The pilgrimage to Britain is seen as a rite-of-passage for many Australians. For some, it will be a temporary home and launch pad to Europe. Others simply pass through as part of a whirlwind tour of the Northern Hemisphere.
But for over 400,000 expatriate Australians, Britain is a country to call home, over half of those Aussies setting up camp in London.
With the British summer coming to another abrupt end, even the most patriotic Englishman must wonder what is so appealing about Britain that record numbers of antipodeans are leaving behind their hot summers to begin a new life in the UK.
“I think it’s the atmosphere,” says Trent Grimshaw, 26 from Sydney, “London is a vibrant city with so much to see and do.”
“It’s just what Australians do, ” suggests Jessica Crawford, who has lived in Britain for five years. “It’s the done thing to come to England.”
Setting up a new life in a different country will inevitably have its challenges, but there isn’t an Aussie in Britain that hasn’t encountered their fair share of seemingly un-necessary headaches.
One of the first challenges you will stumble upon will be to open a bank account.
Since September 11th 2001, financial institutions have tightened their security and with no proof of a residential address or utility bills in your name, most banks are likely to turn you away.
And almost everyone has a horror story to tell.
Melinda Toraya from N.S.W landed a job on arrival six years ago but that didn’t mean she was trouble free.
“They couldn’t pay me because I couldn’t get an account. The finance department of my company had to write a letter to the bank to get them to set up an account.”
“It was catch-22 because I was in a shared house with no bills in my name and had no credit history.”
Sam Robinson from Sydney had a similar experience when he arrived four months ago.
“After two weeks of completing forms and dead end phone calls, I ended up sitting in the bank for two consecutive days for three hours each day refusing to move until my account application had progressed to the next stage.”
There are some lucky ones though, who benefit from other people’s experiences right away.
“By the time I landed, my wonderful friend had added my name to her phone bill to ‘prove’ my address, which made applying for an account much easier,” says Jessica Crawford.
For an English speaking country, the Australian and British cultures are worlds apart. And yet, they are still fairly similar.
“Customer service is not one of England’s strongest points,” says Sarah Chambers, from Lismore in NSW.
“Sometimes every day tasks are made more difficult than they should be, like going to a doctor.”
In order to visit a G.P in Britain you must register with a local practice near your residence or accommodation.
“This idea that you have to go near where you live is particularly frustrating,” Sarah replies “what if you want to go near where you work?”
“That said, Britains do love their sport and beer, which is very much like most Australian’s I know.”
The famous British “stiff upper lip” also means many Australians have a testing time when dealing with the locals.
“There is a different personality of London people,” says Sarah “They are not as friendly as Australians, I don’t think.”
“London can be a fairly cold city when it comes to people, but once you get to know them they are on the whole great people.” Says Melinda.
But for those people who are afraid moving to Britain will be a lonely experience, fear not â€“ there’s always a friendly Australian around the corner.
“I don’t think you can avoid socialising with Australians here.” Says Sarah. “There are so many.”
Jessica says that when meeting other antipodeans she instantly has something in common with
them: “You’re both living the same life, fighting the same battles, enjoying the same novelty of being in a country that’s not your own.”
“As much as you think you want to ‘do’ the British experience and hang out with just the Brits, nothing can compare with having a beer another Aussie.”
Sam has other ideas on socialising with Australians while abroad: “I try and meet as many locals as possible. English aren’t that bad, once you let them brag about the Ashes and the World Cup a few times, after that they actually have some decent things to say and have a lot in common with us.”
Britain’s winter essentially runs from November to mid-March and temperatures drop to figures some Australians could not comprehend. But apart from the cold, how do British winters affect the way you live?
“It changes what you do,” says Sarah. “Because it’s so cold outside, there is lots of time spent indoors or in the pub.”
“It’s not just the weather,” says Jessica “It’s the things related to the weather that nobody mentions. Like how it’s dark at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”
Despite all of this, thousands of travel-savvy Australians come to Britain each year and utilise its easy access to Europe.
“I absolutely love the fact that I can get into a car and drive to another country,” says Jessica.
Sam says it’s the people that make the experience great:
“I think the determination and attitude shown by the British people after the July 7 attacks was a great display of solidarity and fighting spirit.”
But before you pack your bags for your British adventure, heed a word of advice from those that have been there and done it.
“Come in summer to ease into it,” says Sarah “And see more than just London – the whole of Britain contains some beautiful places and lovely friendly people.”
Trent Grimshaw has one final suggestion before you go: “Eat your favourite chocolates, sweets or foods before you leave, because you won’t be able to get them over here!”