Sam Apps CA: Advice to my younger self
Moving halfway around the world with no friends or family to lean on can be daunting. That is what Sam Apps CA did in 1997, and she has never looked back. Here is her advice to her younger self.
I always wanted to live and work abroad and this drove my choice of career. In terms of destination, originally I thought it would be North America. But I managed to pick up a boyfriend at just the wrong time...
We did our homework and Australia topped the list of destinations that would work for us both.
Sydney became our strong preference based on the recommendation of a partner in the PW Glasgow office where I was working, and from our personal research.
Melbourne and New Zealand weren't far behind, but the weather in New South Wales tipped the balance.
I distinctly remember reading that the average temperature in a Sydney winter exceeded the average temperature of Glasgow in summer! That sealed the deal.
We arrived here for the first time in 1997 with no friends or family to lean on and 19 years later we have very few regrets.
Having said that, in terms of advice to my younger self, these would be my thoughts:
Be respectful of cultural differences
Australia and New Zealand seem so similar to the UK, but it's the differences you need to watch out for. It's easy to settle in to what is familiar, but it’s also important to eschew any old-world sense of superiority. Despite their ostensibly easy-going "she'll be right" attitude, Aussies are very proud of their culture, their sporting teams and their history (and comments about its relative recency are not appreciated!). As guests to their country, we should remain conscious of that.
Don't feel guilty about embracing the expat lifestyle
One of the reasons we chose Australia was to be in a country where we were fully integrated into local society, but the reality on arrival was that our Aussie work friends were not as available for weekends away exploring this wonderful country and its ridiculously good restaurants and vineyards. As time progressed and we moved away from the typical expat enclaves and joined local sporting teams and clubs etc, our social circle became more balanced between locals and expats. But some of our closest and dearest friends remain those we bonded with as we all got to know Australia together.
Keep your career plan as front of mind as you can
If you think you will be heading back home (as most of us assume initially), remember to keep up with your British network. But cover all bases by actively considering what your career path might be in Australia. It can be easy to lose a few years in limbo if you're undecided about where home will ultimately be.
I arrived directly into a job with PwC and that meant I was in a bubble and I didn’t actively expand my network outside of that business. These days it is so much easier to build and maintain a network.
Think of the endless choices that ICAS offers, for instance - social activities, networking and mentoring events, technical advice, golf days, webinars, dinners and more - it is all there at your disposal, so make the most of it.
Be open-minded about your career
If you choose to specialise, understand that the market in Australia is much smaller and there are fewer players. There are opportunities for specialists, but the pathway might not be as clear as it is in the UK.
Get into the property market early - or as early as you can
We sold our flat in the UK to finance our move then enjoyed ourselves fully, as you do when you think you might only be away for two years. Getting into the Sydney property market once we realised we were staying was then a challenge, as saving a deposit hadn't exactly been our priority.
Consider where family support might come from
As two expat Scots, we really missed family support once we had our own children. Spontaneity and couple-time was definitely at a premium for a number of years. Be prepared for that but realise that it's manageable and again, the expat community tends to rally around you. Plus, Aussie employers are much more amenable to the concept of flexible working to manage critical commitments, like the school swimming carnival!
Finally, embrace it fully
Try every cuisine on offer, take up wine tasting, learn to sail, discover a new beach or golf course or bushwalk every week. Visit every state and territory (and by extension, New Zealand, Bali and Fiji...) and make every weekend as long as you can.
The Aussies nail the ‘work hard / play hard’ ethic like no one else. We strongly believe we would not be happier or healthier anywhere else in the world. And our children even get to see their team play in the World Cup!