the top - sometimes by turning the machine upside down, and taking off the control panel and moving it. This allows it to be mounted on the wall above the washing machine, and still let you reach the controls. This is necessary if you have a top loading washing machine, because there has to be room above the washing machine to open the lid, so your dryer has to mounted that much higher.

Gas/Electric

I’m not sure which is more commonly used here for cooking. If you’re on acreage, normally only electricity is available. However this is no barrier to having gas, because it’s quite normal to have one or two large gas cylinders out the back for cooking and/or heating. The company come and replenish the gas for you so it’s really no hassle. When we build a house we will definitely have gas, though I have seen some nice combination wide cooker hob that is the size of a 6 burner, which has with 4 gas burners at the corners, a central wide gas burner for long dishes, and also a halogen plate too.

The hot water tank is usually situated outside! There's a system here like the UK's "Economy 7"..... called Tarrif 31 or Tarif 33. Normal electricy is on tarrif 11 at 11.5c per kW hour. Your hot water doesn't need to be on 24hours, so most people have it connected to Tarrif 33 available about 8 hours p day (overnight) at 5c per kW hour. If you find you don't get enough hot water, you might switch to Tarrif 31 (available about 19 hours p day) at 7c per kW hour - but if you do, expect your hot water costs to go up by 30% ..Note that most hot water circuits aren't on a timer..... they just use the thermostat. I have seen some houses with hot water timers, and these are fitted in the circuit breaker cabinet with a tiny display and small buttons - and fit in the same space as a trip switch. If you use an electric pool heater or heatpump, you would probably have this connected to Tarrif 33.

The devices that use Tarrif 31 or Tarrif 33 must be connected through a different circuit, because there's a separate meter to measure your use of each tarrif. Of course you may have solar hot water, in which case the electricy is only used to top up.

Buying House

Buying a house - in Queensland your offer if accepted is a written contract and binding. No gazumping, no losing a sale/purchase. Can be made subject to obtaining finance and buildings inspection, so you could drag it out by being slow on getting finance. During this time, the vendor cannot accept another offer, so each contract is usually given a time limit of 14-30 days.

Banking:

Loads more cash machines - in the garage, in the supermarket which is very handy. You can't view transaction on these though, but it is handy that your balance is always printed after withdrawing cash, and reflects the correct balance, not at close of business yesterday.

The usual everyday account should be a statement savings account, plus a cheque account if you still use such things [I’m not sure if this is still the case, but when I had a cheque account in 2000, a small tax is payable on money put in the cheque account, so typically you would only transfer money here that is necessary to cover any cheques you've written].  A term deposit account with as little as 24 hours notice but pays sensible interest is useful for larger balances, plus a Direct Investment account allowing you to buy and sell shares).   Transferring between the accounts can be achieved through internet or telephone banking although transfer from a term deposit account requires a phonecall to your personal banker.  Typically, on a 24 hour notice account I've found that even if you ring at 4pm in the afternoon, the money will be available at about midday the next day in your savings account.

Telephone banking and internet banking is the norm. Writing a cheque to pay someone using a different bank  results in an inter-bank charge. So use internet banking to transfer the money to their account which lets you set up their details – known as “direct credit”.  Also many large institutions have "BPAY" which lets you pay a bill using telephone or internet banking by specifying the BPAY code and your reference numbers.  Bankers Drafts (called “Bank cheques”) will cost $7.5

Post

Your mailbox is at the end of your drive, not in your door. You can of course pay for a PO Box for $70 a year, which could be useful if you think you are going to move  as you don’t have to advise too many people of your change of address….. also useful to prevent your mailbox from filling up when you are away.

Bins

Emptied once a week - twice up north. Two wheelie bins are the norm – one (green lid) for usual stuff and one (yellow lid) for recyclable material (glass, paper, cardboard,plastic all mixed together).   Placed at the end of your drive rather than up by your property. Emptied once every other week for the recycle bin. For the recycle bin, you put in carboard, cans, plastic, paper - all mixed up.

Electricity

 The same as the UK, it's 220/240 volts at 50Hz.   Plugs – you’ll typically need about 50, more if you have lots of electrical items. Use Bunning hardware store, or try Kmart. Note their plugs don’t have fuses in them. Officially you are not allowed to change your own plugs, you are meant to have an electrician! When changing English plugs, you'll need to strip some more wire because English Earth is usually longer than the other two to reach the top pin, but in Australian plugs it's the shortest. Live is called "Active", or marked with the letter A.  We brought over a large number of 4 and 6 gang UK sockets - this means that after fitting an Australian plug you can use English mains plugs.  This is a useful strategy for quickly getting your computer and hifi equipment up and running before changing the individual plugs on each appliance. It's also essential when using all of those transformers/adapters that came with your mobile phone chargers, computer equipment, toys etc. It also means that you can purchase some cheaper UK gadgets on ebay, or while visiting, knowing that you will have no problem plugging in the power packs. I now have at least a 4 gang UK socket in nearly every room in the house and 20 UK sockets in my study!

 Be warned though, in the UK plugs can take a maximum of 13amps, which means a maximum of about 3 kilowatts - (3000 watts).   In Australia, sockets are rated at 10 amps, so the total of anything you plug in to a multiple socket device connected to a single plug is 2.4 kilowatts, (2400 watts). A six gang socket can there happily run computer, monitor, modem transformer, scanner transformer, printer, Fax machine.... but add it up to make sure (add the power rating in watts, not the size of the fuses). If you use a heater or hairdryer on one of these multigang sockets, you are likely to overload if you also have other appliances plugged in.  If you daisychain one multiple gang socket off another, you may have got away with it in the UK, but it's easier to overload here.    It is possible to get 15 amp plugs and sockets too - there's no point in buying 15 amp plugs though because almost 15amp sockets are very unusual in homes, and 15 amp plugs have larger earthpins which won't fit in the usual 10 amp sockets.

By the way, there are electrical sockets in bathrooms here !! so it's a luxury to be able to have a hair dryer in the bathroom. Be careful though !

TV/Video

TVs - I had heard a number of stories as to whether or not it was worth bring your TVs or Videos, and whether or not they would work.  Here's the accurate picture :  If your TV is a multisystem TV, it will probably work – it should specifically support “PAL B/G” in addition to the UK system which is “PAL I”.   A digital TV will work just fine.

I wouldn’t advise bringing an older CRT tube telly any more… it’s not going to have that much life left in it. I still have a 32 inch Grundig from 1996 which is going strong, but it has a few issues and I suspect it won’t last much longer.  My 26inch from 1989 has died a death!  It’s all plasmas and LCDs these days. 

If you are brining an older TV, remember without PAG B/G, it’s not going to work here on our TV channels and nor will your UK video recorder for the same reason. It may well receive a picture or a fuzzy picture, but not the sound. One or two channels may have a good picture, but again, no sound.  This is because, while the TV system itself is the same as the UK (PAL, 50Hz), it uses a different broadcast frequencies.  The only use it could have is if you connected up an Australian video recorder, setup box or PVR using video cables (composite, SVHS, component)

You might still want to bring your old video recorder in order to play tapes – just don’t expect to be able to record tv. Older video games, playstations etc will work fine on an OZ TV if it is connected by video and audio cables and using the AV channel.  If you have an older video came that still uses the aerial, then it will only work on a UK TV. However, you might be able to get the optional AV cable for it – then you can connect to a new Ozzy TV.

PAL I, used in the UK,  is 625 lines, UHF

PAL G is 625 lines UHF but with a different audio frequency. Most channels in Oz are PAL G.

PAL B  is 625 lines, VHF with the same audio frequency as PAL G.   If you move to an area in OZ like Brisbane, (but not the Gold Coast), where some TV channels are VHF, then your standard PAL I UK TV won't get these channels at all, and modification is really out of the question.

DVD Player

DVD - All DVD players are connected by video cables, not RF. Therefore an Australian one will successfully connect to a UK TV and vica versa.

However, when DVDs were developed, the world was split up into 6 regions and a normal player will only play a disc from the same region. (There are in fact two more regions - 7 which is reserved and 8 for international venues such as cruise ships and planes.)  

If you already have DVD discs bought in the the UK (Region 2), then note that a standard Australian Region 4 DVD player will not be able to play the UK discs, even though the television systems are compatible [but read on, there’s usually an easy solution]. Similarly, even though both your player and your TV may be capable of displaying NTSC, discs from the US are region 1 and won't play in a standard Australian Region 4 player either.

The region coding was imposed by Hollywood to intentionally prevent people from purchasing discs from other parts of the world. It has stirred up the wrath of many consumer groups as well as the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).  While some recent laws suggest that to circumvent this system could be illegal, others say the use of regions are anticompetitive, preventing free trade and are therefore illegal.  What is even more annoying to those moving abroad or purchasing discs while on holiday overseas, is that they are not informed that the disc they purchase will only work in that region.

No doubt you will want to get around this problem so that all your discs will play and the answer is to make sure you buy a player that is "Code Free", "Region select / auto select" or "All regions". .

Most retail stores will sell players that are fixed to that country's region. In the past, the answer was to get the player modified for about £60-£100...or to use a specialist mail order outlet thta supplied code free players. It's easier now...because a large amount of players, while apparently set to a fixed region, can be made multi-region by pressing a few secret buttons on the remote…… search for the model number of your DVD player and the words “region free” on the internet! The very cheapest players with strange sounding names from Hong Kong or Taiwan are often code free. I recommend LG players.... much as I like Yamaha, Pioneer and Sony... I think you don't need to spend too much on a player.. even a cheap player will produce a great picture and the laser is probably going to wear out in a few years whether you got a cheap or an expensive player. . Unless you know the model number of the player you are buying can definitely be set to region free...then check with the retailer. If they don't know or try to persuade you that it's not necessary to have region free players because there's "such a good choice now".. then find another store who can help!

What about your PC's DVD Drive. Anyone who has tried to play DVDs from different regions in a PC, whether you use PowerDVD, WinDVD or whatever else, will probably have seen a box pop up saying Your DVD Player is set to region 2, This disc is Region 1....You have X remaining changes. When you get a new drive, you only have 5 changes in total, and whatever you set it to last is permanent. This extremely annoying situation is particularly annoying to people who move countries and find their compter/laptop is stuck on the wrong region !

