I’ve spent a long time living in the UK with little to no face to face contact with others from down under. Well very little in the flesh, I’ve obviously spent a lot of time face timing friends and family. The last 2 years however my antipodean circle has widened. I hired 3 southern hemispherians (pure coincidence I promise!) and another girl from NZ joined another team within our department.
It’s been great they know what milo is, say words funny like me, help share the pain when Australia plays England in the cricket/rugby, share funny videos that our British colleagues just wouldn’t get, spend too much time in walkabout and they just sound like home. They were all there about the age I was when I first came over and whilst they all have completely different situations, plans, lives and loves they have started to have to make some big decisions about what happens next like I did many years ago.
Last week we were sitting in the sun drinking 1 too many proseccos discussing living abroad and the decisions that come with this at each stage of creating a life on the other side of the world. I’ve lived away for 10.5 years (or 11.5 of you count my gap year) both times I had an ancestry visa due to my grandmother being born in England (hilariously she’s from Birmingham and her name is Sheila) and that allows me to have 5 years to live and work in Great Britain. I was lucky most Aussies don’t get that opportunity and the best they get is 2 years.
My 2 friends are in this situation and both of their visas are up before the end of this year. Talking to them about what they are planning to do was so different yet so similar to what I thought, felt, spoke to my friends about when my own visa was coming to an end.
For me, I never ever considered not applying for residency when my ancestry visa was due to expire. I don’t remember calling my parents to discuss it or ask their opinion I knew in myself that I wasn’t ready to go yet. I wasn’t ready to leave my friends, my boyfriend, my career or the life I had here. Because I had a 5-year visa I had been home most years and when I didn’t make it home my family had all been out to visit or stop in to see me on their travels through Europe.
Talking to both of my friends who are sadly a bit younger than me and they are so much more conflicted. They both have friends, boyfriends, jobs and more countries to tick off their lists but also long to be home with their families and not ready to commit to a life in the UK. They’ve spoken to their parents at length and luckily one of them is able to apply for her own ancestry visa but the cost of this is much higher than when I got mine all those years ago so it puts extra pressure to fund that and support two lives whilst being out of the country as the application is processed. One thing that stuck with me was one of their parents could tell they weren’t ready to go back to a land down under and even said ‘your adventure isn’t up yet’.
It’s hard being away from your parents and family but as I’ve learnt and experienced no matter how far away you are from them they just want to you to be happy.
My other friend has to leave the country when her visa expires. She doesn’t have the option of another one. The decisions for her are different as well as her and her partner need to work out what it means for them in the long term. If they continue togethere but long distance or if he makes the journey over with her. Falling in love abroad is really tough!
My one piece of advice was so not to stay here for a boy (or girl). I love my fiance dearly but I’m here for me and not him. This is the independent women in me coming out -Beyoncé would be proud. Falling in love is really hard when you are away. The problem is if you stay for them to run the risk of it all going tits up and then you are here for the wrong reasons or worse could end up resenting them that you only stayed for them. It puts a weird balance on the relationship. The relationship should, of course, be considered when making a decision to stay but in my opinion, it shouldn’t be the sole reason. See normal couples who are both from the same country don’t have to worry about this sort of thing.
For both of my friends, I don’t know what they’ll do. If they’ll stay or if they’ll go. I don’t think they even know for certain yet. But one thing we all agreed on is that living and working abroad is one of the best things you could ever do. You grow so much as a person, you see the world through different eyes, you meet amazing people, you learn more about yourself, you develop a deeper love for your homeland (and weirdly the junk food of home) and most importantly you realise just how much crap you can accumulate over the years when all you arrived with was a suitcase!