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Interview with Nene Davies – a Welsh expat living in Brisbane, Australia

Updated 8 May 2013

Nene Davies is writer and Welsh expat living in Brisbane. When Nene's husband was made redundant 11 years ago, the family transformed this obstacle into an opportunity and moved to Australia. While Nene misses the family and friends back home in Wales, she loves the Australian 'can-do' attitude and the friendliness of the local people. 

To find out more about Nene's life and work in Brisbane check out her website:

About Nene

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born in England, but my parents were Welsh and we moved back to Pembrokeshire, West Wales when I was 10.

Q: Where are you living now?
A: I live in Thornlands in sunny Brisbane.

Q: How long have you lived here?
A: We immigrated to Australia in 2002 and have been living in the Brisbane area for around nine years.

Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: Yes, My husband and I emigrated with our three children who were17, 15 and 11 years old at the time.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: My husband was made redundant from his 'job for life' in Wales and what seemed like a disaster turned into the best thing we ever did - we immigrated to Australia a few years later! My husband, Chris, works in Health and Safety and I am a writer.

About Brisbane

Q: What do you enjoy most about Brisbane, how’s the quality of life?
A: Some of the things that we really love about living here are the sunny optimism and 'can-do' attitude of the people. Everything is for everyone here - there's no 'us' and 'them' feel and I would say that most Australian people have a strong work ethic. We have found that working hard really does bring results. Australians love to get out and about so they might work hard, but they play hard too!

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: We really don't miss things, but we do miss friends and family. We are constantly urging our loved ones to come over for a holiday and many of them have taken us up on it!

Q: Is the Brisbane safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: I suppose it would be naive to suggest that every corner of Brisbane is safe, but to be honest, I have never ever felt threatened or nervous in the city at all.

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Brisbane? What are the different options? Do you need to
own a car?
A: Coming as we did from rural West Wales, we have found the public transport in Brisbane to be excellent. Our suburb has a train-line in to the city and regular busses too. You could survive very well without a car, but having said that, we have one and use it frequently.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: Everyone in Australia has part of their health-care needs covered by the government Medicare scheme, but many people also have private health insurance. There are tax incentives to taking out the insurance, as well as general peace of mind – but it is expensive.

About living in Brisbane

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Brisbane as an expat?
A: Our suburb is about an hour by train from the city and known as Brisbane's Bayside as we are close to the water. It's a beautiful place to live and great for families, singles, professional couples, retirees...well everyone! However, many people opt to live right in the city itself for convenience, accessibility to work, night-life etc.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city?
A: The standard in our suburb is very high. Most people take good care of their homes and there is negligible graffiti or vandalism.

Q: What’s the cost of living in Brisbane compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: I think the general cost of living is comparable, but it depends on what the dollar is doing against the pound. Over the ten or so years that we have lived in Australia, we have found that items such as clothing are now no cheaper than Britain and in some cases may be even more expensive. Tropical fruits are grown here and so they are cheap and plentiful, whereas I recall paying a lot of money for mangos and pineapples in the UK.

Q: What are the locals like in Brisbane; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: In our experience, most Australian people are open, friendly and welcoming. Our friends are a mixture of locals and expats.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: I think that whenever you move to a new area, whether it's another country or just the next town, you always have to make an effort to meet people and be friendly. Whenever we have moved to a new area in Australia, we have introduced ourselves to our neighbours and not sat back and waited to be discovered! The most common places to meet people are usually the workplace or - if you have small children - school. Sometimes fellow ex-pats gravitate towards one another, usually after overhearing a familiar accent! We have certainly felt included and accepted and have formed some wonderful friendships - but you have to be open and friendly yourself if you want that to happen.

About working in Australia

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Australia?
A: It probably wasn't that difficult, but it seemed to take forever. Our permanent residency visa was underway when we arrived, but we actually came on a student visa. After about a year our permanent residency visa came through and since then we have become citizens.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Brisbane, is there plenty of work?
A: There is a lot of work in Queensland at the moment, owing to a boom in mining and construction. These jobs though are generally not in the city. I work for myself, from home - but I understand that it's getting more and more difficult to get work in the highly populated southeast corner of the state.

Q: How does the work culture in Australia differ from home?
A: We live in Queensland where the summer weather can be extremely hot and humid and people tend to get up earlier here, as it's good to get things done before the sun is at its peak. I do believe that most British people work hard, but there is a definite feeling of possibility in Australia and there is little in the way of 'old' money. People seem to be quite enterprising and optimistic and I would say that most people don't really care what you do for a living. You tend not to be judged by your profession – I suppose what I'm saying is that snobbery isn't very prevalent here.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: No, we did everything ourselves. We sold our house in Wales and all our possessions, apart from special bits and pieces (and we told the children to bring whatever they wanted) so we ended up with half a shipping container of stuff, which turned up in Australia three months after we arrived. When we landed here, all we had was a suitcase each. It was exciting and liberating!

Family and children in Australia

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: Not for a moment! We have felt at home from day one.

Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: Very easily. Australian kids seem very inclusive, maybe because the country is so multi-cultural.

Q: What are the schools like in Brisbane, any particular suggestions?
A: We had never gone down the private schooling route in Wales, as it wasn't really an option with hardly any private schools in our area – plus we probably wouldn't have been able to afford it. In Australia, private education seems to be a priority for many families and I understand that generally speaking standards are very high. However, we chose to send our children to the local state primary and high schools and we found them to be terrific with committed teachers and great facilities. A few months after we emigrated, our daughter (aged 11 at the time) decided to try for School Captain and – along with three other children – was voted in by the teachers and pupils. This goes back to my comments about Australians being inclusive and if you give something your best shot and work hard, you will often find success. In our experience, the concept of a 'fair go' really does exist!

 And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals in Brisbane?
A: I have been asked this question before and my immediate response was 'get a good migration agent.' For us, that made all the difference between getting here and floundering through paperwork and falling short. I also think it's very important to keep an open mind when you arrive in your new country. It's up to you to make an effort, to be friendly and to work hard. And most importantly - have fun! That's what it's all about, isn't it?

– interviewed May 2013

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