If you’ve been following me on social media, you probably know that I am currently living abroad in Melbourne, Australia. About a year and a half ago, I started working for the customer marketing team of the top beauty brand in New York City. It seemed like the absolute dream job, but after just a couple months there, I knew it was a totally wrong fit for me. After graduating from university about six months before that, I was completely lost when it came time to think about my future, and once I was offered the position in New York, it seemed like everything was falling into place. So going back into that state of confusion and uncertainty was the last place I wanted to be. After looking into some other jobs and opportunities abroad, a friend and I started talking about going to Australia. At first, I just thought about coming for a holiday because how could I just up and move to the other side of the world?! The more I thought about it and realised how unhappy I was in New York, the more reasonable going to Australia seemed. So before I knew it, I had been approved for a yearlong working holiday visa and booked a one-way flight to Sydney.
Everyone asked me if I was nervous before I left, but I really didn’t feel nervous at all. Even after arriving in Australia, I adjusted to the lifestyle immediately and didn’t feel homesick once. I feel like Australia is where I’m meant to be at this point in my life, and to be honest the only things I’ve ever missed from home are my family and my dog! Now, after being in Australia for six months, I think I’m happier than I’ve ever been before!
Since arriving in Australia, I have met so many people from all over the world who are travelling around and working in Australia just like I am. It seems like this is becoming the new thing to do in your twenties when you are unsure of what you want to do with the rest of your life. Because there are so many people moving abroad like I did (and I’ve even heard of a few people from home who are planning to do the same), I thought I’d put together a little list of things you should know in order to make adjusting to life in Australia (or anywhere else abroad) that little bit easier! 🙂
Get an Australian SIM Card
If you have a smart phone, one of the first things you should do when you arrive in Australia is get an Australian SIM card and phone number. Most smart phones are unlocked for international use, so all you need to do is buy the new SIM and pop it into your phone! You can get great phone deals that include calling, texting, data, and sometimes international minutes. The most popular phone companies tend to be Optus and Vodafone, but Telstra and Virgin Mobile are also good options. Having a phone number will allow you to keep in touch with new people you meet, give a local phone number when applying for jobs, and use your maps and social media when you are outside wifi.
Apply for a Tax File Number
One of the first things you should do when you arrive in Australia and plan to work is apply for a Tax File Number online. I didn’t even know I needed one until I was hired in my job, but you can’t get paid without one! It only takes about 20 minutes to apply online, but it can take up to a month to actually receive it. Even if you haven’t started the job search, apply for a TFN straight away, so once you do start working there won’t be any delay in getting paid.
Open an Australian bank account
Something else you’ll need in order to get paid when you start working is an Australian bank account. Again, it’s super quick and easy to open and most plans have no fees for the first year. When I met with someone to open my account, it only took about a half hour to get it all set up, and a few days later, I received my Australian debit card. Your bank will also set you up a superannuation account, which goes toward retirement. A little bit of each paycheck will go into this account, but when you leave Australia at the end of your visa, you can withdraw that money for no charge—a nice little way to get back on your feet after moving back to your home country.
Stay in a hostel when you first arrive
This is the best way to meet new people, and most people in hostels are always so friendly and open to making new friends. Even if people in hostels have a lot of cultural differences, they all share the same love for travel that I think really bonds people together. Hostels usually have boards with job postings, or you could even work in the hostel to get a discount on your rent. Even after I had been in Australia for four months, I moved back into a hostel for a couple months. It’s a really great experience, and I met so many new friends. I’ll do another blog post on living in a hostel long-term at some point soon!
Research cities and stay there for a couple weeks before deciding to stay there long-term
Before getting a job or apartment and locking yourself into living in a certain city, make sure you can actually see yourself staying there. Do some research on the different cities and decide what type of atmosphere you’re looking for. If you want to spend most of your time on the beach, the Gold Coast might be the best spot for you. If you like artsy European cities, check out Melbourne. If you want to be surrounded by endless things to see and do, try Sydney. I was really lucky and fell in love with Melbourne right away, but all Australian cities are different and it might take you a few tries to find a city that’s the perfect fit for you.
Become friends with Australians
Being a traveller and spending time in a hostel, you tend to gravitate towards other travellers since you have so much in common. That’s amazing and most of the friends I’ve made are international like I am, but also make sure to befriend some Aussies to really immerse yourself in the culture. The easiest ways to meet Aussies are through work and Aussie housemates who can introduce you to their friends.
