GBN expat secrets - Australia: 'I loved everything about it - but I don't think you should retire here'

GBN expat secrets - Australia: 'I loved everything about it - but I don't think you should retire here'

Woman who moved to Australia giving advice to Britons thinking of migrating

Anna Barry

By Anna Barry

Published: 01/04/2024

- 10:59

Updated: 02/04/2024

- 10:05

GB News is talking to British expats across Europe and the world who have exclusively revealed the best places to live, tips and tricks for moving abroad, and the potential pitfalls to avoid. This week, an expat in Australia revealed why British retirees might find the move tricky, despite the country being so beautiful

Theresa Fuller moved to Sydney, Australia in 1986 when she was 19, after she fell in love with the place on a visit to see family who had relocated. Fast forward nearly four decades and she's just as smitten with the city as she was back then.

Theresa spoke exclusively to GB News about why she decided to settle in Australia, but warned Britons that it's not always easy.

Theresa's brother and auntie were both living in Australia when she decided to go and see it for herself. She initially planned on bringing her boyfriend along, but after an unexpected split, the 19-year-old decided to brave it and go anyway.

On this holiday, Theresa became enamoured with Sydney and has been enchanted by it ever since.

For Britons considering taking the leap and moving Down Under, the expat claimed that the beaches are second to none.

Theresa told GB News: "The first thing I noticed was the beaches, I just could not believe how beautiful they were. It was all absolutely stunning."

Theresa Fuller / Sydney

An expat in Sydney told GB News about life Down Under

Theresa Fuller / GETTY IMAGES

Manly Beach

Manly Beach is a popular spot for both surfers and sunbathers alike


Theresa soon realised that Sydney wasn't just a holiday destination but where she wanted to be full-time. She said: "Normally when I went on holiday to Greece or Spain or somewhere like that, I was always keen to come back after two weeks - but not here.

"I realised I didn't want to go back home. This time I thought, 'I just want to live here'. I loved the freedom, I loved the lifestyle, I loved the space, I loved everything about it - so I decided to stay."

Theresa did stints of nannying in Sydney and started cleaning part-time when her children were born so she could spend the majority of her time with them, and she was also able to get her teaching degree at this time.

The expat found that opportunities were aplenty in Aus and that she wouldn't have had the same experiences where she was from in London.

She said: "People I knew back home who were single parents too lived in high-rise council flats that were just a bit grim, and they found it hard to make ends meet. In Australia, I was given a beautiful council place - it was a brand new home, two stories in a cul de sac.

"I also spent less money because it's such an outdoorsy lifestyle. I could take my children out and it wouldn't cost me much at all, between the pools and beaches and barbecues and bike rides.

"This meant I could afford not to work full-time, which allowed me to study. In England, I think I would have had to work full-time." Decades later, Theresa is still loving her job as a teacher.

During her free time, Theresa makes good use of the sunshine and gets outdoors as much as possible. She goes for long walks "out bush" or by the beach.

The expat said: "My niece - who has travelled all over Europe - says there's just no comparison to a Sydney beach. In some of them, the sand is so white and the water is turquoise, it's just stunning.

"Everyone goes to Manly Beach but the beaches run all the way along for 30km - 40km."

When it comes to meeting people and making friends, Theresa said that there are plenty of opportunities to be sociable in Sydney, for elderly people and the young.

Outdoor get-togethers are more common than trips to the pub, for example, many people flock to parks with their loved ones for food and music.

Theresa and her partner Jimmy

'There's just no comparison to a Sydney beach'

Theresa Fuller

Answering the question, 'What's the best thing about living in Sydney?', Theresa said that it's a land of opportunity - especially if you're young.

The weather is a big pull too, simply because "it brightens your day when the weather is nice - it lights everybody up". It can get to 40C in the hottest months of the year (November and December) but it's enjoyable because it's not humid.

There are also "absolutely stunning views everywhere", which of course helps.

But life isn't all perfect. The worst thing about living far away in Australia is the disconnect you can feel with loved ones. She said: "If you're coming from England with nobody with you, starting afresh is very hard.

"It also takes a long time to find your kind of people. A lot of British people gravitate towards other British people because they have that in common, but they may not always be their type of person."

Theresa admitted that she found it hard to start anew. Her friends in London had known her since she was just a young girl, but moving to the other side of the world meant that her new friends did not know her history or anything about her background.

The expat had another word of warning for people considering the big move.

She explained that because life in Sydney is synonymous with beaches, barbecues and beautiful weather, it's easy to forget that it's not a 24/7 summer holiday.

