James Hindle, who founded Portobello Reclaimed, a bespoke furniture restoration company, in 2017 – and won one of The Finder’s Expatpreneur Award in 2019 – says the impact of Covid-19 dramatically affected his Singapore-based business this year, as it has for many expat and local business owners.
Rather than stick it out and hope the economy would improve sooner than later, however, he and his partner decided to hire international movers – and relocate to Australia this past July.
Fortunately, they were able to make their exit smoothly, with a good experience in emigrating and despite the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am British,” shares James, “but was able to obtain an Australian visa and permission to travel through a family connection. This was a straightforward process: Permission took around a fortnight and was looked at concurrently with the visa application. I was impressed with the response time of the Australian Department Of Home Affairs.”
Read on about James’s experience in making this international move, in case you or someone you know intends to do the same.
When and why did you decide to move back home?
At the beginning of this Covid-19 unpleasantness, my partner was suddenly made redundant by her employer, a foreign owned company in the education sector. It is a part of the economy that has been hit particularly hard by the border closures – the employer anticipated this and moved quickly.
Given the difficulty and cost of moving internationally during the circuit breaker, we decided to wait it out a few months to see a) how the lockdown impacted my own business and b) whether any Singapore opportunities might arise.
Our landlord was fantastic in accommodating a flexible end to the lease.
What factors played a part in your decision to move to a new country?
I owned and run a small company here in Singapore. Two-thirds of our business was knocked out by the circuit breaker. I think that makes us the lucky ones, as some have had it even worse.
I do have concerns about the economy here in the next six to 12 months, as a global recession seems inevitable. It seems eminently sensible to relocate somewhere that is less expensive in the short term. I am sad that this will mean stepping away from my Singapore business – but like my partner’s employer, one must make hard-headed decisions at times like these.
James with Charlie Scott, one of the founders of a relocation service, at last year’s Expatpreneur Awards event – where the two first met.
When did you start looking into international movers to help you relocate, and who did you use?
Approximately a month before leaving, we obtained quotes from several companies. We ended up going with choosing a service provider with good reputation. I met one of the owners last year, which also gave me comfort in trusting them with our beloved Indonesian Rice Carts and other old pieces of furniture we would hate to see damaged!
What other important tasks needed to be dealt with?
Pet Embassy handled the export of our cat: I did not want a euthanised pet on my conscience because of some silly mistake on the paperwork!
How did you figure out where to live in Australia?
A friend is lending us an apartment in Brisbane for a couple of months. We will review things in September. We may return to Singapore in six to 12 months, so watch this space!
What were your biggest concerns about moving during this time?
The potential requirement to spend a fortnight in lockdown in Brisbane hotel did not appeal at all. Amusingly, cat quarantine is only 10 days. Life is better for cats right now!
What were you most looking forward to about moving?
Being able to have a pint next to the beach when it is all over.
What will you miss most about living in Singapore?
After 10 years of flying through Heathrow, Changi Airport and the speed of access to it was a delight. It is also a blow to be leaving the Singapore income tax regime.
By Andrea McKenna Brankin, August 2020
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