Have you ever heard the term ‘Ping Pong Poms’ and do you know the origin? It refers to people from Great Britain, commonly referred to around the world as ‘Poms’, who move to Australia for a new life and ping-pong right back to the UK because they find that it’s too much of a change for them or that Australia isn’t British enough for their tastes. They usually return to the northern hemisphere within 12 months or less.
So, in our own case, if we moved whole-heartedly to Europe from Australia over 2 years ago and, in spite of that previous commitment to a European life, are now returning to Australia — does that make us Ping Pong Aussies? Actually no — it’s a very happy choice and we are getting more and more excited with each day at this point.
I consider myself to be a boots-on-the-ground documentarian of the places and social conditions where we are living. Although I sometimes report on the glossy travelogue version of Europe, at other times you will read my take on the current day-to-day facts about Europe.
The reasons we came to this side of the world and that we love it here are all still valid — the visual beauty, the greenness, the history, the architecture. But it’s quite clear that Europe, including the UK, is unravelling financially and unless you are in banking, medicine, or property sales — if there is no way to make a decent living, you’d be in trouble in no time. We just spoke to a building contractor here in Newcastle about an hour ago and he said that 8-10 years ago he made 3-1/2 times what he does now each month. If we ever DO want to retire, we have to be sensible and go back to a place where we can start building the accounts back up, not continue to deplete them. We actually feel very blessed to HAVE options when so many people are trying to LEAVE the UK and emigrate to Australia or New Zealand. There are several television shows over here about how to do that!
France would have been our happy-heart choice here in Europe, but the tax changes and pension changes just blew that out of the water for us. There is simply no work here in the UK and even the people with jobs all feel quite insecure.
I was relieved to leave Australia in 2010 — I won’t lie about that — but not because I didn’t love it there. I wouldn’t have bothered getting Australian citizenship if I hadn’t truly loved that country and I would have just carried on being a legal resident the way I was in France. The rural lifestyle just wore us both out. It was much too much in a way that neither of us could have anticipated before we tried it. But gosh — we did love all of the people we met out there in Central Victoria who are now life-long friends to know as we get older.
I am glad that I never-ever departed from Australia with negative feelings about it because, after having a bit of a think about it and getting our heads wrapped around it, we have both realised that neither of us is having ANY issues with moving back in the end. And isn’t THAT a nice surprise! It’s as if going away has given us a better appreciation for the country and made us understand that it’s still a darned good lifestyle in Australia compared the austerity of Europe and the UK and the dreadful financial mess that is ever-present in the USA.
The best part of Australia to me is the part that is the most European — Melbourne! So Mark has agreed that even if we live in a shoebox sized house, he’ll do city living (thank God because I had enough of snakes, bushfires, and heat in the countryside the last time!), join a city cycling club, and let us have the freedom of just walking out the door and catch a tram to the market, a club, a museum, a cafe. He always turned up his nose at the idea of a more centralised city lifestyle in Melbourne or even when we were visiting Sydney but thankfully that has changed. Maybe we’ll eventually have a weekend cottage in the country? Maybe not. We’ll see.
Once we were actually on this side of the world, Mark finally got into the groove of that urban lifestyle choice in places like Berlin and Amsterdam and London. Those two months in London in 2011 showed him that cycling in the city can be quite interesting and visually stimulating in a different way to the bleached brown rolling hills of Victoria, Australia. When we actually lived full time in St. Girons in the south of France, he finally had his eyes opened to how cool it was to have your own wee manageable space in your home, but then the greater world of entertainment was right on your doorstep — literally — instead of it being a long and boring DRIVE to get to anything.
Our life in St. Girons has set the template for what we want to go back and find in Melbourne. But we wouldn’t have know THAT either unless we had left Australia for awhile.
So to answer the questions that have trickled in about how I REALLY feel about moving back to Australia and are we both happy about it –it’s all good, we’re fine with our decision, and as much as it seems like a shockingly abrupt turn-around to some people, we will not only manage, we will thrive! Mark is quite calm about moving back, I am quite calm about it, and we will relish every minute of this little 2-1/2 year adventure and know that it was the right thing to do AT THE TIME that we did it. Now it is the right time to go back.
Next up? The list making, re-packing, staging, reservations-making, booking of moving companies, and then getting ON THE PLANE. Wheeee!!!
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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