Set a budget and stick to it
When you first arrive in a new country, it can be easy to get swept up in everything and take every opportunity to go out for nice meals, book trips, and do special excursions around your city. This can be especially easy if you are from the US, UK, or Europe where the exchange rate is in your favour. But you’ll quickly see your savings going down, so to avoid having to cut back too much, try to set a budget from the beginning of how much you want to spend per day or per week. Once you start working, you can increase your budget a little, but make sure you save enough to cover your living expenses and all the trips you plan to take while you’re abroad and of course be able to pay for a flight home at the end of your visa.
Plan some trips in advance, but also leave some room for flexibility
Since I arrived, I have made a list of all the places I hope to visit during my year in Australia. For some of those places, I’ll just go when I have the opportunity or if I find great deals on airfare. But for some places, make sure to plan ahead on at least the general time you want to go. For example, I would love to visit Uluru but it is ridiculously hot there in the summer, so I will plan to visit in July or August when it’s a little cooler there. Certain parts of Asia and the Pacific also have wet and dry seasons, so visiting Bali when it’s in hurricane season of course wouldn’t be ideal.
Once you have money in an Aussie account, avoid using your foreign debit/credit card
Unless you absolutely need to dip into your savings from back home, only use your Aussie card so you won’t get charged international fees.
Try the local foods
One of the best ways to experience a new culture is to taste all the foods that the locals love! In Australia, make sure to try pavlova, Tim Tams, kangaroo (in steak or burger form), vegemite (it gets a bad reputation with non-Aussies but you still need to try it at least once), meat pies, and honeycomb desserts (usually coated in chocolate). Also be sure to eat as much Asian food as possible while you’re in Australia, because it’s way better than any Asian food you’ll find back home (unless you’re from Asia obviously 🙂 )
Avoid applying for jobs online
If you apply for a job online, your CV can easily get lost in the shuffle. I learned pretty quickly that applying for jobs online would get me nowhere. Depending on what type of work you’re interested in, either look for jobs through connections or stop in to apply in person. If you are hoping to work in hospitality, either a restaurant or a bar, bring your CV and ask if you can talk to a manager then and there about a job. A friend of mine did this and was asked to come back for dinner service that night and was hired on the spot. If you are looking to work in other aspects of the travel industry or in an office job, use any and all connections you can find. When I moved into an apartment, my housemate worked for a company that I loved the sound of, and before I knew it, I was hired by them too! You can find connections with friends and people you know. But you can also use online resources to get a feel for job availabilities. In Melbourne, there is a Facebook group called Melbourne Backpackers where people post about everything from jobs to apartments to items for sale. I’m sure every major city in Australia has a similar group, so definitely be sure to use that!
Travel abroad, but spend even more time travelling around Australia
You only get a limited amount of time to live in Australia, so try to get as much out of that experience as possible! Australia is a huge country, and I’m already wondering how I’ll fit in everything I want to see! Since you’re so close, you’d be crazy not to go to New Zealand, Bali, and Southeast Asia but if you can, save up money from your job in Australia so you can spend some time travelling around those places after your visa ends and before you go home.
Don’t live in one city for your whole visa
Even if you love the city where you live, be open to trying out a new city too… It might be the only chance you get! I absolutely love Melbourne, but toward the end of my visa, I would love to spend some more time exploring the Sydney area and road trip up the east coast.
Get out of your comfort zone
Try things you might not normally do at home. Go skydiving, scuba dive, eat new foods, go hiking, stay out until morning, book a last minute flight… you get the idea!
Don’t feel bad about splurging on unforgettable experiences
And lastly, no matter how much of a budget you’re on, some experiences are worth the splurge. Besides, cool things like snorkelling and skydiving and spontaneous road trips are the types of things you’re saving up for anyway!
Australia has been such an amazing experience so far, and I can’t believe my year here is already halfway over. It’s been so fun and busy in fact, that I have had barely any time to blog about all the exciting things I’ve done! I have just moved from a hostel into a house though and have more quiet time and better wifi, so I’m determined to start blogging more regularly now! Since my last blog post, I have also travelled to Tasmania, Cairns, Sydney again, the Blue Mountains, and lots of cool places around Melbourne so I’ll have lots of exciting stuff to share. If you’re planning to apply for a working holiday visa or have any questions about living abroad in Australia, please let me know in a comment!
Hi I’m Christie, a 28-year-old girl originally from Boston who has spent time living in New York City, North Carolina, France, Australia, and New Zealand. I love moving to new places and exploring them as a local, and I can’t see my nomadic expat life stopping any time soon! I have no greater passion than travel, and when I’m not exploring I spend my free time reminiscing on past trips and daydreaming about future travel.