How much greener?

Everyone knows the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, or hemisphere. But how much greener? And how do you know? 

The thing with this expat lark is that you know you have choices. You can choose where you want to live and how you want to live. You’ve already done it, by choosing the expat experience.

So when it’s time to move on, how do you evaluate the greenness of the lilly pad you’re hoping to jump to?

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately. I’ve evaluated the lifestyle options of both hemispheres, and no less than four countries in both the north and south, and the lifestyle involved in each of those countries…as much as I can figure out.

And that’s the point. How do I know if the lifestyle in Australia is better than the UK? Or whether the cost of living is less in the US than New Zealand? How do I know?

I’ve asked friends back home, and friends who live all around the world and they have carefully given me their opinions, but the truth is, I still don’t really know.

How do you evaluate the lifestyle ‘plus’ involved in a larger house (in US, Australia and NZ compared with UK) when it’s overshadowed by the potential higher rate of inflation?

How do you compare the fresh fruit juice lifestyle of Australia compared with the abundance of cheap travel to wonderful, interesting locations in Europe, available from your cheap, cramped terraced house?

What’s better? Sunshine or a larger population full of opportunity?

Private schools Down Under or bog standard secondary schools in England’s green and pleasant land?

Truth is, though I’ve lived in all of the countries mentioned (with the exception of the US) I still don’t know. I scan economic outlooks and inflation reports, and I work my way through job listings and Track Me Back websites looking for assurance that my skills are needed.

That we as a family are wanted.

But in the end, we still don’t know for sure, and I don’t know how to find out. Do I need to fly Down Under and try and see? Everywhere in the Western World is suffering from recession but is anywhere worse than other places?

How do you know if the grass is greener?


Image: Cuba Gallery CC


'How much greener?' has 19 comments

  1. August 8, 2012 @ 7:48 pm Cathy Powell

    Thought provoking post Vicki. You don’t know. It seems that Australia hasn’t suffered as badly from the recession as the case seems to be here in Europe, but who knows. Maybe it depends on what you do for work. I’ve got friends who seem hardly affected at all. Is the grass greener? I’m not sure. Meanwhile I’m glad I’ve moved to England although I had one school mother comment about me moving here and depriving someone of a job…Food for thought.


    • August 8, 2012 @ 7:53 pm vegemitevix

      Thanks Cathy! I’ve had the comment that I took someone’s job in the UK when I arrived. I have no idea how to gauge whether it is as bad there as it is here. Family and friends all have their own investment in their own interpretation, there really isn’t any other way than tasting and seeing. Scary, isn’t it?


      • August 8, 2012 @ 8:07 pm Cathy Powell

        I mentioned that to family here and they made the comment that the locals don’t like doing all the types of jobs that are available here. Yep, plus I don’t think I should worry too much about it. Although it’s hard not to be concerned. Were we meant to stay down under? You’ve got an Englishman as a partner and so do I, should I therefore not feel welcome here? Luckily not all people feel that way (making you feel unwelcome). Although I’ve already had people say to me, why are you here and not there (in Australia!).


        • August 8, 2012 @ 8:15 pm vegemitevix

          It’s all so hard to know isn’t it? I’ve had family say ‘oooh it’s bad Down here’ and yet they have no idea how much our standard of living has fallen in the four years I’ve been here. One minute I read economic reports that say NZ/Australia is heaps better, the next report says it’s all curdled milk. I don’t think you do know, you have to choose on gut instinct. One thing’s for sure, it’s easier sitting on a park bench unemployed in the sunshine than it is in the snow. ;-p


  2. August 8, 2012 @ 8:01 pm expatmum

    It’s difficult but I don’t actually think it’s just about cost of living. To me it also depends where your friends and family are, if that’s what’s important to you. My kids have grown up with no first cousins in the US and a very small family. They are very close to their cousins in the UK and absolutely love being part of a big, extended family. I regret that I brought them up without that because to me, that’s all part of your lifestyle and your “home”.


    • August 8, 2012 @ 8:07 pm vegemitevix

      Thanks hun. What a beautiful reply. All of my family are Down Under. Not in NZ but in Australia. For me the benefit of them growing up (more than what they have already) within cooee of their cousins and grandparents is important. I’m confident that I’m independent as a Mum but I do also believe that the extended family is important. I know I felt excited by the thought that I could be part of a couzzie reunion Down Under. But in the end, we do have to live and if we are restrained financially then we will find it difficult to have any asemblance of a life.


  3. August 8, 2012 @ 9:32 pm MidlifeSinglemum

    The grass is never greenest for everything in one place. You have to decide what is most important to you and make everything else ok – I think it’s called cognitive dissonance? You make what you have what you want. For me, even though I miss Britain for a million reasons the next two years are a no-brainer for us. We get free childcare here whereas I’d have to pay for it in the UK, I have a good parttime teaching job which pays more and goes further than I could achieve there, DD is becoming bilingual and that’s very important to me, we have a home here which would could nopt be replicated in England (well maybe in the outer hebrides but my family are ion London). On the other hand we are missing out on cousins nearby. All the rest is my dreamworld of a life that, if it exhists at all, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford anyway.


