Expat tales: Giving it a go in Perth

ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL: An annual sculpture display at Perth's Cottesloe Beach.
ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL: An annual sculpture display at Perth's Cottesloe Beach.

Michael Simpson moved to Perth for a fresh start, and now runs his own business. 

What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?

After 24 years of small town rural New Zealand, some bad rugby injuries and a few wasted academic opportunities I decided to go for a fresh start in a new place that was exciting and presented way more options. In November 2007 I sold all my things, packed up, kissed Mum goodbye and set out for the mines of Western Australia. I have never really looked back!

LIFE'S A BEACH: Be careful about Perth’s many attractions, says Michael Simpson as many a visitor has become a permanent resident!
LIFE'S A BEACH: Be careful about Perth’s many attractions, says Michael Simpson as many a visitor has become a permanent resident!

What do you do there?

I have worked all over Western Australia, from Albany to the 45 degree-plus temperatures of the Pilbara desert, learning the back-breaking trade of a concrete finisher. In the last 18 months I've finally settled in Perth to start my own concrete business, Wolf Concreting.

What are the greatest advantages to living there?

The opportunities for young people who are keen and willing to give it a good go are amazing. The people and lifestyle are equally easygoing. For me personally, in just over a year my little venture has grown into a solid business that now employs 12 guys. We are currently pouring all the concrete for a high rise in Perth's CBD that will become Shell Oil's new headquarters by Christmas this year. I don't think I would have been able to do that staying in Feilding!!


Sometimes in summer if you want to go out on a date and its 40-plus degrees, you're gonna be sweating. But it's not really a worry, because so is everyone else!

How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer?

Generally most material things are about the same. Food is about the same, house prices are through the roof, but petrol is only $1.50 per litre. Cars are a bit cheaper although all you really have to choose from is Holden or Ford. In my own biased opinion concrete tools are very overpriced, only because I am constantly replacing them. If you go to a nice pub in Perth you won't get much change out of $10 for a pint, but at the end of a hot, exhausting, 12-hour day you're not too worried about the price.

What do you do in your spare time?

Sadly after starting my business there hasn't been a lot of that, although the beach is where it's at. Perth's a beachside town and there is spectacularly awesome diving and surfing. The Margaret River wine region is two hours south of Perth, and is world famous for its wines and food. It's a really beautiful part of Western Australia, not to mention the Margaret River pro surf comp which Kelly Slater comes to every year.

What's the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?

Perth food is much the same as back home, they love their seafood over here.

Most lunches consist of bread rolls and the like, although there is a high population of people of Italian descent here and I must must say that the homemade pasta by one of mates' old nona (grandma ) is particularly off the hook.

Easiest way to get around?

The public transport is really good, lots of buses and trains and the taxis are usually pretty quick. Sometimes the freeways get hectic so you gotta pick your times, the boys in blue are everywhere so you've got to stick to the limit because they are around the corner.

What's the shopping like?

I live in rugby shorts and T-shirts, so I'm pretty well looked after as far as shopping goes. The malls are huge with a few hundred shops being the norm, and it's not hard to get lost. The markets are pretty sweet although you gotta be on your game, a female friend informed me recently that I'm too nice in the markets and I let little old ladies push me around. I might have to step it up next time.

Best after-dark activity?

A few years ago I would have said the local club, and the nightlife in Perth is pumping - especially Fremantle, which is a major suburb. They have lots of outdoor cinemas in summer and some really fantastic restaurants.

Best time of year to visit?

April/May for sure, the crazy heat has gone but it's still nice. If you're visiting near the beach definitely come in summer, and bring a snorkel.

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?

1. Margaret River wine country.

2. A tour through the mining towns of the Pilbara, that will be a real eye-opener.

3. Fremantle nightlife, for sure.

But be careful, many a visitor has become a permanent resident!

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

The quiet of rural New Zealand is something I miss a lot, along with hunting and snowboarding and, of course, Mum's cooking.

How easy is it for you to get back to NZ?

If you book a few months out you're looking at about $1000 return direct to Auckland. It can be cheaper going through Melbourne.

For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?

All of them really, you don't have to go far to find a Kiwi over here. There's an old joke that the reason Kiwis never made it to the moon is because they ran out of scaffolding, so needless to say there are a lot of Kiwi scaffies (they are the fastest and best of course). Really though, for any Kiwi looking for a new shot there are still opportunities over here.

If you know an expat who wants to share inside knowledge about their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

Sunday Star Times