Richard Gregan is Managing Director of Overseas Emigration Ltd. For more information visit www.my-oe.com
Steer me through the migration maze!
Q. I have rung several migration agencies for advice on emigrating to Australia or New Zealand. I'm still not sure if I qualify, plus the costs quoted from companies I've spoken to vary wildly. One company in London wanted £400 just to sit down and talk with me. Another company in Manchester just wanted my creidt card details so they could take £1,100 to get the process started. Another company I called said I definitely did not qualify. What do you advise?
Rachel Hendry, by email
A. Firstly, a reputable company should not charge anything for an initial consultation and will tell you if it is worthwhile you even trying to emigrate or if you should improve your situation by retraining or working for a bit longer to get some more experience, for instance. Beware also those companies who push "student visas". These can be linked to commission payments for the firm and that is perhaps what is driving their advice rather than what is best for you as a migrant!
How can we make a new life in Australia?
Q. My wife and I have been thinking about emigrating to Australia with our two children, but every time we decide to do it, we see another story in the press about people who have done the same, only to return to the UK within months. Do you have any advice?
Terry Earlswood, Glasgow
A. The best way to make sure you're not on the plane back within a year is to think hard about what you want and to make an informed decision.
A “look and learn” recce trip can be really worthwhile if you can afford it (although some of our best migrants have never been!). This way, you'll have more realistic expectations of ordinary everyday life than someone who simply has memories of partying hard during their gap year.
Be aware that you will take your old self with you – your bad habits, worries and problems will not magically go away because you're in a sunny new country!
If you are leaving the UK for lifestyle reasons, write them down now. Your list could include: less stress, more family time, a bigger house with a pool, children's education, better weather, escaping the rat race, more time for leisure pursuits, joining family members and so on. Once you are out there, look at this list every six months until you feel settled.
Make sure that both partners and older children are committed to the move and the investment of time and energy needed to make it work. If you are 8/10 on the keenness-to-go scale and your spouse is 3/10, then you are in the same position as my wife and I. Maybe we could form a support group…
When you get to Australia, make an effort to form a social network – you will feel more settled when this is in place. Parents have an advantage here as picking up children from school, PTAs, sports days and so on make it easy to meet other parents.
Do things the Aussie way as quickly as possible – have barbecues, socialise as a family, get into sports, don't work too hard and spend more time with your partner and kids.
Find a special “moan” friend – someone who won't take it as a personal criticism of his/her country and countrymen if you have a niggle you need to get off your chest. The term “whinging pom” doesn't apply to you Scots, but there is nothing the Aussies hate more than being told their country is not enough like Manchester in the winter or that they don't know how to make a pavlova properly… Equally, most Aussies are proud of their country and are chuffed that you have chosen to come and live in it with them – use this to your advantage!
It will take you up to two years to settle – accept this as a fact. It is OK to feel homesick and miss people, but don't give up and come home straight away. At least hold out long enough for a passport, and then you can come and go at will.