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Being a mum in Australia - what are the cultural differences? Good and bad

(20 Posts)
sarahbeth2 Fri 12-Aug-11 09:47:55

Been offered a job in adelaide. Not sure what to do.
Worried i wont like it or fit in. I like to socialise, go to restaurants, days out, shopping... Worried about spiders, the driving over there, the cultural differences, never actually settling and wanting to come home all the time.

Then i worry about it here in the uk - the teenagers here can be in gangs, crime, over crowded etc. But surely there are gangs there too or is it really much better?
Any advice?

Eralc Fri 12-Aug-11 10:47:00

I've found very little difference really between being a Mum here and being a Mum in the UK. I spend more time in play areas drinking lattes than I did in the UK (more play areas, more coffee shops and better weather for being outside here), but other than that it's really very similar. Please don't worry about the spiders - I was petrified about them, but the dangers etc are really over-exaggerated - yes, some are big and some are nasty, but you don't see them all that much. Driving-wise my OH hasn't found it a big hassle (I don't drive). 18 months in and I'm surprised how settled I';m starting to feel - I never thought I'd feel anything approaching settled here when we first moved out. The biggest downsides to it that I've found id it's very expensive (we're in Sydney), and I miss my friends and family terribly - it's such a long way - they are the only reasons we are returning to the UK next year.

Would planning to come out here for a shorter time length and then reassessing be a possibility - you could give yourself an initial target of 2 years, say, and then rethink about whether it's something yuo want to do forever.

sarahbeth2 Fri 12-Aug-11 12:18:48

Its the money ide of things really plus i am really stressed about it, keep crying and me and my husband haven fallen out i feel so depressed. So are you coming home for good then?

Eralc Fri 12-Aug-11 13:02:16

We are coming back for good (well, that's the plan) - we were out here with my DH's job for a 2 year placement, so never really planned to be here longer than that.

It's a really hard decision to make - I felt much better once we had made the choice to come out here (although I had some fairly major wobbles along the way). There are loads more lovely people on this board who are out here long term though who I'm sure will be along soon with more useful advice for you smile

lulalullabye Sun 14-Aug-11 01:10:31

Hi, we live in adelaide and LOVE it. We spent a year in Melbourne in 2009 and are liking Adelaide much more. It is expensive over here but what you get in return is great. We have had really good weather over the winter, well down near the city anyway wink. It is a bright sunny day here today and we are still in winter.
There are parks galore and they all have free bbq stations. The beach is not far away. The mothers here are exactly the same as the UK and are very friendly. smile

sarahbeth2 Tue 16-Aug-11 18:07:12

Oh that sounds good. Was wondering about differences with kids, i know the aussies are supposed to be outspoken, just wondered what the kids were like. A friend of mine worked in oz and said about the kids being a bit more aggressive but unsure if that was just her experience. I know the aussies are supposed to tell it like it is and be a little rough round the edges but no idea how true this is! Im quite an over protective mum too.

Thumbwitch Tue 16-Aug-11 23:20:06

Erm, I don't think that you can apply a blanket statement like that to all Aussie people!
From what I have seen in the 2 years I have been here, there is little difference between Aussie children and UK children. THe only real differences I have noticed so far are these:
Aussies in my area are more likely to breastfeed babies than not
They are also more likely to smack their DC if they play up
They are more likely to get their DC vaccinated than not (they get paid to do so)

But apart from that, they are just the same really. Perhaps a bit more casual swearing goes on too - some words over here are barely considered swearwords (bloody and bugger, mostly) and you'll even here them on the News and TV programmes pre-watershed (although I'm not sure they have a set watershed over here, it's not very noticeable if they do!)

Driving over here is a little different from the UK in that here is less frenetic and people are sometimes a little slack on using their brakes. Mostly because a lot of the non-city roads have extra wide bits where there is a turning so you can go around a turning car instead of having to wait for it - this can be disconcerting when people slither onto roundabouts instead of waiting for a gap! The car seat laws are stricter here than in the UK and you cannot use a UK seat unless it has an extra fixing point, a belt that goes over the back of the seat and attaches to the floor (or somewhere) in the boot.

