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FIRE From USA to Australia
Old 10-08-2015, 04:55 PM   #1
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FIRE From USA to Australia

Anyone on here FIRE as Americans and then decide to move to Australia (specifically Sydney or Adelaide)?

Would you mind me asking you a number of burning questions we have? We have an opportunity to move from the Wine Country of California to either Sydney or Adelaide so our daughter can attend her last 5+ years of pre-University schooling in Australia, but have a ton of questions.

Thank you very much.
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Old 10-08-2015, 05:57 PM   #2
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I'm not the best one to answer these questions as I've never seriously considered emigrating to Australia, but I have spent several months traveling around various parts (including Sydney and Adelaide) so I'll make a couple of comments:

First, I think there are some serious restrictions on immigration and on home ownership for non-citizens. This may not apply in your case, but some checking with the Australian consulate may be in order (or at least checking out the basic rules on australia.gov.au).

On a happier note the area around Adelaide physically and climatically reminded me very much of California's wine country. The main difference is how quickly the land gets EMPTY as you leave Adelaide. Adelaide is a cosmopolitan mid-sized city with all the services and most of the entertainments one typically finds in such, but go 20-30 miles out of town and the roads get pretty lonely. I rather like that aspect of it, but it can be a bit unsettling if you're expecting to find a gas station or restaurant over the next ridge.

Culturally, Adelaide itself seems to have a bit of a "square" reputation in the rest of Australia. When I mentioned I'd enjoyed traveling there I got skeptical looks from hip youngsters from Sydney and Perth. "Does anyone under 60 LIVE in Adelaide?" one asked me. It didn't seem like a city of geezers to me - again I liked it a lot - but that seemed to be its rep.

Sydney is, of course, a whole different class of city - much bigger, much more of a global outlook and faster pace than the sleepier provincial capitol of Adelaide. Which works better for you depends on you.
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Old 10-08-2015, 06:41 PM   #3
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Agreed that Australia would be a big culture shock and immigration issues might not be straight forward....but having money can't hurt.

You will have to navigate the tax issues that all US expats face....basically having to pay your country of residence first on most things and then getting a tax credit on your US taxes.....read the US/Australia tax treaty. Pensions, IRAs etc might be issues.
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Old 10-10-2015, 10:08 PM   #4
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I seem to recall that Dangermouse brought this to our attention some time back.
Do your due-diligence!

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Old 10-10-2015, 11:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by z-d-g View Post
Anyone on here FIRE as Americans and then decide to move to Australia (specifically Sydney or Adelaide)?

Would you mind me asking you a number of burning questions we have? We have an opportunity to move from the Wine Country of California to either Sydney or Adelaide so our daughter can attend her last 5+ years of pre-University schooling in Australia, but have a ton of questions.

Thank you very much.
I evaluated a company relo offer to Brisbane several years ago. In the end, it didn't make sense for several reasons, chief among them is the provincial attitude in OZ about Americans working in their business culture. Right behind that, though is the fact that the substantially higher cost of living made it unattractive for us.

There are requirements for emigrating designed to ensure the Aussies aren't taking on welfare cases, so that hurdle has to be cleared. There is decent information on their government websites that will help. May also want to engage a local attorney if you decide to move forward.

I didn't spend any time in Adelaide. People from NSW and QLD consider SA to be a back water, but their descriptions of Adelaide painted a picture of a city large enough to have all the services one would need.

I spent several weeks in Brisbane and thought it was the US equivalent of Kansas City - Nice enough, no drama and decent place to raise kids, but far from the things one thinks about Australia.

Sydney I found to be spectacular. I think of it as the business and entertainment of NYC and LA combined, but substantially smaller than either at ~ 4 million people. Horrifically expensive housing. Check out realestate.com.au to get a sense for what you get for your money.

As for the quality of education, I wasn't impressed once I dug in to it (my kids were 5 & 2 at the time). Their public schools ("state schools") suffer from the same issues as many of ours do and I found that going private was necessary to provide the same level of education as was available to us at the time.

One of my colleagues did accept a relo offer a while later and spent 3 years in the Sydney area. While glad for the experience, they never felt their kids were accepted by the locals and were glad to get back to the US.

Some other costs to be aware of:
1. Taxes make CA's look reasonable
2. Food is more expensive than I found it in FL, which is higher than CA
3. Owning a car similar in size to what we typically drive in the US is very expensive. Good luck replacing an Expedition or Suburban down there- won't happen. Forget about importing one either. Can check out your favorite manufacturer's AU website to get an idea.

A few significant upsides:
1. Great, fun loving people who tend to speak their mind, sometimes quite colorfully
2. Spectacular continent and geography. Expect to spend a lot of time traveling to explore it.
3. Strong sense of history and proud of the impact they have had given the relatively small population (~24 million today, much smaller in the past).

