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Life in Australia


Mara
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A small insight to life in Australia, I hope you find some enlightenment!

I have not written this to point the finger at anyone, I just thought people may have an interest in eleven years of experience!

Kids, can be rude, bad mannered and often their language leaves a lot to be desired, but quite frankly I think you need to look around you, it is happening in most countries in the world, certainly in the first world countries that I travel to. All you can do is teach your own kids what is right and wrong, perhaps place them in a Christian school, if you can afford it, so that they mix with other kids that come from similar backgrounds.

Some people in Australia do seem to have a strange sense of humour, and you do sometimes find, especially amongst the younger generation, that their jokes contain quite a bit of what I would call gutter humour! Although it does not appeal to me, I do not have to participate, it is a free world and I can move on and ignore them.

I seriously think that we should give a thought to the Aussies, imagine how harsh our accents must sound to them! If an Aussie accent is one of the most terrible things I have to live with in order to live safely, then so be it….I have no problem with that!

I do sometimes wonder about the Aussie drivers, especially when it comes to roundabouts, but then again, let us be honest, I would much rather deal with an Aussie driver than a South African minibus taxi which stops whenever and where ever it wants to.

If it is South African food products that you are after, rest assured, all you have to do is make the effort to find them. All of the big cities have shops that sell South African products, so….from boerewors, to pap, to biltong, to Mrs Ball’s chutney, you can find it all!

Shopping for clothes in Australia can be quite an experience. In Melbourne I suggest that you go to your local newsagent and get yourself a factory outlet directory. The book costs about $16 and lists over 700 factory shops dotted around Melbourne. You will be amazed what bargains you can often buy from them. Is a lot of stuff made in China these days, yes, but then that is the case for many countries.

As South African entrepreneurs you may have a problem with the way things are done in Australia. Often there is a lot of paperwork to be completed before you can get anything done, it is their way, learn to live with it. It is often said that the Aussies have a law for everything. I say thank goodness, I enjoy living in a country where the law actually means something and where it is not easy to pay an official a back hander to get the job done which he/she was being paid to do in the first place.

Getting an Aussie driver’s license can be a challenge, especially for those of us who have driven for a long time and who have perhaps acquired a few bad habits! The reason that they make South African’s jump through the hoops is because there are so many fraudulent job references, information on visa applications and false police clearances and passports, that they have just accepted that driver’s licenses that come from South Africa need to be treated the same way, and therefore they have decided that they need to be retested!

Suburbs, and here I can only speak for Melbourne. It is a huge city, and travelling around it you quickly notice that in some areas people take more pride in their gardens than in other parts, however, I think you may find this is the same where ever you go in the world. The only difference is here they have to do their gardens themselves, they do not have access to cheap labour, and a lot of them work long hours, so they have to prioritize their time, they may rather spend it out fishing with their kids rather than working in the garden. It also needs to be remembered that for the last six years Victoria has been in drought circumstances, there are some serious water restrictions, so please tell me, especially moving into a newly built home, how do you make a garden if you are not allowed to water it everyday. I personally love the stone gardens, nothing to mow, nothing to water, nothing that can die, and it looks neat and tidy. We have one in our front garden and we have received many compliments from folks about how great it looks. Lawn is beautiful, but it is extremely high maintenance and without water it will turn to scrub.

Most Aussies are hard workers, there are many that work for minimum wage, and often have to work long hours to make ends meet. Sometimes it appears as if decisions take forever to be made, that is their way, just learn to live with it. Often it also takes time because they need to check the legal issues of what they want to do. BUT, decisions take time in Australia, do not get worked up about it, take it in your stride!

With regard to the weather, and again I can only really talk about Melbourne, it seems to be a concern for a lot of people. If it is heat you want, go to Brisbane or Cairns, don't come to Melbourne, however if you like a bit of variety and a weather pattern that is constantly changing, you will feel at home in Melbourne. Summer starts around the beginning of November and ends around the end of April. We definitely have all four seasons, summer, autumn, winter and spring. Melbourne has winter rain, when it rains, which has not been often, for the past few years. So winters are generally wet and cold, however, unless your job keeps you outside, there is no need to suffer. Offices are heated, homes are, for the most part, centrally heated, so quite frankly you do not have to suffer too much.

