I've had a request from a soon-to-be expat to do a post about what we would have done differently regarding our move to Melbourne (hindsight is 20-20 of course). So, in no particular order, if I was moving to Melbourne, here are the top 10 things I wish I would have known/done:
1. I'm glad we didn't do a sea shipment and bring over all of our furniture and household items. There was really no point (at least in our case). I do wish I had gone to IKEA right at the beginning to get decent (yet affordable) items right off the bat all in one place. Instead, I tried to be too thrifty by scouring Gumtree for deals and ended up repurchasing better items later anyway. I am glad we brought our instruments and that Zack brought his mountain bike, because those are important parts of our lives. But he still hasn't used his golf clubs!
2. I think I wish we had purchased a vehicle (one that would accommodate bikes and/or surfboards) at the start of our stint. We've built our lifestyle around not having a car now, and it's fine, but it does limit our mobility on some weekends and makes us depend on friends too much sometimes.
3. You always hear that clothes, shoes, and linens are ridiculously expensive over here. With shoes, I would agree. I would definitely bring shoes over from the US (especially athletic ones). You can find decent deals on clothes if you go to the right places at the right times, but overall, it was good to bring boxes of our own over with us. I wish I had known earlier about stores like Spotlight and Big W for linens and basic household goods; there was no need to bring towels, sheets, etc. Online shopping is a lifesaver sometimes too.
4. I think I wish we would have brought our dog over with us. I'll always question this one. I know the cost would have been outrageous, and the flight and quarantine time would have been torturous, but overall, we often wish Molly was with us. It would have made finding a rental place more difficult, and I'm not sure what we would have done when we went on trips, but she would have loved Australia. I guess we have to trust the expats we talked to before our move who had brought their dogs and said they regretted it.
5. I'm glad we joined some Meetup groups online and went to events right away. They have been the source of almost all of our friendships we now cherish here in Australia. I wish I had known that making new "couple friends" was going to be almost exactly like dating!
6. I wish I had not obsessed over the electrical appliances issue before moving. I did all sorts of research on voltage changes and transformers and converters and such. The few American items we did bring have been a pain to deal with overall, and you can find decent enough appliances for reasonable prices to get by for a few years. I would suggest not bringing any items you need to plug in if you can help it. The exceptions would be my laptop and camera battery chargers. A simple adapter plug makes those work just fine.
7. I wish I had known that we would end up becoming good friends with other expats. I don't know if I expected that we would hang out with mostly Australians, but I was surprised that we naturally gravitated toward those in our same situation. I guess it makes sense, but it was unexpected (to me). We do have some Australian friends, but I think it's just easier for expats to be friends with other expats, because you all know what you're in for (a friendship where someone is eventually going to leave), and you are going through the same things.
8. I wish I would have known that Melbourne is often a rainy, gray city. I would suggest investing in a good umbrella and raincoat. Also, it does get cold here. I wish I would have brought more winter clothing over with me.
9. I wish I would have gotten a job earlier. You can make good money over here, and we could have had a lot more in savings if I had started teaching last year. Oh well.
10. I wish I was better about embracing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we are afforded over here. We're making the most of our time on this side of the world and taking lots of trips and doing lots of things, but sometimes I freak out about the cost. To be happy (with no regrets) and not drive yourself and others crazy, you basically have to just "get over" the prices, especially of rent, postage to/from other countries, and food at restaurants!
So there you have it. I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting, but hopefully that's somewhat helpful to people who are trying to plan for expat life. I know I felt completely overwhelmed when we were trying to decide what to pack and such, so please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about moving down under. Thanks for the post idea; anybody else have a request?