Cost of living in Australia?

I found that the most common question asked by people I know who are thinking of migrating to Australia is how much does it cost to live in Australia. Well, I don’t have official statistics or anything so the only way I can answer this is to draw from my personal experience living in Melbourne.

Back when we didn’t pack home-cooked lunch to the work, we spend around $250 per week on groceries with the cost of eating out for lunch included. A lunch meal will generally cost about $10. It’ll probably cheaper at McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s (aka Burger King) with their $6 burger meals that include chips (French fries) and drink. At selected Hungry Jack’s branches, you even get to refill your drink again and again. In the end, it will always be a lot cheaper to cook your own food than to eat out.

To save even more, instead of shopping at Safeway (called Woolworths outside Victoria, I don’t know why) or Coles, shop at Aldi instead. Sure, the selection of products is a bit limited at Aldi but those you can get there, you’ll get there a lot cheaper than the major supermarket chains. We would first buy our groceries at Aldi then go to the nearby Safeway to buy the rest of the things on our grocery list that we didn’t get at Aldi.

This $250 does not include transportation costs, clothing and utilities. We take the train so that’s $158 for a monthly full-fare Zone 1+2 ticket each. That ticket allows us to take any public transportation within Greater Melbourne. If you live closer to the city (within the Zone 1 boundary), you get to pay less. We only use the car on weekends and it costs us about $30 per week to have it filled with petrol (gasoline).

As for our utilities, our latest water quarterly bill was about $90. During winter time, our gas bill can reach up to $100 per month. Gas (gaas) is usually necessary not only for cooking but for heating homes, you see. Electricity bills tend to rise during winter too due to our need to turn on electric heaters and less daylight. Our winter electricity bill can reach up to $200 in a quarter. However, we are still aiming to lower our electricity, water and gas usage so hopefully, we’ll need to pay less in the future. We are doing this not only to save money but of course to help out the environment. Yeah, I just had to throw that in there.

If you are renting an apartment, you probably won’t need to worry about the water bill as the owner of the property usually pays for the water. So that’s one advantage of renting. Speaking of renting, a two bedroom apartment we rented in St Kilda East (an inner Melbourne suburb, about 15 minutes away from the city by train) cost about $1,200 per month (they will quote the rent in dollars per week though). Apartments will cost more if furnished.

If you are just starting out and you need furniture, go see Fantastic Furniture. They have the cheapest furniture packages that I know of. It’s not exactly the classiest furniture around but they definitely aren’t shoddy either. For $2000, you get a double-sized bed and matress, a dining table plus chairs, living room tables, bedsides (drawers), and a 51cm TV! You’ll probably need to assemble some of the furniture yourself though but I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it. That’s partly how they can sell it for cheaper. I bought my first furniture suite from them and I found the furniture to be sturdy and durable. And they don’t look too shabby either.

For the clothes and other spendings, you will get a better idea of how much things cost here by looking at the various department store chains’ catalogues online. Here are a few of the more popular chains of shops:
Myer
Target
Big W
Kmart

Now, you have to do the math (or as they say here, maths) and figure out how much money you need to bring with you when you fly to Australia. Be sure to bring enough money with you to last you six months here without a job just to be sure. Note that the cost I quoted above was for two persons living together. Utility bills might be cheaper if you are by yourself living in a one bedroom apartment, for example. It could be more expensive if you are a family of four, of course.

I hope this helps anybody wanting to know how much things cost here.

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Published in: on November 21, 2007 at 12:01 am  Comments (5)  

Finding a place to live

A reader whose family has recently received their resident visa has sent us an email with some queries on how to find a place to live here. This reminded me of the time when we were still in the process of moving here from Canberra and how we went about finding an apartment in an unfamiliar place where we don’t know anybody and we only have the weekends to drive from Canberra to Melbourne to view the listed properties. The move was difficult but not impossible and hubby spent a few weekends driving and sleeping in hotels.

Anyway for those who are just starting their search, hope these tips ease the difficulty of getting your own place.

