Sunny days, beachy tans and no worries, right? Well yes, but not all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Australia, but it is a new country, new surroundings and it’s a lot of learning by trial and error. Moving across the world is a massive change. Here’s a few things that I’ve come to find out in my three months here.
It Still Can Be Chilly
Australia, the land of sun, beaches and the outback; living life in nothing but your bikini, shorts, crop tops and the occasional cardigan for the “chilly” days. WRONG. Bring a sweater, in fact bring a few! Most of us, myself included (until coming down here), think that Australia means constant sunshine, working on your tan and hot, hot temperatures all the time. While Aus does get incredible weather (hot, humid, plus 30-40 degrees Celsius sticky), especially in the summer here in Queensland (so I’m told, we arrived with winter), they still do have a winter season. I mean, their winter is NOTHING like winter back home in Canada. Their winter in Brisbane was more like our fall weather. It’s chilly in the mornings, nice (like 24 degrees Celsius) in the afternoons and then dips down again once the sun sets. That being said, I definitely didn’t pack enough sweaters and had to buy an extra one for Queensland. Here in South Australia I haven’t seen the weather get above 17 degrees and I’ve had to buy a fleece sweater, mittens AND a toque. We woke up in the van one morning to -1, feels like -6 degrees weather! DON’T UNDERESTIMATE AUSTRALIA. Bring a least one sweater! And for sure bring a raincoat!
Job Hunting is Frustrating No Matter Where You Are
It may be even more frustrating as a backpacker on a working holiday here in Australia. On a WHV, you can only work for one employer for a maximum of 6 months, which means many employers don’t want to bother with you. I’m lucky because I am here on my New Zealand passport, and I don’t have working restrictions; but, Kels definitely has to face this dilemma. When we were in Brisbane it was difficult for us because we relied on online job sites to find out what sort of work was available, and we had no idea what any of the local companies are, so there’s extra research. We preferred Indeed and Seek over Gumtree (the Aussie version of Kijiji) for jobsites. Walking into a place with a CV is also recommended. Apply, apply, apply – and hope your hear back for a few for interviews. No matter where you are it is always stressful to head into an interview. I realized I hadn’t packed a proper interview outfit (rookie mistake), so I had to buy myself a totally new one. PSA: To anyone looking to do a WHV, bring a proper outfit, including closed toes shoes. Don’t pull a Dani and have a breakdown in a shopping mall because you are a terrible shopper and don’t know how to girl.
Your Degree May Mean Nothing
Australia and Canada are decently similar, right? Both English speaking countries, part of the commonwealth; the degrees we took in school and the “international” certifications and the thousands of dollars we’ve spent on our education back home in Canada should be recognized then, right? Again, WRONG. Kels has literally been told that it’s “nice” that he has his degree, but they care more about the experience you already have. He’s been told that his certifications don’t allow him to work with all populations of people, only athletes. I’ve been questioned what the hell Kinesiology even is. So a lesson to everyone else, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Check to see what certifications transfer over, see if you need to take extra tests, or pay extra money to be able to work in your profession. What I’ve heard from most backpackers though, is that it’s easiest to find jobs in hospitality, or tourism, or basically things that you feel WAY OVER QUALIFIED FOR BUT YOU SETTLE ANYWAYS BECAUSE MONEY. Honestly though, we’re in Australia, getting the chance to try new things and live in a different country, so we can’t complain.
Your Coffee Order is Probably Different Here
Don’t expect to come to Australia and instantly find a Starbucks. And if you do – I shame you. Australia is full of so many unique and delicious options for cafes that you’d be silly to stick with a corporation (plus the cute cafes outnumber the Starbucks infinitely). Australia’s coffee culture is growing – and I can honestly say that their coffee is 325890 times better than most that I’ve had back home in Canada. Back home, I would order a Black Americano (Espresso shots with hot water); here, it is called a Long Black. One our last trip I made the mistake of ordering an Iced Coffee – instead of a black coffee with ice (which is what I was expecting) – I got a coffee with ice cream and whipped cream! They may have different terminology for your order as well! Aussies still do plenty of lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites – but don’t expect them to put all that sugar shit in them. Gone are the days of half sweet-skinny-hold the whip-extra sprinkles-half caramel- one pump pumpkin spice lattes ladies. Aussies do coffee like it’s supposed to – simple. One alteration that you definitely can still get here is in your milk- most cafes have heaps of options; soy, almond, rice, coconut you name it! So coffee lovers, be prepared to fall in love with coffee all over again – and double check you know what you’re ordering!
