Moving to Scotland from Australia (Challenges & Good Times)

UK

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On 1 January 2016, in Australia, we reflected on our achievements and memories from 2015 and considered our New Year’s resolutions for 2016. We had always dreamed of living in the UK. We had even bought 100 square feet of land in Scotland several years before as a conservation activity. We had two children still at home, the oldest turning 18 in January 2017. We decided that we were going to move overseas by September 2016.

Living in Scotland

We now have ‘Settled’ status, meaning we have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. We can next apply for British Citizenship anytime from December 2022. We applied for ILR in August 2021 and were granted permanent residency in December 2021.  Due to Covid, there was a backlog, and we couldn’t pay for priority processing. 

We still live and work in Glasgow. One son has flown the nest, and our other son will be in his place by the end of the year. An empty nest is quickly approaching. We’ve worked from home for over two years and still enjoy the experience. 

The push for a second Scottish Independence referendum (Indy Ref 2) is still getting media/political attention. We survived Brexit (although there are some socio-economic challenges), and we are sending love and light to Ukraine. Covid has cemented itself for now, and Monkeypox is playing the second row. Covid restrictions are mostly finished, but peeps continue to test positive. Knock on wood; we haven’t had Covid at all (to our knowledge). 

Spring is nearly done, with Summer due in a few weeks – not that you’d know. It’s been quite cool and very wet, with maybe a handful of sunny days in Glasgow compared to parts of England, with a forecast of 29 degrees this week. We’re still in long pants and jumpers between 3 pm and 10 am (well, at least I am). 

We’re planning a 2-week road trip to Cornwall and Wales in September, and the US and maybe Australia again in 2023. We visited Australia for two weeks in February 2022 to visit family – a very long flight, especially in two weeks. The next visit Down Under will be longer than 2 weeks. 

Thinking of moving to the UK from Australia? Leave a comment below with any questions 🙂 

Living in Australia (rewind to 2016)

  • We were living on the world’s largest island – Australia. We were about to move to the UK, a country on the other side of the world.
  • We were experienced in moving within Australia. We had visited or lived in every state and territory. We had relocated from one end of Queensland to another – from Cairns to Brisbane. We had also moved several times between Brisbane, Queensland and Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
  • We had travelled overseas, including Thailand and the US, several times and twice to New York City. But we’d never actually travelled to Europe or the UK.
  • We had decided that we were going to move to the UK. Permanently. Sight unseen. Moving nearly 16,500km (10,250 miles), the crow flies from the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, to Glasgow, Scotland.
  • We had the opportunity with a UK Ancestry Visa to move to the UK and live and work there for 5 years or longer, after which we could apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain and, a year later, British Citizenship.
  • We could then be dual Australian-UK citizens and enjoy the benefit of being able to work and travel without time limits and ridiculous flight costs from Down Under to the rest of the world.
Moving from Australia to Scotland in the UK
We moved from Australia to Scotland (without ever visiting the UK or Europe).

Living in the UK: Our first five years (2016-2021)

Challenges

  • Christmas time 2018, we were advised our landlord would sell our apartment, so we had to find somewhere else to live. In March 2019, we moved 4.5 miles (7km) closer to Glasgow City and a nice 10-minute walk from a train station. We moved from a furnished rental to an unfurnished rental, luckily with a fridge, washing machine and dryer. Our rent went up, but our commuting costs and time went down, so that was a bonus. Parking is a lot easier, and it has an ensuite and a dishwasher. So overall, our quality of life went up.
  • We are a family of four (mum, dad and two working-age sons). All of us have had multiple job changes. We were impacted by redundancies and fixed-term and zero-hour contracts that ended without further opportunities, and some of us resigned due to unacceptable working conditions. There was lots of job searching and interviews right up to Christmas. For similar reasons, we will all likely change jobs at least once in 2020.
  • Our salaries fluctuated, as did our savings. Unexpected bills saw us dipping into our bank overdrafts, applying for credit cards and learning about how credit history works in the UK. We got through with credit scores in the green (which is good).
  • Our car got a sudden flat tyre and needed to be towed to a tyre repair shop for a replacement. Our car refused to start one wintery morning and got towed again. Thank you, Green Flag roadside assistance. Our car is running beautifully, still only £20 road tax, and she passed the MOT without any additional work required.
  • We fell on icy footpaths (something we do every winter so far).
  • Up to three of us have been working from home since March 2020, so the main living room is a half lounge and a half home office with two desks and four office chairs.