The easiest way to play movies from different regions is to just buy another drive for about $25 and fit it inside your machine.  OR,  buy a program called AnyDVD which allows any region disc to be played in your player, as well as the ability to back up your DVD to your computer or media centre’s hard disc.

For older drives manufacturued up to 1999, you could download a copy of DVD Genie from www.inmatrix.com to circumvent the region problem (These older drives use a region protection system called "RPC1". )

For DVD drives bought from 2000 onwards (including all DVD burners), the region protection system is called "RPC2". If you really don’t want to buy another drive, or don’t want to buy AnyDVD, then you can modify your drive and then use DVD Genie (see how to flash your dvd drive) .  I haven’t done it this way for years!

Films are as plentiful as in the UK here, DVDs are cheaper out here by the way and are as plentiful as in the UK... best prices are usually at Kmart at between $32 and $39 - get Kmart on a 15% storewide discount day and you're in for some particularly good bargains ! www.ezydvd.com.au are a good source too.

To find out more about modified players in the UK, read mags like T3, What Video, Home Cinema Magazine.

Telephones

UK Telephones - They work but you will need to swap a few wires around in the telephone lead - get one of those adaptors from US to UK with a short wire between - then cut the wire and swap a couple of cables around. It's quite easy but I'm sure you are not allow to connect such modified cables to Telstra's network. so this is for educatonal purposes only.

On most UK phones, you can disconnect the UK lead, (which is international on one end, UK on the other), and then replace it with one bought in Australia.

Some houses in Australia have the international connector, so the lead you buy would have the same on both ends.

Some have an Australian telephone socket, so the lead would need to be an Australian to International lead.

If you can't disconnect the lead, you'll need a convertor (RJ11 to RJ12 adaptor). I haven't found these anywhere in Australia, so you'll need to buy an adaptor in England. It's probably a lead with a female RJ11 socket, and a male RJ12 (international) plug.


So - if you're using this type of cable (Australian to International) :

Open it up and you should see this

Now pull out the metal pins on the green/yellow pair and swap them around so that the one that was in green is now in the yellow, and vica versa. This is necessary so that the wires themselves can now be swapped, and still be able to fit against the moulded plastic in between them. Do the same to the black and red pair so that they are also swapped. The picture below shows the black and red successfully swapped, and the green and yellow about to be swapped.

You should now have yellow, green then black,red


If however you don't have the above type of cable, and instead will be plugging an RJ12 plug (shown below), into the wall then do this instead:

In these diagrams, the LEFT hand side of the picture is the side that connects to the telephone line. The RIGHT hand side connects to the UK telephone.

Cut the cable and on each end that you cut, strip the outer insulation to reveal the 4 wires

For the part of the cable that is plugged into the wall, look carefully at the RJ12 plug at the colours of the wires. In the example above, my colours were Red, Blue, Green, White. Determine the outer two colours - in my case Red and White. Fold these two wires back so they are not used, and strip the two remaining wires so they can be connected to the other half of the cable.

For the other half of the cable that is plugged into the phone (or modem/fax), you will be doing the opposite. In my case I folded back red and white on one half, so I needed to fold back blue and green on this half, and strip the red and white ready for connection..

To decide which colour gets connected to which, look again at the RJ12 plug. The wires are next to each other... so as my colours were Red Blue Green White, I needed to connect Red to Blue, and Green to White.

To connect the wires, you could just twist them, but it's better to solder. If you don't have a soldering iron, try Dick Smith or Jcar Electronics -$20. To get a good joint, heat up the wire, then apply the solder rather than melting the solder first and trying to paint it on!

Finally - I recommend you don't make any changes to any wiring that is part of the house, or could possibly have Australian equipment plugged into it. Only modify the leads that directly connect to a UK telephone.

Now use insulating tape around each wire separately, and then wrap insulating tape around the whole thing. Make sure nothing is plugged in until the soldering is insulated – There’s about 20v in those lines and you don’t want to short out your telephone line and have to call out the telephone company !

Needless to say, I'm sure these modifications are not allowed and nor is the UK equipment authorised for use in Australia.

BTW …. After this mod, the UK telephones do not ring, so you will have to rely upon an Australian telephone elsewhere in the house to hear the ringing !

Home Wireless phones - Using a DECT digital mobile phone from the UK, I found these work fine in here after doing the above modification - it rings successfully too ! Note – a 1999 Philips DECT phone needed the above modification but a newer Philips set purchased in 2002 worked without modification.  With a large house, I recommend 3 or 4 handsets Note that Ebay have some great multi handset deals in the UK.

Note - you may find some strange behaviour when using a UK modem before any modifications have been made : When the modem is plugged in, a nearby UK phone starts working and a nearby Australian phone stops working! (I say nearby, because this only happens if the sockets are connected together with all 4 wires, rather than only 2 wires as is common). This happens because some modems have the pairs of wires twisted together internally, thus effectively achieving the above modification while also connecting up 2 wires that shouldn't be connected.

Poor internet connection .. some older wireless phones (not DECT) can upset modems that use the same phone line.... so before blaming the telephone company for constant failed or dropped connections, try unplugging your wireless phone from the wall and see if the internet connection now works reliably. I didn't believe this solution until I tried it!

Wireless devices -

Do UK Walkie talkies, DECT phones, Wireless Networking etc  work in OZ ?

Yes of course! !

DECT phones have international approval so no problem there. 

Wireless network devices are no problem. 

2.4GHz transmission devices are all fine too. 

There can be legal issues for other devices regarding the frequency, but they will still work

Radio control models do have different frequencies and since you don’t want your helicopter/plan to fall out of the sky when a park ranger switches on his radio, you should look into changing the crystal for your receiver/transmitter.   

Other shorter range radio control toys may well be using a non permitted frequency, but unlikely to cause a problem

Video transmitters for transmitting your video signal around the house…. Well unless it is a 2.4GHz model, they were illegal in the UK too.

Mobile phone

What about bringing a UK mobile phone ?  

YUP – they usually work fine. Remember you’ll need a uk power socket for charging.   Bringing your own phone means you can jump on to a SIM only plan, which often have no monthly charge at all – just call costs.   If you leave your UK SIM in the phone and you have “roaming” enabled, which is often enabled by default, then your UK SIM will work in Australia, but the call costs will be very high…. You’ll also get charged if someone calls you.  SO, get rid of the UK SIM and get one here.   If your phone is locked to your provider in England, then if you are out of contract, phone them up and ask them to unlock it.  If you are still in a contract, you can get phones unlocked for about $29 in certain places here – cheaper in England I believe if you sort it out before you arrive… you could even have a go at downloading the relevant program from the net and connecting your pc to your phone with the data cable, and reprogramming the phone’s bios to unlock.

Info

Biocycle / Biotech (0411) 440777 $240 a year

Acreage - Rideon, strimmer, hedge trimmer, chainsaw - or pay $60 an hour or thereabouts

Large hardware Bretts / Bunnings

Most things - amazing variety, from KMart, also Target & Big W. Pick 'n Pay Hypermarkets good combination of supermarket in one half and general products & garden/tools in the other half.

A combination of homebase and higher spec hardware : Glenfords, Trade Tools.

Hi spec technical :   Some Harvey Normans have more than others - good home theatre areas with a fairly good range including some top end equipment. Try Aspley.  Also Videopro at Chermside. Also Myer Centres particularly at Chermside or the Queen St Mall.

Electronic components: Dick Smith, or JCar Electronics.

Mail order DVD : www.ezydvd.com.au - can be cheaper in Kmart.

Internet Provider –

Cheaper ISPs are  iinet, TPG, iPrimus, IHug Dodo.

I have had several internet providers since I’ve been here… (Dingoblue and Onetel Rest In Peace)…  I switched away from New-tel (previously named WorldXchange) because I kept having disconnection and performance problems, had Ihug for over 2 years , Telstra (too expensive) and TPG.  I’ve never had to change my email as I use hotmail or my own domain name. I’d recommend you never use the email address provided to you by the ISP – it just makes it more difficult to switch away from them later for a better deal!

Broadband:  Same issue as England – you can get ADSL or cable in the cities or built up suburbs for reasonable prices. Out in more rural areas, it’s not available, because you normally have to be within 4.5kms of an ADSL enabled exchange (Samford's exchange was enabled March 2003)..  BUT – if you can’t get ADSL, don’t overlook the Satellite option which is quite reasonable if you don’t want a large download allowance. They pop a small dish on your roof, and a satellite PCI card in your PC.   There are some wireless broadband providers out there too and their pricing is similar to satellite.

Another problem facing customers is the dreaded "pair gains" system that telephone providers installed (known as a "RIM"), in order to get more phone lines out of their equipment. These not only typically limit your internet connection to 28-31k rather than up to 56k that you would hope for, but also are incompatible with ADSL. However, two possible solutions exist... since November 2003 Telstra will accept a "transposition request" and search for an alternate route so that, if available, they can transfer your phone line off a pair gain system and on to a normal piece of copper cabling. Unfortunately, there's little chance of transposition requests being successful. The other, less publicised solution, is that there is now a solution to allow customers on a RIM to actually get ADSL - which requires the installation of a gadget called a "minimux" in the green telephone box in your road.

Telephone Provider

The conventional choice is Telstra, like choosing British Telecom in England. If your entire service is through Telstra you could be paying more than you need to. You can choose to get your local calls, and your national calls from different providers and use Telstra for both, one of these, or not at all.  Telstra have got better recently, and I think for local calls they could be the best deal.

Local Calls : (This is who you will pay your line rental to, and who you deal with for arranging other services or dealing with line problems. )

Long Distance : (includes National and International calls and Mobiles. )

Whether changing the local or long distance service, you don't need to cancel with your previous provider.... just ring up a new provider and go through their application process, and you will be converted over to them. Remember that it can take a couple of weeks before the switch actually takes place. Until that time, calls will continue to go with your original telephone company. The new long distance provider is known as the "preselected" provider. Until the switch has been made, you can still use the new long distance provider by dialling their 4 digit override code ... so don't forget to ask for it if they forget to tell you. After a few weeks, you should no longer need to dial this code. You could choose not to change long distance provider, but access a different one by always using their override code; however you don't get their cheapest rates by using this method.