  1. If it’s at all possible, get a street map of your target destination (Victorian map). This would not only help you in choosing where to narrow your search for a place to live, it would also be handy for the times when you need to find work, schools, parks, etc.
  2. A new migrant would probably not be in a rush to own a car and would generally be reliant on the public transport – this would include trains, trams and buses. The easiest and probably the fastest mode of transport (if it turns up!) are the trains. Study the network map for Melbourne and surrounding areas to see which areas have the service. Take note that there are two zones and fare levels within the network. Yellow denotes zone 1 while blue means zone 2.
  3. Although most train station names are also suburb names, not all train stations/stops are suburbs. For example, Balaclava station (Sandringham line) is in the suburb of Balaclava. However, there is no Aircraft suburb even if there’s an Aircraft station (Werribee line). To determine if the name is a suburb, try to find the name in this list of Melbourne suburbs.
  4. Once you have a suburb name or a postcode taken from the list of suburbs, you could now search for available rental properties at Domain or Realestate.com.au. Enter the suburb name and wait for the site to return a list. Both sites feature a way to view the available properties on a map (Plot properties on map link for Domain.com.au, View on Map tab in Realestate.com.au). Although the map is quite limited in what it shows, it is still a useful way for you to see how near the property is to public transport and parks. Click on the little houses/markers to see a short description and a thumbnail photo of the property.

    As an example, I typed in St Kilda East as a search criteria in Domain.com.au, switched to map view and clicked on a property in Blenheim Street. This ad is for apartment unit number 3 at property number 24 with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and 1 parking spot. Located near the bottom of the map is the Balaclava train station while the solid lines on Carlisle and Chapel Streets indicate that tram lines run through these streets. This means that the property is very near public transport. Remember that being close to public transport could be a minus (noisy, a higher volume of people passing through and possibly traffic in peak hours) as well as a plus (easy to get to, numerous options to get away, cheaper transportation cost as you may not have to own a car until much later). Rent is listed as $280 weekly which would probably be paid monthly ($280/week x 52 weeks/year divided by 12 months/year = $1,213.33 monthly).

  5. To learn more about the location of the property, go to Street-Directory.com.au and enter 24 Blenheim Street, Balaclava VIC as the address. The map displayed would be quite detailed and you would be able to see train lines and stations as well as tram and bus routes. You would also be able to see that it there are a couple of schools, parks, parking spaces and a town hall nearby. Ticking on the For Rent layer on the left hand side menu of the page would also show all the rental properties being advertised in the area.
  6. If you’re curious, you could also learn more about the demographics of an area buying looking at the suburb’s profile. Local newspapers could also shed some light on the lifestyle of the people living in the area as well as the burning issues of the residents there. Typing “St Kilda newspapers” in Google, I found the area’s local newspaper – The Port Phillip Leader.
  7. Create a shortlist of properties you would be interested in and contact the agents to inspect the properties. Photos in the ads do help but there is no real substitute to actually being there and imagining yourself walking the streets everyday, envisioning your furniture in the space and seeing how you like the place.
  8. And finally, for those who are unfamiliar with the rental application process in Australia as well as their rights and responsibilities as tenants, have a browse at the renting section of the Consumer Affairs Victoria. One particular document to be found there is the especially useful guide for newly arrived migrants and refugees.
Published in: on November 19, 2007 at 7:52 am  Comments (1)  

Starting a New Life in Australia

I made a couple of blog posts last year providing tips for would-be Pinoy migrants to Australia. Well, recently, we accidentally found a more comprehensive list of tips provided for by the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA). They’re the Beginning a life in Australia booklets. And what’s more is that the booklets are available for free online on their website in Adobe Reader PDF format.

Here is a short description of what the booklet is about according to the DIMA website:

The purpose of this web site is to provide information about life in Australia, settlement services available to migrants and the range of services at the national, state and local levels that migrants in Australia may need.

There are different specialised booklets for each of Australia’s states and territories. So, if you are interested in moving to Sydney, for example, go pick up the “Welcome to New South Wales” booklet. Now, I’m sure new migrants-to-be may not always be familiar in which state or territory your destination city is located, so here is a list of the states and the better known Aussie cities in each one:

  • New South Wales (NSW) – Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong
  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – Canberra (but in the list of booklets, look for Canberra instead of ACT), Queanbeyan (although technically part of NSW, it is real close to Canberra that the Canberra booklet might be helpful, too)
  • Victoria (VIC) – Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo
  • Queensland (QLD) – Brisbane, Gold Coast, Cairns
  • South Australia (SA) – Adelaide
  • Western Australia (WA) – Perth
  • Tasmania (TAS) – Hobart
  • Northern Territory (NT) – Darwin, Alice Springs

And here are some of the things you’ll find in the booklet (from the booklet’s table of contents):

  • What to do soon after arrival – important things you’ll need to accomplish such as applying for a tax file number, open a bank account, and so forth
  • Emergency services
  • Where to go for help – for migrant resource centres and agencies, legal aid, consumer rights
  • Australian customs and law
  • Housing – renting, buying and tenants’ rights and responsibilities
  • Employment – looking for work, job network services and working conditions
  • Transport
  • Education and child care
  • The health system – Medicare, Private health insurance
  • Recreation and media
  • Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs – citizenship, resident visas and family visits to Australia
  • Local government and community services

Now, if you are not that proficient in English, there are booklets translated into other languages, including Tagalog! Here is the Tagalog translation of the booklet’s purpose:

Ang layunin ng website na ito ay upang magbigay ng impormasyon tungkol sa buhay sa Australya, mga serbisyong nauukol sa paninirahan ng maaaring makuha ng mga migrante at ang hanay ng mga serbisyo, mula sa pambansa, estado at lokal na antas ng kakailanganin ng mga migrante sa Australya.