    • August 8, 2012 @ 9:33 pm vegemitevix

      Arrrgh but that’s the point…how do you know what you can afford without spending all the money and going and seeing first hand? It does sound like you are on a good wicket though (to use a very English descriptor). x


      • August 8, 2012 @ 9:50 pm MidlifeSinglemum

        Research. You know what assets you have and you can ask friends what you would need for a comfortable life. You can check out property prices online. You can ask colleagues (or online contacts) about your earning potential over there. The only gamble would be if both of you didn’t get the jobs you were planning on to make it work (if it turns out to be workable). But that’s not a reason not to go cos you have to believe you will succeed with the plan. The money side is plannable. It’s not the money – dig deeper and find your real issues.


  4. August 8, 2012 @ 9:33 pm Christine Amorim

    Great post, I am in this situation too, trying to figure out if a move is the best thing. Nowhere is perfect and the grass may be greener but also have ‘patches’ – anywhere you go, will have its issues. One thing I have learnt from being an expat is that everywhere has its pros and cons. Living in the sunshine is all very well but life has so much more to it, to be considered!


    • August 8, 2012 @ 9:42 pm vegemitevix

      Whenever I’m asked if I enjoy living in England, I answer thus – everywhere has its pros and cons. It is true, I’m not fibbing, but after a while there’s a certain skew in those very pros and cons that we look for. Is it instinct? Learned behaviour? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it is a very strong force in the instinctive compass that points to true north and home. I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope it isn’t that I am doomed to wander forever, just to the east of Eden.


  5. August 9, 2012 @ 7:28 am Emma Raphael

    It’s incredibly hard to tell. Here we have better schools, a much larger house and probably a better quality of life to be honest, but at home we have family and friends which is a pretty good trade off! So difficult! D


    • August 9, 2012 @ 9:49 am vegemitevix

      The thing I find difficult is that it’s hard to know how things are back at home when you only go for holidays. Of course everything is great fun when you’re spending a higher valued Pound Stirling and when you don’t have the same hassles as you do in the everyday life. I have friends and family all around the world now, so in truth that’s the only bit that doesn’t worry me quite so much, though there is something to be said for the pull of aging parents and the hope that you can spend some time living nearer to them before it’s too late.


  6. August 9, 2012 @ 8:54 am Steve

    I think maybe the grass is as green as you make it…


    • August 9, 2012 @ 9:46 am vegemitevix

      True, but I wonder if that approach infers you don’t have a choice anyway so you make the most of what you have. If you had a choice, doesn’t that make it more difficult? Then isn’t it a matter of following your gut instinct and hoping for the best?


  7. August 9, 2012 @ 9:07 am A Mother in France

    It’s so hard. It was easier for us because France is not so far away from England. We came on lots of visits before we made the move, but even so, you never really know what it’s going to be like until you go and you do really have to trust your instincts.
    Life here is definately not easier than the UK from a financial point of view. It’s really expensive being self-employed and we are struggling like everyone else financially. But, as you say in a comment below, it’s much better to be broke in the sunshine, than the snow (although we get snow here too, so winters are miserable).
    What I can say is that our quality of life is far better here than in the UK (even though we had more money UK). The time we spend with our children is more enjoyable, family life is embraced here and the weather helps enormously.
    Our grass here is most definately greener, but not with out it’s brown patches and stubborn weeds! Nowhere is perfect unfortunately, you just have to weigh up whats most important to you and your family and what is going to make you happiest. Good luck!


  8. August 9, 2012 @ 9:45 am vegemitevix

    This is a comment from @ReluctantExpat who was having problems entering it –
    I have spent a LOT of time & energy (& money) trying to work this one out. Like you I am married to an Englishman. We met on neutral turf (Holland) & I always assumed that we would end up in Sydney (my beloved Sydney…..) After a few years in NL, some time in Sydney, we ended up, by default, in the UK. During that time i continued to plot and plan our relocation back to Aus – where I KNEW the grass was greener. I even succeeded a few times……packing us up and moving us across the world…..
    We kept returning to the UK simply because my husband’s work is far more successful here. He has built up a business that thrives in the northern hemisphere. So ultimately, my decision was made for me.
    The lesson I have learnt along the way – and I do believe that each Expat story is unique – is that i had to stop looking for the greener grass elsewhere (and believe me, this lesson took quite some time to learn!) I have learnt to make my world the best that it can be – and for now – that is here. I have learnt that living on the other side of the world does not change who I am. I have learnt to embrace all that there is to offer here – to learn along the way and to make MY world here. For me this is the only way that it can work – when I spend my energy wishing to be somewhere else, I find that I end up wishing my days away. Our daughter is now 16, her school friends are here – everything is not about me alone. I keep myself busy with work, I have a very healthy social life and I keep in close contact with my friends/family back in Aus. Sure, I miss the beach, the long, hot summers, the familiarity of being “a local” – but I now look at my life here as an invaluable experience – where I am actually the author of my own destiny.
    There is always a greener side to life. But for me, I need to make that the life that I have, now.


  9. August 11, 2012 @ 11:34 pm Dan

    I wonder how expats go when their kids come of age and want to move regardless of the parents? An even bigger dilemma to come for us all. Have you tried Poms In Oz? Always good for research for someone heading to Aus.

    It would be great to see some research into what makes an expat tick and eventually decide to return home. Family, work, weather, culture; they are all factors but the importance changes over a person’s life.

    It’s interesting to note that of the Brits who emigrated in the 50s and 60’s, a quarter returned ‘home’ and half of those went back again; people in the UK had moved on.

    Good luck with your decision.


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