Thursday, January 12, 2017

Relocating Internationally - Costs involved and obstacles


How we moved from Australia to the U.K and started a new life with only £6000. ($14,500)



July 2015:
Moving is a scary prospect. Relocating internationally is terrifying.
In early 2015 my partner and I decided we were going to take the plunge and move to England. Why? Well, partly for the adventure, but mostly because we couldn't find jobs in Australia. I applied to over 400 graphic design jobs australia wide. My partner, who had just finished his Mechanical Engineering degree, hadn't been lucky either. We were struggling and slowly eating away into our savings. The job market was dead.
But it wasn't dead in england. How did I know that? Well, I started applying for positions in the UK, and within 2 weeks I already had more UK skype interviews lined up than I'd had callbacks in Australia.
So it was settled. We would move to England where we could stay with family until we got onto our feet. In three months time, once we were settled, we would bring our Boxer dog George over, because there was no way I could go any longer without him. Now, taking a dog from Aus to England is expensive. Really expensive. $4500 to be precise. But that's okay. I had a plan. I still had my car in Australia which my parents would sell for me. It would cover the cost of bringing George to England in 3 months.


So, I had a face to face job interview already lined up with a company I'd Skyped the week before who were eager to meet me.

Our super cheap one-way tickets to England cost $780 AUD a piece. We chose the cheapest flights possible with Philippine Airlines, which included a 20hr stopover and $127 AUD hotel in Manila. The worst part was the absence of in-flight entertainment. But it saved money and got us there.

Once we arrived at Heathrow on a Sunday night (19th July 2015) the first thing we did was pick up our pre-booked hire car ($200AUD) which we would have for 5 days. This would allow us to: a) Drive from Heathrow to my Uncle's house in Clacton where we would be living for the time being, b) get me to my job interview in 2 days time, and c) be able to purchase our own car by the end of the week.
The monday we spent sleeping so I wouldn't be too exhausted for my interview the next day, which was in Solihull, Birmingham, a 3.5hr drive away.
We specifically chose the midlands for our job hunt as there were more mechanical engineering opportunities for my partner. That day we also ordered 2 prepaid UK simcards online through GiffGaff, which seemed to have the best data deals (£12 for 3g. $48 approx for two plans). We needed data for our phones so we could use GPS and google things as necessary. It took 2 days for our new UK sim cards to arrive.
So on Tuesday I set off for my interview, leaving plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately due to traffic, roadworks (THERE'S SO MUCH ROADWORKS IN ENGLAND) and getting lost, I ended up arriving 15 minutes late. Fortunately they didn't mind and understood.
The interview lasted 45 minutes and I'm pretty sure I nailed it. How do I know that? Well 10 minutes after I left the interview they called up offering me the job! I couldn't believe it! 2 days in the UK and i had a job offer. I'd spent NINE MONTHS job hunting in Australia with no results.

There was one problem with finding a job so quickly: we now had to get a car, open a bank account and find somewhere to live before my start date in 3 weeks.
First priority was finding a car as the hire car had to go back on the friday. We spent all day Wednesday on gumtree,, and ebay. On Thursday we found a suitable candidate, a 2003 Ford Fiesta for £750. We arranged a viewing, liked what we saw and offered £650 for the car, which was accepted. We only needed a cheap runaround car to get us from A to B. I really didn't care what it looked like as long as it ran fine.

What I didn't expect was how much the insurance and road tax would cost. My partner and I have been driving for almost 10 years, but because we have Australian driving licenses it was much more expensive. More expensive than the car. A total of £900 to be exact for the insurance. This was a major blow to our funds that we hadn't expected, nor done the proper research on. We couldn't even get UK driving licenses until we'd been in the country for 183 days. We had to bite the bullet and fork out the cash. Except the insurance website didn't accept our Australian debit cards! In a panic we asked a family member to pay the insurance on her credit card, and we gave her the cash in hand. As a gift she returned £500 to us, for which we were unimaginably grateful. If she hadn't done that for us we would have been royally screwed down the line.
So, we had a car! Hooray! Next step was to apply for our National Insurance Number and open a bank account.
We booked an appointment to get our NIN but they didn't have a slot free for another week.
A week later, once they interviewed us and put through the documents we were told our NIN would be mailed to us in 4 weeks. That was okay as you don't have to have an NIN to start work.
We also had to book an appointment to open a bank account. The man on the phone said we would need to bring our passports and proof of address into a branch. This was difficult as we were currently living with my uncle meaning we had no way to prove our address in the form of a utility bill. We were told by the man on the phone that we could bring my Uncle's utility bill with a signed statement from him declaring that we were living at his residence.
However, upon attending the appointment with the bank they informed us that this was not sufficient enough. In fact, no bank in the UK would open an account for us without proof of address.
They said our NIN letter would be sufficient but we wouldn't receive those for another 4 weeks!
So, my cash supply was dwindling. I had Australian dollars in my bank back home, but no where to transfer them. Not only that, how was I supposed to commence work without a way to get paid?!