You may find it more convenient to use the same company for both local and long distance services, simply to have it all on one bill. I find that IHug’s service for both local and long distance calls to be good.  There’s a useful site at www.phonechoice.com.au

Local Calls

Much as I dislike Telstra for their total inflexibility to new migrants for having a mobile phone contract, I think their local call packages "Homeline plus" and “Homeline Advance” are good deals. The other See http://www.bigpond.com/Home/Pricingplans/ for Telstra pricing.

Personally I got Telstra to install my line in our new house to make it quicker... then I immediately changed over !

Long distance calls

(includes national, mobile and international)

I really recommend that you select a different Long distance provider than just using Telstra. If you wish, most long distance providers can also handle the local calls (which are still in reality provided by Telstra), and you may find this convenient in order to have just one bill.  There is no rental portion paid to the long distance provider - that only goes to the local call provider.

International calls

If you dial an international number, it is charged by your Long distance provider. If you used Telstra, a call to England is about 38c per minute. Telstra have some silly half hour deals which are useless because you are unlikely to risk paying for a full half hour only to find out the answer machine answers the other end! Most other long distance providers charge 16c to 21c per minute.

However, I recommend you use an “Aussie Phonecard” card for the best rates internationally - just 2c  per minute to England, USA and New Zealand. Setting up the call does involve dialing a local phone number, and when it answers, dial 1 for English, then the code number shown on your card. It then tells you how much credit you have on the card, and then asks you to dial the number. This process takes about a minute, which is a little less convenient than just dialing directly, but the savings are well worth it and the line quality is perfect.

If you want to make international calls from an Aussie mobile, with mobile calls to England costing about $1 per minute, unless you’re on a plan that provides some free or cheap international calls I'd also advise using a calling card.

WARNING - When calling International Mobiles or UK 0800 / 0870 numbers, the call rate is 32c per min – 16 times more expensive. Still, it’s less than the standard call rate from a landline. 

Mobiles

For people who don’t plan to use the mobile phone a lot, it might be best to avoid being in a contract. For years it has been necessary to have a contract, but recently you can buy a phone, or use a phone you already have, and join a provider on a cheap plan - and I don't mean with recharge cards - but conveniently on direct debit.

TPG - $13 a month gets $150 worth of calls – good for the kids.

Also look at Virgin and Vodafone for some really cheap plans.

Your mobile from the UK will work fine but you’ll need to unlock it.

Number Portability

From September 2001 in Australia, it has been possible to keep your existing number when moving from one telephone company to another. You don’t even need to tell your existing company you are leaving them – just call the new company to sign up and make sure you tell them you want to keep your existing number. Do make sure that you are “out of contract” on your present phone or you will probably have penalties to pay. Don’t cancel the existing telephone service, even if you are coming close to the end of the month and will have to pay another month’s fee. If you cancel, you will not be able to bring your number to the new company. Note that if you speak to your previous mobile phone company, they should agree to reducing the final bill if you the phone is transferred part way during the last month.

UK Phone number

Want to keep a UK phone number ? JFax provides you with a UK telephone number which provides voicemail/ answer machine.  Any messages - voice or fax - get sent to your email account wherever you specify, but it’s £12 a month I believe. Seemed a good idea when we moved, but I found little use for it after a short while.

On arrival  - essential firsts!:

            Get rental/loan car

            PO Box (if you are planning on having one, get it early on so you don’t have to use your temporary accommodation as an address)

            Arrange long term house rental / purchase,

            Register at Tax office for Tax file numbers,

            Register with Medicare,

            If you have children, register with Centrelink for family allowance straight away. Phone them on day 1 so payments will start from then – you can go there with your passports, id etc and your tax file number next week.

            Bank account – you may already have deposit account set up from UK, but you will probably also want savings & cheque account. Even if your deposit account is set up in the city, you can go to any local branch.

            Select Doctor/Medical Centre (you don't have to register until you use them. You can ask UK doctor for your computer printout of your records)

            get Mobile phone – You might have to put down a deposit because when you arrive you have no credit history – some companies are tougher than others! When we arrived, Telstra said no way – Vodafone did it with $200 deposit which I go back after a year.

            Buy the drivers handbook and start learning! You have 3 months from being resident to take the written driving test. (Practical driving test is no longer required for many countries including UK). It’s easy and if you fail and can just turn up the next day and try again.

            Suncream, and if hot, drink, drink and more drink.

            Insulated Waterbottle & lunchboxes for children

            Lottery Winners Circle card -  call 131 868 to get one. Costs a few $ and takes a few weeks - worth having because they notify you of any wins and also it stores your numbers on the card, meaning to don’t have to fill out the form each week.

Ausiie phonecard card from garage or newsagent for cheapest calls to UK (2c per min). When looking at other cards, watch out for tricks like the “flag fall” i.e. the connection charge…., the daily charge, the minimum charge etc and the expiry.  I recommend the Aussie phone card because it just charges per minute and has no expiry.

            Telephone line and local calls – Look out for bundled deals – ones which include a certain number of phone calls are the best.  Telstra - "Homeline plus" for over 57 local calls a month - we find we make 90-140 calls – also consider Homeline Advance which adds $6 to the line rental but drops local calls to 15c.

            Internet ISP – TPG, IINet, IPrimum, Dodo.

            NOTE – if you need to be calling your UK bank, insurance companies etc once you’ve arrived in Australia, find out their international phone number first, rather than freephone 0800 or local call 0870 numbers.  These numbers are not only not free, but are hugely expensive when called from overseas – up to 80c per min. In fact the 0870 numbers often don’t work at all. It’s therefore essential to find a normal phone number with a standard dialing code. Often the call centre will tell you there isn’t another number….. persist!!! Ask them the phone number for reception, or who they would call if they were late for work….. explain that the 08xx number cannot be called from the country you are going to. This has caused a lot of frustration when you look at the contact details on uk websites, to find that a number for international callers hasn’t been provided.

            “Flyby” loyalty card from Kmart and Coles - register straight away so you clock up points straight away. Use the temporary card provided until plastic card arrives.

            Before going mad in Kmart, note they sometimes have a storewide sale - 15% off all prices - absolutely everything, about 4 times a year. Watch out for it. Sometimes certain sections may have 20% or 25% off, - even 50% off say on children's clothing.

            Playgroup - there's bound to be one or more in your suburb - ask around

            Schools - sign up, buy uniform/books

            Queensland Ambulance Cover  - this is now included as part of your electricity bill ! It used to be $90 for whole family per year or otherwise included in most private medical cover plans. A trip in an Ambulance following a 000 call could have previously cost $1500.

            Get some Insect Spray ! and if you want, Insect Repellant for the evening.

            Australian electric plugs – (meant to use an electrician)

            Shut screen doors as it gets dark to stop creepy crawlies coming in

            Weeds - control of them straight away ! Things grow fast here unless it’s winter!

Australian Web search engine

            www.Google.com.au also lets you get results from Australian sites only.

            Try www.sensis.au       - succeeds in bringing up more Australian specific results - rememember to change from The World to Australia

Family Restaurants

Samford pub (fantastic renovations done in 2003... good pub for familes)

The Gap Tavern

Ahhhrgh - no TGI Friday! Try :

Hogs Breath Cafe

Lone Star

Sizzler restaurants. (a bit like Harvester in UK)

Hard Rock Café on the Gold Coast

Acreage near the coast

Here in Samford, we are 30-35 mins from Redcliffe on the Sunshine Coast and we feel that is an easy journey to get to a nice beach! We're also 90mins from the Gold Coast. The closer you get to the coast, I would have thought the less chances of finding acreage. Eatons crossing area, Warner, Cashmere have acreage and would be 10 mins closer to the coast than Samford, but they don't have a central village requiring longer car journeys just to get break and milk. I guess there may be acreage areas around Petrie which is a little further north, and be considerably closer to the coast, but of course further away from Brisbane. On other side of the city, on the coast are Manly and Cleveland though I don't know the typical size of properties there. I just heard that down at the Gold Coast, the particularly nice acreage areas are "Mudgeeraba" and Currumbin, but I can imagine it would still take 20 to get to the sea.

About Samford

We chose Samford by talking to people who knew the areas and by a process of elimination of the other acreage areas. Just one drive around Samford Downs made me say "this is it".  The only other area I found like it was down in Brookfield, for some very strange reason the land blocks there are at least $100k more, yet there is no central village - just a roundabout with a few shops on it! ..The houses are all individual as in Samford Downs, but something about it isn't quite as smart - perhaps it's that people mow their lawn frontages more often in Samford.... I don't really know!    We wanted an area where we would have quite a few neighbours, although it is still a minute or two's walk to reach them walking down our drive to the end of the cul de sac and up one of the neighbours' drives, and in particular we wanted somewhere where our son could ride his bike and make friends   Now we do have friends here (going to playgroup with our younger two made that easy for us but still takes a number of months)  we think we wouldn't mind in the future being in a more secluded area, hence 5 acre properties where they are further apart from each other and more private. Personally, we don't have a particular affinity to water, though yes of course it would be handy to be closer to beach, but I wouldn't give up our elevated mountain views for anything, while others are happy with 1/5th acre plot and neighbours looking into their gardens in order to achieve prestigious waterfront property! 

What’s nice about Samford is that you have definitely left the suburbs, yet there's a village with a good sized supermarket and an number of other facilities, and even more exciting (saving a 15 min journey elsewhere) - a chinese and an Indian that opened mid 2000!  [and now a Thai!]  It's a smart area and you are also very close to Mount Glorious with its rainforest walks - also Cedar Creek with nice walks and climbing up by the waterfalls.