Sports lovers, if you are coming to Victoria, you need to know that it is the home of footy! Most Aussies are as passionate about their footy as South Africans are about their rugby. You are in their country now, so you will either have to learn what their passion is all about, or you will have to make sure you attend the frequent get togethers that the South Africans arrange to watch rugby with like minded folks!

If you enjoy finding ways around rules and regulations and living on the edge, then I think you may end up disliking Australia intensely! They like their laws, for the most part they are law abiding citizens, murders get solved, burglars are found, and politicians are exposed if they do not live and work by the rules. People are held accountable, for the most part, for their actions. That is why Australia is a safe country to live in, I suggest we say thank you that we are able to share in that safety!

Your life in Australia is going to depend on what you make of it. You are the immigrant, not the Australians, you are going to have to adapt, or you may remain unhappy and that would be a sad situation. You are not going to change the way they have done things all their life, you are, unfortunately, the one who is going to have to make the changes. If you can accept that, and revel in the safety in which you can live, then in the long run you can live a fulfilling and happy life in Australia with endless opportunities for your children.

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Hi Mara,

I want to comment on the "red tape" and documentation thing. I have recently registered with my professional body in South Australia, and I was truly amazed! The feedback (constant, relevant & friendly) was an eye opener, and they even arranged for my app to be included even after it missed the deadline because it was lost by the South A post office.

I had the same experience with my skills assessment. I believe when the doc's are in order, you actually get things done. By the way, I am still waiting for my South African professional body to send a letter of good standing to Aus. 4 months and counting (7 emails and lots of calls later)...

Kids are rude, I work with them every day and I expect it. I am worried about the tatoo's and piercings, but language and behaviour wise, I cannot see any country with "better" or "worse" kids.

Cant wait to work with kids and families in Aus. I am sure I'll stick by my statement of above!

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I taught high school for a number of years in SA. I haven't found the number of piercings and tattoos to be any more or worse than the kids in SA. The few teenagers I have spoken to, have been pleasant and helpful. I once chatted with one for over an hour on the tram, she was kind enough to help me get to where I was going.

I think people forget that there are better and worse suburbs, just like in SA. Compare Constantia in the Cape with Brooklyn, or in Gauteng compare Springboknaaipan with Hyde Park. (Yes, I know I am generalising, but you all know the reputation of those areas.)

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Great post Mara! I have been thinking about jotting down my (positive) experiences after reading how unhappy and sad 'lost down under' sounded. We all have different experiences, and as different people respond to circumstances differently.

Thanks for sharing....

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Thank you guys for your positive feedback. I have to agree with Polly above, where you live can also have a huge impact on how you settle in.

I can give you a for instance for Melbourne. Every year they bring out something like a rating list for all Victorian schools, I think it even includes the private ones, but not sure about that. If the school is in the first 100, then obviously you need to try to move heaven and earth to get your kids into one of those schools. If it is a public school, then you would have to live in it's catchment area. Now if the school ends up in the high 400's and above, you need to seriously consider whether or not you want to send your kids there!

For new, without children arrivals, Sydenham, on the north west of Melbourne, may be a fantastic place to live, very affordable, new homes, close to great shopping, BUT I would not suggest it if you have children, the last time I checked the schools rated in the 400's on the list. We rented there for two years, whilst our home was being built. Loved it, great place to live, but I did not have school going kids!

I have said it before and I can only stress it again. Prepare yourselves for a couple of moves when you first arrive and BEFORE you deposit your hard earned R's to buy a property. Try and live in the area, get a feel for it, and only then make your decision to purchase. If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the great areas with great schools then you are truly blessed, unfortunately not everyone has access to those!

