After seven years in Melbourne, nurse and mum-of-two Pamela Waugh decided to return home to Scotland with her husband to be closer to their family.
In 2013 the couple from Dumbarton, near to Glasgow, sold up and emigrated to the other side of the world on working holiday visas. In September 2020 they moved back as dual British-Australian citizens.
Pamela talks about sponsorship, permanent residency, Aussie salaries and the cost of housing in Melbourne.
Bullet points of key topics & time stamps:
● 03:22 – find out how Pamela found work as a nurse in Australia
● 05:56 - Pamela explains her reasons for moving back to Scotland
● 14:37 – find out how much the big move cost the family of four
● 19:04 – Pamela tells us what items she brought back to the UK
● 23:19 – salary comparison between Australia and the UK
List of resources mentioned in episode, suggested reading & social media handles:
Britstralian Producer and Host: Anna Moran
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Britstralian acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the Land we have recorded this podcast on. The area now known as the City of Armadale was originally occupied by the Noongar people many thousands of years before European settlement. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
NOTE: The views and opinions shared by the guest(s) in this podcast are the views and personal experiences of the guest(s) and are not necessarily representative of the views or opinions of Britstralian and the host.
The views and opinions shared by the guest(s) in this podcast are the views and personal experiences of the guest(s) and are not necessarily representative of the views or opinions of Britstralian and the host.
Britstralian will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.
For many of us, moving from the UK to Australia generally means an upgrade in lifestyle. House with a pool, fantastic beaches, great weather. But for a lot of us, that upgrade comes at a cost and that cost is usually being far away from loved ones.
Hi, my name is Pamela Waugh. I just moved back to Scotland after seven years living in Melbourne, Australia - which I can't believe. And I am now classed as a Britstralian.
Pam from Dumbarton near Glasgow is going to tell us what took her back to her hometown. But first she's going to explain how she ended up moving to Australia with her now-hubby seven years ago.
I still can’t get out the way of speaking like an Australian, I must say.
Mate. I always say it.
Neither of us had ever been to Australia, or knew anything about Australia. And I basically told my husband that he could pick the place where we would go. He chose Melbourne, because looking online and things like that, Melbourne was like this, you know, like fancy, most livable city. We’re obviously from a really small town, in like quite a rural part of Scotland.
And because I'm a nurse, it was very easy for me to get, you know, registered to work over there. But I have to be perfectly honest and say we didn't really do much research about it.
Yeah, aha. When I look back now, and I think of how naive we were going over there. We had no idea. So at the time, I was 26. Eoin had just turned 30. So we were running out of time for a working holiday visa. And despite the fact that I now know like pretty much everything you need to know about a working holiday visa, I could have applied for permanent residency from here and I could have got permanent residency and moved over there. But we didn't know that. We put our flat, that we owned, up for rent. I handed in my notice to the NHS and he handed me his notice to the police. We went to a couple of car boot sales and sold pretty much everything that we owned and then booked a one way flight that went Edinburgh to Istanbul, to Bangkok, to Vietnam. Got off in Vietnam and spent four nights in Vietnam. And then flew Vietnam, Kuala Lumpur, to Melbounre.
That is the most long-winded way to get to Australia I've ever heard.
I know. But it was the cheapest option. So we got there basically with two suitcases. And we had booked into an Airbnb in a place called Fitzroy, which is a very, very expensive, trendy suburb of Melbourne, which of course, we had no idea. We booked into an AirBnB for two weeks, and then basically just set about trying to set up a life there.
Oh, wow. Just from scratch?
Yeah, aha. On working holiday visas.
And you didn't have any jobs or anything lined up?
Well, I have been in contact with a nursing agency prior to going, who said that I could go in and talk to them when I got there. And within two weeks of being there, I started working. And I should also add as well that we went with about £6000 in our bank accounts. That was it.
Yeah, that's not a lot to get started, is it.
