Just when you think the difficult parts are over – like successfully applying for a UK Ancestry Visa, selling everything you’ve worked hard for, giving up a perfectly good job, saying goodbye to family and friends – you have the biggest challenge of all.
The flights. Flying from Brisbane, Australia to Glasgow, Scotland. Two train rides, three flights (in Economy class), one bus ride and a half hour walk pulling 32 kgs of luggage – all in 28 hours. Closer to 36 hours thanks to additional transit time if you travel via Dubai.
Flying out of Australia
After an overnight in a family room opposite the Brisbane City Transit Centre, we took a quick morning train ride to the Brisbane International Airport. We checked in for our flight as soon as the gate opened and went through Immigration/Customs Clearance without any hold ups. We boarded our plane and flew out at about 12:15 pm Brisbane time, as scheduled.
We were thoroughly psyched and a little apprehensive that we were actually leaving our country of birth to go and live on the other side of the world – without actually having ever visited the UK or Europe before. We figured you can save up and have a 6-week holiday in the UK and see a very small portion of what you’re interested in, or, spend the same money relocating. We chose the latter.
Each of us had no more than 200 grams remaining of our luggage allowance. We were each limited to one large (25kg max weight) and one carry-on (7kg max weight) suitcase. We were wearing our heaviest clothing (as you do) and were looking forward to taking our all-weather hiking boots off on the plane in preference for compression socks and Skechers slip-on’s.
Then came the 28-hour flight/transit time. We flew from Brisbane to Edinburgh via Singapore and London, code sharing with Qantas and British Airways.
After the first 4-hours in the air, we realised we were still flying over Australia. The Northern Territory is very big.
We were very happy to arrive in Singapore for a long awaited leg stretch and walk. We walked around Changi airport and explored the terminals. All very pretty. We didn’t mind the 3-hour transit. But we’re not very big shoppers and had very limited funds to spare, so we just cruised about the windows of the shops, rode the monorail and had a quick bite to eat at Burger King before boarding our next flight.
All flights were quite good, but it is a very long time to pretend you’re comfortable in an economy plane seat. We paid a little extra to book some of the better economy class seats on the Airbus A380 for our longest leg from Singapore to London. According to Seat Guru (25D to 25G), they offered excellent leg room. The Airbus A380 was fantastic. Hardly any turbulence and it was nice and quiet. All babies on board were settled and calm throughout the flight. The cabin stewards were friendly and the food was also very nice.
Heathrow airport was exciting. We passed through immigration and were welcomed to our new country on our UK Ancestry Visas. We were now Aussie Expats. Fresh imports.
We bought some fragrances and enjoyed a tasty bacon and egg breakfast with coffee. We didn’t realise that the flat white coffees we enjoyed were to be our last for about 6 weeks. Heathrow was super efficient and before we knew it we were in the air again, on our domestic flight to Edinburgh.
Don’t expect to see any of the UK landscape when flying above the UK. At least that’s my impression. We saw clouds and more clouds. I never knew you could have that many layers of cloud! The only time we saw land during our hour flight to Edinburgh was when we were landing in Edinburgh. We caught a brief glimpse of the city across the aisle when we were landing, including Arthur’s Seat and some of the Old Town.
The bus ride from Edinburgh to Glasgow
Edinburgh airport was a lot like Cairns airport in Far North Queensland. Not too busy. A low key baggage carousel to collect our bags from and then a short walk to the bus and taxi bays. We paid cash for a family ticket to Glasgow on the express coach. Some people had purchased their tickets already and got preferential loading. If we had not been at the front of the queue we may have had to wait for the next coach, 30 minutes later. So if you can prepay for your ticket, I recommend it.
The view on the bus travelling between Edinburgh Airport and Glasgow City is nothing spectacular. A lot of roadworks and traffic. You don’t get to see Edinburgh City along the way. We were like little kids gazing out the windows at the massive air turbines and quaint little cottages along the way. Before we knew it we were cruising into the city. The sun was setting and the lights of the city were starting to come on.
The walk from the bus station to our temporary accommodation
It was only about 8 city blocks but we soon discovered that no matter how well-designed your suitcase wheels are, they will bite into the Glasgow footpaths and pot holes. And the footpaths bite back. I personally stacked my suitcase and injured my shin bone so badly that I had to whimper and stand still for several minutes until I could feel my leg well enough to continue up the steep hills of West Regent Street. Four months later as I type this post, I still have a lump on my shin bone to help me remember the traumatic event.
Temporary accommodation in Glasgow City
We booked and paid for a week’s temporary accommodation through Trip Advisor. About £600 for a week in a fully self-contained, 3-bedroom apartment, no more than 10 minutes walk from the city centre with free wifi and a television for the boys. We needed the boys to be safe and comfortable while we were out apartment and job hunting.