Things Are Paid Weekly
This isn’t anything really life changing, but definitely something to get used to when budgeting! You’ll look at a apartment to rent and think $400 is cheap as, until you realize that it is $400 each week; all of a sudden not very budget friendly. We found it was the same for gym memberships as well! Again, nothing crazy, but definitely different.
Plans Will Change, and Then Change Again
Kels and I planned to stay in Brisbane with his relatives for the first six months of our journey. The plan was to find work, make some money, and then pop over to New Zealand for Christmas with my family. Well, two months in and we gave up on city life. We bought a van and began searching for farm work. We were open to most fruit picking/farm work jobs as long as we stayed in Queensland. Instead we’re working on a dairy farm in South Australia (buh-bye tan). This definitely wasn’t what we had expected – nor planned for, but we’re making it work! It’s all about realizing what is and isn’t working, and doing what is in YOUR control. Plans change, that’s okay! It’s all part of the adventure, you need to be open to change and realize that nothing is ever going to be exactly as you hoped. Kels’ and I have a new motto that is super fitting to our new job – Smile through the Shit.
Farm Work Isn’t Always Easy To Find
If you’re on your 417 WHV like Kels is, you’ll need to complete 88 days of regional work in order to extend your one year visa to a two year. We spoke with a few Aussie locals about wanting to start our farm work, and the reaction across the board was generally “Oh, that should be easy, there’s so much fruit to be picked, you’ll be right!”. There’s a lot of fruit to be picked yes, but it does also depend on the season as well as your location. My tip? Get it done sooner rather than later! Plan to start your year off with the farm work, and don’t leave it until the last minute, just in case! Kels and I applied to over FIFTY jobs on job board such as Gumtree, Backpackers Job Board, Fruit Picking Jobs among many others. We heard back from a few, turned down a few (Read more about that here) and in the end, posted our own ad on Gumtree stating we were a couple looking for work. We got a response back from an incredible group of families on a dairy farm and so far it’s working out! Keep your hopes up, know that it may take a few weeks to find work, know that the work you will be doing is hard and thrive off the new experiences.
You Will Be Lost
And not in a way that Google Maps can help you out. I mean you’ll find yourself questioning what possessed you to pack your life into a bag or two and fly to the other side of the earth. You’ll miss family, miss routine and miss the familiarity that you’ve grown used to. I won’t lie, Kels and I have found ourselves questioning this move multiple times; was this smart to do, are we dumb for doing this, WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH OUR LIVES!? WHY THE HECK ARE WE GETTING SHIT ON BY COWS AT 6AM IN THE MORNING. But the good news is we have each other to stay grounded; plus, we’re in an absolutely beautiful and safe country. It can be hard, but you’ve just got to keep a positive mindset, find the positives in everything and trust that everything will work out. Try to keep in touch with friends/family back home (despite the time difference), make new friends in Aus and enjoy this once and a lifetime experience!
It Is More Gorgeous Than Photos, and The Best Experience That You Will Ever Have
It’s not easy, but nothing good ever is! It’s a new challenge every day, and it’s discovering who you are all over again! It’s beautiful beaches, stressful moments, friendly people, birds that sound like monkeys, ocean as far as the eye can see, or maybe farmers fields as far as the eye can see. It’s kangaroos, roadtrips, bikinis, good coffee, cold mornings and overall an absolutely incredible experience. I wouldn’t change this opportunity for anything. I’ve learned that I can only control what I can control, and that my attitude is everything. I’ve learned that free wifi is hard to find, and good free wifi is even harder (Travel Hack: PUBLIC LIBRARIES FOR THE WIN). The views that Kels and I have seen have taken our breathes away, and that’s really saying something since this is Australia round two for us. This country is full of surprises, I can’t wait to see what’s in store next!