And so I think by the time we had been there a couple of months we had run out of money, pretty much. The first six months was really, really difficult because it took six months for Eoin to find a job. So he was unemployed for the first six months. It was really hard to get anyone to hire him on a working holiday visa, because he'd been a police officer and the UK for like six years, something like that. I was really lucky over there. My career just like flew off basically from very early on and it just kind of got better and better. And I managed to get a job at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne which is like kind of probably the biggest Hospital in Australia. And I was sponsored by them
Sponsored, for anyone listening, that just means that the employer take you on and they look after all your visas and everything like that.
Which we had to pay for. I wasn't lucky enough to have it all paid for me. Anyway, I got sponsored and I paid for the visa. Yeah, so basically after I got the permanent residency that meant that Eoin was able to apply to become a police officer over there, because you have to be a permanent resident to work in the police over there. So he applied for that, but unfortunately, they’re not really jobs that can afford to keep a good standard of living in a city as expensive as Melbourne. And there was no way that we could afford to buy a house there.
Are you talking about living-, because you were living so close to the city? Or do you just mean in general in Melbourne it was too expensive?
In general in Melbourne. You probably have probably have to travel out of the city to afford a house that would be in our budget. You’d probably have to have been looking at traveling like an hour outwards of the city.
Wow, I didn't know that.
Yeah. Fast forwards, like we had been there for five years, and I was pregnant with our first child, we had got married. We were full on, we're gonna live in Australia for the rest of our lives and this is what we will do. And if you had told me even a year ago, never mind two years ago that I would be living back at home, I would never have believed you. Because I just was so adamant I would never leave.
I’m gobsmacked, wow! I didn't expect you to say that. I thought you were going to be someone who was wanting to come back for a long time.
No. Probably the start of our journey back to moving back home, kinda was around the time that we moved out of Melbourne, because we couldn't afford to buy a house. So we moved to our regional city called Ballarat. It’s a large city still in comparison to you know where I'm from. It's got a population of 120,000. And it had a hospital and we were be able to transfer our jobs up there. By that point, I had had a baby and we had moved up to Ballarat and we bought a house, which was still expensive but within our budget.
How far is Ballarat from Melbourne?
It's about 100km. So it was an hour and a half drive. That was probably the beginning of the end to be honest, even though we still hung on for another couple of years. Because by that point, you know, I had just had a baby, I had moved to a new place, I was really isolated, my husband was working really long hours. I had zero support and I had a baby who didn't sleep.
So yeah. And my friends, like my really good friends all lived in Melbourne. And a few of them left even lived like, you know, a two-hour drive from where I was. So it wasn’t like I could just jump in the car and go and visit.
And I like I did a few times. And I went down on the train and stuff and met friends in Ballarat. But like, you know, they all had their friends and their family and had lived in that place for a really long time. For the first time, I felt like a real outsider. You know, like.
Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.
Yeah. But I was still in this mindset that well, I live in Australia, and I'm always going to live here. So we just kind of pushed on with living here. And we even bought land and started like planning to build a house.
What, so you owned the house in Ballarat and you also bought land as well? Separately?
Well, yeah. We were in the process of buying land and building the house was just such a standard thing to do over there.
It’s an Australian thing, yeah.
Yeah, it's definitely an Aussie thing. But by that time, I was pregnant with our second child. I had two very close together, they were only 18 months apart.
Which is great. But again, you know, I was back at work. It was fine. I could, you know, childcare was fairly affordable over there because I was a permanent resident. But we had no time together because there was no one to even help to look after my wee boy for even like a couple of hours for us to go out and have a meal or something like that. And it's not even, that-, it's just you start to miss that, you have that feeling like you want to spend time with family and friends with your children. So basically, my husband first said to me around-, probably around November, December 2019, that he felt that if he could go home that he would. I was really shocked because like he’d never see this before. We had been home for a trip when I was three months pregnant, and our first baby just turned one. And we had a party and family came from all over the UK. And I think it's the first thing we've ever been home where we started to really feel, like, you know, that pull for family and friends. Because up until we had our kids we were happy enough just the two of us going out and going to the cinema and going for drinks and working full time and meeting friends for brunch and coffee.
But your whole attitude towards life changes after you have children. And we just started to think like, we are going to bring our kids up on the other side of the world and they won’t have a relationship with any of their family and we'll talk to them on FaceTime but they won’t really know them. They won’t properly know them the way you know your family when you grow up beside them. But I still took a lot of convincing that I wanted to move home.
really? Did ya?
