After living in Thailand for the last five years my wife (Pim) and I decided to relocate to Australia with our two young children (James: 3 and Jan: 2).
We had loved living in Thailand and will return, however with young children two of the most important things for us are education and healthcare, both of which are free and we consider better in Australia.
Within a week of arriving we located a nice 3 bedroom townhouse in North Ryde (Sydney) and decided to rent it, this provided the first shock for Pim with the weekly rental price being $850. It had the added bonus of only being a ten minute drive from where I started working.
Sorting out Medical Care in Australia
The next step was setting up our free medical care, which was surprisingly easy. If you have a partner visa and you are already on Medicare, just go to the local Medicare office with your id and your wife’s visa and they will give you a simple form to fill out and a temporary card.
As the kids have citizenship by descent they were even easier, another simple form and around 3 weeks later we were all on the same Medicare card and ready to visit the Doctor when needed, care of the Australian government.
One tip though, if you have young children still receiving vaccinations, go to the Dr immediately and get them updated. Australian vaccinations vary to Thai vaccinations and you cannot get into childcare unless they are up to date. We found this out the hard way when we applied for a place in a child care centre.
One of the biggest challenges in the first few months was transport, my wife didn’t like driving as “there are too many rules” and she was afraid of doing something wrong (more on this later). In addition to this anyone who has lived in Sydney knows how terrible the public transport is…..Or so I thought. Pim loved Sydney’s public transport, whether it was buses, trains or ferries it was of a much better standard than transport options in Thailand, which I had rarely used.
One of the things her love of the public transport enabled her to do was visit the numerous friends she made around Sydney from various Facebook groups (Thai in Sydney etc). There are a lot of Thai women married to Australians living in Sydney and they spend a lot of time together socialising.
Shopping & Socialising
Meeting friends in similar circumstances also meant she found out about the best places for Thai food in Sydney. I didn’t even know Sydney had a “Thai Town” with Thai supermarkets and products(Just near the Capitol Theatre), though she was still shocked by the price of papaya.
Thai Town also has Sydney’s only Issan restaurant called “House”, it is just near Central Station in the Triple Ace pub. Apparently the food there was excellent, though again the prices shocked at around $20 a dish and of course it still wasn’t quite as good as Mum made it.
Before discovering Thai Town we just shopped at supermarkets (Coles, Woolies etc) and local Chinese supermarkets which are all over Sydney, but she could only get certain things in Thai Town, so made a weekly pilgrimage there.
The friendships Pim has formed with these girls has been massively helpful, as in Australia we don’t have the same sense of community you find in Thailand. Everywhere we lived in Thailand we became friends with our neighbours and the kids would play while the mothers chatted over Som Tam, but here we only exchange cursory nods with our neighbours. It may seem a minor detail, but when you are new in a country these little things make a difference and can change someones perspective.
Unfortunately having friends like that also led to some negative things, for example they put her on to a website (tv.guchill.com) where she could watch all her Thai TV channels and with that all the Thai soaps and volleyball. Eventually I was able to convince her of the merits of Australian classics such as MKR and Neighbours, so it worked out ok in the end.
We also got to spend time as a family with these new friends as most of them had kids, this involved having BBQs together, kids parties and going to temple together. It was quite surreal celebrating Songkran in a Thai temple in Campbelltown.
It is a one hour drive from North Ryde (where we live) to Campbelltown (there is a Laos temple at Fairfield that is slightly closer), this gave Pim her first real indication of how large the country actually was.
Just how big is Australia?
Her next indication was when we decided to have a driving holiday to Melbourne to visit a friend from her village that lived there, ten hours straight in the car. This prompted our first real fight in Australia as I used to complain about having to drive three hours to the village in Petchabun. What she didn’t appreciate is I didn’t want to drive there because of the destination.
This Melbourne trip was in July and that also made Pim doubt our decision to move to Australia for the first time. When we left Sydney it was a cold 14 degrees, but she could manage. When we got to Melbourne it was a freezing 3 degrees, which she couldn’t manage.
Upon our return to Sydney a few days later though she was happy to be back in the warmth of 14 degree days and I never heard a complaint about the cold again.
It is good to be back in Australia again, seeing family and friends, meeting new friends and having new experiences in my home city with my family. Maybe I am just lucky and have an adaptable wife, but apart from a few minor hiccups we have settled into Australian life quite well. Now, what to do with the kids???