Doing the kangaroo hop – relocating, between Ireland and Sydney again and again…
If a kangaroo could hop between Ireland and Australia, it would be called Pamela Caldwell-Pim. Originally from Dublin, she’s relocated between the two countries a grand total of four times. Although she doesn’t have a pouch like Roo, she knows all about packing up her little joeys and taking them on one adventure after another. Read on for her insights into the highs and lows of relocating and living abroad, plus top tips and suggestions.
Landing a job in Sydney before even leaving Dublin
“In 1998 I was a sales manager here in Ireland and was offered a role with Dell to set up their preferred account division in Sydney,” said Pamela over a video call. “I had never been to Australia, and I thought ‘Goodness, this is a great opportunity. What should I do?’”
In search of answers, she went down to Dollymount Strand in Dublin, clutching a copy of Lonely Planet. “I was born in Dublin and lived and worked there my whole life, so at 27, it was a big step, but I was offered the job with a two-year secondment. My two close friends in Australia rang me and said, ‘You’re absolutely crazy not to come’.
Setting into Sydney life and what the Aussies love about the Irish
“I arrived in Sydney in June, and it was raining! And I was like, what the hell is going on here? It was meant to be sunny, but of course it was their winter. Still, it was great.”
Staying with the same company she’d worked for in Dublin, had its advantages. She knew her way around the company. However, she had to learn her way around Australian life.
“Fortunately, the Australians love the Irish. They love the chat. Sometimes they’re a little bit hard to crack, especially Sydneysiders, but once you crack them, they love the banter and love the chat.”
Coming home part one – moving from Australia to Ireland
“My husband and I had no family in Australia, so friends became our family. We had three kids, all born in Australia. We had done the hard, hard parenting yards by bringing them up on our own with no support, other than fantastic friends. Our youngest was one and the older kids were eight and six. It was the draw of family that brought us home to Ireland.
“We holidayed in the summer of 2013, the ‘heatwave summer’ as it’s still known in Ireland. We all had a fantastic time. It was difficult to leave Ireland and pull the kids away from their grandparents and cousins.
“One day, about a month after we returned to Australia from our holidays, it was bucketing rain. I rang my husband and said, ‘It’s lashing rain here, so we might as well be back in Ireland.’ And he said ‘Yeah, I was thinking the same thing’.”
They immediately put their house on the market and a few months later were back in Ireland. “It was a very quick decision, all based around family. Our parents were younger then, so they could be very hands on with the kids.
“We bought a house in Waterford and the kids all went to the local school. We then lived very happily for a few years.”
Return Down Under
Then Covid hit and Pamela was offered another job in Australia. “We had a family meeting that night and said mum’s been offered a job in Australia. What do you think? The two teenagers said, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’”
And so, the whole family hopped back to Australia. Compared to Pamela’s journey in 1998, it was a much bigger move. She used Palmers Relocation (a NexVentur relocation partner), a company which had been recommended by Irish friends who had moved to Australia. Knowing from experience that the houses in Australia are unfurnished, they shipped around 30 boxes.
Unfurnished rentals in Sydney made easy
“When we landed in Sydney, we had to do 14 days’ quarantine thanks to Covid. Because we’d lived in Australia previously, we were largely prepared, however we got a big surprise about the cost of rentals. We ended up paying $7,500 a month for a four-bedroom house. Mind you, for a similar size property in Dublin, you’re probably talking similar prices. Coming from Waterford, that was a huge shock.”
They rented in Balgowlah, about 12km from Sydney, Pamela started work and the children were enrolled in schools.
“With the kids schooling, we had said we would go for twenty months and then reassess, because our eldest would be going into fifth year. We signed a 20-month lease and then bought most of our things on Facebook Marketplace, which is a treasure trove.
“We got this amazing King leather L-Shaped sofa for $800. It’s worth about 10 grand. We bought all sorts of things we probably didn’t need.”
The joys of the Australian lifestyle
“Australian life is fantastic. We loved it. We love the beach, the outdoors. We would jump on a ferry and ride around Sydney Harbour and get fish and chips. Once you get over the very expensive rent, you can have fun quite cheaply. You can grab a six pack, or a nice bottle of wine and go to the beach and then you’re set up for the day. We would do a lot of picnics, barbeques, bush walks and swimming.