If you live in a rough area, you can expect that the kids are more likely to be a bit rougher - exactly the same as in the UK.

There are helicopter parents here as well as in the UK wink. One thing I do find pretty annoying is that the vast majority of children's play parks do not have adequate (if any!) fencing, so you have to keep your eyes and ears open the whole time as most of them are next to a road. We are lucky to have one fully-fenced and gated park near us; and there is another one half an hour's drive away and that's all that I know about.

The cost of living is expensive over here, that's for sure - but if you're on a decent salary you should be ok. Food, clothes and utility bills seem to be the worst offenders in daily expenses; books are heinously expensive but there are ways round that.

As Eralc says, if you set yourself an initial time limit, then you know that if you don't settle you have only a short time to cope with it before you go back again; or if you decide you love it you can make efforst to stay.

sunnydelight Thu 18-Aug-11 09:26:20

I find the kids here much more pleasant in general than British kids tbh and I say that as someone whose idea of hell is other people's children. Having had my three in Brighton and moving when they ranged from 4-14 they are now 8-18 so I have had my fair share of playdates, hanging out in playgrounds, negotiating kids parties and days out etc. in both countries. I am always amazed when I watch kids playing here how cooperative they are, they just all seem to squabble less! My personal theory (with no scientific evidence whatsoever grin) is that the space here makes a huge difference. I think it stops kids being so territorial which is what causes a lot of arguments.

Australian schools have different priorities, creating "all rounders" is a biggie. They are very keen on things like public speaking and debating and I do find most Australian children are comfortable chatting to adults in a way a lot of the English kids I knew weren't. Kids are also allowed to be kids for longer here although I fear that that will change in the next ten years or so. I've also been impressed that so many teenagers spend their free time playing sport or hanging out at the beach or going to youth groups rather than everything revolving around alcohol. Like everything else though a lot will depend on where you live.

sarahbeth2 Thu 18-Aug-11 11:12:40

Where do you live sunny?

Janeymax Thu 18-Aug-11 12:02:59

I live in Melbourne. We moved home to oz after 4 years in London. Our dd1 was 9 months when we came back.

We wish the uk and oz were closer - they are so far away that you really have to choose one or the other unlike growing up in France and living in London.

Culture is similar. Less of a gap between rich and poor in oz.

It took us about 18 months to feel settled again.

Things we like about being back in oz : family close, melbourne friends, space and backyard, weather, food and restaurants great quality, good coffee, beaches.

Things we miss about London: our London friends, Europe, being able to walk to shops etc, decent public transport, summer parties, cold Christmases

Things I'm glad I don't have to worry about:
Playing the competitive game to get kids into good schools- schools in oz are a good standard.
The recession- oz is likely to weather all this well because of all it's minerals.
Spiders - there really aren't many.

Thumbwitch Thu 18-Aug-11 13:20:16

Janeymax - that is a good point about the schools and competition for places. My DS is only 3.8 so I'm only just really starting to think about it but the system here in NSW (don't know about the other states) is that if you live in catchment, you get a place. If you want to go outside catchment, you can apply to the school and you might get a place. There are also a lot of church private schools but they're not as expensive as in the UK (to my knowledge).

We have the very lucky situation of being in catchment for one of the top 5 state primary schools in NSW - guess where DS will be going! grin

Oh yes, you'll have to get used to calling state schools "public schools" here. It's a bit confusing to start with!

