Archive | January, 2014

Moving to Australia: Tips to Make Your Transition Easier

23 Jan

Your permanent resident visa in Australia has been approved and you are preparing for the big move. So what exactly do you need to arrange once you have landed in the Land Down Under?

We have a lot of friends moving to AU this year and my husband and I thought it would be helpful to share the things we know that have been helpful to us in our early days in Melbourne.

We came here without knowing anyone in the area. I have relatives in Sydney but they’ve been here for more than 20 yrs so it’s been a while since they’ve settled in, and obviously, they’re in a different Australian state. So Law and I pretty much took a plunge into a relatively unknown world, but with enough research (really proud of Law when it comes to this), moving wasn’t so difficult for us.

So here are our tips in moving to Melbourne/Australia –

1) Get assistance from IOM (International Organization for Migration)

If you are eligible, you will be given discounts to airfares for your landing in Australia. Plus you are entitled additional baggage allowance.

2) You can look for a house/apartment/flat to rent or buy even before you land in Australia.

Websites such as www.domain.com.au and www.realestate.com.au give very detailed information about each property, photos included. Couple this with Google maps and you will find that it is very easy to shortlist potential houses. Use the street view option in Google maps to get a more visual view of the places you are looking at (unless the house/apartment building is brand new, street view is quite reliable).

3) As per the usual immigration policies, you cannot bring so much cash on hand when travelling to Australia.

So you may want to open an account with a bank in your originating country that provides you the access and flexibility to transfer money to you once you are in Australia, without any charges. We opened one with Citibank Singapore and once here, we opened one with Citibank Australia. I believe other banks offer this service, too (like HSBC).

4) Your visa is already linked to your passport number.

You can go old school like the paranoid me who insisted to get my passport updated with a hardcopy of the PR visa (just in case they somehow can’t find it in the system :P), but this is not really necessary as your visa would already have been updated into the online system. Upon arrival, you just need to tick off that portion in your disembarkation card that you are a migrant making the first landing.

5) In determining how much start-up money you need in going here, prepare to spend for appliances and furnishings for your house, and enough money to be able to pay at least 6 months of rent.

Keep in mind that most rentals here are NOT furnished (so unless specifically stated, those furnishings in the photos you see in the real estate websites may not be there any more once you move in). Also, unlike in Singapore, where rentals would commonly include the washing machine, stove and refrigerator, here in AU, the basics that go with the rent are the dishwasher, stove, and oven.

Also, the deposit on the house is not for assurance of a month’s worth of rent. It is for insurance of the rental property for any damages that may be incurred. If you need to move out before your contract is due, you may need to pay for re-advertising and re-letting fees and pay for the rent until the end of your lease.

6) Research on which suburb is most suitable for you.

Perhaps the most important thing for a new migrant is to feel at ease in the new place he/she is settling into. Read around about the demographics of the state you are moving into. You will want to find a place where most people from your country stay. Stores selling food items from home and restaurants serving familiar food will be in close range, and people with similar interests and culture will help greatly in making you feel at home. As an example, you will find that most Filipinos reside in the west of Melbourne. Box Hill, where my husband and I are staying now, houses a big Chinese community (so yeah, we feel very much like we’re still in Singapore 😉 )

Wikipedia actually talks about such demographics in detail –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Melbourne#Ethnic_groups_and_multiculturalism

7) Be a savvy shopper when buying appliances/furnitures.

There are electronics/appliance retailers such as JB Hi Fi and The Good Guys, where you can ask for discounts or haggle when buying from them. Let them know that you have found another store which offers a lower price, and you can get them to match or even beat that amount, or maybe throw in a few freebies.

There are online sites offering both brand-new and second-hand items, not just from retailers but from just about anyone in Australia wanting to sell something. You will be able to get good bargains (of course, at your own risk, so take precaution). Try www.gumtree.com.au or www.ozbargain.com.au to see offers and deals on a lot of items up for sale.

8) Be prepared to arrange for connection of multiple utilities for your home.

I remember paying simply for water, gas, and electricity in Singapore and the Philippines. And there is just one company providing each service.

Here, depending on where you live, you may have to pay for hot water and cold water separately. This was something new to us. And there are so many providers for gas, electricity, water in every area. Again something new to us. We had to go through plans of numerous providers, for each utility! And just when we thought we’re done figuring things out, we were informed a few months later that the company providing the meters in our apartment building is different from our actual electricity provider. So we have to choose between paying a rent for the meter, or switching providers.

