Monday, 7 January 2008

The long road south - how to relocate with style

Dendy Street - Bathing Boxes - 0275, originally uploaded by racka_roadrunner. Photo: courtesy Flickr.

SOMETIMES moving from one suburb to another can be a surprising culture shock. When it comes to moving country, you expect it to be a challenge, but often that doesn’t make it any easier.
In recent years, Bayside has become a hotspot for families moving to Melbourne from all corners of the globe. Just take a walk down to a playground like Black Rock’s beach park - very often the calls to children can be heard in Russian, Chinese, German or with a British or American accent.
But how do you settle in Bayside from a long way away and do it successfully?
Sue Ellson started a support and information service for relocaters after experiencing the process herself.
“I came from Adelaide and found this transition difficult so it made me realise what it must be like for people coming from overseas,’’ says Ellson, publisher of Newcomers Network.
Ellson says the key to a successful transition is to take a very strategic approach to it.
“Make sure you go through a proper organised process,’’ she says.
“Always contact your local council for a new residents kit.
“You are also far better off connecting to your local community in terms of services than running all over town.’’
Newcomers Network runs monthly social networking events in Melbourne for recent arrivals which attract up to 100 people a time and are a mix of couples, families and singles.
“Everyone is welcome and we encourage people to bring their children as often if you’ve just got here you don’t have ready access to babysitters,’’ she says.
Ellson thinks the lure of Bayside is often the homes themselves.
“Many expats find that the quality of accommodation in Melbourne is not as big as they were used to, particularly in the US, and in Bayside they can often find bigger homes.’’
A corporate relocation company is a popular way of smoothing the transition.
Karin Butterfield, co-director of BBL Relocation Services, places families all over Melbourne, including plenty in Bayside.
She will source lists of rental properties, help with the applications, research schools and even accompany families on school tours if they require.
She also helps with that most difficult of processes – trying to find childcare and pre-school places.
In terms of fitting in, Butterfield says look to your children’s school as a first step.
“If you have school-aged kids then this helps enormously as you can get involved in the school and parents groups,’’ she says.
Otherwise she suggests sporting groups and checking community information at local libraries.
Butterfield says she often has to manage people’s expectations in this part of town.
“We get a lot of people, especially from Europe, saying they want a four bedroom family home in Brighton because they have heard of it and it is close to the sea.’’
“Sometimes we have to talk to them about looking a little further afield or rethinking what they want in a house – like do they really need that fourth bedroom,’’ she says.

Tips from Bayside Mums who have moved here:
“Once in Bayside look around and immediately put your kids on wait lists for occasional care, daycare, playhouses, children’s classes, kinders and the like. These services book up very quickly for pre-schoolers.’’ – Evelyn.

“When I (was moving) to Bayside the best thing I did was contact the Maternal Health Centre months before I moved and was set up with a mums group. It was easy for me to drive down from Elsternwick to meet up for a few months before I moved here. We also had someone join our group when her daughter was about a year old so it was worthwhile contacting Maternal Health even when your child is no longer a real baby.’’ – Michelle.

Sue Ellson’s tips:
Collect local information;
Start new activities;
Expect it to be a challenge;
Develop new routines – try a new activity;
Be curious about your surroundings and culture;
Ask questions.
Source: Newcomers Network website.

Cultural issues to keep in mind when networking:
Other parents are often happy to chat at the local playground;
The school gate is a good place to network’
Having coffee or a park playdate is a good icebreaker;
Australians often like to entertain at home but it can often be very informal;
Join a mother’s group or a local children’s playhouse.

Relocation links:

(Check the right hand information panel for more sites of use)

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