So, thinking of coming over to beautiful Australia? Get the inside info on how to start your new life here right through the booklets provided for by the Australian government. You can’t get any more official than that.

Published in: on May 18, 2006 at 12:00 am  Comments (8)  

First Time Accommodations

A reader left us a note a few days back seeking advice on first time accommodations in Melbourne. Although I already tackled it in not-so-many words in a previous blog post titled Tips for Pinoy Migrants to Australia Part 1, I think it’s time I flesh out the topic a bit more.

From experience, if you are a new migrant to Australia fresh from the airport, you will find it a bit difficult to rent an apartment specially if you don’t have a job yet. And when you get a job, the landlord might ask you to produce a letter from your employer as proof of your employment.

As you can see, it could already be difficult to get an apartment even if you are already here. Getting one while still in the Philippines would be much harder. However, I remember hearing that someone was actually able to do just that. I don’t know the details though.

The popular and favoured type of accommodation for newcomers to Australia is to live with family, relatives or close friends who are already here. Living with family is good because you’re not under pressure to find a job and an apartment quickly. Well, hey, they’re family.

However, if you are living with close friends, unless you’ll be paying those friends with some kind of weekly fee for your share of the rent, I recommend that you don’t wear out your welcome and start looking for an apartment of your own as soon as possible. I’m sure your friend will tell you that you could stay as long as you like, but in my experience, living under the same roof with some friends for an extended period of time can sometimes test the strongest of friendships.

Now, how about those of you with no family or friends in Australia? Some friends of mine actually booked a hotel room in their destination city via the Internet just before leaving the Philippines. When they got here, they quickly looked for a job then another (cheaper) place to stay. As an example, a friend lived in a $100-per-day hotel room for twenty days before being able to move to his own apartment. That’s $2,000 in his first three weeks in Melbourne alone. So, before flying over, be sure you have enough money to sustain yourself here even if you can’t land a job for the first three months.

You can book hotel rooms online through websites like AccomLine. I can at least recommend this service as I have used it multiple times in the past.

There is an alternative to hotels though that could sometimes be the cheaper option. There are serviced apartments for rent that are basically like bigger furnished hotel rooms but with no room service (who needs it anyway?). They could sometimes charge you a cheaper weekly or monthly rate instead. I couldn’t really recommend any online service for weekly/monthly serviced apartments since I haven’t the need for one myself but from looking at the Internet, I found the Melbourne Serviced Apartments website. I’m sure you’ll find similar websites by using Google.

Room rates would vary depending of course on the quality of the room and the distance of the hotel or apartment from the central business district (CBD) in the city. So, consult a map of the city you’re going to and decide there if the hotel or apartment you’re aiming for is at a good location. Australian maps are available online at Whereis.com.

If you decide to go for a place that is a bit far from the city, make sure that the place is at least near a train station specially since you’d probably won’t have a car yet. You can find that out by consulting the map. The train stations should be marked there.

When I was looking for an apartment in Melbourne a few years ago, my main priority is to find one that is near a train station. So, having access to the Melbourne Train Network Map made it easier for me to choose which suburbs to look into when I was looking for apartment vacancies.

But, you say, what if I have no family or friends in Australia and I don’t have a lot of money? What then? You can join and log on to the Philippines.com.au forum. Take a chance and ask around there if anybody has an empty room that they are willing to rent out to you or something like that. Who knows? You might even get to meet someone who is willing to take you in for free for a short period of time. Don’t expect too much from the people there though. There are a lot of nice people there but not everybody may be comfortable with the idea of letting a complete stranger live in their home even if you are a fellow Filipino.

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you looking to migrate here in Australia in some way. Good luck.

Update: Thanks to reader Sasha for this additional tip (which I paraphrased a bit):

Hi GJ & Raquel, Pinoys can look for furnished apartments on 3 month leases or more on Domain.com.au or Realestate.com.au or realestateview.com.au which is good.

Published in: on May 9, 2006 at 4:02 pm  Comments (6)  

Getting a Car?

On October 11, a reader named Mel posted a query about cars for new migrants on a recent post of mine: Errands. Actually, I already responded to the comment, but I just want to elaborate on it further here.