Schools 

Regarding schools, the moment you get here the children will be put back about 6 months, because the school year starts in January. The state primary is excellent we believe - we've been very pleased with it having made the jump from a private school in England to state school here - all part of our big change of life - it certainly helped our son have local friends. I think it is true that they are much more relaxed than schools in England and have less homework. Yet they do advance and come out the other end with comparible degrees etc.... it seems that at a younger age they don't push as much and prefer them to socialise more out of school. Of course Samford primary school is, while 800 pupils, a village school in a fairly upmarket area so maybe we were lucky but I tend to hear good things about most schools. Our son spent 2 years here at the primary school, and then moved with all his friends to the high school at Ferny Grove for the next 5 years. There’s no high school in Samford - the bus takes them all to Ferny (10-15 mins away by car but at least half hour bus ride because of the various stops) -  A lot of parents who do use private schools often send their children to the local state primary, and then only change to private schools for high school. Of course there are entry requirements, waiting lists, some religious bias,  and all of that, but I believe the costs are much much less than in the UK. We feel very fortunate to have access to both good state schools.

Houses/Acreage

Dependant on the amount of money available to buy or rent a house, you may be able to have an acreage property. There are good areas, and there are outstanding areas! To some people their ideal home would be waterfront property - but waterfront property has a typical block size of 800sq metres, (around 1/5th acre), or at best a double block 2/5ths acre. Waterfront properties are in the places mentioned before - but don't forget the Gold Coast, such as Runaway bay area. To others, upmarket areas as close to the city as possible is what is their ideal property - and Windsor is expensive and upmarket suburb. But others - and this is where I'm biased - like large houses on acreage, and dislike suburban areas for living in. On acreage, some prefer seclusion - and some prefer open views - maybe elevated with mountain views.

Advantages of Acreage Living

While trying to persuade a friend to move here rather than Brisbane City or Gold Coast, we came up with a number of things to try to tempt them. Remember we're talking about the same price as a house close to the city centre or waterfront, but probably half an hour out of the city centre. (I wrote this section when the prices were about a third of what they are now and the UK to OZ exchange rate was 2.5, so sorry if they are way out of reach!)

            Able to have a large house

            Able to have pool without taking up garden

            Able to have triple or larger garage

            Able to have large driveway for cars

            Flexibility to extend even larger without having to consider moving – perhaps second house for parents, teenager’s sanctuary, large shed, games rooms etc

            Room for verandahs and large patios

            A typical drive to shops, nearby shopping centres ("malls") etc is likely to take you on quiet country roads with great views

            Able to walk / play around entire house without feeling house is adjacent

            Able to have interesting areas, walks, hideaways, isolated spots in the garden

            Good for entertaining many people

            Dogs and cats have freedom to roam in their own space (legally not allowed off your property)

            Can have chickens without taking over garden

            Room for Vegetable patch /Orchard

            It’s wonderful watching kids run around in a large space

            Can have kids playthings, swings, trampoline, climbing etc without clutter

            Less feeling of being trapped inside if there’s bad weather

            Able to entertain even if bad weather

            Unlikely to be overlooked by many neighbours if at all

            Feeling of spaciousness

            Feeling of permanence; it can’t be taken away, unlike in urban areas where it can continue to be developed and views can disappear

            Everyone else is also on acreage so view all around house is of greenery with just a few houses rather than lots of houses with some landscaping

            No parking problems, no cars parked on road so smarter appearance for whole area

Able to have elevated views, mountain views

Much better feeling of value and achievement – substantially more land for your money

House can be set back from road giving improved security, feeling of seclusion

Can fence / gate to provide security

Able to have nice gardens as well as lots of lawn

Room for “dam” (small lake)

Able to do substantial landscaping to make interesting outside features

Trees !  Makes your garden or front/back yard interesting!

Able to have many fruit trees

Feeling of safety / safer area as less people live

Quiet local roads roads, safe for kids to ride bikes, encouraging outdoor activities / staying or getting fit

Older kids have room for motorbikes, quad bikes etc

Have neighbours who also enjoy similar amount of space


When we emigrated from the UK, we looked for areas that we would consider you'd get more for your money - and initially we looked at 1/2 acre to an acre as being ideal and ended up getting a 2 acre property; now we feel that for our next house (which we hope to build), 5 acres would be absolutely ideal - room to add fruit trees here, garden there, pool, allow the house to be set well back from the road yet still have large front and back gardens, room for extension in the future and still have large expanse of playing area, but not too large to manage. (I used to absolutely hate gardening by the way in the UK, but here it just all seems worth it!).

Acreage areas are likely to give you between 1 acre and 5 acres and the areas we found were: Pullenvale, Bridgeman Downs, Samford Valley, Kenmore Hills, Brookfield but we rejected the other areas for various reasons such as no village/shops nearby, less polished, over expensive, further away from city, no views etc, as one place stands out as the ultimate area which is the Samford Valley. It's just 30mins from the city centre - has a great village with good facilities - 30 mins to the city, 40 mins to the Sunshine coast (Redcliffe/Scarborough), 45 -60 mins to the Gold coast, and has a number of areas including Samford Downs with mountain views and a very polished appearance.

Size of Acreage

Note that 5 acres doesn't cost much more than 2 though you may have to go a bit further out.... and the moment you see someone's house with 5 acres, you appreciate the extra flexibility and spaciousness. Maybe not now, but in the future you may want to add this and that, an area of trees, an orchard, a tennis court, an extension and it would be lovely to think you have that flexibility without having to move yet again.    On 2 acres, particularly if not a level site (and few are!) you might put the house towards the edge of the property with a driveway .... but with 5 acres you can put it in the middle and have a nice large space all around you. If other properties nearby are also 5 acres, you have excellent separation, yet still have neighbours. I live in an area where the properties are 2-3 acres and while most houses have separation all around, some including mine have a close neighbour, though masked (almost) by a line of trees. A lot of areas in the Downs are 1 acre, so are a closer together, yet it is these houses, all different from each other, that sold us on this particular area. Privacy is created by planting trees here and there, and trees can grow amazingly fast to surprising heights in just 2-3 years.  My friend has 5 acres in Highvale has planted about 15 fruit trees in one area, have their watertanks and biocycle hidden away, created gardens around the creek which the driveway is built over and have fenced half the property to create a large garden around the house. I'm envious !! and since I have a burning desire to build, we will certainly aim for that size when we do it in the future.  Regarding mowing, there are larger and faster rideon mowers which can cut 5 acres in the same time you can cut 2 acres. More hilly terrain and more obstacles such as trees of course make mowing take longer. Our property takes 2.5 hours to mow, which is mainly handled by my son for his pocket money and is done once per week in the summer, once every other week as winter approaches and can be left alone for about 3 months over winter. A brand new ride on mower is $4500-$6500 and 2nd hand for $2000-$4000.  A larger tractor with mowing deck, 4WD and faster is $15k - $23k ! though my friend picked one up from auction at $8k and apparently that kind of equipment is available at auction every week, so I will look for that when having larger acreage so it takes only 2 hours instead of 5.

The negative side of larger acreage - apart taking longer to mow - is that you could be further away from a village, and children might be less inclined to ride to the village on their bike,  it will cost a little more to maintain. Larger house almost certainly means loads of lights meaning bigger electricity bill. Also sharing lifts for school /football /youth club might be more awkward than in a more concentrated area - .... !  However once a large acreage estate is established, you are in a community all of its own hopefully with nearby friends.

Consider the issues that accompany steep blocks. The cost per acre is less, but the building costs and future extensions will be more.   Inevitably a cut and fill operation is required to create a level area – resulting in a bank behind the house and a bank in front, which in turn will have water runoff issues. The steeper the original land and the wider the house, will result in higher bank / cliff-like front. Foundations for the house will be steeper, access, drainage problems behind the house – subsequent landscaping for gardens all present extra complications and cost, with less usable land for recreation, pool, patios, extensions, shed etc.  Mountain top blocks afford the best views, and often provide the largest amounts of land – perhaps 10 – 40 acres, but even with landscaping taken into account you may only achieve a half to one acre of useable land.

Maintenance

Obviously there is work to be done on acreage, mainly mowing, but also preventing vines and "lantana" from growing near the fenceline, and preventing or pulling weeds. Once it's under control, just mowing, some strimming, and occasionally spraying is all that's needed.... oh and if you have hedges, obviously some hedge trimming.  Trees will shed the odd branch particularly during a storm, so a small chain saw is good too...

So the essentials which you’d need to budget for are:

                        Sprayer /weedkiller (8l carry around is probably OK - 15l backpacks are available but cause back ache!)

                        Hedge trimmer (good to get one with rotating handle)

                        Whippersnipper (strimmer/brush cutter)

                        Small Chainsaw (less essential but trees drop branches in storms and need trimming beyond the capability of the hedge trimmer)

                        Blower/Vaccuum (not essential, occasionally useful )

                        Pressure Washer (keep those patios clean!) and make sure you get a powerful one !

A ride-on mower

A catcher for the rideon mower (optional, I don’t have one – you can just spray the cut grass out to the side and it disappears into the grass)

                        And of course large wheelbarrow

                        General tools

In England I loathed gardening and simply didn’t do any and never picked up a power tool!   Yet I find all of this very enjoyable now because it just looks so good when it's all mowed and tidy... it's healthy, it's warm and it really is quite easy after all...it really doesn't consume much time and you could get your child to mow (my son did it from 11 years old) for some pocket money.  In fact due to the mower running costs, servicing, depreciation, petrol and your own time, it can be around the same cost to have someone over with their equipment rather than to do it yourself. However, when owning a rideon mower, you can get the mowing done whenever you want, rather than having to rely on a chap who fails to turn up (and typically not let you know) just before you have guests, when you wanted it all to look nice!

Land and Building Prices

Samford has cheaper land prices (and thus also property prices) than many other acreage areas, yet we think has the best appearance with the best facilities; . Having now visited these other areas on several occasions out of interest, we think Samford and the surrounding area was still the right choice. All the acreage houses I have seen are very individual. For a nice 2500 sq foot house on an acre it will probably be $800k (was $350k in 2002). Move up to $1.1m and you get something very large and with the wow! factor. Move to $1.5m+ and you have prestige 5500+sq foot property with excellent location and also intercoms, central vacuum, aircon, landscaped gardens, but will be hard to find (unless you build!). There are a few larger properties some on larger parcels of land such 30 acres in the $1.5m to $2.5m category, but take a long time to sell.