Good times

  • In 2021, we visited Medieval York, Alnwick Castle and Hadrian’s Wall (Housestead’s Fort and Vindolanda). We enjoyed a 2-day road trip, including Loch Ness.
  • In mid-2019, I had an unplanned solo trip back to Australia during the winter (about the same temperature as Scotland in Summer). It was my first time in Australia since we left in September 2016. I loved spending time with family and friends, including our young grandson, whom I had only met via WhatsApp.
  • In addition to my 2 weeks in Australia, we had our first trip to Europe, visiting Berlin for 3 days/3 nights. We explored London for the first time (we usually transit through Heathrow Airport) for 5 days/4 and nights. And, one of our sons spent 2 weeks in Spain.
  • We had several mini-stays in Scotland and England. Manchester for the cricket (Ashes match). Newcastle, London and Drimsynie (in the Scottish Highlands) for work events. We enjoyed overnighters in Inverness, Edinburgh and on the Isle of Skye.
  • We completed Scotland’s North Coast 500 – once in 2018 and again in 2020.
  • We wrote about the highlights of our first 3 years living in Scotland.
  • My mum visited for the second time in 3 years (I think she likes Scotland).
  • We saw War of the Worlds live performance – the night after, we saw Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons – at the SECC in Glasgow.
  • We had good times with our Glasgow friends and made many new ones. We consumed a lot of beer, whisky, and gin (cognac and rum) and ate too many pizzas. We used our Unlimited Cineworld movie card in 2019-2020 (before Covid restrictions), seeing close to 50 movies, including a Star Wars triple-feature for Rise of Skywalker (6 pm to 3 am).
  • We went on regular day trips out of Glasgow. Our Historic Scotland and National Trust Scotland memberships let us visit ancient sites and walk through mansions, castles and palaces for a fraction of the entry price (for a small monthly subscription).
  • We ticked off several items from our bucket list, including Rosslyn Chapel, Holyrood Palace, Falkland Palace, Duninos Den, The Whangie, Arthurs Seat, Outlander filming locations and the view of the Christmas Markets at night from Edinburgh Castle. We watched Australia play Scotland in rugby at Murrayfield Stadium.

Glasgow-road-trips
We visited some of our favourite places in the Scottish Highlands, including Glencoe.

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4 Comments

  1. Are you still in Scotland? We are currently living on the Gold Coast and considering moving to Scotland – Im scottish and husband is Aussie. We have 3 young kids and no family here in Australia – hence I feel the pull for home to get some support. Im terrified my husband will hate it though. He loves travel and he loves history and so Im hopeful now that covid is over that we will have lots of places to visit etc. How are you guys getting on now? Any tips?

    I have a 1 bed flat in Glasgow but I think we’d move up north closer to my parents in Moray. Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Sarah. I did my high schooling on the Gold Coast and lived there for years as well. It was our last permanent Aussie address before moving to Glasgow.

      We still love living in Scotland and are still based in Glasgow, as it’s just so convenient. We have considered moving further north ourselves, to live the Scottish countryside dream but love the perks of being 15 mins from the city. Living here, you are surrounded by history, culture, entertainment and you are amazed by something every day.

      You will also be able to share your heritage with your children. They are half-Scottish after all. If they choose to discover that side of them when they get older, and you are still in Oz, will that mean you are separated by oceans because you still live in Oz? Might be an opportunity to share that journey with them and stay together longer as a family, when they become young adults?

      Our sons are now 20 and 23 and call Scotland home. We’re retiring on this side of the world so it’s worked out that we have them with us for longer. But we always have the option of living either side of the world.