Mel wrote:

May I ask your opinion on purchasing a car upon arrival in Melbourne. I think it’s practical to get a 2nd hand but my husband prefers brand new. However, since we have no credit history or credit card for that matter, how can we go about in applying for a car loan?

In our case, we didn’t buy our own car until my third year in Australia. We found that we could get around just fine by taking the public buses. And that was in Canberra. Here in Melbourne, the public transportation is even better. By that, I mean there are more choices: there’s the bus, the tram and the train. I’ve discussed about the topic of getting around Melbourne in greater detail in an old post if you wanted to know more.

For the sake of discussion though, I’ll just assume you really need a car when you get here. I agree that getting a second hand car is more practical as it would indeed be cheaper than a brand new one. However, like your husband, I preferred a brand new car, so, that’s what we got. But, mind you, we’ve been here for a good three years when we bought our car, so, we’ve already settled down a bit and we had spare cash in our savings to get a car.

In the case of a new migrant, there might be more important uses for the savings. Unless you and your husband have jobs right off when you arrive in Australia, you’re going to need your savings to get you through the first few tough months of job hunting. And then, there are also other necessities like furniture and appliances for your apartment to worry about.

We went with a brand new car because we were pretty sure we won’t be replacing the car for the next five years or so. We knew (and hope) that a new car would last at least that long before we start getting major problems with it. Of course, a brand new car does not guarantee that we won’t have problems with it. But, in my mind, we would less likely have major problems with a brand new car in the short term than if we got a used car.

However, if you’re strapped for cash, then you have no option but to go with a second hand car. But don’t worry though. Second hand cars sold here tend to be reliable. You can have the car inspected by automotive insurance people before you purchase a car so that you know you’re not getting a lemon. Anyway, it’s in their best interest that the car you’ll be insuring with them isn’t going to break down too often after all.

You also asked about car loans. As you may already know, I don’t work for banks and loaning institutions, so I could only guess as to whether you’re actually going to get a car loan or not given your situation.

I do believe though that as long as both you and your husband have stable permanent jobs, you won’t have too much of a problem getting a car loan especially if you aren’t asking for a big amount.

I also suspect that the banks are really just checking for bad credit history. Since you don’t have a credit history yet, you wouldn’t be flagged as having a bad one, right? However, I suggest you get a savings bank account and, if possible, a credit card when you get here so that when the loaning institution makes a check on your finances, it would see that you exist in the system.

In our case though, we didn’t go with a car loan. We tried but got denied a car loan only because I was a contractor back then. Apparently, it was more important for the banks that both Raquel and I were permanently employed than having a good credit history.

Fortunately, we had enough saved cash to buy our car outright. We were also able to afford the car partly because we didn’t go for those expensive SUVs. I frankly do not understand the need for those types of vehicles in the city. If I lived in the bush, sure. But in the city, it’s just not efficient. Our Toyota Corolla is smaller and cheaper than an SUV, but, at least, it doesn’t consume as much petrol and easier to park. And even though it was small, five people could still comfortably ride in it.

Well, I was glad the bank turned down our loan application because we actually saved on not having to pay for the interest on the loan. As you know, a car depreciates over time. By getting a loan, you’ll end up paying more for something that actually loses value over time. By saving money for an outright car purchase, you’ll end up paying much less overall for a car.

In the end, I urge you to consider everything before you go buy a car. Do you really need it for the time being? Would having a car make your life significantly easier? Whatever the case, I hope I was able to provide you with helpful information.

Published in: on October 20, 2005 at 2:15 pm  Comments (2)  

How much are you worth?

Would-be migrants usually ask us how difficult it is to find work here and how much a certain position pays. Since each situation is unique, there are no clear-cut answers to these questions. There are a lot of factors to consider such as the type and size of organisation you’d be joining, your level of expertise in your chosen field, qualifications, local experience (or lack of), where you are (state/territory) and your negotiation skills. Negotiation is a bit tricky though when you don’t have the faintest idea of how much you’re worth. Quote a low pay and you may get the job but constantly worry about how to make ends meet. On the other hand, asking for too much may also mean that you may never get your foot in the door. Either way, it shows the employer your total lack of resourcefulness and research. Definitely not a good way to start.

Fortunately, there are sites where you could get this sort of information for free. Salary surveys for different jobs in various sectors are available from Hays, MyCareer and Wages.com.au (currently down but may be operational again soon) . Amounts shown are based on the annual rate and are inclusive of superannuation, tax and other benefits.