Yeah. Yeah, cuz I just kept thinking like, you know, we won’t have the standard of living at home as what we do here. And then, I had my second baby, and COVID lockdown started. And I realized that my life was no different with the COVID lockdown as what it would have been if there was no lockdown because I lived in a place in Australia where I never really seen many people, anyway. And I spent a lot of time on my own with my two kids. And the only real difference was the fact that I was then in a position where there was nowhere that I could take them. So I was at home with an 18 month old and a newborn baby. And I couldn't even take them to a soft play or a park. Friends in Melbourne weren't allowed to come and visit because it was you know, very, very strict. You weren’t allowed to move from the city to the regional areas. And I spent one whole day on a Saturday thinking to myself, what on earth am I doing here, when I could be at home with people who actually cared about me and cared about my children? And am I really going to sacrifice that for better weather, a job that, yeah, is better over here than it would be at home. But you're going to be working part time for the next number of years whilst you're having children. And my husband came home from work and I just says to him, I was like, right okay, like, let's do it. Let's move home. And he was gobsmacked because he didn't think that I would come to that conclusion. And after we decided we wanted to move home, I just thought well, what's the point in delaying it? So we decided we would move back home I think in the start of May, and I got back into Glasgow in September.
Oh my goodness, not even four months later.
Yeah, I just packed up my entire life and left.
Wow, did you sell everything?
Erm. I sold a lot of things. But I brought two move cubes with me. So, kind of like small shipping container type things. But I mean, I sold my house. I sold the land.
You did all of this during lockdown did you?
Now that you're back home in Scotland, do you actually feel at home there?
I feel ridiculously at home. But it's unsettling at the same time.
Because I can't believe how quickly I've just slotted back into probably what my life was before.
What so you've been away seven years?
Yeah. Yeah, most days it does feel really normal. And probably that's more so because I had no intentions of moving back to my hometown. It just wasn't what we thought-, you know, we lived in, in Glasgow before we moved away. And we just assumed that we would move back to Glasgow. Where we live is about 30 minutes outside of Glasgow. It's quite a small town. Quite rural. Erm, but we’ve unexpectedly found ourselves back in my hometown, which we’re actually really enjoying because we're at stage in our life, where it's really handy to have, like, you know, friends and family around us. But at the same time, sometimes I feel like my seven years in Australia was just some sort of like seven week extended holiday that I was just there and this, you know-. Friends and family have just adjusted so quickly to us being at home. They don't really realise that we had a whole life in Australia. We were there for seven years. We had good jobs, we had a house, we had friends, you know, we were together for longer there. We got engaged there, we got married whilst we were living there. Both my children were born there. And like Australia is this like massive part of my life. But, now that I'm back here, it's really hard-, it's really hard to describe it. Because like, I do miss certain aspects of Australia, but I don't, on a general daily basis, I don't miss it, you know. Like I don't feel a pull to go back. But it's a really weird feeling. And I can completely understand why people move back and forward as many times as they do.
You do understand?
Yeah. I do, I do. Because when you come back and initially it's so hard to get yourself set up again. I can understand why some people think “Oh, to hell with this, I’m away back”.
How much did it cost you? The whole move?
I would say in total-, and obviously including in this is the fact that, you know, like we have bought a house and a car outright since moving back here. But in total it probably cost me about $80,000.
Wow, so in pounds-, it’s about half isn't it, so £40,000 pounds.
Yeah, about £40-45,000.
But then, see you would have sold a car over there and you sold your house over there
So have you lost any money, do you think?
We haven't lost any money
But have zero savings left. But at the same time, like we are in a more fortunate position than other people would be, so I'm not gonna complain too much about it.
Aww, bless you, it’s still tough, though. You know. Still a big, big decision. And did you manage to find jobs okay, when you came back home?
Well, that was one of the main things that probably we thought might force us back to Australia. Was that when we moved back my husband's job fell through.
Did he have a job lined up already to come back to?