CornishMade Sun 21-Aug-11 14:55:09

I have been in Oz (Lake Macquarie, 2 hrs north of Sydney) for about 18 months now. I really like it. I've only seen 2 horrible spiders in all that time! (Plus one moth the size of an eagle, it seemed...)
Driving is no problem here, it's on the left as in UK and the streets are often wider - much wider in my town, you can park 3 feet from the kerb at a crazy angle and still leave plenty of room for cars to drive past and park on the other side!
I have aussie in-laws in Adelaide and I've been a few times, it's a really lovely city. Restos, coffee, shopping all fine, and beaches and days out.
Life is what you make of it - it can be a lot more outdoorsy which is great for kids/teens. Loads of kids into various sports or beach sports. And I love the free gas bbqs in parks.
Pls don't think aussies are 'rough around the edges', that is a very 1950's view! I met people really easily when I got here. My ds was <1 and I went to a library group for babies which led to making several friends who are all lovely and we meet up each week at least once (library group itself finished over a year ago).
It may just depend who you know, but the people I know here are less inclined to babysit for each other to go out in the evenings; it's all more daytime activities then family time in the evenings. This is all with v. young kids/babies, and again, may just be the people I've met - not sure if it's an 'aussie' trait.
If I think of anything else I'll come back. Good luck, and remember, if you do try, nothing's permanent. It'd be a great experience for you all even if for 2 years.

Thumbwitch Sun 21-Aug-11 15:00:35

CornishMade - you're back! Are you back from the UK? Did you have a fab time?

ben5 Sun 21-Aug-11 15:11:26

I'm in Perth. Spiders, Blue ringed optus and snakes were a big concern.
The only blue ringed optus I've ever seen was in the Plymouth UK( aquirium)
The only snakes I've seen have been in zoos or pythons that are at shows and not dangerous
Red back spiders have seen in back garden but thats what Mortein is invented for!
Driving. The Aussies don't know how to merge but on the whole not to bad
Weather much better which = better way of life.
toddler groups much the same. schools better. work same shit but better weather!
Oh and beach is 800mtrs from my house and it was 23 degrees this morning and I felt cold but boys aged 7 and 5 enjoyed dip in sea!
We now have rain but don't feel seen off
Come to Rockingham just south of Perth its great!

CornishMade Mon 22-Aug-11 06:43:31

Hi Thumb, yes we're back! Meant to <wave> at you at end of my msg above but as it was nearly midnight I just forgot.... We got back last week. Great trip back but also nice to be 'home' now!

One thing I thought of, if you are a mad keen culture buff then you may not find as much out here as in the larger cities in London. I am NOT saying the aussies are uncultured. There is plenty of great art, theatre, music etc. But it is more confined to the older cities (Adelaide is one!). Smaller towns just don't have the population density to get lots of such things going on on any great scale. And the distance between towns is greater too, so you don't have the same number of people (audience numbers) in a region like you do in the UK.

The big difference is of course the population and geography. UK has 62m people in 94,000 square miles, whereas Australia has 22m people in 3,000,000 square miles. Granted most live in towns/cities and there is a vast amount of uninhabited land, but it does mean that there is less of a market for various things, or that the cost of something becomes prohibitive (I'm thinking shopping now, some things cost more or just aren't available here, mainly logistics of the low population being so spread out).

I like the older cities, as I like older architecture and history. Newcastle, near me, has a longer history and feels 'interesting'. (Referring to settler history; of course there is a rich and ancient Aboriginal history throughout the whole land!) I don't like the really shiny new cities in Australia personally - like Gold Coast/Surfers Paradise. They are fine for a short holiday but I wouldn't want to live there permanently - no soul it seems, just long strips of apartments and new 'retail centres' (as opposed to town centres) and little of interest to see or do, apart from beaches. And mostly white, no cultural mix. Adelaide does have a lot on though - good for festivals I think.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 22-Aug-11 06:49:52

Adelaide here.

Spiders not really an issue. I've lived here 20 years and never seen a dangerous one. Ditto snakes, although I live in snake-friendly territory.

In my nice middle-class enclave the children don't swear, the parents don't smack and we all breastfeed. Breastfeeding rates much higher over here generally, actually, so more likely to see nursing in public going on. Although, yes, bloody and bugger aren't really considered swearwords (remember the Where The Bloody Hell Are You? tourism campaign?), the high schoolers that catch the bus with me don't seem to be using anything stronger, usually.

Not sure how old your kids are, but there's lots of parks, library storytimes, swimming pools, the SA Art Gallery runs winter weekend art activities for primary school children, good zoo, good botanic garden, etc.

Food is fantastic, coffee also (lots of Italian immigrants here!). Shopping is, admittedly, a bit dire. The opening of the IKEA a few years ago was extremely newsworthy.