You can build fantastic properties too.   Typical land price for 3-5 acres at present (2010) is $500k-$600k (2004 was $350k, $220k in 2002); 

Building costs are $1200 per sq metre for a good specification low set house, $1500 per sq metre for luxury non standard fittings with ducted aircon.... or down to $755 per sq metre for a fully specced project home (which is where a building company have a fixed set of available house designs that they will build for you on your land, and in some areas have show houses for you to look around, and a limited range of options),  or 600 per sq metre for project home with basic options.

An insurance assessor told me that they use a figure of $2000 per sq metre for luxury houses when assessing the total insured value (though that does include allowance for patios, landscaping, driveway, intercom, duncted aircon, central vacuum, granite kitchen bar, oversize windows, luxury tap/showers etc) Not sure if it also included a pool!

The total space ‘under roof’ of a house is often quoted in ‘squares’.

1000 sq foot = 93sq metres = 10 "squares"

So – a large 60 “square” home  (6000 sq foot/ 558 sq m) home on 5 acres within 10 mins of the village should cost $1.5m.  Such a home in England, with mountain views and 30 mins from a city, would have to be about £2.5m , perhaps simply not possible to find. 

When we arrived in 2000, with prices at a third of this and an exchange rate of 2.5, it really did seem incredible to get such a huge house for relatively low amount of £s. Of course, anyone with some good equity in their existing UK property will be in a good position to choose something very nice over here.

There are still wonderful land blocks being sold and it's quite normal to buy the land and have a house built. I'd recommend first renting or buying, allowing a considerable amount of time to design your dream home to try and avoid mistakes and regrets. If you can, of course buy the land as soon as possible to secure it, and some people have a large “Ozzie Barn” structure built as their garage/storage area, and have it converted for living in – perhaps with an upstairs mezzanine level… saves paying someone else rent, and leaves you with guest/teenage retreat accommodation.

Sometimes people get permission to subdivide their land if it's big enough, but sometimes its costly to comply with the regulations such as having to build a bridge over a low lying flood area, even though you may presently be using that area yourself to drive up to your property. Typically, subdivision is allowed if the resultant plots are 5 acres or more. Recently in Samford, some smaller blocks right down in the village have been developed. People find it strange that this has been allowed while the whole character of Samford Valley has been shaped by the previous strict subdivision policies.

In some areas, you are allowed to build more than one house on your land. I am certain you are not allowed to sell separately, so the usual purpose is for parents / relatives to live beside you. I have seen a number of houses for sale with extra living quarters. It clearly adds cost when building and makes selling more complicated as you are seeking purchases with specific requirements.  If you are building, then when designing layout of your house and the extra residence, you might consider potential future modifications to allow the property to be converted to a single dwelling with more rooms.

About the Samford area

Samford Valley comprises Samford Village, Samford Downs, Highvale, Camp Mountain, Wight's Mountain. Anyone of these areas is a great place to live, with Samford Village close by providing their central facilities.

Samford Village is situated just outside Brisbane, though only 30mins to city centre. Large supermarket, bakery, coffee shops, fantastic pub, restaurant, about 4 estate agents, PO, several hair dressers, smart high street, gym (under refurbishment at last!), butcher, gift stores, restaurant, Chinese, Indian, Garage (does small pizzas),  ANZ bank,  Commonwealth Bank ATM (cashpoint) in newsagency, video rental, dentist, doctor, childcare centre, playgroup, 5mins walk to primary school.

Samford Downs – Drive past Samford Village up Mount Glorious Road. After 5 mins, turn into Samford Downs. A huge housing area – established 8 years ago – and still growing though it must be running out of space soon. All underground power and with town water (mains). Stage 8G opening up now, 1 acre lots available. Wonderful variety of houses, – minimum size is specified so it’s an upmarket area. Mountain views everywhere. Just 5 mins from Samford Village at one end, up to 10 mins from the area that is presently selling land.  (Samford Downs is so large that it seems strange to think of it as an "estate" but it is called that nonetheless.. not what you would call an estate in England!).

Highvale. Drive up past Samford downs and the area is called Highvale, all the way up to the foot of Mount Glorious. It is about 10mins from the village and has some larger acreages. The road then goes up the mountain where you can reach Mount Glorious and travel on to Mount Nebo.

Camp Mountain - great acreage close to Samford village

Wights Mountain with yet more acreage.. close to the village

Cedar Creek/Closeburn - Drive out beyond Samford village, not west up Mount Glorious Road, through Highvale towards Mount Glorious to get to Samford Downs, but instead through the Samford High St, north out towards Dayboro.  Just 5 minutes out you turn left down Cedar Creek Road, which stretches on for miles. The first part of the road is the "Closeburn" area, and then it becomes Cedar Creek which is 10-15 mins out depending how far down the road you are.. The road is actually a dead end and arrives at the foot of Mount Glorious where there's a nice forest walk with climbing up by the waterfalls. I heard that on a few occasions that cars have been broken into at the end of the deadend road.  There's no estate area down there, nor shopping facilities (they would use Samford) - and the further down the road you go the more isolated you are of course. I'm not sure if there's land available but I expect there will be individuals selling property.  There's bound to be space out there and nice if you want to be a little further out from the village

Samsonvale - .... Further past Cedar Creek, about 10-15 mins out of the village is Samsonvale. 5 acres plots available and nicely spaced out.

Dayboro. You can go quite a lot further past Samsonvale and reach the village of Dayboro; it's a good 25 mins from Samford meaning 55 mins from the city... a quiet olde-worlde village which is experiencing huge growth due to acreage areas becoming available. It really is a long way out, but then again, perhaps that's the whole point!

Upper Kedron : The usual journey out of Samford towards the city (30 mins away) takes you Souteast through "The Range", a road through the forest which winds up the hill and back down again unil you reach the suburb of Ferny Grove (where the high school is). To the south of this forest is an area called "Upper Kedron" with acreage properties within the forest, some on steep terrain.

Bunya is an area between Eatons Hill and Ferny Hills - there is acreage there and I have seen one or two smaller estates in there. I haven't really seen much of Bunya but I believe there is shopping complex somewhere there as opposed to a village. 

Other areas a reasonable distance from Samford to the northwest are Yugar, Draper, Bunya, Clear Mountain, Cashmere, Warner and Eatons Hill - before reach the densely populated suburbs again (Albany Creek).

Mt Glorious & Nebo. Travelling west from the village takes you past Samford Downs, through Highvale and then winding up the mountain road to reach either Mount Glorious on the right, or for a longer trek, turn left and reach Mount Nebo.

To decide on the areas you like you really need to drive around these areas and decide if want to live amongst a collection of large houses on 1-3 acres, or prefer more isolated pockets of acreage, perhaps in a cul de sac, with various types of housing.  There will always be nice areas in each location. The areas outside of Samford may have more land but may be more isolated which can mean less access to friends for your children without plenty of car journeys.

Maps

When I originally heard about Samford, it frustrated me when I just couldn't see it anywhere on a map of Brisbane. The maps of Brisbane e.g. Ourbrisbane often showed just the different council areas of Brisbane, and not outer suburbs. Samford is off the map.. just west of Ferny Grove. In fact, Samford is actually in the Pine Rivers shire, not Brisbane even though it is a lot closer than some other suburbs that are still in Brisbane.

Since we moved here I've found some other maps : Try looking at Multimap but the best map is at whereis.com.au as it clearly shows which areas are built up and which are rural.

This map shows Samford and surrounding areas; Dayboro is off the map to the north.

The following map shows Samford Village in relation to the centre of Brisbane... Samford is top right... the city is bottom left, north of the river.

 

Airconditioning

Re aircon - it's amazing how few houses have it, even though we only use it ourselves when it's around 34 degrees or over, or when the air is unusually still at lower temps. It's even more amazing how Brisbane residents put up with the cold in the winter. Typically if you don't have central aircon, a woodfire or gas fire in the central living area would be used - and maybe an infrared heating bulb in the bathroom, but many don't bother lighting the fire and put up with the cold in their jumpers thinking surely it shouldn't be this cold in Brisbane! The house temperature probably drops down to 15 or 16 degrees if you didn't heat it in mid winter which is uncomfortable. If using aircon to heat the house, the air is circulating, so you end up having to heat it to 24 or 25 degrees to make it comfortable, in order to compensate for the breeze you create in the house. In upmarket area you'll find more homes with aircon (and even more pools), but frequently perhaps aircon is only installed in one room like the living room or perhaps the master bedroom.

Pools

Building a pool - It's probably going to be outdoor ! Even with the wonderful Queensland weather it's nice to have some sort of heating.  Everyone pushes Solar heating. Gas heating is unusual apart from heating a Spa because it is expensive. An option to consider is a "Heatpump" - basically an refrigerator system in reverse. It doesn't heat quickly, but once heated it keeps the temperature and uses a quarter of the cost than if you used gas.  It achieves this because incredibly it's 400-500% efficient. Sounds impossible, but it's because it draws heat from the air, even if the air temparature is fairly low.  In this way, for 3kw of electricity used, it can actually generate 15kw of heat for your pool. It's more expensive that any other to install, but if you were thinking of using gas, then work the cost out over 3 years including the cost of heating in order to have a fair comparison. Furthermore, because the running cost is cheap - you've effectively paid for the luxury up front - you can keep your pool warm all the time without feeling guilty ! Heatpumps about £8000-£10,000, $450-$600 a year to run.  Gas about $4000-$5500, about $3000-$4000 a year to run. Solar about $3500-$4000 (x 1.5 if you want to double the number of solar panels), and about $50 a year to run.

Pools are charged by their perimeter - all the prices below are "installed" prices. NOTE - These are 2000 prices.. probably more now.. when I find someone that has recently built a pool I will amend the prices.

a rectangular 10x5m is 30 linear metres and would cost $28k including pump, filter everything you need.