Another way to go about this is going to job search sites and looking at advertisements that may include salary information. Private organisations seldom give salary information in their advertisements outright but some do. Government positions are usually advertised in the organisation’s web site as well as government gazettes like this one from the Australian Capital Territory government and usually give wage and benefits information alongside job descriptions and selection criteria.

Published in: on October 19, 2005 at 6:10 pm  Comments (2)  

The importance of research

Someone recently left a comment in one of my old posts regarding migrating to Australia. He stated that he’d like to know more about the process and has repeatedly asked for help but it was obvious from his post that he hasn’t done any prior research of his own. He was asking questions that would have already been answered if only he took the time and effort to read the link I’ve provided or just by reading my reply to a previous comment.

To me, this constitutes an unwillingness to do his own homework and trying to pass the work off to me. Well, let me tell you now that if you don’t put in the time and effort to your own application, no one will. Certainly not me, I have posted my experiences in this blog with the hopes that it would serve as a guide to someone who might be undergoing a similar process. My knowledge does not extend beyond what I have gone through and I won’t be able to advise anyone what is the best way for them to migrate to Australia – every case is unique and you’d be better off assessing your situation or going through a professional agent than asking me. Do your homework and read up on the topic, there are a wealth of resources on the internet for anyone who’s determined enough to find it. Stop being so darn lazy! Do NOT give me a copy of your resume without any specific question as to what kind of advice you are seeking, it wastes my time and yours, so don’t even bother. You’d be better served by researching the topic from the following resources (among others):

Published in: on August 24, 2005 at 11:41 am  Comments (1)  

Tips for Pinoy Migrants to Australia Part 2

In the first part of this series, I posted a list of suggestions for would-be Pinoy migrants to Australia while they were still cooling their heels in the Philippines. This time, I have listed down hints that will hopefully help new migrants like you, perhaps, survive their first odd couple of months here.

To make writing this post easier on me, I will assume that you’re a potential migrant and from here on in, I’ll be referring to the migrant as you. Now, let me list what I think are the essentials. Meaning, you’ll probably need to do these things no matter what your situation is when you get here:

  • Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN).
    You do this by submitting an application to your nearest Australia Taxation Office (ATO). You will be required to present your passport which has your working visa or permanent visa so bring that with you when you apply. They should mail you your TFN within 28 days after your application.

    Alternatively, according to the ATO site, you could apply for a TFN online here. If you apply online, ATO will verify your identity through the Department of Immigration and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA’s) systems. For further details regarding TFN applications, read the ATO document “Getting a tax file number.”

  • Open a bank account and get a debit card.
    You will want to have the money you brought with you to Australia stored in a safe place. And there’s no safer place for it than in a bank. Open a bank account as soon as you get here. Why?

    Well, anybody opening a bank account in Australia is required by law to first passThe 100 Point System.” In this system, each form of identification is assigned a number of points. You’ll need a total of 100 points or more to be able to pass. Since you’re new to the country, you’ll likely to only get 70 points max for either your passport or birth certificate (they will only accept one or the other but not both). However, if you open a bank account within the first three months of your arrival, the rule is relaxed and you’ll only need your passport to open an account. So, don’t wait too long.

    I also suggest you open an account with a bank that offers an ATM card that is also a debit card (like St George Bank for example). A debit card is just like any other ATM card except you can use it like a credit card. When you make a purchase using it, the money will be drawn straight from your savings account. Here in Australia, most banks impose fees for frequent ATM withdrawals. But with a debit card, you won’t have to withdraw often because you can pay with you “credit card” and it won’t count as a withdrawal.

  • Get a computer and a prepaid Internet access.
    Owning a computer with an Internet access is almost a necessity when you get here. You can use it to search for potential jobs or apartments. You can use it to spiffy up your resume. You can use it for researching about almost anything. You can use it to keep in touch with friends and family via email or through an instant messenger application like Yahoo Messenger or MSN Messenger.

    What’s more, most of Australia’s institutions have web sites you can browse through if you should need information about them. For example, you need to know about taxes? Go to http://www.ato.gov.au/. You need to know about immigration? Go to http://www.immi.gov.au/. Want to know more about St George Bank’s accounts? Go to http://stgeorge.com.au/. Want to know more about Melbourne? Go to http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/. You get the picture, I’m sure.

  • Buy a prepaid mobile SIM card.
    Assuming you’ve read and took my advice in Part 1 to bring your GSM mobile (cell phone) here, all you need now is to get a GSM SIM card for it. If you didn’t bring a mobile, that’s okay, too. They have promos here for free mobiles even for prepaid plans.

    Anyway, you’ll definitely need a mobile so that you can easily be reached by prospective employers. So, even though you’re outside looking for work, you can still catch calls from any employers interested in hiring you. Another very important reason for having a mobile is so that in emergencies, you’re just a phone call away from help.