Would love to go back for a visit in the next few years with my kids so they can experience it.
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Old 10-11-2015, 09:35 AM   #6
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Right, most of what's been posted in this thread is stuff we'd long considered or already known about. There were a few questions I wanted answered by Americans who had made the move, some of which were answered below (which I sincerely appreciate; it's exactly what we're looking for).

I already have a meeting with an Aussie tax attorney on Monday to mock up our US/Oz tax returns, which I am quite sure will blow the entire deal. We won't be working, so I'm not concerned in the least about the employment/business culture (thankfully).

Some of the big questions we had were:

1) The public school system. We have our child in a spectacular school here in the Wine Country, and wanted to hear from someone in the school system in Australia whether or not it's actually that much better than our system here or if we'd likely be taking a step down/backwards (which is my greatest concern and likely reason for not making the move).

2) I'm aware Aussies are pretty good at making outsiders feel like outsiders. Wife and I don't really care that much because we keep to ourselves anyway, but I was definitely concerned for my daughter.

3) The critter situation. We live in a part of California where we have no roaches (my wife's biggest critter phobia) or scorpions (mine) and have been wondering just how outrageous the creepy crawly situation is living in the central parts of large cities there. We've stayed in hotels there of course, but you don't get a real sense of bugs in a hotel.

4) Of super importance -- are you glad you made the move? We love it here in the Wine Country. LOVE it. We have almost no complaints. Our issues lie more with the culture in America specifically for our daughter. Aside from the more straightforward issues in 1-3 above, we want to make sure we're actually moving to a place that is as superior as we are lead to believe, or are we just moving sideways at best. No one outside our heads can answer that question of course, but we want to hear what other US-to-Oz families felt. We're fully aware that Australia has its own problems like anywhere else, but we tend to agree with their attitudes and culture.

Honestly, we're highly likely to not make the move based on what the tax atty tells me tomorrow and the school situation, but part of my research on any topic involves interviewing people as close to my own situation as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlaGator View Post
I evaluated a company relo offer to Brisbane several years ago. In the end, it didn't make sense for several reasons, chief among them is the provincial attitude in OZ about Americans working in their business culture. Right behind that, though is the fact that the substantially higher cost of living made it unattractive for us.

There are requirements for emigrating designed to ensure the Aussies aren't taking on welfare cases, so that hurdle has to be cleared. There is decent information on their government websites that will help. May also want to engage a local attorney if you decide to move forward.

I didn't spend any time in Adelaide. People from NSW and QLD consider SA to be a back water, but their descriptions of Adelaide painted a picture of a city large enough to have all the services one would need.

I spent several weeks in Brisbane and thought it was the US equivalent of Kansas City - Nice enough, no drama and decent place to raise kids, but far from the things one thinks about Australia.

Sydney I found to be spectacular. I think of it as the business and entertainment of NYC and LA combined, but substantially smaller than either at ~ 4 million people. Horrifically expensive housing. Check out realestate.com.au to get a sense for what you get for your money.

As for the quality of education, I wasn't impressed once I dug in to it (my kids were 5 & 2 at the time). Their public schools ("state schools") suffer from the same issues as many of ours do and I found that going private was necessary to provide the same level of education as was available to us at the time.

One of my colleagues did accept a relo offer a while later and spent 3 years in the Sydney area. While glad for the experience, they never felt their kids were accepted by the locals and were glad to get back to the US.

Some other costs to be aware of:
1. Taxes make CA's look reasonable
2. Food is more expensive than I found it in FL, which is higher than CA
3. Owning a car similar in size to what we typically drive in the US is very expensive. Good luck replacing an Expedition or Suburban down there- won't happen. Forget about importing one either. Can check out your favorite manufacturer's AU website to get an idea.

A few significant upsides:
1. Great, fun loving people who tend to speak their mind, sometimes quite colorfully
2. Spectacular continent and geography. Expect to spend a lot of time traveling to explore it.
3. Strong sense of history and proud of the impact they have had given the relatively small population (~24 million today, much smaller in the past).

Would love to go back for a visit in the next few years with my kids so they can experience it.
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Old 10-11-2015, 10:21 AM   #7
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Exactly what part of the American culture are you trying to escape?
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Old 10-11-2015, 10:37 AM   #8
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Lets stay on topic and respond to the questions z-d-g is posing.
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Old 10-11-2015, 11:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by z-d-g View Post
The critter situation. We live in a part of California where we have no roaches (my wife's biggest critter phobia) or scorpions (mine) and have been wondering just how outrageous the creepy crawly situation is living in the central parts of large cities there.
I lived in Australia in the early 1960s; been pretty much all over........spent a lot of time in the bush, lived in Adelaide and Melbourne, was last there 49 years ago, and I still check out any shoes I might have in the garage before putting them on.