“Our youngest joined nippers at North Steyn which is on Manly beach. You’ve got three sets of nippers along that beach. My middle boy went into year seven which is equivalent to first year in Ireland. He went to a local Catholic school in Manly, which he absolutely loved. He got on really well there, he was winning all sorts of awards and playing lots of sport and, because the school is close to the beach, they would do kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. He was in paradise.”
Relocating to Australia is not for everyone
“May daughter worked part time at a little bakery around the corner. She’d come home from school, fling the school uniform off, put on her civvies, and go off and run the bakery until around 5:30. She worked five days a week because that was her social outlet and made local friends who worked there too.”
Work for kids in Australia
“Kids can begin work when they’re 14 in Australia. They all work and there are numerous jobs you can do. My middle boy did all sorts of jobs. He made picnic tables for a company called The Picnic Butler, owned by a South African. They made gorgeous little picnic tables that had cut outs for wine bottles and the ice bucket. He also worked in a start-up pizza place, making pizzas one-minute, running around delivering them by foot the next. It was all sorts of crazy stuff. The average pay then was about $20 an hour for kids.
“I found Sydney is much better in terms of giving teenagers opportunities to get into the workforce. In Ireland I think kids aren’t as used to hard work. In Australia, they all have jobs from around 14. They’re all belting around on the buses and earning their own money.”
Return to Ireland part 2
In 2021 there were two close family deaths. “My brother-in-law and my mum both passed away from Covid. It is very hard losing people when you’re away on the other side of the world, and during Covid we were not able to travel.
“My daughter really missed her friends and school in Ireland and although she loved Aussie life she eventually returned to be a boarder at her Irish school for Transition Year.
“Being a parent is forever, we couldn’t leave her in Ireland. That’s why we left Australia and came home again.”
The logistics of moving a household and car from Australia to Ireland
“It was fairly easy moving back again as I had contacts established from our move 20 months prior. We got rid of anything that we didn’t think we’d need in Ireland.
“We shipped back four cubic metres of stuff. I was really sitting on the fence about what to do with my car because I had only bought it 20 months prior to that. I ended up talking to Palmers about it and they quoted me $6000 to ship it back. I did a lot of research around the price of the car. It turned out it was worth the same in Euro than it was in Aussie dollars.
“Palmers handled all the import paperwork, everything, they were excellent and partner with the RAS Group in Ireland. Basically, I just emailed a couple of times and got a tracking number so I could track online where the car was.
“As I had owned the car for more than 12 months in Australia, I didn’t have to pay the VRT, vehicle registration tax for the import.”
Home sweet home to Ireland
They had kept their home in Waterford, and bank accounts and PPS numbers were still valid. Everything was very familiar.
Looking back at the highs and lows, the pros and cons Pamela concluded, “There was a lot of expense involved in moving over and back to Australia and the rent prices were crazy. We managed to skip Covid in Ireland and we got two years living very close to the beach.
“These moves have made the kids more resilient. It wasn’t all a bed of roses; two of our three
kids found it difficult at times while the middle boy settled really well and will probably go back and go to University Down Under. It wasn’t easy for me as a parent, and then losing two family members only two weeks apart was incredibly tough. We couldn’t travel home for funerals, I had to attend my mum’s funeral on Zoom.
“That said, it was a wonderful adventure, and Australia is a fantastic place.”
Is Ireland home for good now? Or will there be another move Down Under? Pamela is not saying, but…
Pamela’s top 5 recommendations for relocating
- Palmers Relocation is excellent for household goods and vehicle moves.
- Be prepared if you are renting rentals in Australia are usually un-furnished and rent can be exorbitant in prime areas around Sydney.
- Use Facebook Marketplace for household goods – it’s huge in Australia. “You get all sorts of items: furniture, kettles, beds, bicycles, table tennis tables, everything you want could be on there,” she says.
- Public transport in Sydney is excellent. Use Popcar, and hourly car rental service booked by app, for one-off journeys that can’t be done by public transport.
- You’ll get lots of advice from friends and family – but do your own research.
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