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Two Weeks In - An Expat Experience

By Alex
15 April, 2014


Hi world! I’m Alex, a born and bred Texan who has always wanted to have a big adventure. Lucky for me, a chance encounter in a Houston bar led to falling in love with an Aussie, which, two years later, led me to Melbourne. I’m just two weeks into my expat life, but I feel like I’ve already learned so much.

GETTING HERE

After two years of leading separate lives an entire world apart, I volunteered to be the one to up and move. My previous trips to Australia showed me what an amazing place it was. Plus, I’d always wanted to live outside of the US, so why not? My job would not transfer me, so I knew I would have to explore more drastic options. That is, I planned to quit my job and obtain a Work and Holiday [subclass 462] visa. Let me tell you, the Australian Department of Immigration made the visa process sound quite dramatic on their website. There was mention of health checks, interviews, proof of a certain amount of money in your bank account, and even recommended reading about Australia! Stressed and convinced this would be a very lengthy process, I went ahead and started the visa process in July of 2013 even though my move was planned for March of the next year. About $450 and 12 hours later, I had a visa. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. As easy as that, I was granted entry into Australia. I had one year from my date of purchase to enter the country, which provided an ample amount of cushion should any extenuating circumstances had arisen. After hearing nightmare stories about other types of visas expat bloggers have written about, I would go ahead and say that this was the easiest visa in the history of the world to obtain.

However. However. This visa is geared toward people who want to come to Australia to backpack and travel around, not live in one place and try to find employment. So if you’re looking to come to Australia to rent a camper van and work odd jobs when money runs low, hooray! This visa will continue to be nice and easy for you. If you’re using this visa to move to be with a partner or just really settle down in one city, you will face some roadblocks. The terms of this visa state that you can work for one employer for a maximum of six months. My background is in corporate marketing/social media, and any job I’ve inquired about has backed away when they hear about my limitations. Hiring someone with my visa means two things for them:

1.       They’ll only have an employee for six months, so why waste the time?

2.        If the employee turns out to be amazing and they don’t want to lose them, they’ll be faced with sponsoring them for a work visa, which it seems no one wants to do.

My best bet would be getting a job in retail or hospitality [i.e. H&M or a bar], but I’m stubborn and am going to try my hardest to impress an employer so much that they’ll do what they dread most and actually sponsor me!

LIFE SO FAR

Simply put, I love Melbourne. It is a vibrant city with such a fun and friendly energy. Living right in the CBD makes it easy for me to explore the heart of the city by foot. I think what I like best about Melbourne is that is has both a big city center as well as unique suburbs that are easily accessible without a car. I moved here from Houston, a place where not having a car is simply not an option since the city is built around gigantic freeway systems. Walking everywhere has been a huge adjustment [how does one go grocery shopping?!], but it is already starting to feel natural. Honestly, it’s refreshing to be able to just walk out my door and have everything I need within blocks of me. Yes, it can be annoying lugging groceries down the street or dealing with rain when you’ve just done your hair, but it’s also so invigorating. Plus, the constant walking makes a great excuse for not going to the gym!

Speaking of needing exercise, Melbourne is a great place for food and drink. I swear there are about 50 restaurants just within a one block radius of me. This city is also known for its quaint hidden alleyways, all of which boast magnificent restaurants and bars. Rooftop bars are popular here, and you won’t hear me complaining about that. Oh, and don’t forget the coffee. Melbourners loooove their coffee, and for good reason. My boyfriend always complained when he visited me in Houston that the coffee in the US was disgusting. I now see why he thinks this.

When one tires of the city life, beaches and rolling hills are just short drives away. There’s the breathtaking Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula, the Dandenongs, and so many other natural wonders to see. Melbourne, and the state of Victoria in general, really has it all.

WHAT I MISS

It’s only been a little over two weeks, so I’m not sure true homesickness has really hit me. Of course I miss my family and friends and the pets I left behind, but thankfully right now I have so much to distract me from dwelling on that too much. However, there are a few things I can feel my heart strings yearning for, such as:

·         Tex-Mex food

·         Tex-Mex food

·         Tex-Mex food

·         Cheap prices

News flash: Australia is expensive. Like really expensive. Example: I paid $4 for ONE avocado. A six pack of beer can cost $20. Standard restaurant prices are what you’d find at “nicer” restaurants in Houston. Salaries and minimum wage are also higher, so I’m sure it does balance out. It was just a big shock for this Texas girl!

ADVICE

Whether you’re moving to another country for an extended holiday, study, or work, I think there are a few important things to think about before you leave.

·         Money- I mentioned that the Australian Department of Immigration talked about having a certain amount of money in a bank account. This is for a good reason. When you move to another country without a job, you’ll need something to live on before you get on your feet. If you’re on a work visa, no worries, you’ll be fine. But for people like me, it’s crucial to have a chunk of money to survive on. I have no idea when I’ll get a job, so I’m thankful for what I saved before I came over. Also, getting a local bank account and debit card is a huge help.

·         Time- How long do you plan on staying? What are your goals while you’re there? This is going to be different for everyone. Many Work and Holiday visa holders are just looking for a fun year of travel with jobs here and there to make some money as it runs low. For me, this visa was the easiest way to get here and put an end to long distance dating. I’ll now have to find other ways to try to remain in the country.

·         Health insurance- Depending on what country you are a citizen of, this can be tricky. As an American, I am not eligible to use Australia’s healthcare system. I could buy private insurance if I wanted to, but it is very expensive. After a lot of research, I opted for a travel insurance company that allows me to see a doctor if I get sick, as well as receive emergency healthcare if needed. However, it does not cover pre-existing conditions and medications. So if you are on a regular prescription, whether it be something as simple as birth control or as crucial as heart medication, I would definitely look into options that would cover these while you’re away. Some insurance companies in the US will also allow you to buy a year’s worth of a prescription, so look into that as well.

·         Have fun! Moving abroad is all about the life experience and the memories you’ll make. Live it up and try not to compare your new home with the one you left behind.

Though my adventure has just begun, I am so excited to see what the future holds. Making the decision to move abroad is one that I am so proud of myself for making, and I plan on using this year [and hopefully more] to really embrace this new life.

 

Mutual Weirdness is a personal blog chronicling Alex's transition from a life in Houston, TX to Melbourne, Australia. Alex loves food, cooking food, talking about food, traveling, barre pilates, and animals.

 

 

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