Yep. So we, when we moved back, he had already started going down the route of applying to work with the police again. But the problem is, if you've been out of the country, there's a lot of residency rules to work for the police force in the UK. Because he had worked for the police in Scotland before we had left to go to Australia, they were willing to take them back. So we moved back home, because the application process couldn't progress unless we were back in the country. And after we got back home, they told us that we had to go to rural Scotland. So like one and a half to three hours drive from where we are.
Not near to anything. But we weren't expecting that at all. So we had no option than to not take the job offer, given that I had just moved back from Australia, so I didn't then want to move to a really far away place from my friends and family.
So we made the decision that I would go back to working, he would be a stay at home dad.
Is that what you've done?
Yeah, so I am back working full time. And he's looking after the kids.
And how are you finding that?
It’s a bit mad.
Is it? Aww. And you're doing night shift as well aren't you?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so I mean, like, it's good for me. I really enjoy my job. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. But it's-, it's just been a massive upheaval to come back from Australia to Scotland and set up again and then for it to be completely unexpected that the role-, the, you know, the roles are reversed kinda thing. But I mean, like it’s only a short term thing until we can get on our feet.
You came back in September and obviously, that was when there was-, and there still is, so much upheaval with flights and erm, it's really difficult to get a flight actually at the moment, so-, and even to leave Australia did you have to apply to leave Australia? How was that?
We had to apply for an exemption to leave the country because we were citizens.
And to get the exemption, I just sent in details evidencing that I had sold my house that I had sent, you know, my belongings to the other side of the world. So we booked our flights with Qatar
To get a flight, gosh-, that would have been really difficult, trying to even book a flight because weren't they cancelling all the scheduled flights at that time?
At the time Qatar were still flying. I think they’ve stopped at the moment, but at the time they were still flying. So it was Melbourne to Doha, Doha to Edinburgh. Because we'd heard that Qatar were very reliable. But the most difficult part for me probably was I took my dog home.
Yeah, I've got a little staffy dog that we adopted over there. That became probably the most difficult part because it was very, very difficult to get animals on planes. But yeah, in the end up it worked out fine. Our first flight was actually canceled and rescheduled, but only to a couple of days later. So it was cancelled from the Tuesday and rescheduled to the Thursday.
How much notice were you given that it was canceled?
Oh only about three days, I think? So it worked out perfectly.
Oh, brilliant. So you all made it home safely.
Great. So just out of curiosity, what did you bring with you in the move cube? What did you bring from Melbourne back to Scotland?
We brought a lot. We brought a king size bed and a queen size bed, washing machine, tumble dryer fridge freezer, several other like small appliances.
Would you recommend people bring in stuff back? Was it the right decision to bring those large items back with you?
I think for us, what I didn't take into consideration was that a lot of houses in the UK have integrated appliances. And I suppose it depends on where you're going to stay when you get back because we had to wait a really long time. So even though we sent the first cube in July, the end of July, it didn’t arrive with us until I think the middle of November.
Wow, that’s ages.
So we were back for two months and we slept on a floor.
So if you were going to do that trip again, would you still take all that stuff with you? Or do you think you would just start from scratch when you get here?
I think I would still take it all with me. It was really nice to open the move cube and just have all of our things, you know, like it brought familiarity back to us after, you know, moving back, basically given up our lives over there. I think it was quite nice to bring some of our stuff so that we know have, you know, things that we bought there
When you moved over in September, where was the UK still in lockdown,then?
So the lockdown had lifted. But they were still kind of varying-, various types of restrictions and things like that. And two days before we flew home, they announced that they were putting restrictions back in place that you weren't allowed to go to anyone's house and you know all those kinds of things. But-
Oh, that would have been heartbreaking.
Yeah, it was pretty heartbreaking to be honest.
Erm, but-, and then when we got back, we had probably a couple of months of like, at least some cafes and things like that still being open. And so we were able to go out and see people in restaurants and cafes, and then obviously in December, everything went back into lockdown again.
Has it been nice though, being able to see your family again, and the boys spending time with grandparents and things like that?
Is the reason I know that I've made the right decision to come home.
What advice would you have for anyone who is in Australia, and they're really longing for home? What would your advice be to them?