    Add $1100 for a nice colour smooth "quartzon" concrete interior instead of the rought white pebbledash.

    Add $1100 for a spa area with jets (not separate spa but a nook within the pool)...

    Add $380 per light (including installtion)- suggest 2 or 3...

    Say $550 for a cleaner, $3000 for in floor cleaning (guess)

    $2000 - 4500+ for fence ($85 per metre installed).  or $10k for all glass fence ($200 per metre)  (or do some glass, some aluminium).

    $1100 for double row of colour waterline tiles. 

    $5000 for Terracotta paving around pool but get a separate builder to do this for half, 

    $800-$1200 for automatic acid/chlorine delivery for fresh water pool instead of salt water pool. 

    $1000 for Pool cover & roller,  adding 3-6 degrees to pool temp and helps keep the temp overnight, good for this time of year.

    $5500  Solar or gas heating,  or $8k for Heatpump heating (incredibly only 1/4cost to run than gas, based on aircon heat exchange technology, so can keep pool heated consistently, good for 11months of the year)

    Electrical work $300+.  

    Could hit rock adding $1-2k but I've not heard of that myself in the Samford area.   

    $200 topsoil, $300 bobcat work and $100 for grass seed to sort out the mess afterwads.

So it all adds up if you want the optional extras! Just like aircon, it seems that most people don't heat their pools, which seems a waste of the excellent weather! Once the temp drops below 27 degrees people tend not to go in and at mid April  a pool in the sun, uncovered, sits at 24 degrees and falling. For a few months during summer, the pool, uncovered, sits at 30-31 degrees.  A fence is compulsory, and since 2003, you must also display a resuscitation sign.

Restaurants

The newly refurbished pub in Samford is fantastic… family friendly, three bars, play area, garden, good food etc

If you fancy a 40 min trek north of Samford past Dayboro, then I can definitely recommend Munchkins up at Mount Mee .

Make sure you get a copy of “The Entertainment Book”.  It has vouchers throughout, and gives a great idea of every restaurant in all categories

Exchange Rate and Transferring Funds

Try to watch it and it will frustrate the hell out of you. The moment you thought you got a good deal, a better one is just around the corner.  The moment you wait, it starts going against you!  It’s best to just be happy with what you got and think yourself lucky it could have been a lot worse.  We got 2.52 – 5 years earlier our friends got 1.80 having watched it drop to 2.20 and waited hoping it would recover. After we arrived, the rate steadily went up to 2.90 and even as far as 3.00. Presently about 2.70.   So you see, +/- 0.10 is little to worry about. We did well when selling our house in the UK in 2000 – had we waited until April 2002, the house would have been worth another 40% and the exchange rate would have gained another 7%.  I see now in 2004 that the house price has doubled from when we left in 2000, and the exchange rate has settled back at about 2.50.  For years I worked everything out on 2.50, regardless of the actual exchange rate.  Hmmm, OK now it’s 2000 and the rate is amazingly different. For the moment I work on 1.70.

But play the waiting game further and house prices could crash, or the exchange rate go against you.  Whether you are waiting for house prices to rise or exchange rates to improve, consider that you might be gambling and it could go either way – you need to weigh it up again the possibility of gaining an extra year here in the sun!

To make it easy to transfer funds, either use a Forex service (I recommend OzForex.com), or perhaps set up an account with Commonwealth bank in London. Commbank set up a deposit account for you in Australia. The Commonwealth account in London has a UK Sort code and account number, so you can just transfer money there, and it is then automatically transferred to your account over here.  The exchange rate is used depends on the amount transferred. I believe if the figure is over £25k, then you get the interbank rate less about 1/2 cent - so you really couldn't ask for any better.  You can also give instruction to hold the amount in London until you give the go-ahead, allowing you to call up and find the present exchange rate and decide whether or not to transfer. While you are here, it’s easy to transfer further funds in this manner, for example by using Netbanking to transfer from your UK bank account to your Commonwealth Bank London account. Presumably the other Australian banks are represented in London too, but I don't know.

Grant of PR

When the visa is granted, they give you up to a year to enter Australia. However, it's always less than a year because I understand that the last entry date is set as one year from the date of the police checks (whoever did it first), or one year from the date of whoever had their medical done first. We did get our police checks done again so our latest arrival date was set as one year from the date that I had my medical - as I was the first to have it.

I’ve just heard that you now have to do the medicals before submitting the application, whereas when we applied in 1999, they asked you to go for medicals after receiving the application, and this was a good indication that everything else was accepted and your grant of PR was now dependant only upon the outcome of the medicals. Someone mentioned that the medicals were “valid” for 2 years rather than 1 – can anyone confirm this?

Our application was put on hold after we did our medicals, because our daughter was yet to be born... so she had her medical when she was 10 days old! Knowing that we were already accepted while the application was on hold, the final outcome was dependant on the health of our new baby ! We did consider doing our own medicals again too in order to extend our latest arrival date, but decided against and arrived here within 4 months of receiving the visas.

Sydney or Brisbane

We emigrated to Brisbane. We chose it for the weather, the prices, and the easy way of life. We originally only considered Sydney, but it's only an hour's flight from Brisbane, and we think Brisbane is a nicer place to be. Brisbane has been slower to modernize than other cities – back in the late 80s, I hear that all the petrol stations use to close at 5 on a Friday night and not re-open until Monday morning, still no Sunday trading for large shops, no daylight savings which means in gets dark even in Summer between 7.30 and 8, and light at 4.30am. Sunday trading has only recently been allowed from July 2002, though the large shops still don’t open. Most takeaways shut by 8:30pm. Even on Saturday night, the busiest time for the pizza place in our village is 7:30pm.

We left the UK in January 2000 - it was 2 degrees and it was a 33 degrees when we arrived here. The weather is fanastic and you get used to the warm temparatures pretty quick - to the point that you can actually say when it's only 30 that it feels cool ! (with a breeze!). Normal mid summer reaches 35-36 with pleasant nights - perhaps sometimes a little sticky but wonderful to be able to have windows open all night (with insect screens of course). Exceptionally hot (like this Christmas) was 39max - yes that was a steamer but that's what your pool is for! or your aircon if you have it, or fans if you don't. Winter temps often reach 22 deg max, though a very cold day might be a blustery 10 deg. On average 5 deg warmer than Sydney. You think to yourself, if that's the worst weather you can throw at me, I'm not going back!. In 2.5 years, the absolute minimum overnight temp was 3.9 degrees. [2 years on, and it did once drop to 2.8 degrees.] Occasionally a winter's day can reach 25 - 27 , even over 30 in the last few days of winter.
Rainstorms are much more interesting - very heavy but not cold - and larger homes with verandahs means you can still have doors open and go outside.

Child Benefit

When you arrive, you are probably not working straight way, and this benefit (called Family Tax Benefit Part A) is paid regardless of your assets. While not working, with 3 children, the payment is $456 per fortnight ! I suggest you telephone them on the very day you arrive to lodge your intention to claim the benefit, and arrange an appointment to bring in your id etc during the week. Once you are earning, you can earn up to $29857 without affecting it. Then it starts reducing the benefit by 30c for every $ over, until you reach the base rate whatever that is. Once you're earning over $80,665 for one child, (87235 for 2 and  93805 for 3) then the payment stops altogether.

Homesickness

Well my wife was homesick for about 3 months – maybe 4. She felt it particularly after we moved into the home we had purchased, I think because there it felt more secure and stable, and thus more final.  You really have to tell yourself that you are free.. nothing to stop you selling and going back. Stay in contact with family though email, letters, cards, phone (just 2c per minute with an Aussie phonecard), and that also you now have a pleasant and interesting place for your family to come on holiday to.  Personally I wasn’t homesick, nor my son. Of course I occasionally yearn for being back home to see my family and to go down to an English pub with my friends!   It was recommended to me, and I agree, that it’s best to wait at least a year or even two before reviewing your circumstances, allowing plenty of time to really settle in and get used to your new life. I’ve heard of people who gave up and moved back to England after just 6 months…. but then couldn’t stand the weather and came back again!... which with 2 extra moves was obviously very expensive.

Clickiness/Snobbery

Someone once suggested that there was more "clickiness" in Brisbane than Perth. I guess it is true that there is an element of clickiness - we've seen examples here and there, for example certain days for playgroup where everyone seems to stick together .... but other days when it's extremely friendly. Also my wife was invited over with a group of mums engaging in a kind of organised chat session / power talk that wasn't her cup of tea! But this is all part of the variety and perhaps we have been lucky. On the whole we have found people to be welcoming and friendly - of course most of our experience is outside the city. On a similar subject - snobbery - , well despite the variety of housing in Samford from the the good to the extravagent, I can say we still haven't seen any snobbery as such which is wonderful though yes of course once in a while you come across the odd miserable so and so! Coming from Surrey, there was varying degrees of snobbery, but here there just seems to be no personal competition like that, no keeping up with the Joneses, one upmanship, etc... everyone just seems happy talking to everyone else and we found that very refreshing! We know a few families who have moved to Perth and said they had trouble fitting in... well who knows if this was down to the local area or if it is more difficult over there.. I can only speak for our area and say how wonderful it is here!

Pensions / Financial Advice

You could sort out pension and everything once you're here. I understand life is a lot simpler if you get everything transferred over here. In Australia you are taxed on your world wide income, so you really don’t want to start getting taxed on the growth of your UK pension. Apparently, you get 6 months before the growth is taxable here. Pension companies typically make it awkward to transfer and can make it initially look impossible but it usually can be done.  You really don’t want to have your existing UK financial advisor get commission for assisting in transferring the pension, and then also have commission paid for its reinvestment here, so I think it’s best for your new advisor here to deal with the UK pension company direct.  My financial advisor emigrated from the UK to Brisbane in about 1995 and we emigrated in 2000; he is now my advisor once again which must act as a good recommendation!. He has been an excellent source of assistance and is naturally familiar with both UK and OZ financial matters and has successfully had many clients' pensions transferred from the UK over here.  Of course he arranges House Contents & Buildings Insurance, Life cover, Income protection, Car Insurance, funds, investments etc.  If you are emigrating to Brisbane, Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast, then I can let you have his contact details if you like. Just a quick point… please don’t phone him up for advice and get him to do loads of work for you, but then shop around elsewhere ! I’m recommending him to act as your financial adviser if you would like one when you arrive in OZ.

