by Donna MacFarlane
When my husband, Marty asked if I wanted to move to Perth, his eyes were smiling so hard that I said ‘yes’ on impulse. One of the big mining companies would fly us both to Perth from Hobart, Tasmania for an interview in a few days. Over dinner at the Ocean Beach Hotel, Marty discussed the job while I imagined summers in the warm sand. Then the boss turned to me. ‘So, do you want to move to Perth?’ he asked. ‘I like it here,’ I said. The deal was done.
Flying home the following day, we considered the logistics. Our nine year old daughter and six year old son were both happy at school. Our parents and grandparents lived close by. Our house renovations were almost complete. I had a flexible job in the State Service. The cherry tomatoes were beginning to ripen. And I was nine weeks pregnant.
‘But it’s so far away!’ my mother and others complained. We consoled them (and ourselves) with the fact that the move was initially just for two years and we could always return earlier if we hated it.
We listed our home ‘for lease’ with a real estate agent and began the whirlwind of tying loose ends and saying goodbyes. We were fortunate that Marty’s company packed up our house and also provided around six week’s accommodation in Fremantle to help us find our feet.
‘Where are you going to live?’ my boss asked, when I said I was leaving. ‘I have no idea,’ I replied.
Many of my friends posed the same and other questions, which made me feel increasingly uncomfortable: ‘Do you have friends or family over there?’ ‘Have you found a school for the children?’ ‘Do you have the names of any good obstetricians?’
‘No,’ I answered to all of the above. I tried to search for information on the internet but it was hard to know where to start.
Marty left Hobart two weeks before the rest of us to start his new job. When I finally left with the children- all three of us sobbing in the plane- our new adventure was overwhelming. Leaving turned out to be the easy part.
Stepping out of the airport terminal in Perth into one of the hottest days on record, I wondered how people survived in this place. But I had complained about Tasmania’s cold weather for far too long to tell Marty about my discomfort when he greeted us.
Over the next two weeks, I searched online and in the papers for properties to rent, aware that our time in paid accommodation was running out. I didn’t know Perth…every suburb had to be typed into google maps to discover where it was. The houses that seemed reasonably priced were in suburbs far away from the beach or the city. I had tried looking for a house before I left Hobart, but there wasn’t much point because I could only apply if I attended an open home. We had never rented before, so we had no references either.
I took my mind off the housing dilemma by searching for a school. We wanted it to be close to ‘home,’ but we had no idea where that would be. Eventually, in desperation, we applied for a townhouse in Scarborough that was at the top end of our budget. We were successful. Around the same time, one of the schools I contacted said it had vacancies for my children. Finally, things were coming together.
Six weeks into our 12 month lease, we decided to leave. The house was too grand, with no space for outside play and too far from the train station. We paid the re-letting fees and the re-advertising fees. We paid for the removal company to come back and upload all our stuff again. And we paid the week’s rent until another tenant moved in. We had found somewhere more suitable to live, thanks to a friend we had met since moving to Perth. It took several months to recoup the costs of our initial mistake, through paying less rent at the new place.
On the whole, the process of moving to Perth was a stressful and costly experience. I did not know that professional help was available to help us settle in. If I had, I would have contacted a relocation company to see how they could assist. I could have saved my time and energy for other important things, like finding a doctor to deliver my baby! We managed to go from being ‘new in town’ to calling Perth ‘home’, but it could have been easier.
For the record, in my experience of living in Perth, (compared with living in Tasmania, which admittedly has a relatively low cost of living), housing, car parking and coffees are expensive. The cost of food and everything else seems about the same. The people are friendly, the beaches are postcard perfect and there are more things to see and do here than I can manage to fit into each weekend. Perth’s summer is hot although bearable with air conditioning. Winter is surprisingly wet and cold, in houses that are built more for the heat. The in-between seasons are lovely. These days, when anyone asks me what I think of Perth, I tell them I like it.