Things I Wish I’d Known Before Coming to Australia
True to my nature, I was pretty organised when planning my trip to Australia. I had a big old to do list, divided into when things should be done – booking a hostel, setting up a bank account, those kinds of things. Maybe I’ll even share it on my blog to help others to plan their trip. I did a heap of research, but there are still some things I wish I’d known sooner – here are some of the top ones.
Australia is huge
People really underestimate how big this country is, and how much there is to see! When I started planning my trip I picked up a brochure from STA travel, and used that to shape my to do list. I remember looking at a map of the country, on which Melbourne and Sydney looked pretty close together. Then I looked at a list of driving times – it’s a 9 hour drive via the most direct route, and 13 hours if you want to take the coastal road. Everything is so far apart, and there’s so much to see besides the usual tourist hot spots – for every new place I visit here, I find out about another five places that I want to visit, resulting in a never-ending bucket list.
A year isn’t that long
I thought that I would come here for one year. I’d work in Melbourne for a while to save up, and at some point I’d visit Sydney, Brisbane, the Great Barrier Reef, the outback, and even New Zealand. Well unless if you’re extremely organised and come here with plenty of money so you don’t need to work much, that’s not happening. Conor and I arrived here in September 2016, got jobs in Melbourne, earned decent money, and promptly spent most of it on exploring the city and making new friends. It wasn’t until March 2017 that we left Melbourne for a holiday to Tasmania. It was around this time that we decided to extend our stay for a second year and fortunately our rural work gave us a much needed push to leave Melbourne and head to Airlie Beach. Since then we have made a more conscious effort to travel more around the country.
Antihistamines are super expensive
In England I could buy a pack of 30 antihistamines for about 20p, but over here I went to buy some as both of us were suffering from hay fever. The pharmasist offered me a pack of 15 tablets for $10 – well that would only last a week. Next time I’ll pack my suitcase with a 6 month supply!
Mayonnaise is rubbish
It didn’t take me long to learn that mayonnaise in Australia is horrible – it’s all about the aioli here. However, it took me about two years to discover the solution: Kewpie, a Japanese mayonnaise that’s available in supermarkets and Asian stored.
The sun is ridiculously strong
Hands up if you’re guilty of forgoing the sunscreen or using a lower SPF in an attempt to tan. I’m with you there. However there is a hole in the ozone layer above Australia and I learned my lesson pretty quickly – even just half an hour out in this tempting yet brutal sunshine can leave you red raw and feeling sorry for yourself. The sunburn is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Now I don’t even consider leaving the house without being smothered in factor 50 if it’s sunny, and make sure to reapply often.
Not paying penalty rates is illegal
So I knew that penalty rates are a thing here – that is, getting paid extra for working weekends, late nights etc. However it was a while before I realised that they’re actually a legal requirement. The crazy thing is that not that many bars and restaurants in Melbourne pay them. As a result, people refer to places as having ‘amazing pay’ when actually what they mean is that you’re paid what you’re supposed to be paid. Find a job that pays you properly and the pay is fab – as it should be when you’re serving drinks to wasters until 3am every Saturday night.
It actually does get cold
There’s a common misconception that all of Australia is hot all of the time. This depends a little on where you are, but trust me it does get cold. Whilst some areas rarely drop below 20 degrees, even at night, this isn’t true of the whole country. When I visited Ayers Rock with Conor’s family we woke up at 5am for the sunrise and it was freezing cold! Fast forward a few hours when the sun is up and it’s boiling. Last winter in Melbourne we temporarily stayed with a friend. She had just moved into her apartment and it had no heating, plus the hot water wasn’t working – talk about brutal. I bought her a heater because I couldn’t cope, and even then I’d sit under a duvet too cold to move. I’d take the bus to another friend’s place just to have a hot shower. Australia. Gets. Cold.
Renting a home can be difficult and competitive
In my experience of renting homes in England, you make an appointment with a letting agent, they show you a few homes, and if you’re the first person to sign a contract you can usually have that home. That is, assuming that you get a work reference or a guarantor. In Aus it’s a different story – most letting agent’s hold open houses where you can see how many people you’re competing with. You then provide landlord references, work references, payslips, ID, bank statements, and anything else that can help your application. Then you get rejected for the first 20 and hopefully you get one. I was amazed when we moved to Port Douglas and found that many vacant properties had no open houses available – like they weren’t even trying to find tenants. Were people just applying without seeing the property out of panic, so viewings weren’t necessary? Maybe. Many properties also require a bond equal to 4-6 weeks rent, as well as a months rent up front, which in this country is a lot of money. Most of the time you are also required to hire professional cleaners and a carpet cleaner before you leave – more money, yay.
I don’t want people to think that I’m hating on Australia in this post, because I really love this country – but there’s always things that are just different to home, but more on that next week. If you’re thinking of coming to Australia, hopefully this will be helpful! If you’re already here from overseas, is there anything you wish you’d known before you came? Let me know in the comments!