My aunt came to the rescue again and opened a separate bank account in her own name and gave us full access. So I had a way to get paid and could send myself some more moolah!

Now for the hard part: finding somewhere to live. Because my new job had a really good wage we would be able to afford to live somewhere half decent on my pay alone. The biggest hurdle? We HAD to find somewhere pet friendly for when George came to the UK in 3 months.
So we needed a little house with a garden that was pet friendly for under £800 per calendar month.
This was harder than we anticipated. Now, there are a lot of beautiful houses within this budget. However, 90% flat out refuse to accept any kind of pet. Of the 10% that were willing to negotiate our dog, 5% were in stab-central; places where you'd be too afraid to walk your dog at night, and 4% were almost falling apart and grimy.
I spent an entire week on and zoopla, calling at least 50 Letting Agencies, looking for that 1%.
Warning: Real Estate agents can be very rude and extremely unhelpful. And they never call back. Never. But, after a lot of calling around we managed to book in 3 viewings for pet friendly houses on one day. We had to do them all in one hit as we were living 3.5hrs away from the area after all.
2 of the 3 houses were disgusting. The third was okay. In a desperate attempt to find somewhere to live before I started my job, we applied for the third.

And we never heard back from them. Not even an email. Nothing. Whole day wasted.
The next few days were spent calling and emailing numerous agents. I found another 3 pet friendly houses and we went to see them straight away.
The first two, once again, were grimy and in undesirable locations. The third was PERFECT. I loved it. We applied immediately and let the agent know that we were desperate and needed our application rushed. Unfortunately there was competition for this house. Fingers crossed, we waited for a few days. No news. Not even a 'no'. I called them asking if the landlord had made a decision on the applications. No progress. I called and emailed three days in a row. Nothing.
It was looking grim. Towards the end of the week we came to the realisation that we may need to broaden our search to regular no-pets-allowed houses and apartments. It was heartbreaking. If we signed a six month lease it meant putting off on bringing George over.
It was now a week and a half until I started my new job and we had no where to live.
At the last minute, 1 week before I was due to start work, I managed to book in 5 viewings for one day. Two of these were pet friendly houses that had already received a lot of interest. I was not feeling hopeful.
It was the last house we saw. Completely refurbished inside, garden, pet friendly, quiet neighborhood, and a 30-40 minute drive from work in good traffic. And it was under our £800pcm budget. Once again, we applied immediately and told the agent of our dilemma.
The next day the agent called with the landlord's terms on having a dog at the property. (We must have a dog-house outside, George could not go upstairs, at the end of the lease the carpets must be professionally cleaned, and our initial deposit must be 2 months rent.). We agreed that this was reasonable, the landlord was appeased, and our application was accepted! We got the house!
Unfortunately we couldn't move in until the Tuesday, and I started work on the Monday. That just meant we stayed in a hotel the sunday and monday night. ($160 or £80). We stocked up on food and snacks that didn't require cooking or refrigerating. (Mug-o-soup packets, breakfast bars, 2-min noodles, etc)

Of course, having to shell out 2 months deposit + first month's rent (£2300 or $5000) meant that we were almost stone cold broke. We were really scraping the bottom of the barrell.
So I started work on the Monday, and loved it. For the first time I came back from a first day at work grinning. The company is great and the people are lovely. It was a really chill environment and I feel very lucky they chose me!
However, I had missed the last pay cycle at work, and joined at a really awkward time. This meant I wouldn’t get my first pay packet for a MONTH AND A HALF. We had to survive for a month and a half (which included paying another month's rent of £795 ($1700). That left us with £205)
£205 to survive a month and a half!
It was around this time my parents managed to sell my car back in Australia, for $5000. The money was to bring my dog, George, to the UK in a few months time. I flat out refused to touch that money.

