Part Two of Three: The Actual Move

Once you’ve decided to make the move to Australia – get to executing! Part Two in the three part post on moving to Australia. See Part One: Planning the Move.


Getting Your Stuff Here: You really have two options – bring a suitcase or ship everything you own…

We did the latter, but again, we had a very ideal situation where McKay’s company gave him a relocation package and since they weren’t going to give us that money to buy furniture when we got here – it was more of a use-it-or-lose-it situation. We packed up both of our apartments and brought everything. Not that our furniture was particularly valuable or worth bringing, but things are REALLY EXPENSIVE here so the cost of furnishing a two bedroom apartment versus shipping things we already owned was probably cost effective. Shipping everything wasn’t cheap and it took 2 months so we had 2 weeks on an air mattress in San Francisco and another 6 weeks on one over here. We had corporate housing, but since McKay was starting work a week after we arrived we wanted to find a place while he still had free time to apartment search so we ended up moving into our place after only 2 weeks without any furniture.

The other option that we could have gone with was to sell everything, bring a few suitcases and find a fully furnished apartment. There are lots of fully-furnished housing options here, but we did find that none of them were really our taste at all so it definitely feels more like home to have your own things around you.

Where to Live: We’ll divide this section into two parts – Picking a Neighborhood and Finding an Apartment.

  1. Picking a Neighborhood: This section will be controversial and I’ll be completely honest and say that we are totally biased – we live in Surry Hills, we love Surry Hills, and we barely leave Surry Hills save for venturing into the surrounding areas (ie: Darlinghurst/Paddington/Potts Point). Surry Hills is perfect for us because we don’t have a car and there are loads of restaurants/night life/anything that you might need within walking distance from our place. It’s also a 10 minute walk from Central Station which means a 35 minute train ride to St.Leonards for McKay and a 30 minute light-rail ride or 40 minute walk for me to Pyrmont. Is it totally trendy and where all the hipsters live? Yes. Is it completely overpriced due to being the “hip” spot to live in despite being a haven for druggies and prostitutes only a few short years ago? Again, yes. But we love it.

I will say this this though – decide what your priority is  – living close to work, the beach, or where you go out most often – and make your decision based on that.

Do you love the beach and want to meet tons of other foreigners and tourists? If so, Bondi is the place for you. Do you love the beach, but want to be a little further from touristy areas? You might consider Tamarama, Maroubra, Coogee or any of the beaches surrounding Bondi in the Eastern Suburbs. Do you love the beach, but hate tourists/have a car/have a family? Then perhaps Manly or one of the other Northern Beaches is for you. If you prefer to live in the city and want to be walking distance to the CBD (where you most likely work) while also being close to good restaurants, bars and shops and plan on only going to the beach on the weekends – then the neighborhoods you’ll want to consider are Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Kings Cross, and maybe Red Fern (the non-dodgy end).


  2. Finding an Apartment: Note to future expats – finding an apartment in Sydney sucks. If you’ve lived in  
      Manhattan and thought that was difficult, this is worse.

Here is how it works: you have two options really when it comes to apartment-hunting – and These two sites list all of the available apartments in the city – so get to know them. Download the iPhone apps. Trust us – these are your only options.

  • Agents will list their properties and provide you a 15-20 minute window to come visit the apartment. There will 30-40 other people (depending on which suburb you’re looking at) coming to see the same apartment in that 15-20 minutes. The person showing the apartment is actually also the property manager (the person you would go to if a pipe burst or you need a new lock, etc) so be nice to them because they are the ones that go through the applications and provide the property owner choices for the tenant. Yes, that is how competitive it is here – property owners have their pick of who gets to live in their place and they really do call all of your references. Positive – you can apply for as may places as you want without paying for any of them. Negative – you could totally get denied despite your stellar US credit because it doesn’t transfer over here.
  • Things to have prepared: For all parties that will be on the lease you will need – copies of 2 forms of ID (Passport and Drivers License), bank statements, proof of your income (pay stubs and/or offer letters from your future Aussie employer), letters of recommendation from your previous landlord, 3 references – hopefully some local ones, but they will also take US references (and actually contact each and every one of them).
  • We looked at 23 apartments in 3 days (split up to cover more ground), applied for six of them, and ended up in a place that we love – so it’s not all bad, it just ain’t easy. 
Are you a fellow expat with advice of your own to add? Disagree with any of the tips above? Leave a comment!