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Worst … commute … EVER – Surrey to Sydney

Chap moves to Oz, then moves back, then keeps moving

The expat files More than a few of the expats we've quizzed have moved from the UK to Australia, but only Simon Pearson has found himself bouncing backwards and forwards to between the two.

The developer-turned-manager came for the lifestyle, but went back to Blighty for … well that'd be telling wouldn't it. So read on to hear Simon's tale of advanced jetlag management and fun in the Sun.

The Register: What kind of work do you do and with which technologies?

Simon Pearson: I'm a software developer by trade. Most recently I was the GM of a small firm (<50 employees). The company resells software solutions, based around Microsoft technologies. Before that, I headed up the UK arm of a global business of the vendor who created that software.

The Register: Why did you decide to move to Australia? And why did you move back again?

Simon Pearson: Oh boy, you want the condensed version? Grass looked greener! Back in 2012 I was doing some consulting, and spent several months bouncing back and forth between London and Sydney to help one of our partners. I was wooed by the people, the beaches, and the lifestyle.

There came a pivotal moment: when on a very hot January day (you remember the 45.8°C record Friday in 2013? [Oh yes – Ed] Well, a few days before that...) I was sitting with colleagues outside the Bucket List at 2:00pm, drinking cold beer, eating shrimp, watching Bondi do what it does best. And I was sold. This was work? Hell yeah, sign me up! Let's go for an adventure!

The Register: How did you arrange your new gig in Australia? And how did you pack a parachute for the return journey?

Simon Pearson: When I agreed to move to 'stralia it was because the partner offered me a senior role, good salary and would help cover some of the moving costs. I did a couple of trips with the wife to arrange schools and housing, and really that was it.

I had a fair bit of savings which covered the costs. The wife attached a condition to the move, that we maintained a savings account with enough to cover moving back "just in case". Yeah, that lasted until the time it took to land, and I bought a car... but as it happens I invested wisely in the right car which eventually paid for our way back.

Rough costs? Around $55,000 in total.

The Register: Pay: up or down? In both directions?

Simon Pearson: Same. When I moved the AUD-GBP rate was in favour of the Aussie dollar.. around $1.50 to the British pound. So I moved based on the exchange rate, and took a comparable salary. I knew the cost of living was higher, but found that my salary was in line with my peers in Sydney, and would afford us a "Bronte lifestyle".

I'm still working for the same company (in a different capacity) on the same money.

The Register: How do workplaces differ between Australia and the UK?

Simon Pearson: In London everything is routine. You go to work when it's dark, bleary-eyed, pay homage to the institutionalised political correctness, and leave when it's dark. People lived to work. I saw my kids at weekends, when I was tired and cranky. Not saying everything was bad, but you get the picture I'm trying to paint.

Switch down under and it's the opposite. You get up at 6:00am, walk, swim, grab a lazy coffee, drop the kids at school ... oh then hit the office 8-8.30AM, catch up with the guys, and get on with the day with a huge smile on your face. Maybe that was just me, but I truly worked to live, and spent every day with my family. I admit I got a great gig working 2km from home in [the satellite CBD] Bondi Junction, so this is not representative of the majority of the population.

(In our office, we worked out that only five per cent of the employee base were genuinely Australian.)

The biggest difference was our clients. I met some amazing people from all walks of life, and each of them genuinely wanted to help you succeed. I have never worked in a company where your clientele truly believed that you are their partner, and were continually accommodating.

The Register: Will your expat gig be good for your career?

Simon Pearson: For me, yes. The Australian economy is admired globally and the success story I have gives great credence to that admiration. Just having those experiences makes many great conversational pieces.

The Register: What's cheaper in the UK? What's more expensive?

Simon Pearson: Things are marginally cheaper here in the UK, and I'm outside of London (in Surrey). The biggest winners are cars and the weekly grocery bill. But then again I pay more taxes in the UK, so it all balances out.

The Register: What do you miss about Australia?

Simon Pearson: The lifestyle has to be the main one. We had an amazing plot in Bronte, not far from the beaches, with great neighbours. Work was a four-minute drive or 20-minute walk. We could be in the city in 25 minutes, and explore north or south of the city whenever we wanted. Everything was "too easy".

We loved Centennial park, the Entertainment Quarter with the markets, the Clovelly hotel, the Bronte-Bondi walk, Bronte beach (did I say that one already?), Bondi school markets, the people... and of course the weather. Even in the winter when you don't have any heating in the house, you still don't feel "cold".

The Register: What's your top tip to help new arrivals settle in?

Simon Pearson: Simon's top tip on settling in? Find some friends pretty quickly. FOR BOTH OF YOU.

The Register: What advice would you offer someone considering the same move?

Simon Pearson: DO IT. No seriously, stop thinking about it and go! And don't ever, ever regret it.

We went on the understanding that we would have an adventure, and perhaps spend a year or two there. [We] even talked about eventual residency if all went well.

Don't expect to move to Australia and be British - you have to become pseudo-Australian, and get into the lifestyle there.

The Register: What's the Australian weekend activity you wish you could keep doing in the UK?

Simon Pearson: Swimming in the sea!

The Register: What's this commuting from the UK to Australia about? How often are you doing it? How long do you stay in each place? Do you now have a black belt in jetlag management?

Simon Pearson: Oy vey ... it's hard work. Basically, it's two or three months UK, one month Australia on a rolling basis. Always based from Sydney (Eastern 'burbs, where the office is) but I tend to spend time in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane depending on client needs.

And yes, I have a black belt in jet-lag avoidance techniques. I go a bit OCD on planning each trip!

Tell us your tale of life abroad and win ... erm ... the thrill of seeing your story reproduced in these pages. Don't be shy! Just send me a message and we'll sort you out. ®


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