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In September 2011, Paul and Jane Cowley emigrated from Seaford, East Sussex where they had lived for over twenty years, to Bellingen, near Coffs Harbour - between Brisbane and Sydney on the East Coast of Australia.

Nearly two years on, the couple are loving life in Australia and making the most of their retirement.  Paul Cowley comments on their experience of relocating and starting a new life, half way around the world. 

“We made the decision to emigrate to Australia so that we could spend more time with our children and first grandchild.  Our daughter and her husband have lived in Sydney since 1999, and our son and his wife moved to Bellingen in New South Wales in 2002 and now have a six year old daughter.  Jane’s brother also lives in Perth so it seemed like the natural thing to do when we retired.”

“We got a contributory parent visa to live in Australia as retired parents of children living in Australia so we were able to get our visas in about 18 months. In June 2010 we were granted our permanent residency visas.  We activated these with a trip in October 2010 to really research the area where we wanted to move to.  We had visited many times prior to that to see our son and daughter, including a three month visit at the end of 2009.  This was really important, as it meant that when we finally made the move, the area and location was actually quite familiar as we’d visited frequently.”

“We packed up our household goods and furniture with Crown Relocations in September 2011 and our belongings were shipped.  We sold the house in Seaford and left the UK the same month.”

“When we first arrived in Australia we rented a flat on the coast, near Coffs Harbour for three months while we started seriously property searching.  When we left the UK we knew that Bellingen was the town that we wanted to settle in.  We had already started looking at properties in the area on the internet, so we knew the type of property that we’d be purchasing and what we could get for our budget.”

“The houses in the area are usually single story and modern, around ten years old.  We viewed a couple of properties before falling in love with a three bedroomed house in Bellingen.  It has a double garage and larger living space than we had in the UK.  The sale of our house in Seaford also means that we can live mortgage free in Australia, which is a great position to be in as it means we can really enjoy our retirement, spending time with the family.”

“The process of buying a property in Australia is much quicker than in the UK.  Over here you can request to be in your new house within 30 days of agreeing the price with the vendor.  However we weren’t in such a hurry so we worked with the vendor to agree a convenient date.”

“Our household goods and furniture arrived in Australia early November and Crown Relocations were really helpful and happy to store our furniture until we were ready to move into our new house.  Everything arrived in really good condition after the journey.” 

“We moved into our new house on 21st December, just three months after arriving in Australia.  Crown delivered our furniture to the new property and we were settled in, with our own belongings around us, just in time for our first Christmas, Antipodean style.”

“We both have Government pensions which we still benefit from, and as expats we still get our UK state pensions, but we don’t benefit from any yearly incremental rises.  Our pensions are paid into a UK account and we transfer funds to Australia when the rates are favourable.  Although since moving here the exchange rate has gone down quite considerably.”

“Fortunately we are in a good financial position but factors, such as the exchange rate or fluctuations in the global economy can have a significant impact if you don’t have much of a financial safety net.”

Settling into a new country, making new friends and developing your social circle can be a daunting prospect whatever your age.  As a retired couple, Jane and Paul were eager to make the most of their free time and integrate with their new community.  Jane continued:

“We were keen to really make Bellingen our home and settle into the community as quickly as possible.  In the UK we’d both been active members of our church, so we wanted to get involved with the local church community.  I used to sing in a choir in Seaford so I joined the Coffs Harbour choir.”

“Continuing with hobbies and pastimes that you’ve enjoyed when you emigrate to a new country is important.  It gives you the chance to meet people with the same interests as you.  Starting a new routine of activities that you enjoy will also help you to feel settled.”

“Paul was part of the Rotary Club when we lived in East Sussex, so he joined the local club here.  It’s important to join as many local groups and clubs as you can when you first arrive, as you can develop your social network.  Those casual acquaintances soon become friends, and although it takes a long time to develop the deeper friendship, it doesn’t take long to build the foundations, but you do have to be prepared to make the effort.”

“Having said that the local community has been very welcoming, which really helped us to feel at home quickly.  It also really helped that we had been here previously to visit our son and his family so we already knew the area.” 

“The climate here is lovely, it’s consistently warm.  It’s a really lush, green area so we do get rain so our way of life is much more outdoor focused.  We have breakfast on the veranda most days enjoying the view.  We go to the beach regularly; it’s about 20 minutes away.  We also go for walks along the headland at Coffs Harbour where you can whale and dolphin watch.”

“We recently returned to the UK to visit friends and family.  It was good to return and enjoy all the things we like about England - the countryside, pubs, the weather.  We did remark on how much busier the roads are in the UK, compared to where we live in Australia.” 

“We’ve also had lots of friends and family visit us from England so we have kept in touch with everyone.  Everyone has enjoyed holidaying with us and we’ve been able to show them the places we have discovered.”
“Our daughter is expecting a baby this summer, our second grandchild, and one of the reasons we decided to settle in Bellingen, we can easily fly or get the train to Sydney to see her.”

“There are a few quintessentially British things that we miss but we’ve honestly not regretted our move for a moment.  We planned our relocation for years, and we did our research so we knew what to expect.  Crown Relocations were also very helpful throughout the whole process, from planning and moving to settling in.  It was good to have experts on hand for help and advice when we needed it.”

“Anyone thinking of a new life abroad for whatever reason - new job, new start or for a happy retirement like us - should research thoroughly, plan ahead, seek advice and go for it.  We’ve never looked back.”

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