Living in Adelaide

One Adelaide resident makes a convincing case for everyone to move to a land down under

Feature by Steph Daughtry | 27 Jul 2017
  • Adelaide

Close your eyes.

Picture a city.

A city of wide footpaths and tall gum trees which line the outskirts of the CBD (Central Business District). Whose winter sun cuts through the chill to illuminate a bright blue sky spanning the full extent of the horizon. A young city of just over one million people. One million people who like to smile. Who like good coffee, great wine and some of the world’s best produce. A festival city, a city of churches – never mind the outdated labels, this city likes to imagine and reimagine itself. Forever critical, unrelentingly optimistic; Adelaide. She knows how to win you over, and once she does she’ll make it very hard for you to leave.

Now open your eyes again. It’s summer where you are? A summer of grey buildings and greyer skies? Maybe I caught you on a good day. Maybe you think the fleeting summer sun will last this time. 

Adelaide’s summers are long and warm. It might be 10,000 miles away from your family, your friends, and everything you know, but maybe that’s what excites you. So how about, just for now, keep on imagining. For the space of this article, choose your own adventure to Adelaide.

First things first: out of any and everywhere in Australia, why choose Adelaide?

Now I don’t want to sugar-coat or misrepresent it. Despite the common self-defeatist cry in opposition, this city really does have everything. But usually only one of everything – making critical competition limited and growth slow and conventional. Excluding a history of pioneering women’s suffrage and banning the plastic bag, Adelaide is usually a little behind the curve of the avant-garde. Considering a lack of government funding in the arts in recent years and the rate of unemployment worryingly high, her people have learned that resilience and entrepreneurship may be their greatest assets. But she’s growing faster than she has in previous years and is bursting with small bars, cafes, pop-up festivals and events occurring across the calendar year.

Furthermore, she is more affordable than Sydney or Melbourne but only a cheap plane flight away. She is no more than a 30-minute drive to the Adelaide Hills or to an endless strip of clean sandy beaches, and brimming with day trips to world class wineries. Birds sing in the trees and stars are visible from backyards.

In a lot of ways Adelaide lives up to its stereotype as a glorified country town. This isn’t everyone’s thing, but it’s comfortable, and you’ll run into people you know all the time walking down the street or drinking at the pub. Oh and then there’s the festival season.

Mad March aka The Adelaide Fringe

A multi-arts festival that takes over the entire city might sound all too familiar, but imagine Edinburgh Fringe on a condensed scale and you will see the small but perfectly formed Adelaide Fringe. Only the best acts travel so far, meaning you won’t see any amateur American high school groups naïvely wanting to ‘make it big’ on the international (open-access) circuit. Meaning the locals embrace the temporary cultural injection and you don’t get an endless mass of flyerers impeding your commute to work. Instead you soak up the warm days and nights by the riverside or in the parklands where green spaces have been transformed into magical garden oases and local venues burst onto the footpath with pop-up bars, street food and experimental acts. Without doubt it is the best time to be in Adelaide, and a fantastic time to arrive as an international traveller.

So now that I’ve convinced you, what type of adventure are you pursuing?*

1. Study abroad scholarship? The visa process may take a few months, but you’ll be eligible so long as you’ve been accepted to study full-time in an Adelaide university. The scholarship here is important since you can only work 20hrs a week (unless completing post-graduate research). You’ll also be required to fork out a significant health insurance fee – but the plus side is that you can stay in the country for as long as you are studying.
2. A working holiday? Super easy to attain for those aged 18-30. Use Adelaide as a base for a year, work in a café and forget about the £7 an hour you'd make working behind a bar in the UK. In Adelaide you’ll be raking in $22-27 (£13-16). Want to stay longer than a year? Hit the road and get to know the ‘Great Outdoors’ working in regional Australia in specified work for three months and you can apply to stay a further 24 months.
3. Temporary skilled work? Stay for up to four years working in a position nominated by an approved business. This job arrangement must be settled prior to visa application, so you’ll need a dedicated employer willing to stick out the process.
4. Stay for good? To apply for permanent residency it helps to be a temporary skilled worker for at least five years. However, if you tick all the right boxes this isn’t always necessary. But don’t take my word for it – better to talk to a professional who can dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

*Please note this is not an exhaustive list – check out this handy website for more advice.

Finding your new home in Adelaide

1. You’re organised and booked student housing in advance. This is great for meeting those just like you and building a community among other international students, but these friends keep moving on and you want to connect to the actual residents of the city…
2. Searching Gumtree and Flatemates.com.au It isn't hard to find a shared house just out of the city with three others, huge rooms, high ceilings, plenty of common areas, and both front and back yards. Maybe even a shed. And it’ll only take you a ten-minute Uber ride, or 20-minute cycle or bus ride to get central.
3. Your work is a little more stable and you want to live in the CBD. This will see you forfeit some of that extra common space as well as those front and back yards, but you won’t meet a single hill cycling to the office or your favourite café. The city streets are quiet after dark and you’re unlikely to run into any trouble.
4. You want to buy a house. If you lay off the smashed avocados you may be looking at affording a deposit in 60 years or so.

The final word…

Casual daydreaming aside, if this has your feet itching for change here’s a few words of advice that will put you in good stead. Moving abroad will be the best of times, but it will also be the worst of times. If your intention is to break into the local community you’re going to have to put in the hard yards. You’re going to have to put yourself out there and continuously leap outside of your comfort zone. The first six months will be the hardest. But if you keep pushing, barriers will eventually wear down. Remember that friends, true friends, are a result of shared experiences and time passed. Most locals won’t be going through similar experiences to you. They’ll just be going about their daily lives. But like planting seeds, give it time, care and patience and connections and experiences will grow.

As an Adelaide local I’ve never experienced migration to Australia, but I have done it the other way around. It changed me in ways I couldn’t even describe and I have met so many people across the opposite side of the world that I never would have known if I hadn’t taken my foot off the well-worn path and forged my own. Edinburgh, Scotland and its people are ever etched into my mind. You could make Adelaide a part of yours.

Adelaide Fringe, 16 Feb-18 Mar 2018