  • Get a map of your desitnation city.
    Upon arriving to Australia, remember to pick up those free tourist booklets in the airport. Those booklets would contain a map of the city you’re in. Although this is a good start, these booklets don’t have detailed maps of the areas outside the city’s central business district (CBD). For a more comprehensive map, you need to buy one.

    And even though you can look up a place you want to go to online (like on Whereis.com), you couldn’t bring it with you when you are outside looking for that office where you’ll be having an interview in 10 minutes. At least with a map book, you can bring it anywhere and refer to it any time.

That’s all I have for the essential tips at this time. As for not-so-essential tips, I have those, too:

  • Don’t be too picky with jobs.
    Finding that first job here can be difficult since employers will prefer somebody who had previous Australian work experience. Chances are, the companies that will want to hire you anyway won’t be your first, second or even your third choice. But that’s okay. Take it anyway. You can always continue looking for your dream job while you’re employed in your first job.

    Your priority should be to start earning money. You wouldn’t want run out of savings. I know this sounds like common sense but I have known of people who are too picky with jobs and ended up going back to the Philippines because they ran out of cash.

  • Get a Learner’s Drivers Licence.
    Whether or not you are really interested in getting a full drivers licence eventually, a Learner’s Drivers Licence will be handy whenever somebody requires an identification card (like for membership at a DVD rental shop). Note that an Australian drivers licence (even if it’s only a learner’s licence) is more easily acceptable as a form of identification than your Philippine passport. Also, in the 100-point system mentioned earlier, a drivers licence is worth 40 points which, along with your passport worth 70 points, will give you a total of 110 points.

    To get a learner’s licence, you just need to take a multiple-choice type computerized driver knowledge test. The test will ask you questions based on their Road Users Handbook like that provided for by the Roads and Traffic Authority ( RTA) for the state of New South Wales (NSW – where Sydney is). RTA even has an online mock test on their site for you to test yourself until you’re ready to take the actual test.

    Note that other states will have a different traffic and roads enforcement agency so be sure to look up those institutions on the Internet and study their own version of the road rules. It is also likely that they’ll have their own online mock test on their site.

  • Get used to the slang and accent.
    One of the biggest hurdles I had during my first few months here was that I found it difficult to understand some Australians. Specially those who speak real fast in their typical accent while at the same time using slang and idiomatic expressions I never even heard of.

    First, you must read up on Australian slang so that you’ll know what they mean when Australians use them. Next, you have to get used to the way they speak. One way to train yourself for this is to watch a lot of Australian TV programs.

  • Get a library card.
    There are a lot of public libraries in Australia where you could loan books, magazines and even audio CDs and DVDs for free. Just as long as you register for a library card first, of course. Another advantage of having a library card is that it gives you access to free Internet usage on the library’s computers.

That’s all the hints I can come up with for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll surely post a blog about it here. For more info about living in Australia, I also recommend buying a book about it. The one we’ve bought is “Living and Working in Australia: A Survival Handbook” by David Hampshire and its been a very handy reference for when we want to know something about Australian living.

I truly hope that my list of tips will help you survive your first few months here in Australia. Good luck.

Published in: on August 12, 2005 at 12:19 am  Comments (11)  

Tips for Pinoy Migrants to Australia Part 1

Ritz Arnan posted a message on our shoutbox recently that read:

(I) hope you could write more tips or ideas similar to your article “always be prepared“. How to survive the firts months or year in the Oz.

Hmm. What should a would-be lone migrant, like yourself, do when you arrive in Australia to help survive the first few months? Actually, another interesting question would be, what should you do even before you leave for Australia? I have some ideas, of course, but I could only make suggestions based on what I found helpful myself.

In this post, I’ll just provide suggestions on what you (whether it be Ritz or any other potential migrant) should do before leaving the Philippines that could help you along when you get here. Then, I’ll make another later post with my suggestions on what you may need to do after you arrive. This way, I could divide into two what could be a very long post.

Without further ado, here are some suggestions on what to do before you leave for Australia that will help you survive your first few months here in no particular order:

  • Get letters of recommendation from your past employers.
    Not only that, be sure to get their contact information so that you could provide it to Australian job interviewers if they ask you for references. So, it may also be a good idea to advise your past employers that they may receive an overseas call from these companies you’re applying for. Also, remind them to put in a good word for you, of course.

  • Research your destination.
    You could do this by getting those travel books about your destination. You know, those books with maps and lots of pretty pictures of the major cities of the subject country. Sometimes these books also list useful cultural local information as well as information on potential accomodation which you’ll be needing if you do not have any relatives or friends here.

