Melbourne, Australia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/11/18

Personal Experiences from Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia 07/11/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I’ve lived in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Vancouver, Canada.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

I was born and raised in Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA, (home of the atom bomb), but it hasn’t been home for a long, long time. We moved to Melbourne from Vancouver, Canada. It’s a 16-hour flight, nonstop on Air Canada, or with stops in Brisbane or Sydney you can add a couple of hours to that, at least.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We arrived in June 2017, so a little over a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband was recruited to an administrative position at Monash University.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We’ve been moving around from one air bnb to another. Houses are small and very expensive. You can find nice places near the central business district (CBD), but the rents are in the vicinity of $1000AUD a week. My husband works out in the eastern suburbs, where housing is cheaper but life less interesting, so he chooses to commute by train which is pretty easy. Public transport is good. Driving a car is a nightmare because traffic is horrible during peak hours.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It is very similar to Canada. Probably a bit more expensive than the US. You can get most anything in Melbourne, an abundance of shops and markets with specialty foods from all over the world. Things are open on Sunday (unlike Switzerland).

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

New Mexico red chile powder.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

I have no idea. There are so many amazing restaurants in Melbourne, and oodles of motorbike delivery services (ubereats, deliveroo, etc) that finding excellent food is NOT a problem.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No. Aside from the massive huntsman spiders that are very scary looking and huge but otherwise quite benign and good mosquito eaters.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

In the mailbox of the place I’m renting. Australia post has an online service if you’re receiving a package where you can tell them where to leave a larger package, or arrange to go and pick it up at a Post shop. Local postal offices are very good.The mail is slow, and hardly anyone uses it anymore. :)

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Some people hire housecleaners. You can expect to pay $100 AUD for a house clean by either an individual (over a few hours) or a team (over 1 hour). Because housing is so expensive, that’s probably the only household help an expat would pay for.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Tons of gyms, yoga studios. You can pay a lot for a personal trainer (typically around $90 AUD/hour) or join a gym with classes and equipment (far cheaper). THere are also spinning studios, barre workout studios, pilates... For those who like outdoor sports there are tennis courts, running clubs, rowing clubs, and adult leagues for football (soccer) and various other sports. I even saw some people playing quidditch in Fawkner park the other day.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are safe, ATMS are common and safe. Australia uses pay-wave so you can just tap your debit or credit card at a store or restaurant.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything. Australia is an English-speaking country.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to be able to handle life in English. There are lots of Chinese in Melbourne as well.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It might be tough getting in and out of the train station platforms. Otherwise the sidewalks generally have curb cuts and markings for the blind.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and yes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You’d have to check if you could even bring a car. It would make more sense to buy a second hand car here and re-sell it upon leaving. I haven’t heard of any particular difficulty with car parts or car crime.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is widely available from a number of different providers. It will take a week or two depending on the installation. There is a new national system called NBN that is becoming widespread (but as I understand it, also somewhat problematic...). Best bet is to arrange the installation ahead of time so as not to have too much downtime. Many cafes and the public libraries have free wifi.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I use Telstra, as the coverage is purportedly the best. But there are several other providers that offer prepaid plans that are a very good deal. My brother got a vodaphone SIM while he was here for something like $40AUD/month that had tons of data on it.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Animals are complicated in Australia. You have to start the process 6 months before you arrive, and even then there is a minimum 10 day quarantine. If you haven’t done the rabies thing 6 months in advance I think the quarantine is longer.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Can’t comment on other partner/spouses. I freelance. Local salary scales are quite good for people with good credentials, but residency requirements must be met.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of that. Sports events, hospitals, second-hand charity shops, etc.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Most men wear suits to work. Women tend to look business casual. Otherwise anything goes - lots of shorts and tanks in the summertime, and flip flops.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is good - as in any other western country (US or Canada). Bugs tend to be different so your first winter you might get the flu.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is good. Seasonal allergies can be a problem for some people. Air quality does not have an impact on health.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There is a thing called “thunderstorm Asthma” that can be life-threatening for people with asthma. During an extreme thunderstorm in the spring pollen season, small particles can be swept up into the air and lodge in your airway, causing a crisis. It’s unusual, but it has happened.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not that I know of.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It can be quite hot in summertime, but not as hot as central Australia or Sydney.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Lots of private schooling available. Not sure about international schools. We don’t have school age kids so I can’t really comment.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, they are available. Not sure about cost.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. I don’t hang out with other expats, since it’s not really a “strange” country in that sense. I think most people living here from other ENglish-speaking western countries feel quite at home, and can cope well with the various Australian foibles.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are loads of clubs, sports events, concerts and other events. There’s a website called timeout melbourne that lists events in the city. The internet platform MeetUp has loads of club listings in Melbourne and vicinity.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Lots to do, great restaurants and city life, lots of sports facilities and bike paths and playgrounds.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would think so. There is a large LGBT community in Melbourne.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not to speak of. Gender equality is pretty good as western countries go. Out in the rural areas there’s still quite an old-boy lifestyle but in the city, everyone is considered equal. Australians seem to be a little prejudiced towards Asians, maybe due to a marked rise in the number of immigrants from China in the past couple of decades.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Trip to the outback to hike the Larapinta Trail, and to Tasmania to hike the Overland track. The Australian bush is amazing. I love the trees, the flora and fauna in general. It’s a beautiful country.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

HIking on Wilson’s prom, seeing the penguins come home at night on Philip Island, driving the Great Ocean Road, taking in a play downtown, going to an Aussie rules football game in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, seeing the tennis at the Australian Open, cycle along the Yarra river.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great food and coffee. Loads of interesting exhibits at the museums. Lots of bike paths.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How complicated it is to buy real estate.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Children. No, just kidding. They’ll like it here. You can leave behind your car, your heavy winter gear, your skis and snowshoes, your extensive book collection (the libraries are good).

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4. But don't forget your:

Bicycles, hiking boots and backpacks (although they have good outfitters here if you need to buy them).

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Priscilla, queen of the desert. Top of the Lake (TV series).

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Nope. this is not a hardship posting! Have fun.

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