Life's too short to live in a place that you hate, or live in a place that you're not happy. I don't think that that you're ever going to get the answer. Because see, if you've lived that way, you're never gonna be 100% be feel settled when you're back home. There's always going to be aspects of Australia that you will miss. But also, when you come back home, you realise that it's actually not as bad as what you think it is, when you're away from it. I spent a long time in Australia telling myself that this was like-, Australia was the most amazing place in the whole world and where I was from was the crappiest place in the whole world. And it's not true. At all. And since I've been back home, I've had like this real-, you don't realise how good a place is until you've been away from it. And that's why I know that I've made that right decision. And I'm just as shocked as everybody else because no one thought we would move back home. I don't miss Australia. I don't. I have days when I miss it because maybe I'm having a bad day here and I just think to myself oh it’d be better if I was over there, but I know it's not true. I know that there's complicating factors and all that a lot of people have Australian partners and that tends to be the biggest kinda, you know, the biggest block to coming back home. People who have children who are happy to live over there and want to live there. But, see, ultimately, see if you're not happy living in a place, leave it.
You mentioned earlier about your salaries weren't enough to cover the cost of living in Melbourne. And you weren't able to buy a house there. Do you mind me asking what your salaries were in Australia?
Yeah. So I would say probably at the point in which we were leaving, I was-, I was working in a very senior nursing position. So my salary was probably about maybe $110,000 to $115,000 per annum. And then I would add in a bit more on that from working the night shifts and things. And-
Yeah, it was. It was it was a great salary. It was-, your lower grade nurses are not paid as much as that, but they are still paid considerably more than what they’re paid here. And then my husband was earning I think about $90,000 a year, working as a senior constable like up maybe about five or six years into the pay scale over there. Because he had to start from scratch when he started again.
And those salaries weren't enough for you to buy a property in Melbourne? Is that right?
No, no definitely not.
Wow. They’re quite decent salaries, as well, you know?
Yeah, they're very good salaries.
Goodness me. Have you taken much of a hit moving back?
I've been very lucky that I've been able to go into kind of what the comparable job over here was that I did over there?
Yeah. Which I didn't expect, coming back. And my salary over here, after night shifts and things like that probably will equate to about £50,000 a year. Which, when-, I mean, it's a massive salary for the UK, like, it is-. So it's actually probably not that different from what I was earning over there, but the differences here is that it’s only me who is working.
And I'm able to support the family on that salary, because the cost of living is lower here.
So actually you're not any worse off moving over?
In fact you're probably better off that only one of you needs to-
Probably are better off. Yeah, yeah.
So at the point when both of our kids are a little bit older and we're both working again full time, we will be in a better position, salary wise, than what we would have been over there. And also, is the fact that, you know, it wasn't just your salary when you were in Australia or Melbourne specifically, it was the house deposit. So there was an expectation that you had a 10% to 20% deposit to buy a house, but the suburbs we were living in, you couldn’t buy a two bedroom house for less than a million dollars.
Where were you living?!
We were living in inner city Melbourne, which of course was really expensive. At the point when we moved over, you know, before house places went crazy, we could probably have afforded a two-bed apartment-, and maybe at the point when we were leaving, we could have afforded a maybe-, at a push, a two bed apartmen, but we couldn't have afforded that with me working part time and him obviously working full time. Because it just-, it just wasn't, it wasn't affordable, you know, on top of everything else. you know, whereas in comparison, I've come back to my hometown and I've managed to buy a huge three-bed apartment for £93,000.
You know, like my mortgage will be paid off in about 10 years.
Perfect. No chance of you going back then, I don't think.
Look, I will definitely take my children back. They have to see the place where they were born. You can never say never, like I've learned that, you know. You can never say never. My husband says never. But I would never say never.
But for now, Pam’s boys will grow up in Scotland, surrounded by all the things, us Britstralians who've moved away, can only dream of. And according to the feedback on the Britstralian Facebook community, that is a British culture, like the pubs and sports, being able to hop on a short flight to anywhere in Europe, closely followed by all of the lovely food that we can't get over here in Australia. Come and join us on Facebook. Just search for Britstralian and we're also on Instagram, at Britstralian_podcast.