Life Beyond Perth
8 months ago, I left home. I left the bubble. I left Perth.
Perth is my home. Just writing that sentence makes me smile, I feel so proud and fortunate to be able to make that statement. I spent the first 22 years of my life living in Perth. I was born in Subiaco and I lived in Melville until I was 6, but most of my childhood and teenage years were spent in Stoneville on a little hobby farm; building fortresses, making bonfires and bush bashing in my little Daihatsu Hi-Jet van. I was living every kid’s dream!
My quality of life has been defined by the lifestyle that Perth provided. From morning surf sessions down at Trigg before work and uni, to late night beers at the Urban Orchard in the summer, to fishing and diving in Exmouth. These are the things which I love in Perth and Western Australia, and what I miss the most while living abroad.
Needless to say, growing up in Perth shapes you as person and your perceptions of the world. Perth’s geographical location makes it the most isolated city in the world, a sort of bubble encapsulates the lives of those who live in the city.
The bubble can be a sanctuary for a beautiful state of bliss or it can feel suffocating and monotonous. It all depends where you're at in life.
When I left Perth, I was in a bit of rut. I had quit my job as graduate accountant and was working at a catering company. I was yearning for something greater, something of substance. What I ended up finding was perspective. These are my experiences, hints, tips and observations I have found to be true while living in London and travelling abroad, beyond the bubble that is Perth.
Big city life
Perth does not prepare you for big city living.
We enjoy stopping and smelling the roses. It is a part of our lifestyle. We appreciate walks along the swan river foreshore, picnics in Kings Park and the like. The only exception is the few Perth drivers who seemingly appear to be in a rush to get everywhere, but mainly in front of you at a merging point.
Londoners, on the other hand, during peak hour don’t even know what a rose is. They dodge, weave, huff and puff with all the impatience of a emblematic British bulldog trying to get his bone. This culture definitely struck me when first arriving in London. Everyone is going somewhere. No one moves slow, and the people feel cold and absent.
For example, if you're ever on a escalator in London, stand on the right or endure the wrath of grumpy impatient commuters wishing to burn you like a witch at the stake for your horrendous sin, and I am not talking figuratively either…
Over time you'll get accustomed to the pace, but the real risk lies in the fact that you slowly adapt and begin to bulldog too, treating others as objects rather than people. At some point, around 3 months in, you'll find yourself moving like your house is on fire and blankly staring at some mark on the tube carriage. You are now one of them… I have come to the conclusion that this is just a product of big city living. Londoners are not inherently bad people, in fact they are an incredibly resilient breed. Their hustle is just a survival response to the cities capitalistic dog-eat-dog culture. Everyone is just trying to get by.
For me, personally, it’s just not something that I want to consider normal or acceptable. I make a very active effort to acknowledge others even if it’s just an understanding smile. I guess this is what Mattafix was getting at.
The benefits of the big city are obvious and goes without saying; a buzzing nightlife, unique dining experiences, markets selling all sorts, concerts, famous sights, shows, celebrities, and so much more. You will never get bored.
Obviously, Perth is warmer than most places in the world. My only bit of advice when moving from Perth to a colder city is to never ever do it during their winter months. I unfortunately did and needless to say the shock to the system was huge. Stressing about living arrangements, jobs, finances and jet-lag does not need to be complicated by the threat of the flu or acclimatisation to the colder climate. It was apparently a “warm winter” in London, which was still fucking miserable.
Ironically you'll find the feeling of isolation is far closer than it was while living in the most isolated city in the world. On the tube, you'll be within centimetres from others but you could not feel further away.
This is specific to living abroad. Holidays are the total opposite. Moving abroad with little or no friends and family, you will have to literally build your life from scratch. The first 6 months are the hardest. Be prepared to have some tough times. Making new friends, finding a job, renting a room, setting up tax and bank accounts is time consuming and bloody hard!
As it been said many times before, you'll have to put yourself out there, be social, join clubs, sporting teams, attend events etc. With time, you'll make friends and smile back on those nights with Netflixs. Make sure you appreciate your determination and hard work, it is impressive and should not be overlooked. Be proud!
Cultures and Countries
One of the best things about Perth is the outdoor lifestyle; beaches, parks, the river, the south-west, up-north, Fremantle, barbeques etc. It can be a real downer spending your days in the grey city, yearning for the blue skies and an ocean breeze. I miss the ability to immerse myself in nature and to escape.
Consolation can be found in the accessibility to the European continent. You’re no longer living in the middle of nowhere. You have plopped yourself within a 3 hour flight to almost all of Europe. With budget airlines like Ryanair covering a multitude of destinations, you can score yourself return flights for under AUD$100 to some awesome European cities. Weekends in Prague, Barcelona and Paris are only a click away. Giving up Margs and Dunsborough doesn’t seem so bad eh?
What you will find is that you'll spend more time in customs and transit to and from the airport than in the air. It also sounds weird (and awesome) when someone asks you what you did on your weekend and you say, “ahh, just flew over to Prague”!
Your eyes will widen, heart will race and your mind will open to a whole new way of thinking and being. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures is what makes life rich and worth living.
A small thing but impressive feature of the UK, is the post service. Overnight, fast, basically free shipping online. PLUS, mail on Saturdays. It’s a dangerous and rewarding cycle. Beware!
The job market in London moves at a ridiculous pace. The market is dominated by recruitment agencies, with only big companies internally recruiting. In the space of two weeks, I had about 15 or so interviews with potential employers for temporary positions (I have a degree in Accounting and Finance, and at the time, 11 months public accounting experience). It was exciting, exhausting and I have never felt so in demand!
Things to note; agents make their money from leveraging relationships. They are extremely charismatic. Do not believe every word they say. They use puffery like a chef uses butter. Stick to your guns and your desired salary. They will come round (hopefully). Also, if you don’t sign a contract, then by default you are employed under a temporary contract. Under the temp contract there is no contractual notice period required. It is only courteous to do so.
Being Australian abroad is great. Unlike Americans, we've got a pretty decent reputation; we like to drink, we work hard and we’re easy going. You’ll find a heap of other Aussies in hostels including the cringe worthy ones, but overall you’ll be grateful you come from country and culture with a good reputation.
On the accent front, it is an asset. It’ll assist in most social situations, making friends, landing jobs, getting discounts, getting you out of fines, and it will generally something to be proud of. I personally would hate to have it diluted.
I understand that my experiences are my own, and therefore I acknowledge that your own opinion on travel and Perth may be the opposite and totally valid.
Though, I think it is healthy to leave Perth. As the saying goes, ships are safest in the harbour, but that is not why ships are built. If you’re looking for a challenge, change or an adventure, I would strongly recommend living abroad. You will never be as free as you are now. You have nothing to lose and only life experience to gain. If nothing else, your time away will give you some powerful perspective and open your mind outside the bubble you live in.
I do wonder if Perth will still bring a smile to my face when I return. Have I become too accustomed to the buzz of the big city? Addicted to exploring the new countries and cultures? Will Perth no longer be what it once was to me?
I don’t know, only time will tell.
Like any relationship things can and will change, for better or worst. Perth and I may grow apart, but Perth will forever hold a very special place in my heart, and will always be home.