Below is an interview with a client we recently helped relocate from London to Sydney. Repatriating to Australia during a global pandemic: One family’s story provides a unique insight into the relocation process. They have very generously shared some thoughts and challenges about the experience.
The conversation provides their first hand experience into the highs and lows of relocating your family during a global pandemic; along with some very practical tips on how to make the best of the experience.
You have just repatriated from the UK to Sydney during COVID – surely one of the most difficult times ever to relocate. How did you find it?
We decided to head home to Australia and told our families in the UK. Despite the headwinds of COVID we decided to press ahead as we were shutting down our lives in England.
It’s definitely the most character building 12 weeks as a family we have ever had. We have had to be persistent, resilient and adapt to be able to get through it. It is not for the faint hearted at the moment for sure. However, as with everything in life, if you are determined and can think on your feet anything is possible as we have just proven.
Was it easy to get a job and the necessary permits to allow you to relocate to Sydney? In hindsight is there anything that you would do differently.
Australia is only letting in Australian citizens at the moment, so no permits were needed. However, I would say though check your passports as we had to make a dash to the Australian embassy in London when we realised our daughter’s passport was close to expiry.
I managed to get the job issue sorted upfront. My company very graciously decided that location is unimportant when it comes to the work being carried out, particularly in the year where remote working has become the new normal. They transferred my role directly, which I am very grateful for.
What was the most difficult part Repatriating to Australia during a global pandemic?
Gotta tell you it was all difficult, but not insurmountable. If I had a dollar for every time someone has told us that the current situation is ‘unprecedented’ we would have a few more bucks towards our rent!
Firstly, getting over here was tough enough. With the dynamics of Qantas not being in the air internationally and the serving airlines being closely monitored for a limited number of arrivals per week at each port of entry, there are many folk (like us) being cancelled off flights within 48 hours of departure and having to call and call to rebook.
Unfortunately, the commercial realities are that, with only being able to fly 30 to 60 people per flight, the airlines are prioritising business class bookings and ticket price is tending to be the deadlock breaker.
We were bumped three times from Economy seats despite being booked since May and ‘confirmed on the flight’. Eventually we realised that we had to bite the rather big bullet and upgrade the whole family to business class. This enabled us to finally get on a flight two weeks after we were due to depart and had handed back the keys to our UK home. Tough times.
You can get back Economy I am sure, but there was an empty Economy cabin on our flight from Doha to Adelaide. Yep, empty.
How was the quarantine process for you and your family?
Actually, not too bad. We were met at Adelaide airport (couldn’t get a flight to Sydney) by a lot of police and South Australian health, picked up our bags and went through customs in record time. We were put onto a coach and taken to Adelaide CBD all within 10 minutes of leaving the flight door. It was an incredibly smooth and safe process. The kids didn’t flinch and we all just took it as an adventure.
The police roadblocks into town are interesting! The hotel manager was brilliant, and we got lucky with a room with two bedrooms and some other space on the top floor (as we were a family of 4).
You are not given a key however and a guard is stationed outside the door 24/7. Food is fine and delivered three times a day. You are tested for COVID twice, once at the start and once at the end.
There are many calls a day to check on your health both physically and mentally. I must say the hotel really went out of its way to help us with just about anything. Oh, and you can order in and even figure out how to get a flat white every morning!
Was there anything you did to help make the quarantine process easier?
Sure. Some tips… WIFI gets crowded as you can imagine; so, we got a 4G pay as you go modem delivered to the hotel from an Aussie telco which meant I could work, and the kids could stream TV.
Exercise every day helps. We used YouTube videos and packed a couple of resistance bands.
Also, join the Facebook group for your hotel for lots of tips and time killers. The hotel also provided creative activities for the kids every day. We did lots of art activities with the kids, so colouring in etc. Bring a couple of board games if your luggage can handle it.
Use the time to reset your life in Australia. We got two Australian mobile SIM cards sent to us, re-joined a private health fund, sorted out Medicare and the tax office etc. All those boring admin jobs you normally cannot find the time for – this is the time to do them.
Was it easy to get accommodation and what did you look for, given you needed to quarantine for 14 days?
This is government mandated and there is no selection process. You arrive at your port of entry and you are told where you are going when you are on the coach. Simple as that.
How did you find the rental market in Sydney?
When we got out of quarantine, we took a flight to Sydney that evening and had an Airbnb ready for our arrival. We were met by an ‘unprecedented’ rental market. Family homes are very hard to come across as there is way more ‘demand’ than there is ‘supply’.
As well as repatriating families like us, there are families moving away from the CBD due to the current situation. As such, houses are very tough to come by and hotly contested.
Did you think the rental market in Sydney would have been so competitive, given we are in lockdown?
I think we had an idea given some intel we were given. I also remembered that looking for rentals in Sydney is never easy.
Repatriating to Australia during a global pandemic with Kids.
What sorts of things did you do to help set the kids up for a successful repatriating to Australia? They seemed to cope very well during this stressful time.
The kids (5 years and 8 years) have been awesome, resilient and good humoured throughout. We never hid from them the fact that the ‘next 12 weeks’ would be an adventure. And at times it would not be easy so definitely err on the transparent side.
However, we also made sure we celebrated every victory along the way like getting a flight, getting home, getting to our Airbnb and finding a new home etc – the milestones – so the journey seemed like we were ticking off sections and progressing.
If there were a few tips that you would give to someone Repatriating to Australia during a global pandemic, what would they be?
Prepare for the unexpected, courage and determination is the key here. This will test you like you have not been tested before, but everything can be overcome should we have the will to do it.
Break each part of the journey and relocation down and do as much prep as you can on each section. This means that hopefully you are not to be overwhelmed by thinking too broadly.
Don’t overthink quarantine, time passes, it always does. Everyone is amazing throughout and it is completely necessary to do your time.
Be prepared to be flexible in your accommodation search, now is not the time for deciding on an absolute catchment area or 100% having to have a swimming pool.
Fortune favours the brave, be brave and don’t let the pandemic stop your plans.
Repatriating to Australia during a global pandemic: One family’s story outlines the experiences they encountered. It provides an insightful overview for other families who are about to embark on this journey. We hope you find their tips and experience useful.
If you are relocating/repatriating to Australia and need some assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.