My Moving to Australia Story
Before we start, just a little bit about myself.
My name is Cecilia Gallet and I am a girl from a small island situated in the middle of nowhere, Mauritius Island. I’ve always loved travelling, so I decided to undertake my studies overseas. After 4 years in Cape Town I thought of going to Australia to work, but the Covid Pandemic got in the way. So I, unfortunately, had to fly back to the nest to start my career there, hopefully. I worked in the film industry for a few months, but the industry went quiet for a while, and I ended up working in a small grocery shop, barely seeing my friends as I would be working on weekends. Being very spontaneous and active, I entered a routine that I hated and honestly felt miserable. It is no surprise that my wanderlust came back quicker than I thought. Then, one day, out of nowhere, my cousin, who lives in Perth, sent me a picture of a street sign in the vines that had my name on it… I just took it as a sign of the universe, it was finally time for me to discover Australia.
To be fair, for the first time ever, I was quite scared to leave my nest. My grandmother had just died, so it was harder to say goodbye to my loved ones. It was also the first time I would fully fly towards the unknown by myself, not knowing what would happen. It was not like I was going to study with an idea of where I would be living, I had no jobs, no plans. But wait… The unknown is what I love… I mean, have you seen pictures of Australia? This beautiful red dirt, the wonderful hues of blue of the ocean, the most attractive beaches in the world, the greens of the lush rainforest and the wildlife that you would see nowhere else, I had to see this for myself.
So I packed my bag and I left my small island again, my heart heavy, yet feeling absolutely excited about the new adventures that would come my way.
Before taking off to my new life, I had to go through a lot of admin, which was quick and easy.
The Visa Journey
The most important and first thing that I did was to apply for my visa. I applied for a Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417), which allows me to work for a year in Australia in order to fund my stay and which can be renewed for another 2 years under specific conditions (work 3 months of specific work to validate your second WHV and or 6 months to validate your third WHV).
- To hold a passport from an eligible country.
- Be between 18 and 30 years old (could be extended to 35 years old for some specific countries).
- Proof that you have enough money to sustain yourself in Australia and leave the country. The sum expected is around 5000 Australian dollars.
I applied online and the process went very smoothly. After completing the online questionnaire and submitting documents (copy of my passport, banking statements, etc.) I was asked to go through a medical test. Bear in mind that the medical test needs to be done in one of the facilities approved by the Australian Government.
The Department of Affairs’s website explains everything about the WHV Sub 417. If you are not eligible for this specific visa, do not hesitate to check out the different types of visas they offer. The website is very well explained and I found it easy to use and find all the information I need.
Relocation and Removals
As a backpacker, I wanted to travel as light as possible. I knew I was going to get in Australia during summer so 95% of my backpack was filled with summer clothes as I told myself I would do some shopping in Australia.
Packing is something very personal and everyone has different preferences, but if I had one piece of advice to give to someone that is planning to move around Australia, pack as lightly as you can! As my grandad’s brother would say “as long as you have your toothbrush, wallet and passport, you are good!”.
All jokes aside, try to pack clothes keeping in mind the season, bring your necessary chargers, don’t forget your passport, important papers, and I promise you will be fine. There is nothing you can’t find in Oz. The array of products you can find in shops or online is absolutely incredible.
Finding Your Australian Home
Before flying to Australia I researched a lot about accommodation and where I should be heading first. I decided to go straight to Perth as my cousin stayed there and offered to have me for a few weeks while I tried to find a place to stay. To be honest, even though I had researched a lot about Australia, I was not prepared for how nice Perth was. The mix of old and modern architecture of the CBD, how it is so green everywhere, the beaches, the cutest cafés… It took my breath away.
The house-hunting process was not that easy for only reason that I had planned to stay in Perth for less than 3 months. Otherwise, many places were available for longer stays and they did not seem too hard to find. I used websites such as Facebook Marketplace, Flatmates, Flatmate Finders and I joined a few housing groups on Facebook.
Once I moved to Kalbarri, I ended up staying in a hostel for 5 weeks before a few backpackers and I found a small house to live in. It was a bit more challenging as Kalbarri is a very small town and most houses are either occupied or holiday houses.
Navigating Australian Culture
Once I arrived in Australia I got to experience Perth’s culture straight away. The one main thing that absolutely blew me away would be the coffee culture here. Honestly, the best coffee I’ve had in my whole entire life! If you are a coffee lover, you will be in paradise! But good luck with finding cafés open after 3pm. Also, tipping is not compulsory, unlike in some countries.