On Tuesday my partner David dropped me off at work and went to go and pick up the keys to the house.
Unfortunately our house was completely unfurnished. It didn't  have a fridge or washing machine. And because we only had £205 in the bank, it meant we were sleeping on the floor until we could afford a mattress. Luckily an aunt lent us a mattress topper and numerous blankets and pillows to make our camp out a little more comfortable. It actually wasn't too bad.
For the rest of that first week we slept, ate and sat on the floor.

Not having a fridge or washing machine is hard. It’s amazing how you take them for granted. That first weekend we did our washing at a laundromat, and my parents amazingly sent us some money (£750 or $1200) so we could buy these two appliances (fridge/freezer and washer/dryer), which arrived a few days later. Hooray! We could now store food and wash our clothes.
There was nothing else to do. We had to have furniture. Sadly, I withdrew the money from George’s fund as we needed to buy food, petrol and necessities. ($4500 or £2000) Leaving $500 in my Australian bank account for bills and phone repayments back home. I couldn’t touch this.

The second, third and fourth week in our house we bought a second hand sofa from the BHF (£90), antique dining table from ebay (£25), 2 wooden cable spools on ebay for coffee tables (£10), a mattress from Ikea (£110), some cooking utensils and food (£350), misc items for the house (£200), petrol (£250), installation of virgin media internet (£66)  (£1101 or $2166)
At least now we could have some sort of living quality.
(Not mentioned in costing is petrol, food, coffee and snacks during those long drives, and many more miscellaneous expenses that quickly add up over time, but are impossible to track. I have estimated a total misc spending of £1200 or $2618 over the initial two month period.)

Spent in first 2 months: $15,818 (£7314)
Donated by family: $2,400 (£1200)

Total Spent in first 2 months: $13,418 (£6198)

Money left: $1082 (£500)
Cost to relocate George: $4500.

Biggest hurdles:
1) Proving our address when we didn't really have an address!
2) Finding a property that would take our dog
3) Swiftly running out of money to the point where at one stage we had £5 left in our bank for the month.
4) Slowly accumulating furniture.
5) Not having any friends nearby

The moral of the story:
Moving overseas was expensive. It cost me my life savings. $14000 (£6000) might seem like a lot of money to some people (or only a little to other people), but it was the only money I had to my name, and I gambled it all on a new life, a life that might not have worked out. Thankfully I had family to stay with and support me, and help me out a little bit here and there. Regardless, I'm very lucky everything worked out okay in the end and I wasn't left living in a hotel, or homeless and jobless. This isn't intended as a guide on HOW to relocate internationally, but hopefully it will give you an indication of the obstacles that you may face.

Update December 2015:
After five months we finally managed to save enough money to bring George to the UK on December 16th. Unfortunately this meant we didn't have a Christmas. No tree, no presents, no fancy dinner. George was a gift enough.

Update October 2016:
My family (mother, father and sister - albeit reluctantly) have decided to follow in our footsteps and also relocate to England. There’s just no escaping them! I am now helping my family relocate, and my sister is living with me until my mother and father buy a permanent home.

Update January 2017:
We have now been living in England for almost 18 months. It's been a slow process, living paycheck to paycheck, but we've now furnished most of our house.

My partner had trouble getting a job, but secured a position in March 2016, meaning I was the sole provider for 8 months, which was quite stressful.

Unfortunately, after his flight, my dog George suffered from severe separation anxiety and could not be left at home during the day whilst my partner and I were at work. He barked non stop and upset the neighbours.
We had no choice but to enroll him in a doggy day care every working day, costing us £18 per day. Already being tight on money, this made things tighter. We pay between £300-400 per month in Daycare.

I am still at the same job I got when first moving here and I still absolutely love it. I have made a few amazing friend in the office with whom I socialise with outside of work too, meaning life isn't as lonely anymore.
My parents move into their new home soon, and my sister is still living with me. Once they have their own house, they may be able to take my dog for a couple of nights a week, saving me money on daycare, as my partner and I are now saving up for a house deposit of our own.


  1. That's an amazing story, I had the complete opposite problem! I moved from Australia to England to be with my husband and couldn't find any work anywhere for nearly two years. Then we moved back to Australia and I had a job within a month.

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