You also need to look at the demographics of the area that you want to live in. People of different walks of life tend to stick together, so try and make sure how the area you are looking at is made up. For instance, if you are looking at Box Hill, the greater percentage of folks are from Asian backgrounds, if you look at Doncaster/Templestowe you will hear a lot of SA accents. If you look at Caulfield it is the centre of people with a Jewish background. The same as what you would not live just anywhere in Johannesburg, the same counts for Melbourne, you need time to check it all out!

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Hi Mara

My husband’s brother is a teacher at a school not too far from where we live. The children use alcohol in class and gamble while he is busy giving his lecture for the day...the one child threaten to kill him. He even made a weapon during class... Luckily they decided to expel him from school pending a hearing. Thing is RSA school are not that safe kids are not well behaved. We can't afford to send our children to private schools in RSA so this is the type of children they will have to share a school with.

Lately I have seen so many negative posts and started to doubt moving to Australia. But I have seen a pattern with the people that is negative. Looks like they thought they where going to heaven. Where everything is perfect.

People think South Africa is not regulated but they are wrong we have a lot of laws problem is nobody enforces these laws...that is why things are the way they are here.

I am just concerned to be view as an outsider for ever will we ever fit in?

Thanks for the post I decided to spend my time planning our move to Australia and to focus on the positive and not the negatives.

C

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Hey Chantelle . . . . . you go girl!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks Mara, and all the others. I also have an 8 year old in Gr 2 . . . . . . . . . . some of the children are so bad mannered that its not even true. And there are drugs, cigarettes, porn magazines, weapons etc going around in SA schools as well.

Toodles

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Hi Mara

Thank you for a frank an honest take on life in Aus. It seems as though most countries work the same.... there are good and bad areas. I cannot comment on Aus or life there as I haven't been there yet. I teach in a government school in SA and many parents are now moving their children to our school from private schools as the fees at private schools are too high and they are not seeing that there is that great a difference between the standards at our school and at some of our neighbouring private schools, just bigger classes (we have on average 30 - 35 children in each class). Now I know that not 5km away there are government school that I would not want to send my child to and I would not want to work there either. Generally it depends on the amount of support the school receives from its parent body. If the parents support the school and the teachers then the school is cool, but when the parents question every decision you make or are just not part of the children's lives (and here it may be due to seriously long hours not the parents fault at all) you will have problem children.

As for the law. It is scary that in the last 2 years I have noticed that while yes the taxis are BAD!!!! It is not just the taxis any more. It seems many people have the attitude if they can do it why can't we and that is even scarier. Last year I was in a serious traffic jam. Stood still for at least 30 minutes on the highway. I was panicing because hubby was on his motorbike ahead of me. I did not know if he was part of the problem or not and well I am a worry wart so panic sets in. Then down the side of you, you will see plenty cars speeding down the emergency lane (in the days we still had one before road works!!!!) So many in fact that emergency vehicles could not get to the accident scene. Now it turned out to be dead cow on the road, I think someone must either have hit it or it fell off a truck and hit a car, either way the people in the car needed help. This they had to wait for, not because of taxis but because of regular road users who decided that they needed to get somewhere and to hell with anyone else. I think after even 2 years away from here you may be shocked to see the difference on our roads. Yes we live with it daily but is it acceptable to speed because you can bribe your way out of a fine???

I wont even start on the sorry state of our roads now that almost every major road in Gauteng is being "Upgraded" for the 2010 soccer. (the roads in the suburbs have more holes than swiss cheese). The roads are now jammed from about 6 am because so many people are trying to avoid the rush that 6 am is now the rush too and it doesn't make it quieter later either. I am very VERY gald to work 2 minutes from home as sitting on our highways everyday would have me needing serius amounts of prozac.

So anyone out there who is feeling depressed or missing home go out and find your nearest traffic jam and sit in it for at least 2 hours, much cheaper that a flight, if you are missing family, that is different. That is my main worry about leaving. Not the rules, but the people I will miss!!!