After collapsing into a heap for about 30-minutes we each mustered enough strength to walk into town and find a place to eat and have a beer. The adults anyway. At about 9 pm, we staggered into TGI Friday’s in Buchanan Street and ate enough food to last us for 24-hours in case that’s how long we slept for. After an extremely large bottle of Coor’s beer each, we took a nice slow walk back to our apartment. We showered and fell asleep within 30 minutes of our heads hitting the pillow.
Day 1 in Glasgow
Monday morning of our first week in Scotland. We awoke to the sound of seagulls. Strange we thought as we were nowhere near the coast. We left the boys sleeping and ventured into town to find food at the local LIDL supermarket. For about £25 we bought enough food and groceries to last us the week. We did indeed see many extremely large seagulls flying overhead and walking the sidewalk like they owned the place.
After breakfast, we walked to the local O2 mobile phone shop and bought prepaid SIMs for our mobile phones. We found Central Station and boarded a train to Shawlands post office on the southside to collect our Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs). This effectively validated our UK Ancestry Visas.
We also visited several real estate/property agents seeking a furnished 3-bedroom rental in the area that was available immediately. Our final stop was into Mac Flats where we established a relationship that would lead to our permanent rental two weeks later.
Our first week in Glasgow
We looked at a few rental properties. Although there was plenty available when we were looking in Australia, we quickly found out that the meaning of ‘available immediately’ in Glasgow meant in a wee while. Perhaps a week or six. A little panicked at having to pay another £600 for temporary accommodation – which was a whole lot cheaper than a motel room at a Premier Inn (like a budget motel chain) – we decided to scope out Edinburgh rentals as well.
We traveled to Edinburgh and inspected an affordable rental in an undesirable area – behind a local prison. The surrounding homes were poorly maintained. The school children were at the local shop (instead of in school where they should have been) and the traffic was crazy. Bumper to bumper commuter traffic and buses meant traveling 5 miles took more than an hour. We realised that we couldn’t afford to live in an area that matched our preferences so we enjoyed the rest of our day in Edinburgh and returned to Glasgow to continue with our apartment hunting.
We visited Edinburgh twice that week including a day trip just for fun. We walked New Town and Old Town and traveled on the buses to Portobello Beach. We spoke with the locals while playing with their dogs on the beach. We adopted a Highland Cow called Heather (of the plush kind) and took part in a street performer’s fire act. The atmosphere was amazing. We’re looking forward to going back for a more casual day-trip, perhaps even for a few days so we can get to the attractions early and stay out until late without worrying about missing the train home to Glasgow.
What we achieved in our first 3 weeks
Signed a 6-month lease for a furnished, 3-bedroom ground-floor flat in Newton Mearns, on the south side of Glasgow.
- We had to pay 6-month’s rent in advance and 1-month’s rent for a bond. £5,600 lighter in one foul swoop. Ouch!
Connected our electricity and gas with British Gas.
- I downloaded the British Gas app onto my phone and paid £2 for each account type – electricity and gas.
- This generated a utility bill that I printed and used for proof of address for the other important activities.
Booked our super-fast broadband connection with Virgin Media for the following month.
- It will take some time for permission to be obtained from your landlord/property manager and for your internet provider to do what they need to do to attend and connect your service.
Opened up bank accounts for each of us with Bank of Scotland.
- We deposited a small amount in each account and asked for a bank statement to be printed showing our permanent address.
- We presented our lease agreement, passports and bio-metric residence permits (BRPs) for proof of identity.
Attended the local council and registered for council tax.
- We presented our lease agreement, bank statement and BRPs for ID; and arranged for a monthly direct debit from our new bank account.
Armed with a council tax registration, utility bills, rental agreement, bank statement, passports and BRPs – we enrolled our sons in high school.
- The nearest local school was up on the hill behind our flat. Mearns Castle High School is a state (free) co-ed secondary school with one of the best reputations in all of Scotland.
- Our older son attended an interview with the head of S6 (the equivalent of year 12) expressing his strong desire to finish his secondary education and progress into an acting career. Being an older lad, turning 18 years old before March of the next year, they could have turned him away. Kids don’t have to go to school once they turn 16. But they had a place and were more than happy to enrol him. He started school the next week.
- Our younger son also attended an interview and had to wait for confirmation that there was a single spot for him in S3 (the equivalent of year 9), only if a student had moved and been enrolled in a school in England. He started school a week after his brother.
- School uniforms cost a small fortune. Two large pairs of waterproof, black leather shoes – they have big feet. Two large woolen blazers and two large woolen jumpers – they are both over 6 feet tall. Four pairs of black trousers. Eight white long sleeve shirts. Two leather belts. 10 thermal socks. And a black and a red neck tie. Add two raincoats, two backpacks and some thermal undershirts and you get the picture. You have to pay to keep warm.
We visited IKEA and bought some furniture just in time to move into our rental property.
- We had to buy three mattresses, bed linen including three extra-warm duvets, bath towels, and some kitchen and bathroom items. Everything was delivered two days later, in time for our first night’s sleep in our new home.