Bubbaluv Mon 22-Aug-11 09:37:29

SarahBeth - what sort of salary package are they offering you? Are they going to pay for your relocation?
Where are you moving from? Cultural differences will be different depending on where you are coming from.

We're in Sydney and have a very active social life - a little too active I think - I'm shattered!! We have a long list of great babysitters but they are not cheap ($20 per hour is the going rate round here!!)
Adelaide has some lovely resatuarants and bars too and if the shoping's a bit lack lustre then you can always do a weekend in Sydney or Melbourne for a bit of retail therapy.

You'd have the Barossa on your doorstep too which is just fabulous if you're a wine-buff (or an old soak like me!!)

Saying that Australian's are rough around the edges is like saying that the English are posh.

My most newly arrived English friends say that the thing that surprised them most was that about a quarter (maybe more) of Australian kids go to private schools and they were amazed how posh those schools were. And this is coming from a man who went to a very posh London public school. I think he thought it would be a lot more casual.

From my own perspective I find it hard to pinpoint what the differences are, but it is different. It takes a while to get used to it, but there's not point fretting about settling in. Just give it time and try not to do a constant mental compare/contrast. You just have to relax and go with the flow and all of a sudden you'll find you're quite at home. Join a club/group/team too - getting involved make it som much easier to meet new people and find friends and that is the key to happiness IMHO.

littlewheel Sun 28-Aug-11 10:48:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

roary Tue 13-Sep-11 04:45:48

Perth here. Canadian but nearly 10 years in the UK, arrived a few weeks ago. We lived in Perth before (midway through the 10 years).

These views are always a blanket but I think that parents are much better supported here, from faciltiies to schools to governmental policy. Would completely agree with the statement about kids being kids for much longer. Has to do I think with the outdoors lifestyle and the emphasis on being active. Was flooored at the expectations for 3.5 year old DD at her swimming lessons!

For me the hardest part is that I am a double expat (neither the UK nor AUs is really home). This means though that I think I am really objective and would say the following:

1. Sweet lord, PErth is expensive. Very, very. BUT you get a lot for your money: amazing produce in the shops, lifestyle, ease of day to day existence.
2. The things that I love about England are not replicable in Australia (Radio 4, newspapers, walking everywhere, change of seasons) but can be approximated with internet etc. NO AUSSIE VERSION OF MN.
3. The things that I like about here are not replicable in England (weather, space, people who are culturally more similar to Canadians)

Ozziegirly Tue 13-Sep-11 07:19:00

I'm a Brit who now lives in Sydney, but also lived in Adelaide for 2 years and had DS there.

Spiders - I hate them, and we did used to get redbacks in the garden but they are slow and you just spray them, no drama at all. We got the occasional huntsman but very very rarely. Saw snakes when bushwalking but not in the back garden or anything.

I find Aussie mums to be lovely, friendly, inclusive people. No one cares if you breast or bottle feed, it's just not an issue either way. Very little judgyness in general. We do loads of outdoor stuff - just had 3 hours in the park today with friends doing some exercise and taking it in turns watching the children.

We swam outside in the summer, went to the beach, it's fab, really good for that.

Downsides - it's very expensive. Food is shocking after the UK, and it's hard to find good quality resonably priced clothes. M&S online is my friend! Also, it's a loooong way from the UK, and expensive to travel back. We thought we would be back once a year, but we just can't justify the cost - plus, there are lots of nice places to go over here!

Driving is a breeze, lovely wide open roads and even in Sydney it's totally fine.

Aussies I have met aren't rough around the edges at all, and I am far more likely to use casual swear words than they are.

You don't seem to get the same hoodie type gangs of lads just hanging around.

Mind you I have said all this about cash - but we are living in Sydney on one salary, with a rental property and a property that we rent out - so I could just get a job, but we have decided that we want me to stay at home with DS for the time being.

One thing about Adelaide - it is quite a small town and the reason we moved back to Sydney was that for DH, the jobs just weren't there. There are good jobs of course, but if you're ambitious and keen to get on (he is in finance) then you need to be in Sydney or Melbourne really. Oh and the shopping is dire. Which is good as you will need your money for food.

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