To be fair, I did not have much of a culture shock as Australia has a very similar etiquette to where I’m from. It’s a very laid-back place where you can just enjoy a nice “barbie” (barbeque) and a beer in the arvo. Be ready to learn the Aussie slang!
Opening a bank account was very easy. As long as you have your passport with a valid visa, tax information and proof of address you are good. Some banks even offer to open your bank up to 14 days prior to your arrival in Australia. You then have a few days to get to the branch of your choice to present your documents.
I waited until I arrived in Perth to open my bank account and I received my new bank card within a few days. In the meantime, I managed to transfer money from my home country easily by doing an international transfer.
Career or Business
As mentioned previously, I came to Aussie on a working holiday visa, which means I can work without many restrictions. Finding a job was not too hard, it seems to me that they are always looking for staff. I found my first job through an online platform. For the second one, I walked into a café and saw a “We are hiring” sign, so I dropped my CV and I started a few days later. For my actual job, I contacted the place with my CV attached to the email and I thankfully got a positive answer.
If you are willing to walk around, drop off your CV and contact as many businesses as possible, you will definitely find something here.
In Australia, you have different types of employment, such as Full-time, Part-time and Casual, which is very different to where I’m from. Workers are very protected by the government, and I highly recommend going through Fair Work’s website as everything is broken down and explained very nicely.
From what I have heard, the Australian healthcare system is one of the best in the world. Medicare is the public health insurance here, allowing its customers free or cheaper access to health care.
Unfortunately, not everyone can enrol in Medicare. As my health insurance back home would not cover me overseas and I could not enrol in Medicare, I took an “In-patient” health cover from a private health insurance company here in case of an emergency.
So many private health insurance companies offer affordable health coverage, and I highly recommend being insured as health services are very expensive in Australia.
Building Connections and Interacting with Local and Expat Communities
It is always scary to move to a new country mainly if you know no one and/or if you are traveling by yourself. Except for a few people that I knew from back home when I got to Australia, I had no other friends. But trust me, Aussies are super warm, welcoming and kind and I had no problems making new friends. If you are an extrovert and don’t mind going out to pubs, clubs, etc. to mingle with the local community, do it. If you are a bit of an introvert like myself, that’s alright! I joined a few Facebook groups, and so many events are organized for people to meet others with the same interests. Be on the lookout for these, these events are awesome. And to be fair, all you need is to find that one person that will introduce you to other people, and soon you’ll be surrounded by a lovely group of people.
As a backpacker, I travel around and often sleep with backpackers, allowing me to meet many travellers. The backpacking community is also very welcoming as we usually relate to each other.
I haven’t felt out of place once since I arrived. Whether it is the local or the expat community, everyone has been very welcoming and curious about where I am from.
Experiencing Australian Cuisine
Cuisines from all over the world highly influence Australian Cuisine, and you can find absolutely everything here. Moreover, with the different climates, you can find a wide variety of locally grown or produced ingredients. Whether vegetables, fruits, meats or seafood, most products are usually great quality.
On the more traditional side, Australian tastes come from wild food, also known as bush tucker. Some of the native ingredients are Kakadu plums, Macadamia nuts and Lemon Myrtles.
A few of my favourites are mainly snacks and sweets such as Tim Tams, Milo and Weet-Bix.
Local Sports Culture
Australia is a very sporty country and has sports events all year round. Being a rugby and surf fan, I am in paradise. However, there is one sport that I had never heard of before coming here and that Australians adore: Australian Football or Footy. There is such an incredible atmosphere at footy games, so if you have the chance, watch one.
Once I got to Oz, I knew I wanted to get my own transport so I could get around Western Australia. When I was in Perth, I used trains and buses and occasionally drove my cousin’s car. To be honest, Perth does not have the best train services as you can mainly catch them in the metro area. If you live a little bit out of town, you might only be able to catch buses; if you live way out of town, then having your own car might be the only option. As a result, I found it best to have my own car there.
After working for a few weeks, I was able to buy myself one. I chose a vehicle that would be reliable, that could handle a little bit of dirt roads and that would allow me to lower the back seats so I could get a nice night of sleep when travelling around the country.
Finding a car here is not so difficult. A few advices I could give you would be:
- Know exactly what types of vehicle you would like (caravan for the extra comfort, 4WD for some off-road fun, hatchback, etc.) and then try to find something that fits your budget
- If you use Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, be careful of the scammers and try to get someone who really knows cars or, even better, a mechanic to check the car when you go view it
- Try to go for brands that are highly used in Australia, it is easier to get spare parts in case of emergency