Bring the furniture?

We would recommend bringing everything you can - simply because it means not having to pay so much for all the replacements all at once. If there's another year or two's use out of something before you would have sold or dumped it while in the UK, you may as well get that use out of it here. We were considering leaving beds, some cabinets, some older sofas etc.. but are glad we brought them with us as they are still used. You may well get a bigger house in Australia and have to buy extra furniture anyway.. and remember it's not just the extra cost but also the time it takes to find what you want! The only thing we brought that didn't get used were some wardrobes... the houses here all seem to have builtins in every room, so we popped two wardrobes in the garage for storage there.  That's where all our UK winter coats are, untouched for over two years! Ah... don't we just love the Brisbane weather!!

On the whole once you re paying for a container, getting the removal company to pop in that table/cabinet/sofa etc that you can't really decide if you want to bring or not, is really not going to make much differece to the cost - so just bring it ! Of course, if you are just reaching the point of filling up a 20 foot container and having to move to a 40ft, or beyond, then you have to judge that extra cost and whether ditching one or two items would make more financial sense.

Houserental

When you first arrive, planning on where you will stay is very difficult, particularly if you have children because no doubt you would prefer not to have to put them in to a new school, then move schools again when you find another area.  You might spend a few weeks searching for an area when you arrive before they go into a school, or you might do lots of homework before you arrive, looking at various web info and talking to people.  Our own homework led us to Samford, since we were biased towards acreage rather than city or waterfront properties, and I'm pleased to say that over 2 years later we are still happy that we made the right choice and think that Samford Downs in particular is wonderful. We took even more of a risk and bought our house in our 3rd week of arriving, completely against the plan of renting for a year to make sure we were happy.

There is so much to do when leaving, and timing is a challenge - selling the house, the cars etc, packing/removals/flights etc, that also trying to arrange rental the other end can be difficult.  In fact it's more difficult than you think because in my experience,

1) there were hardly any house rentals available in acreage areas (all shown on the websites were out of date when I rang!),

2) people don't want to rent their house out until they and the agent have met you,

3) almost all house rentals are rented unfurnished which doesn't suit someone emigrating awaiting the arrival of their belongings 7-8 weeks later! 

4) you have no idea how long you want it for and most people want to rent their house out long term – i.e. a year.

We tried for a couple of months to find something in advance of arrival in Australia, and nearly ended up in a motel for 6 weeks in a built up area by the main road half an hour away from where we wanted to be. We did in the last 2 weeks before leaving the UK, finally find a B&B who didn't normally accept children, and after 2 weeks moved on to a farm that had a rustic cottage with far more space, that we rented for a further 6 weeks. It would certainly have been wonderful to find a furnished house to rent when we first arrived, even if just for a couple of weeks for us to unwind and find our feet. However, this is almost impossible to arrange over here, let alone arrange it remotely before your arrival in Australia.

Note that there are rental companies who will rent entire furniture packages, crockery, kitchen utensils,TV, bedding etc etc, which could be a useful approach if renting an unfurnished property. Of course the cost/quality varies between companies... I've heard of PABS (www.pabs.com.au) but I'm sure an internet search would reveal other companies.  If you do manage to rent an unfurnished house, if the owners are just moving out and planning to put their contents into storage themselves, you may be able to persuade them nicely to leave some basics for your use.  We were offered that when we arrived in Brisbane, though we didn't end up renting there because it was a long term contract.  If you are planning to put your contents into storage when they arrive – perhaps until you buy your main home, peraps you could make arrangements to collect a few of your boxes with essential kitchen items etc before the rest is put into storage.

Houseswap

Would anyone from the Southampton area thinking about emigrating to Brisbane, Australia - or just visiting - be interested in a houseswap ?  We are in the best state (Queensland), in a wonderful area (Samford) - OK I'm biased! - and have a large modern house with pool to exchange. We're 5 mins from the village with good shopping facilities, 25mins from the airport and 30mins from the city centre. Unless you are a hardened city dweller, you will just love the acreage with mountain views, and can't fail to want to emigrate here!   We’d also be interested if anyone from an Australian or NZ ski resort area would like to house swap.  http://brisbanehome.hotshopping.com.au.

Short Term Rental

We could also be persuaded to rent out for 1-2 weeks, (involving upheaval of the family to go and find a hotel somewhere). Although long term rental is very reasonable here, short term rental simply isn’t available – I’ve never seen it. Of course, any 3/4/5 bed house would suit a family on arrival though you are really stuck with B&B, motels or hotels normally – but if you want immediate home comforts in a large home with aircon / pool and fantastic view, for around the cost of 2 hotel rooms but for much nicer surroundings in Samford, (and of course much larger too!) then please get in contact! We’ll also give you any advice you want and make sure that some essentials are ready for your arrival, so if you are interested please see http://brisbanehome.hotshopping.com.au.

Leaving Assets/Property in the UK

You can bring any and all your assets into Australia when you emigrate completely here tax free - apart from cars where there is some duty to pay.   If you leave any assets and bring them later, then there is only tax on the increase in capital from 6 months after you arive in Australia, so it if you do choose this route, it would be a good idea to get an optimistic valuation done of your house just before you leave. However, getting a valuation every year is not a normal activity. Therefore I can't see how if you left it a little longer to sell your house that anyone would be able to identify an increase... There must be a limit though say if you left it 10 years before selling your uk home you would definitely have tax to pay... . Also there would be income tax to pay on any profit made on UK rental income.

Personally I think by selling and bringing your money over here, you will have more flexibility - and be able to buy a house and thus settle down quicker. Once here and working, there's nothing to stop you buying an investment property and renting it out - much easier to control when you are here rather than trying to manage it remotely.  Of course prices and go up in the UK, but maybe it will level out or even crash again, also exchange rates can change.  At this point in time uk prices are high and the exchange rate is good, so if you sold and brought it over you are protecting your position in OZ, whereas if you leave it there you are protecting your position in the UK. 2 years ago we sold and moved the money here, and had I waited we would be in a much better position now. However, I would not have been able to buy the house we live in now and it would have been a gamble to leave it as it could just as well have gone against us. 

Citizenship

Once you've been here for 2 years you can become a citizen, which gives various privileges and responsibilities. It's quite possible to live here and never become a citizen, but if you've come here for a new life, why not embrace it and get an Ozzy passport and be allowed to vote? [Oops.. I forgot to go and vote this year (feb 04) and 6 months later I have just received a $35 fine for forgetting!!!] After filling out the application form that you receive by ringing the immigration centre (one for each adult) you are asked in for an interview. If you live in a rural area they send you off to a desginated post office such as in Ipswich for interview with the postmaster.  If you live in a city area, you go to the immgration office in the city. After sending your application form with your money, a week or so later you receive a letter asking you to attend this interview within 30 days.  For the offices in the capital city, you can just turn up any time - best to avoid lunch time! and it's a bit like the UK passport office where you go to reception to collect a ticket, then wait until your number comes up.  The queue may look long, but there aren't that many citizenship interviews going on and though the office looked full to us of people waiting, we only had 20 min wait.    Note that each adult even in a family has a separate application so you get two letters asking you to go to interview, and the letters may have different dates. Nevertheless just turn up together and they don't even question it. Our interviewer was friendly enough and chatted to our 2 & 4 year olds too. Take your birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, expired passports particularly including ones that you previously entered australia on, and of course the one that has your PR in for each member of the family.  As Andrew says it is very low key and really it is a formality. Presumably they are checking in conversation that you speak English OK.  In fact after our interview, she asked if we wanted to wait a few minutes while she approved the application, so we knew there and then but I guess that just depends on how busy they are. The ceremony is done in various shires about 4 times a year I think, our interview was at the beginning of April and we are told that we will go to the one after the next ceremony which will be end of July.

Once you are a citizen, you can't leave or enter Australia using your existing passport, so you need to get Australian passports.

Also, you are expected to be able to answer the following two questions:

What are your responsibilities as a citizen?

and What are your privileges as a citizen?

oh... and they help you with the answers too if you have forgotten them !

The answers are, as lifted from the Australian goverments immigration website in April 2002:

As an Australian citizen, you will be required to:

Obey the laws and fulfil your duties as an Australian citizen

Enrol on the Electoral register and vote at federal, state, territory and local government elections and referendums

Serve on a jury, if called on

Defend Australia, should the need arise

As an Australian citizen, you will benefit from entitlement, under Australian law, to the same rights as Australian citizens:

The right as a voter to help elect Australia's governments

The right to apply for appointment to any public office or to nominate for election as a member of parliament

The right to apply for an Australian passport and to leave and re-enter Australia without applying for a resident return visa

The right to claim protection from Australian diplomatic representatives while overseas

Eligibility to apply to enlist in the defence forces and for government jobs for which Australian citizenship is required

The right to register any child under 18 years of age, born to you overseas as an Australian citizen by descent

TV Programmes

Even if you have time off when you come over, I bet you will watch less television! So much to do outside, places to see, lovely weather etc ! However, for those who want to know what is on – here’s a summary.

An amazing number of UK programs for kids - so they won't miss a thing!

Quite a few UK dramas, the usual USA dramas

However, you won't get Eastenders which I find surprising - nor Coronation St. Old reruns of Eastenders are on satellite/cable.