Theresa reminded Britons that Australia is real life too. She said: "People come over here and it is beautiful and you're in holiday mode - you can't help it. But you realise you do have to work five days a week, people still go to work and do the normal stuff that you'd do if you were in England." She said that this realisation can "feel like a bit of a shock".

Asked whether she would recommend Australia to Britons, the expat said it depends on their age. Having moved there at such a young age herself, Theresa can vouch for the fact that moving in your youth is great fun. There's so much to do, from white water rafting to surfing to sports on the beach.

However, moving post-retirement is an entirely different situation, according to the expat.


Theresa and Jimmy

Sydney, Australia is known for its blue skies and overall incredible weather

Theresa Fuller

"I think it would actually be really hard," Theresa admitted, "especially if you have grandchildren."

"It's heartbreaking because something has to give. If you want to live here and have this lifestyle, you are going to be giving up something else. My mum missed out on seeing my children grow up and that is a regret of mine."

Seeing loved ones regularly is something expats in Australia often have to sacrifice. It takes around 21 hours and 40 minutes to get from Sydney to London, so popping home for the weekend is certainly not an option.

The time difference is also a whopping 11 hours, making phone calls difficult to arrange too.

For Britons who are keen to explore all Australia has to offer and are ready for a big change of scenery, Theresa recommended relocating for two years first - and then coming back.

When Theresa had her first child she admitted that she really missed her family - "nobody was going to love my son like them" - so she moved back for two years to nurture those connections and get a taste of home.

"But I found that I couldn't wait to get back to Australia," she revealed. Providing a top tip for potential expats, Theresa said: "People who are considering coming here really have to give it a good go, and just accept that they will feel homesick."

Finally, she advised Britons dreaming of life Down Under: "Don't stay here and try and get your residency. I think it's really important to go home because otherwise you stay here, stay here, stay here, and then one day it comes to you that you just want to go home. Then, whatever you've built up here you take back and then realise you want to come back again."

She said: "I think it's a really good idea to come home for those two years. That way you can see how you really feel and it settles in your mind where you really want to be".

GB News also spoke to an expat in Dubai about her new life in the sun. The expat shared what shocked her most about the move.

Moving to Australia

What you need to know

Britons considering the big move have access to plenty of resources that will make relocating much easier. The UK Government has guidance on living in Australia, from visas and residency to driving to buying property.

British citizens will need a visa to enter Australia, and can find the entry requirements for this online. Britons can also decide they want to hold both British and Australian citizenship. The Australian government has plenty of guidance on this. The Australian government outlined that Australian citizens must obey the laws of Australia, vote in federal and state or territory elections, and in a referendum, defend Australia should the need arise and serve on jury duty if called to do so.

In turn, Australian citizens can vote in federal and state or territory elections, and in a referendum, apply for children born overseas to become Australian citizens by descent, apply for a job in the Australian Public Service or in the Australian Defence Force, seek election to parliament, apply for an Australian passport and re-enter Australia freely and ask for consular assistance from an Australian official while overseas.

There are a few ways people can become an Australian citizen: Permanent residents including New Zealand Special Category visa holders, Person 60 years or over, and by descent, Your parent was an Australian citizen when you wear born overseas.

For Britons who want to drive in Australia, the UK Government has guidance on road rules and the process of exchanging a UK license for an Australian one, plus taking a vehicle out of the UK.

There is also specific guidance for driving in the outback, with Britons warned to beware of "unexpected hazards" in remote areas. Britons were also warned that people have had serious accidents driving in K’gari (Fraser Island).

As for property, rules on buying, selling or renting property in Australia vary from state to state. Britons must research the rules in their chosen area before making any decisions.

Renting is a great option for those who want to rid themselves of extra admin during the already overwhelming experience of moving abroad. Renters will not have to worry about maintenance or repairs.

Renting is also a great way to get to know a city. Britons thinking of making the move should consider renting in different areas to scope out places and discover the area that suits them the most.

Most popular places for British nationals

  • Sydney
  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • Melbourne
  • Perth

Most popular places for retirees

  • Queensland
  • Sunshine Coast
  • New South Wales

Why Britons choose to live in Australia

  • Gorgeous climate
  • Outdoorsy
  • Incredible beaches
  • English-speaking

Possible pitfalls

  • It's very far away - inconvenient if you need to get home quickly
  • Homesickness
  • Starting afresh is difficult
  • Extreme climate - highs of 40C in central desert regions to below-freezing in the higher regions of the southeast
  • Bushfires can have a significant impact on lives, property and the environment

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