Like most people in their early twenties, I’ve lost count of the friends and acquaintances that have decided to leave Ireland for a better life abroad. Number one on the list for many would-be emigrants is Australia. To hear people wax lyrical about the land down under, you would believe that it is a perfect land, where opportunities abound like the rain does in Ireland.
I lived in Australia for six months in 2009. Luckily enough, as a UL student, I was able to study abroad for a semester, and my semester happened to be in Murdoch University, in Western Australia. It was a great experience and it is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever had the fortune to visit, but there are some things about life down under that are a little surprising. If you’re thinking of moving to Australia, here are some things you really should know:
1. It is expensive. It was dear three years ago but my correspondent back in Perth tells me it’s worse now. Because of the exchange rate, you might be unsure just how far $20 stretches. It doesn’t stretch far at all. $10 goes nowhere. On my last day in Oz, I had $7.50 to my name. It barely covered a mini-wrap at a fast-food restaurant. This wrap was extremely mini: about the size of a Lion Bar. The one good thing about this, wages are high to compensate for the high cost of living (depending on what you do, of course). Big things like houses and cars are relatively cheap, which is why so many Aussies seem to live in mansions.
2. The old cliché- it’s a bloody big country. It really, really is. You have no idea of the scale until you go there. Perth has a relatively small centre, but a vast network of suburbs, which, without a car, are hard enough to negotiate. The public transport system is good, unlike Ireland. But because the distances are so great, I still had to get up at 7am to visit my aunt who lived in north Perth (I lived in south Perth). Outside of the cities, things get even vaster. It’s 1400km to Broome, north Western Australia. Compare that with Ireland- well you can’t, we don’t even have somewhere that far away. It takes five and half hours to fly from Perth to Sydney, and three days on the train. You’d be pretty foolhardy to drive it but if you did it would take at least four days. You can fit Europe in Australia, if you lop off a bit of Russia.
3. It gets cold in the winter. You won’t believe it, but it does. Not Irish cold, mind, but cold enough to need a hot water bottle. Also in the winter, darkness descends suddenly at 5pm. Some suburbs in Perth have quite sporadic streetlighting, so night is really night. On the plus side, the stars are very visible, if you’re the romantic type.
4. And now for some good news. Unless you run around barefoot in the Outback, poking bushes with a stick, shouting “Chicken!”, you probably won’t encounter much in the way of the nastier Aussie wildlife, at least in the cities. There aren’t words to describe how much I detest and fear snakes, but I never saw one in the wild. Not one. In the outback things are naturally different, so exercise caution.
5. Their chocolate is awful. Horrendous. Tastes like it melted in the sun and then was shoved hastily in the fridge, which it probably was. All is not lost, though as there are some yummy treats: biscuits (unaffected by the melting process, Aussie chocolate biscuits are yummy), cakes, barbecue sauce, and Dominos. You can buy European chocolate, there are ‘English’ sweet shops dotted around the country, but the prices are pretty extortionate. Saviours for chocolate lovers include Lindt, which is relatively cheap, and (Aussie Tesco) Cole’s imported Belgian chocolate. Oh, and once you’ve had Aussie Skittles, there’s no going back to Irish.
Well, that’s the skinny on some of the most important facets on life in Oz. Join us for more next week on life down under, and remember, if you fancy bring a lump of turf from the Ould Sod, watch Nothing to Declare and think again!
This appeared on Studenty.me on May 31 2012. See Part 2 here.