Nes

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The biggest problem, I think, with migration is : You need to look forward to what you can achieve and not spend your days looking back at what you have already achieved.

Although I have written this previously on this website, it is probably most appropriate for those still in the worrying phase about their move to Australia. A quick overview of the last 16 years of our journey.

When we decided to make the move, we were partners in an extremely successful electrical engineering business in Witbank. At that time we earned six figure salaries, owned a luxury home, drove company vehicles, luxury caravan and a V8 jetboat, with four servants to pick up and 'do' for us! We weighed our options, two sons, the eldest was 23 and had completed his five years of a law degree, the youngster was just finishing matric. We could afford to send them overseas to study and hopefully that way they would eventually get PR, but that would mean hubby and I would never be able to really live close to them. The thought of only seeing them perhaps once a year did not sit well with us. The only other option was for the four of us to make the move...not an easy decision, hubby and I were already 44 years old, starting again from scratch was not what we had envisaged at this stage of our lives. We weighed our options, Canada too cold, England miserable weather, Australia union interference, USA not an option as eldest son would have to redo his whole law degree, so that left New Zealand, I wanted to go to an English speaking country. We went to a seminar on New Zealand, liked what we saw, submitted our application and got our approval two months later for hubby and I and the youngest son. The eldest would have to migrate on his own as 'last remaining member of the family'. He was busy with his articles, so he followed a year later. Hubby got a job the first day that he went out looking, I got a job within the first week that I went out looking, youngest son was accepted at University for the degree of his choice. A year later the eldest son arrived and enroled to do his masters and the one conversion course that he needed. We lived in Auckland for 3,5 years, gained our NZ citizenship and at that time hubby was head hunted to Melbourne, so we made the move, just three of us though, the eldest son made the decision to remain in Auckland. Fast forward another 11,5 years: Two homes later (built both) we live in Sunbury, which is on the edge of the Melbourne metropolitan area, we own our own large home, with a purpose built shed in the backyard from where hubby runs his own very successful electrical engineering business. I prefer to work and have done so, for the same company, as financial manager for the past 8,5 years. Youngest son runs his own very succesful electrical engineering business, is married with three kids. The eldest son, with a business partner, opened their own law practice in Auckland six years ago, and are doing extremely well for themselves. Our children have had opportunities that would probably never have been available to them in SA, they have had an excellent education, have settled extremely well and love their lives here. At 23 and 18 years old when we left, they have the ability to make the comparison between the countries and to have stressed more than once, "Thank you for bringing us here".

Has it been hard? You betcha!

Would we do it again? In a heartbeat!

Do I still miss my family, daily? Forever!

I have found over the years, life is what you make of it, so go out there and live it! It has a way of looking after itself!

If I have only put one mind at rest about their proposed journey to Australia, then I have done what I set out to do....

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Thanks Mara and everyone for your great posts!

We leave for Victoria in a week, and can't wait to start our new lives in Wonthaggi. We also believe that life is what you make it, and it's up to us to make a success of it. No doubt we will miss our families terribly, but will deal with it one day at a time.

Keep the great posts coming - you are all an inspiration!

Regards

Pixel

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Thank you Mara for being so generous with yourself and families life!

As always, one can bank on you to give it to us straight! No fluffy no frills, just the truth!

Thank you

Stranded

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Thank you Pixel and Stranded for your kind words. I trust that your journeys to Australia will be all that you have wished for!

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I have found over the years, life is what you make of it, so go out there and live it! It has a way of looking after itself!

Thank you for your post Mara. I would have to say that I completely agree with you, especially with your statement above.

Life can sometimes throw many a curve ball... you've just gotta hit them right back!!!

Thank you for sharing your story again.

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Thanx for sharing Mara.

You are absolutely right - stop looking backwards and start looking forwards - great advice.

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Thanks for the words, Mara.

Right now I need a lot of encouragement and even thoughI have never met anyone on this site, just reading on the story, makes me feel good inside.

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