Is our new life in Australia with our children everything we dreamed of?
It’s been nearly 3 ½ years since me and my husband made the huge move from the UK to Australia with our 4 boys. When we moved our boys were only 3, 6, 8 and 10 so it was a big upheaval for us all. So what made us make this life changing decision?
To be fair, we really didn’t have a bad life in the UK. We had a big 4 bed house in a good area, we had a great circuit of friends and family close by. My boys were doing well at school and my youngest was enjoying nursery. But, life wasn’t perfect. Financially we were finding things more and more difficult, with the cost of living constantly rising and we were unable to do the things we wanted to do with our boys. Family holidays were really only a dream and if anything went wrong within the house or the car broke down, panic ensued.
My husband and I had travelled around Australia for almost a year after we got married and we loved the laid back lifestyle. We always said that it would be a beautiful place to bring up children and that we would love to live over here. But now we have been here a while, is it that much different, or is it just the same old stuff, just in a different location?
It goes without saying that the weather over in Australia is soooooo much better than the weather back in the UK and this has a huge impact on your way of life. Back in the UK my son’s were getting to that age where they were playing Xbox and IPads and we were finding more and more that they would come in from school and it would be dark and raining, so they were unable to go out in the garden to run around and make camps (which they always used to do if they had the chance) and were spending more and more time sat inside playing on Electronics or watching CBeebies (which I must admit I miss at times – Children’s TV is just not the same with out Justin’s House).
Over in Australia, because the weather is so much warmer our boys seem to be outside a lot more. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I still have to peel them away from their IPads and the shrill tones of StampyCat still often penetrate through the house.
But, in general, every night after school they will either muck about in the pool or be outside playing cricket or football, or making camps and playing chase. And in the holidays or at the weekends life is a little cheaper, as we can visit the beach, or go to one of the many great parks instead of having to pay to go to indoor activities.
However, ask my boys what they miss about England and one of the memories they hold very dear is playing over the park in the snow with their mates. That excitement of listening to the radio or looking on the school website, fingers tightly crossed hoping that school was closed for the day. Then meeting up over the local park with wellies, hats and scarfs on (and odd gloves that I had managed to hunt out at the bottom of the hat bag). Rolling the biggest snowballs you could manage to push around the park, hunting for sticks and stones to create snowman’s faces, before going home wet and freezing cold, settling down to a hot chocolate whilst your clothes dried out on the radiators ready for the next park meet up in a few hours. Those were good times too 😀
Clubs and sports
Again, maybe this has a lot to do with the weather, but my boys do participate in a lot more sporting activities over in Australia than they did in the UK. Also, clubs and after school sports are thoroughly encouraged by the schools and teachers.
Most children participate in team sports such as football, rugby, basketball etc or attend Junior lifesaving or athletics – sport is a big part of the lifestyle in Australia and it’s great as it keeps the kids active and out of trouble.
I must admit I enjoy being a spectator in Australia more too. My memories of watching our eldest son play football in the UK often conjure up images of standing on the sidelines under an umbrella getting soaking wet, whilst my other boys either made mud pies in the rain or sat in the car, miserable, trying to stay dry!
School life in Australia is very different and at first I had a few reservations. Academically I would say that the learning seemed very behind in Australia compared to what we were used to in the UK. We found that my eldest son, in particular, was being taught things that he had learnt 2 or 3 years earlier in the UK and this meant that he often found his lessons a bit boring and uninspiring.
I can remember when my boys started school over here that I had real concerns as to whether we had made the right decision for their academic futures. But I spoke to another UK lady who had been over here a few years longer than we had and she told me that you just have to ‘let it go’ and ‘not worry about it’. Children come out of schools and Universities over here with just as good grades as those back in the UK and that even though the pace of learning in Australia is certainly slower, everyone ends up in the same place academically. I am a lot more relaxed about the education system now and when I see Facebook posts from UK friends complaining about the amount of homework and the pressures of weekly tests put on their 5 and 6 year olds I even feel a little relieved that my boys aren’t going through that and they are enjoying their school lives.
There is very little homework given to children of primary school age as after school sporting activities and clubs are really encouraged.
Schools are a lot more ‘laid back’ over here and it is quite normal for one of my children to give the Headmaster a High Five as they pass each other, which would never ever have happened in my children’s UK school. However, emphasis is still put on ‘respect’ and the children are encouraged to be polite and respectful at all times.
Assemblies are also VERY DIFFERENT in Australia and I can remember the first time I attended one I shuddered with embarrassment for the kids! I was used to the assemblies we had in the UK, where lines had all been thoroughly rehearsed, song words learnt and stage places coordinated (as well as they can be with children). Here I think the children are given a couple of lines to read on the morning of the assembly and songs had perhaps been rehearsed once or twice prior to the day. This always results in children muttering into the pieces of paper held in the hands, unable to be heard by anyone further than a few feet away from them and the songs being sung loud and proud for the first couple of lines and every chorus, but the rest of the song being mainly inaudible.
But, one thing I do love about their school assemblies is the fact that everyone stands up and sings the national anthem – Australian people are very very proud of their Country and I think this is something that is sadly lacking in the UK in recent years.
Australian Attitude to Life
I think that life in Australia is a lot less stressful for children than it is in the UK. Here children aren’t encouraged to grow up too quickly and playing with toys and doing ‘child like’ activities aren’t laughed at or ridiculed. I can remember when we lived in the UK my 8 year old was addicted to Ben10 and knew everything about all the character and aliens. He would happily play for hours with his box full of Ben10 toys and was excited to have a Ben10 Duvet set and lunch box. But even at the young age of 8, he was already starting to get ridiculed by other children of his own age about playing with toys and liking ‘baby’ toys . He was made to feel that playing with toys at his age was really ‘uncool’.
I was pleasantly surprised over here when it was common place for children in the playground to still be playing with toys and figures rather than swapping Football Cards and trying to look cool.
It is hard to explain, but in Australia children don’t seem to grow up quite as quickly as they are expected to in the UK. Emphasis is not put on ‘what label’ your wearing or having the latest trainers, school bag or hairstyle. You don’t see young girls over here covered in make up or wearing false nails at 13. Children are children longer in Australia, they still play with toys, put on whatever clothes are hanging in their wardrobe, with no preference to the $2 Target tshirt or the $35 surf shop one and I love that.
Family and Friends
One of the main drawbacks of moving to the other side of the world is being so far away from family and friends. I think that has been the hardest thing for all of us. Of course we have all made some fantastic new friends over here and the internet and Facebook make staying in touch much easier. But birthdays and family occasions can be rough. When it was a birthday in the UK we always used to have a big family celebration with about 20 of us all getting together to sing happy birthday and celebrate with each other. Here, birthdays are a lot more low key and you find the longer you have been here the less birthday and Christmas cards are received from back home.
That said, we have been so lucky and have UK visitors over all the time. In fact we haven’t had a Christmas over here on our own yet. And when you do see the people you are close to, within a few days it’s like you have never been away. Although I think all our UK visitors do find it a bit strange seeing Father Christmas wearing flip flops!
So… am I glad we moved our children to the other side of the world? Do I think they have a better lifestyle in Australia? The answer is a big fat YES