    Alternatively, you can use the Internet to know more about your destination. In fact, a friend of mine who is fairly new here used the BCL Australia site to find out more about Melbourne and booked his hotel and airport-to-hotel pick-up through the site.

    Speaking of accomodation…

  • Search for potential accomodation.
    I already mentioned accomodation-seeking in the previous tip but let me say more about it here. This is very important for those of you who do not have anywhere to stay with when you get here. Your best bet, though more expensive, is to book a hotel for maybe a week while you look for a job and for a real apartment.

    I recommend you get those serviced apartment-type hotel rooms where it’s sort of like an apartment but paid by the day. It’s sometimes cheaper than standard hotel room and nicer, too. You can book a hotel room online at Accomodation Line.

    I have to stress that you should only stay in a hotel only because you need a place to stay when you get here. Once here, make it a priority to find a job first. You will find it difficult to rent an apartment of your own unless you already have a job.

    Alternatively, you can go to the Philippines.com.au forum I mentioned earlier and look for people there with an extra room willing to take you in for a short period of time.

    Speaking of the forum…

  • Visit the Philippines.com.au online forum.
    Get to know Aussie-Pinoys even before you step on Australian soil in this forum. There, you can ask anything about Australia and get answers from people who actually live here or had experienced migrating first-hand. Want to know something about Australia? Ask about it there by posting.
  • Bring a lot of clothes.
    Clothes here are a lot more expensive than in Manila so better stock up. As it could get real cold here, you may still need to buy winter clothes when you get here. Sweaters or jackets bought from home may not be sufficient to keep you warm here during the cold seasons. Still, it doesn’t hurt to bring a sweater, jacket and/or coat anyway specially if you’re not planning to come over in the summer months (December to February).
  • If you already own an unlocked GSM mobile phone (cellphone to you), bring it.
    Australia uses a GSM mobile network so your old GSM phone should work fine here. You’d probably still need to buy an socket converter for your phone battery charger at the airport when you get here though. If you don’t have a mobile already (which I strongly doubt), don’t buy one. You can just get one from here when you get here.
  • Get a credit card.
    Back home, getting one or two should not be too difficult. After all, if you qualified for an Australian PR visa, then most likely you’re pretty well off financially at this time. I had an AIG Visa credit card and a Citibank Mastercard when I left for Australia and I found those cards useful when I was seriously low on cash. Think of these credit cards as your back up in case you run out of cash during your first few months here. I’d recommend you get credit cards here, too, but upon your arrival, I doubt any bank will approve your credit card application.
  • Set up an International ATM account.
    You can open an ATM account with Citibank (which I and a friend of mine did) or any other bank that provides you with an ATM card that has the Cirrus logo on it. This way, you do not need to bring all your cash with you to Australia. You can just withdraw from your Philippine bank account from any ATM here that bears the MasterCard, Maestro and/or Cirrus logos whenever you need more cash. This also makes it easier for your relatives in the Philippines to help you out financially if you should need it by being able to deposit money into your bank account that you can withdraw from here.

    Remember though that there is an international withdrawal fee involved when you use your ATM card abroad so you should just draw from your account on emergency situations only. Ask the bank for the actual fees involved and any withdrawal limits.

  • Bring US Dollars.
    I think you could have Philippine Pesos converted to Australian Dollars once you’re here but you’d find it difficult to find an institution that does. So, save yourself some grief and just make sure you bring US Dollars here.

    There is no minimum “show money” required so you can bring how ever much you wish. Take into consideration the costs you’ll incur and just bring whatever is appropriate.

    Also, take note that if you bring over AU$10,000 worth of cash (in whatever currency), you should declare it with Customs. There shouldn’t be a problem with bringing over 10k but not declaring is a big offence.

    Speaking of Customs…

  • Do not bring food over.
    It’ll just be thrown away at the airport if you declare it. And if you don’t declare it, and you get caught, it’s a pretty big offence that could lead to severe penalties. Go to this Australian Customs Service page that list items that must be declared on arrival.
  • Do not bring pirated stuff over.
    You don’t want to get caught with those at either the Philippine or Australian airports.
  • Look for potential jobs and set up interviews a few weeks before your arrival here.
    For more info on job hunting, read Raquel’s post on Job Hunting in Australia.

    Because a friend of mine looked for potential jobs even before coming to Melbourne, he already had a few interviews lined up when he got here. After a week, he had an offer. After another week, he has a job.