We started full-time employment two and three weeks after arriving.
- We did a lot of work before we left Australia to secure employment and to try understand what was necessary so we could get into employment as soon as possible.
- One of us started a permanent full-time role three weeks after arriving.
- The other started temporary employment two weeks after arriving and then changed jobs two weeks later into a permanent position.
- By the end of the first 5 weeks after arriving, we were both employed full-time in permanent jobs. Minimum wage jobs but jobs all the same. You have to re-start somewhere, right?
Purchased monthly bus passes with First Buses.
- This gives us unlimited bus travel without worrying about having the correct change. It also saves us a whole heap of money. It costs us £44 each for a month’s bus travel, anywhere in the Glasgow area. There are other bus lines but this is the best company for our area.
- If the boys need to travel by bus we usually buy an all-day ticket, as and when needed. This is about £4.50 per person.
What we achieved in our first 3 months
Permanent rental. A lovely location, with great property managers and landlords. Handy to shops, doctors and public transport. Clean, warm and safe so the kids can be home alone without (us) worrying.
Permanent employment. Stable, predictable, monthly salaries into a new, shiny bank accounts. Full training and great benefits including discounts on mobile phone costs and home insurance premiums.
Boys settled into high school. The older son will actually graduate from high school six months earlier than he would have, had he graduated in Australia from grade 12. The younger son will also pick up six months. They’ve made some good friends and are fitting in really well. They’re also nice and warm (so far).
Bank accounts. Reliable means to transfer funds between Australia and the UK.
Super-fast fibre broadband internet. Unlike Australia where we got 5 to 20 Mbps download speed – we are now on 200+ Mbps. Australia’s NBN is only 100 Mbps – if you can get it. It’s crazy fast and reliable and cheap. We pay £50 a month for unlimited, super-fast internet. Skype, WhatsApp and internet surfing lets us keep in touch with our friends and family back in Australia.
TV and TV licence. We bought our TV from ASDA, a large supermarket chain. The boys need a TV to play their console games and we all like our TV shows and movies. It’s one of life’s pleasures we all have in common. We needed to get a TV licence to use computers and a TV. If you own anything that can stream/watch TV you need to have a TV licence. It’s about £145 a year, payable by monthly instalments.
Received our shipment of personal possessions. It took just over 3 months to arrive by sea, via Hong Kong. We used Seven Seas. They provided us with a medium size moving cube (3 cubic metres). Nothing was broken or missing. We were reunited with all of our favourite blankets, books, extra clothes and a few sentimental items that make us feel at home.
Registered and visited a GP, a dentist, an optometrist and two hospitals (one via ambulance). We got our first Scottish flu and boy did it hold on for a long time. Nearly all of us needed antibiotics. I pulled out a filling with some dental floss so had to visit the dentist (twice). And our youngest son ended up trialing the ambulance and A&E service when he concussed himself in a not so friendly gymnastics session at school. And finally, our older son now wears glasses to see distance (a mild but necessary prescription). Most of our medical costs have been covered. Our Immigration Health Surcharge is being put to good use.
We did a lot of sightseeing by public transport and walking. Most days we walked at least 10,000 steps. Many days we walked more than 20,000 steps. We caught trains, buses and taxis. Check out some of our early photographs of the River Clyde, Glasgow in Autumn and Unique Glasgow.
The Spring weather was unseasonably warm. There was actually a bit of a heat wave throughout the UK the week we arrived. We thought it was strange that we were wearing just T-Shirts throughout the day – with sunglasses. In Glaswegian, there is an expression, “Taps Aff” meaning you take your top off (if you’re a bloke) when the sun is out and it’s about 20 degrees Celsius or more.
This winter has also been the warmest on record for 100+ years. We’ve been lucky, learning to acclimatise in not so bitterly cold temperatures. That is, until late November when the cold snap hit and we got our first snow. We loved it! We were hoping for a white Christmas but the snow stayed away until mid-January. Then we got our first snow-ice experience. Bloody dangerous footpaths and car parks. The snow as great until it hardened up. We’re going to buy some strap on spikes for our shoes. £2 for a pair of short metal studs that give you grip so you don’t go arse over. The few times I have slipped I’ve been lucky enough to fall on my arse with natural padding.
The next 3 months (our first 6 months)
Overall, we’re already in a good routine with a reasonable healthy balance between work, housework, rest and play.
Like everyone who works, we enjoy our days off and look forward to our annual leave. We’re planning to take a couple of weeks off in the first half of April 2017 to explore the Scottish Highlands and beyond. We had to get straight into employment and then winter arrived and we don’t have a car. So we look forward to exploring using public transport, when it’s warmer and when we have accumulated paid leave.
There have been quite a few challenges and many differences, but we’re learning to live with those.
- We’ll post a link to an article about the challenges and difficulties faced by us after moving to Scotland from Australia.
What do you think?
Let us know if you have any similar experiences, questions or even just a comment below…