It's probably spiders you'll have to watch out for most in the cities; not that they're swarming everywhere, but avoiding one bite from a red back or a funnel web, etc, is worth whatever, (perhaps seemingly unnecessary) precautions you take.

As I tell people who've never been there "Everything in Australia is out to get you".

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Old 10-11-2015, 12:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by z-d-g View Post

2) I'm aware Aussies are pretty good at making outsiders feel like outsiders. Wife and I don't really care that much because we keep to ourselves anyway, but I was definitely concerned for my daughter.

3) The critter situation. We live in a part of California where we have no roaches (my wife's biggest critter phobia) or scorpions (mine) and have been wondering just how outrageous the creepy crawly situation is living in the central parts of large cities there. We've stayed in hotels there of course, but you don't get a real sense of bugs in a hotel.
I lived in Melbourne for 3 years back in the late '70s. It was a corporate transfer, so the visa situation was covered. (I'm not sure from your replies whether you have dealt with this issue or not? You certainly can't just move there, despite what shows like International House Hunters might suggest.)

Anyway, to answer your two questions:

Treated as an outsider? Well, realistically, we were outsiders, so I'm not sure what else to expect. But everyone was very friendly and welcoming. My brother also spent a year in Sydney with his two young kids. The kids both loved their time there and still maintain friendships 20 years later. So overall, I'm a but puzzled that you feel this might be a problem.

The critters? We never saw anything dangerous at home. But I will say that quite large spiders do sometimes appear inside. Google 'huntsman spider' to get some idea. This was pretty disconcerting at first, but we got used to the idea quite quickly. But I can see that this might be a big problem for some people.

Bottom line is that we enjoyed our time in Oz, and would seriously consider moving back if the visa situation wasn't so restrictive.
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Old 10-11-2015, 05:53 PM   #11
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We spent six weeks in Australia this past winter. We loved it. Gold Coast, Sidney, Melbourne, coast road, Adelaide, and Perth. We were in Great Barrier Reef years ago. We plan to go back soon.

We love Australia. If we had to choose any other country than our own to emigrate to it would be Australia.

But, we found the living costs to be quite high (as are the wages I understand) Substantially higher than they are here in Canada with the exception of wine and with dairly products. Not certain about any tax or immigration issues.
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Old 10-11-2015, 06:53 PM   #12
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Just throwing out a thought...

Why do you think there is some national or even city school that are the same I live in a school district that is pretty good, but we have a few schools that are rated pretty low.... they are in a poor part of the district with many broken families etc...

And, about 20 miles away is a district that was so bad it was closed down and taken over by another... all basically 'within' a large city... and, the large city school district has some really good schools and some really really bad schools...

I just do not think you can get a feel for a school based on a city....
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Old 10-12-2015, 06:11 AM   #13
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I am an American who has lived in Australia for over 20 years. It is very much home to our family. We live in the beautiful Adelaide Hills just above the city.

Lots of no-doubt well intended replies so far but much misinformation in this thread.

1) school systems generally good but can be variable like anyplace. Many people choose the private school system which can be very very good but expensive. Public school system is great at elementary level and more patchy at high school although there are some superb public high schools. Church sponsored schools are next on private school ladder - can be excellent and cost effective. Our children attended a Catholic school here and got IB diplomas. They now attend Adelaide University (both engineering) and the Uni is very good. Full private high schools come next and are good to fantastic - some are like a mini-Oxford but you pay for it with fees at A$20k/yr or more! Note that Uni is great value for residence permit holders & citizens.

2) like any place, it takes time to fit in and understand the people. Aussies are warm accepting people. However there are cultural differences and you need to make an effort as Aussie culture is not the same as US so some behaviours may not play well here - for example people are egalitarian and not so keen on bragging over wealth or self promotion. Mateship, fair go and tolerance are ways of life here.

Note that Adelaide is a more insular "old money" city and a bit harder to break into. We've live in Brisbane and NZ and they were a bit easier. Still, we have 15 years here and have made deep friends.

3) ignore all the noise about Australia deadly creatures (and creepy crawlies) - yes they are here but not much of a factor in day to day life.

4) YES, we are glad we made the move! We moved overseas for two years and fell in love with the country, the people and our lifestyle. Accidental emigrants aside, we have become citizens and we are here to stay. Not always easy as we also love the States, miss family and, yes, it is expensive here (however Adelaide is much lower cost city by Aussie standards). But just as you said about your current home - we love it here.

PM me if you have specific questions. It's a big decision that you will need to make but for us, the move was life changing is so many positive ways.
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Old 10-12-2015, 08:39 AM   #14
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Some clarification:

1) The visa situation is already taken care of. We will have permanent resident visas for the entire family.

2) Cost is not an issue (within reason). We're already spending $40k a year for our current school in California, so it sounds like the private school costs in Australia are well within our education budget (thankfully).
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