  • Use Whereis.com to find your way around.
    I don’t think the maps that came with Australian travel books you’d get in the Philippines would be that comprehensive. So, if you need help finding out where some place is, whether it’s a location of a potential accomodation or a job interview, you can always refer to Whereis.com to find out where it is in Australia.
  • Bring your driver’s license if you have one.
    Hey, you never know when you need another identification card. Also, you can use your Philippine driver’s license (spelled licence here) to drive around Australia for the first three months, if I recall correctly. Just make sure you know the road rules here first before you take on the road.

Whew. That’s a long list of to-do’s for you. I’ll leave it at that for now.

I hope this current list of suggestions would be helpful. Next time, I’ll give you another personal list of suggestions which you might find useful on the first few weeks of your arrival to Australia.

Published in: on July 27, 2005 at 10:53 pm  Comments (12)  

Always Be Prepared

Recent events regarding another Pinoy acquaintance of ours who is in big trouble reminded me that living abroad isn’t always easy. Without the support of family and friends you left behind in the Philippines, you have to be prepared to face any problem alone.

Back in the Philippines, I was never prepared for anything. I lived a fairly happy-go-lucky (bahala na) lifestyle. I had a good job there that paid well. I have my family and life-long friends to ask help from in case of emergencies.

When I moved to Australia, that was no longer the case. I stopped being so happy-go-lucky. I had to be more responsible. I shouldn’t rely on the help of others (all though I hope I could). I had to be more self-reliant.

With that, I’ve listed below some of the lessons I learned about making myself more self-reliant:

  • Save money for emergencies. Living abroad, you don’t have your family to help you out financially. They probably couldn’t afford to help you anyway. When you find yourself out of a job, you’ll definitely need those saved funds. It would be a good idea to set up a second bank account (with the same bank as your first) that you wouldn’t touch at all unless it’s an emergency. If the second bank account comes with an ATM card, leave the card at home so that you wouldn’t be tempted to withdraw from the second bank account. Then, set it up so that a set amount of money from your first bank account gets transferred to your second account automatically every month. Over time, you will save lots of money and you wouldn’t even realize it.
  • Get a credit card. If you run out of cash and you desperately need money, you can always use the credit card to get you by. If you find yourself unemployed and you don’t have savings, you can probably survive a month or two with one credit card with a $5k spending limit. I recommend you get a Virgin Credit Card because it doesn’t have an annual fee. So you won’t be paying anything if you aren’t using it but it will be there in case you ever need it. Now, I know that there are people who absolutely hate having credit cards because they feel that they’d end up buying more than what they can really spend. You’ll just have to learn to not use credit cards unless it’s necessary.
  • Prioritize your spending. Be sure to have the essentials paid off first whenever you get paid your salary. If you are renting an apartment, paying for the rent must be your number one priority. After all, where would you live if you get kicked out by your landlord? Pay the bills next. Where would you be if you don’t have electricity or water in your apartment? If you really cannot afford to pay all of your bills, you should at least pay your rent, electricity and water. The other bills could probably wait. All though this sounds so common-sense stuff but, believe me, I know a couple of people already who didn’t seem to know this.
  • When unemployed for too long, don’t be too picky. It might happen that you get “retrenched” and find yourself jobless. If you have prepared for this eventuality, then you can probably remain living comfortably for a month or so and you would still have the luxury to be choosy of the jobs you’re applying for. But when you are running out of resources, it is very important that you get any job just so that you would continue to earn some money. I hear that they really need fruit-pickers in country Victoria that they are willing to hire people from China to do the fruit picking. I could probably do that if it means getting food on the table at the end of the day. The problem is, there are people with so much pride that they aren’t willing to get a job that seems beneath them even if it means getting kicked out from their own homes.
  • Have enough money for a plane ticket. In case that every thing really isn’t going your way, you should have at least an exit strategy. That is, you should always have enough money to buy yourself a plane ticket for the Philippines. I couldn’t imagine myself destitute and stuck in a foreign land. At the very least, I’d like to be able to return to my family and friends in the Philippines even if I was penniless.

I know of a person who knew that he was going to have a financial problem in the near future yet he continued to live beyond his means. He continued to go out on night-outs with friends. He didn’t pay the rent. He didn’t sell his unnecessary stuff on eBay or the Trading Post. He had no savings. And in the end when he got retrenched, he had no money and ran risk of being kicked out of his own home. If he had more foresight, he wouldn’t be in the mess he is in now. Sure, he will probably still be jobless right now, but at least he wouldn’t be so desperate for money that he had to borrow from all of his new found “friends” (us) just so he can pay off his current obligations.

So, if you have plans of moving to another country, remember to be like a boy scout and always be prepared.

Published in: on June 17, 2005 at 12:31 pm  Comments (1)