Since our apartment is a brand new one, there was initially no telephone connection yet. So we had to arrange for that first and pay the $200+ one-time installation fee (which the owner gladly reimbursed later, thank God), on top of paying for monthly telephone service fees.. It is only after we have been connected to the telephone network that our internet provider allowed us to sign up for a contract with them. And so before we had internet connection at home, it took about almost a month of waiting… Good thing mobile internet is available.. Also a good thing  we didn’t want cable TV, or else that’ll be another matter to take care of.. 😀

Talk about making life complicated.

9) If you are a Filipino migrating from Singapore, better get a driver’s license in SG before coming to AU.

Singapore and Australia have a similar driving system, so the SG license can get converted directly here without taking an exam. Having just the Philippine license is just like not having a license at all. You will need to take the exam and start from the probationary license. This also applies to migrants coming from other countries driving on the right side of the road.

10) Apply for Medicare as soon as you arrive.

Just for security in case something happens, you may want to apply for health insurance once you make your landing in Australia. For Medicare, you will need your passport and proof of visa (i.e. visa grant letter) to apply. You can do this as soon as you come to Australia. You will be asked for your bank details for payments of any claims you make. This can be provided later if unavailable at the time of application. Also, you can can choose to be on separate Medicare cards or be included with family member at the same address in one card.

And lastly…

11) RELAX! 😉

Don’t be bothered much by those ‘scary’ stories being passed on about racism in Australia. We’ve been here for 2 years now and we only would hear about a few encounters here and there and never experienced being marginalised first-hand.  My personal take on that is that it’s not something only known to Australia. I felt it in SG, and I believe even my own countrymen (and myself) are guilty of ‘having a feeling of superiority’, if you will let me put it that way, from time to time 😛

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Safari adventure, anyone?

12 Jan

If you enjoyed going to places like the night safari in Singapore or Zoobic Safari in the Philippines, you will find a day in Werribee’s open range zoo quite interesting.

The concept is similar – upon entry, you are entitled to a round of tram ride which takes you around their version of a safari, where animals prowl around in an open space. Then you can also walk around on your own and look at animals in enclosures.

Comparing these three places I’ve been to, I  can say that each has its own edge over the other two. The Singapore safari features more animals. The Philippine and Melbourne ones are open during  the day so you can actually see and take pictures better. Melbourne has a cool weather so it was quite pleasant to go around during the day (unlike in Zoobic, where it was sweltering to go about during the day). Both the Singapore and Philippine safaris feature quite entertaining animal and tribal shows (sorry Werribee, that serval cat presentation really disappoints.. please take this as a constructive criticism 😉 ). The Philippine one I think offers the best value for money (they charge your for about 1/3 the price of the ones in SG and AU :P) and actually allows you to experience camel and tiger feeding for free (although visitors are encouraged to purchase a chunk of chicken meat for tiger feeding). The Werribee one charges you triple the admission rate for close encounters with their animals!

We just opted for a basic visit in the open range zoo here. No close encounters, but had an interesting day anyway 😉

Sharing below my photos from our day in Werribee –

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The tigers were unfortunately taking a nap when we came to their area –

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One highlight of my day was our visit to the meerkats, I somehow just find them really cute. They remind me of King Julien in the cartoon movie Madagascar (King Julien was actually a lemur) 😀

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There are areas where kids can play about –

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As mentioned in my intro above, I was a bit disappointed with the serval cat presentation –

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No offense meant.. Maybe I’m just used to shows like the ones in the Philippines, like the ones below –

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Man performs a tribal dance of natives in the Philippines

Man performs a tribal dance of natives in the Philippines

And as I’ve also mentioned earlier, Zoobic Safari in the Philippines actually lets you experience feeding camels with no additional charge. Sharing below a pic of my family enjoying this experience –

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After visiting the Werribee Open Range Zoo, we paid a quick visit to the rose garden just beside the zoo, and Werribee mansion… But I wasn’t able to take any good shots as spring was just beginning and the flowers have not bloomed yet (yes, this is a late post once again.. a SUPER late one hihi). Will post when we do get to visit these places on a better time someday 😉