      You know a lot already, being a former local, but the stand out good things for me are these. The UK State pension – working here for 10 years gives you a minimum of about £200 month – and it grows the more years you work in the UK. It’s not means/asset tested and in my view is more generous/reliable than Aussie pension. The health system NHS Scotland is free, including prescriptions and doctor visits. University is free after 3 years residency for you and kids. Travel is cheap and exciting from the UK.

      I just had routine in Australia. Gum trees, traffic, beaches, home, and work. Flood, fire, drought, power outages. Living here I have excitement, learn something new every day and identify places and activities to add to my bucket list. My bucket list in Australia was pretty empty of local things, and full of overseas things.

      If hubby gets excited going to somewhere he’s not been before, seeing landscapes or buildings that he’s not seen before, then he’ll love moving to a new country, especially one that is on the doorstep of Europe with £200 3 day holidays (accommodation and flights). If you have Scottish ties then moving here will make the transition for him easier than most.

      The cons. Weather is wet and cold and there is less sunshine and no stupid hot days. Perfect for us. We’re both fair skinned. And you can dress warm. When the skies are clear and the sun is shining, it is glorious, you appreciate it, rather than despise it. You get paid less compared to Oz. This was the biggest kicker for us, and still is. But life is affordable, housing is more affordable compared to Oz. There is less local fresh produce and reliance on imports can be troublesome but I think the war in Ukraine is tipping governments and businesses to consider self-sufficiency and sustainability.

      Tips: understand what he may be giving up, for a trial of X number of years. Appreciate all the gains, for him and your kids and ability to travel together as a couple with local family babysitters. Glasgow has lots of work. Scotland has lots of work, including home working opportunities with government. S1 jobs is a good start. Have a good financial buffer/savings to set yourselves up over here. Bringing your belongings via sea takes about 3 months. So the first 12 weeks will be full on, getting work, school, home sorted. This will also be the most exciting. I’ve written about how we did this.

      If you have more specific questions, come back here or email via the contact form. I’m happy to speak via WhatsApp also.

  2. We are also thinking of moving back . I’m from Glasgow and husband is Aussie. I’ve been here 25 years and still struggling to make lasting friends. Feel very conflicted about returning- we have 2 small kids.

    1. The pull of your homeland is strong. We’ve been in the UK for nearly 6 years and while we love it, we also miss Australia, but know that we want to retire in the UK (for many reasons). Once you’ve got a foot in each door it’s difficult to choose which one is best for your stage of life. I see us returning to Australia for a year maybe to compare and think/feel our next steps.

      I’ve read so often on facebook forums for peeps that have moved from UK to Oz and vice versa, moving back for a short while before realising that they were happy where they were – or being conflicted (still) and needing time to work through the pros and cons.

      In my humble opinion, times change and the country you remember might be very different to the country you find and whether you love it more than the other is something you have to suck and see as they say. You need to relocate for a year or more and agree as a couple which country serves you best – now, in the near future and eventually as a retirement option.

      I know from our perspective, the retirement options are more lucrative working in the UK for 10 years or more compared to the Aussie aged pension that is means/assets tested (despite paying tax for a lifetime). It’s probably the main reason we are choosing to live in the UK. We know we want to spend a lot of time in Europe and the UK, even the US is cheaper to travel to.

      Like any marriage (should be) it’s a joint decision as to where to live and thrive. I have a daughter-in-law who moved to Oz from England and loves it there. I don’t see her moving back to the UK anytime soon. So my son probably won’t have to face the decision to relocate. However, given your heart is pulling you in two directions, it sounds like your husband may experience life in the UK to compare and help you decide where you live in the next chapter in your lives. To be left doubting can destroy the soul. It might be expensive to relocate, only to return (or not) but the agony of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ is something that can’t be priced. My humble opinion only. My husband and I were both born in Oz (NSW and Qld), so together (fortunately) we see eye to eye. But next year, it could be different. Things happen to shake your beliefs in what is best at the time. Our strategy is to remain flexible, have a direction, but not hold fast.