From New Zealand for kids: Hairy Mclairey, Oscar and Friends (NZ)

From Oz for kids: Bananas in Pajamas, Magic Mountain, Playschool (yes... still going!), The Saddle club

From OZ for us: Who wants to be a Millionaire, Country Practice reruns, Neighbours, Popstars, The Mole, Groundforce, Homes and gardens, All Saints (good hospital drama), Harry's Practice, Always Greener

From UK for kids: Treasure, Thomas Tank Engine, Sheep, Fireman Sam, The Hoobs, Maisy Mouse, Bob the Builder, Teletubbies, George and Martha, George Shrinks, Kipper, Tweenies, Oscar Charlie, We don't eat the neighbours, Beatrix Potter, Angelina Ballerina, Madeline, Buses, Brum, Merlin, Wombles, Connie the Cow

From the UK for us Cold Feet, A Touch of Frost, Animal Hospital, Monarch of the Glen, Heartbeat, Absolutely Fabulous, The Bill

From the USA: Sesame St, Arnold, Aurthur, Angela Ancaconda, Simpsons, Malcolm in the middle, Buffy, Angel, Martin Morning, The usual cartoons

From the USA for older Recess, Judging Amy, Stargate, JAG, Dark Angel, Alias (my favorite!), Boston Public (recommended), , The Practice, ER, Friends, Enterprise, Everybody loves Raymond, Chicago Hope, Crossing Jordan, Third Watch, Jerry Springer, Ricky Lake, The Late show

Using an Agent

We didn't use an agent and just filled in the forms ourselves, so I can't advise whether you should use one I'm afraid.  If your skills are in demand and you have the points, I can't really see how an agent can improve your chances... most of the work has to be done by you anyway - like getting all the references, police check, finding all those certificates, medicals, listing job history and presenting effectively a 1 page CV etc etc. Sure there will be some questions on what is meant by certain questions, but that advice can be gained on the forums like www.britishexpats.co.uk/forums … certainly I’d advise as much effort as possible in pulling together your history, your references, accounting for time between jobs, letters of commendation, other evidence of your time at University/Polytechnic in addition to just the degree certificate, and in putting all together in a nice neat set of dividers or folders, within one presentation folder. The process and requirements do change ... so make sure you find out exactly what is needed. I think if you don't appear to have enough points, agents will be good at helping you and in determining what the best category of visa you should apply for.

Shipping your possessions
Definitely hang around when the packers are there... you need to keep a real good eye on things to make sure stupid things aren't getting packed, or that things that you want to keep to the last day don't get packed straight away. No matter who you give these instructions to, one of the other packers will do something else! Sometimes we were asked the same questions several times by 4 different people.... e.g. are these curtains going? What about this bed? A lot of patience is called for!
We had our whole fridge wrapped up with all the contents inside it.... luckily we realised before it was too late. They left an entire drawer in the kitchen with cutlery and utensils etc... which had to be sent in a separate box and arrived 2 weeks later. Even as they were about to shut and seal the door of the container, we found a hammock and a toy that they had not discovered... it seemed that in the last hour they were somewhat rushing, and that is the most important time for you to ensure everything is packed. Even then we didn't notice until too late that they left the wedding dress and we couldn't get that into the extra box that we had requested. All of these problems occured with us being there to oversee... I daren't think what would have happened and what surprises we would have found when it was delivered the other end had we not done that!

When the packing starts, you really know you're about to move.. the house is turned upside down, and I wouldn't say it's the easiest of times.. It's also your final time to work out what can be taken to the dump, and whether your baggage for the airport will be overweight and have it packed for shipping instead. We were lucky..... after everything was packed and the container had gone, we realised our baggage was 15 kilos too much and because we hadn't actually put everything into suitcases and our trunk yet, we didn't realise that it wouldn't actually fit!!! I then found some items in the garage that were worth taking and squeezed them in too. (Hint.... clean out the garage the week before so it's easy to find things!) Luckily, because of the items the packers had left, we were able to squeeze these extra items into the box that the company collected after we had departed.

BTW - when our posessions arrived in Brisbane, the company this end (Grace Removals) didn't live up to their end of the deal..... it was meant to be a full pack/unpack service... but the unpacking consisted of the boxes being brought into the house for us to unpack. Every item of furniture was unwrapped and positioned, so the heavy work was sorted out, but the number of boxes we had to unpack was staggering. It was clear they were rushing it and making sure it was over and done with in one day. It was a Friday I believe, and since we obviously wanted our belongings asap, we were content to have the boxes and unpack ourselves though it was a mammoth task. Since it took 3/4 days to pack, I would have thought it was obvious that at least 3 days should be allocated for unpacking if you have paid for that service. I really did expect them back on the Monday to continue to assist unpacking, but they didn't play ball. The UK company (Excess International Removals) talked about possible compensation, but nothing happened.
When Grace Removals brought our final item in - the piano - it was lowered to the floor and its weight was put down on the tiles rather than the carpet that was right beside it. A piece of gravel had been brought in and the weight caused a massive scratch which required a french polisher. The removal man was on that side and I'm sure that he saw the damage he had just caused, but I was standing on the other side. I didn't notice until they were driving away ... The insurance excess was £300 and the cost was about £120 I believe, so I ended up having to pay that. Worse....after the french polisher did his job..... my 23 month old son liked his work so much that he mimicked it by getting some fine sandpaper from the garage and rubbing down an area of about a square foot on both sides of the piano! To this day, it still has these huge scuff marks !
We unpacked most things straight away, but some boxes took a couple of weeks, and when we finally gave up we put about 20 boxes (toys,junk etc) into the guest bedroom and kept the door shut! They remained there for 6 months until my sister came to visit..... so it was like Christmas when we finally unpacked them and sorted it all out.
We spent £5500 on the full pack/unpack service for a 40 foot high top container. They had estimated 220 boxes but I think it worked out at something like 350, though it did all manage to fit in. It is possible to get a container delivered a few days before leaving and pack yourself which our friends did at the end of December and works out a lot cheaper. Of course you'd have to organise getting boxes, wrapping paper and perhaps employing some labour to help with heavy furniture. I think in hindsight, depsite the extreme amount of work, I would take the DIY route if I did it again, I expect that employing some labour would be sensible but you'd need to get the boxes and wrapping paper and still work out a lot cheaper. When our friend's furtniture arrived this end, the delivery guys did help to unpack.

Mowing
April 2004 - We’ve just had a saga with our ride on mower, which has been broken since the end of last October. We really should have had it fixed sooner, but since the same fault occurred two years before, we knew that this time we were in for buying a whole new transmission. We had been led to believe that the gearbox for John Deere mowers are sealed units and that no parts are available. That’s the official line from John Deere world wide and mower shops instead send parts away for machine polishing; however you can’t get away with that trick twice because too much metal has been removed and the faces no longer fit together with a perfect seal. I was hoping there was another solution but I really don’t know why I didn’t act sooner, especially considering that the grass grows fast during the summer and you really need to mow every week. The 2 acreas of manicured lawn became unruly and turned into a meadow…. We had it mowed by a contractor a couple of times up to Christmas and also whipper snipped (strimmed) where it was growing faster, then mowed again at the end of February…. However, it has been chaotic and it was disheartening to see the formerly lovely lawn start to let the place down. Occasionally our mower would work and give 5-10 minutes of use before it wouldn’t move again, so we were able to mow some small areas. In March I started researching on the net, and found that parts were indeed available in America from the gearbox manufacturer. I ordered them and had them posted here for a quarter of the price of the whole gearbox. After having to wait for a replacement my son and I got the gearbox off the mower, a friend came over to fit the new parts + new oil, we fitted the gearbox back on, and at last it is up and running. Because the grass was sow long, we first mowed the whole lawn with the deck lifted up, so that it could comfortably mow the long grass….we had a lot of raking to do ! but at last it looks great.

The great news here is that for John Deere mower purchasers… when you are told parts are not available and the gearbox is a non serviceable unit….all is not lost. Simply get on the net and import them.. or send me an email !

Normal mowing - you really don't need a "catcher".. just eject the grass out to the side with the safety flap lifted up and the grass speads out and disappears into the lawn. We normally set the deck height to 50cm, perhaps 60. If you leave the mowing too long - say two weeks or more... you may have too much grass left on the lawn which doesn't disappear, and then gets trodden over the house when it's wet. The following mow should sort it out.

Mowing pattern... I was taught to do one clockwise trip against the fence with the safety flap down.. then another clockwise... then on the third lap go anticlockwise with the safety flap up to spread the three laps worth of grass out evenly. Then repeat : 2 clockwise with flap down, 1 anticlockwise with flap up to spread. However, 4 years on and we are using a new strategy which seems easier..... do the first clockwise trip up against the fence, but then do every other lap anticlockwise with the flap up.... it gives the mower less work to do because it never has to disperse lumps of previously cut grass resulting in a cleaner cut and leaves no messy piles of grass.

Winter mowing - Hardly any mowing is required... however it will still grow well in any area that stays wet... particularly where your biocycle pipe is positioned (make sure you move it around so it doesn't drench one area)... During winter, there is always a drought. The grass everywhere loses its colour and turns brown. If you mowed it short, it will turn browner, so the last mow of summer should be 60cm. It will still grow slowly, but don't mow unless it really needs it... this is the trick to retaining as much colour as possible. If you mow areas that have grown higher than the surroundings, then set the deck to 90cm, so that it blends in with the rest of the lawn - it won't look like it's been mown, but it will look green and neat.

Costs of living?

When you first emigrate, it may take quite some time to find work... probably a good idea to ensure you have enough to handle 4 months off... perhaps another month for emergencies.

House rental about $400 - $500 per week in our area... some larger properties about $650 - $750 pw. You'll probably be asked for 4 weeks deposit ("bond").

Remember you will want to buy a vehicle or two - cars seem to be cheaper here than England.

Larger houses tend to have lots of lights and have larger electricity bills! Normal house $180 -250 per quarter... but ranging right up to $800 - $1100 per quarter if keep lights on, use aircon, pool heating etc

School gear/uniform/trips say $250 per pupil per child.

Shopping - 2/3rds of uk prices, but sometimes considerably more. Sweets are definitely more expensive.. the Mars bar usually costing $2.00 though once in a blue moon you get the $1 specials though these days the specials are usually $1.30.

Advertising : I recommend Personal Trading Post for classified advertising, which appeared to provide a vastly better response than Courier Mail or Queensland Trading Post. For internet classifieds, try www.Ebay.com.au though note that Personal Trading Post ads do appear on their website on www.personaltradingpost.com.au

 

Still to add :

Photos of Samford and Surrounding areas + Brisbane City

Let me know what would be useful!

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