Everything you need to know about moving to the Brisbane, by long time expert expat Chev Christie.
Australia is big.
If you live in Europe, there’s nothing to which you can you can compare it. It’s bigger than the continental US, and takes longer to fly across. Distances mean nothing out here and driving the equivalent of John O’Groats to Lands End for shopping is not considered outrageous. Yes Australia is big.
Queensland is big, too; out of the six states and two territories, Queensland is the second largest populated with New South Wales the first. However, Queensland does boast the largest coastal region.
From rainforest to desert, from mountains to beach, Queensland is probably the most diverse of the states, both from a holiday and residential perspective, and is slowly but surely loosing its reputation of being one big country town.
Growing up into a city, Brisbane has taken on all the trappings associated with being a focal point. Its café society is thriving, graffiti is on the up, designer shops are increasing as is the crime rate; but before you write the place off, it is probably a whole lot safer than other cities in the world and one heck of a lot cheaper.
The cost of living has increased over the last 15yrs but is still well below the likes of the UK, for example. You can get just about everything you would in the UK shops, apart from gravy granules which I still crave, and the Ozzies still have to make a good sausage and cure bacon like the Brits, but there is still no need to fill up your freight with things which you usually have a home; if you get desperate there are expat shops over here which cater for us saddo’s.
Customs regulations here are seriously strict, so don’t even attempt to smuggle anything in as you will get caught and you will get prosecuted. If you need to bring in supplies of medication, bring them with you in your luggage rather than freight, along with a letter from your doctor. Airport customs tend to be more lenient than the freight depot and the dogs are a whole lot friendlier, too.
Driving in Australia
Driving is as per the UK - that is, on the left - with a license easily obtained. But be prepared to surrender your overseas one. Road rules vary from state to state, but on the whole are much the same as elsewhere… although there are big fines for drinking and driving and numerous spot checks.
Buying a car is very easy, as is obtaining finance, so no problems there. If you choose to hire, then the major companies such as Hertz and Avis are here along with several others. The RACQ is the major automotive club with reciprocal arrangements with other states should you want to tour. Car insurance is easy to obtain and can be arranged through car dealers, on line or financial institutions such as banks. Don’t forget to bring your “NoClaims” cert with you.
There are major theme parks within a 40 minute drive of the city; change the koalas for a mouse and you could be in America. This, along with water parks and movie themed parks, and you have lots of scope - plus where else in the world do they have a beach in the city patrolled by hunky looking life guards ?
Clubs and societies abound from Masons to Rotary to Scouts and Guides, so bring along copies of your membership or service records to make things easier to join. Take your time, though, on choosing where to take your allegiance, as there are literally bucket loads of volunteer organisations who will walk on hot coals for your spare time.
Brisbane is known as the River City, so this is a good chance to try something you may never have done before in the water sports department; there are loads of cycle tracks to explore but remember the wearing of cycle helmets is compulsory and enforced.
The River plays a huge part in the life of the city on an everyday basis, with water traffic being a form of commuting to and from work. The City Cats make a splendid sight majestically, parting the waters for office workers and tourists alike and there is even a paddle steamer for a swanky dinner date which is just most splendid for a night cruise. The annual RiverFire Festival is a week of all things river-like, including the most amazing duck race for charity where literally thousands of numbered plastic ducks as emptied into the river: first across the finish line wins the prize for the sponsor. Fireworks, Food and Fun and a great deal of it F.O.C which is something to marvel at in this day and age.
Entertainment wise, the films are up to date, bands and entertainers love to tour Australia and it won’t cost you an arm or a leg to eat out, although there are places you can go to if you want to spend serious dosh. The wine is good and fairly cheap with the domestic champagne being well worth a try, believe me on this one!
All religious persuasions are catered for somewhere in the City or its suburbs and tolerance for other people’s beliefs is excellent. Multi-cultural events are widespread throughout the year, with the focal point being usually the River Bank and environs. Fireworks are not just once a year here - any excuse will do for turning the sky a glorious shade of paintbox and they do it exceptionally well.
Climate wise, it really does depend where in Queensland you reside; summer which goes from around October / November to April can be extremely hot, with temps in the high 30’s and even in the 40’s in the centre of the country. In winter, it can get down to zero but not much chance of snow, only frost. Flooding and drought go hand in hand….it’s a funny place.
Having an outdoor lifestyle means that fashions are often quite casual; dressing up is certainly not an everyday event, with even weddings being a casual compared to European standards. But there are occasions when the ladies do go wild - for example going to the races, or for the younger girls, their school Formal or Graduation Balls. Until you get the hang of things, best to check with your host as to what they consider to be acceptable…believe me, it can save a bucket load of embarrassment.
All that said, there are still standards of dress for work and the shops to support them - from chain store staples to designer couture. Fashions tend to be a season behind Europe, but then the weather is topsy-turvey, too, so you eventually catch up with yourself. Many work places embrace a “Dress down Friday” policy where you can virtually turn up in whatever you like; but again, check before you do this.
Public holidays differ slightly from other countries, but with the usual Christmas, Easter and New Year being ion place. Along with those, there are odd ones for “Queen’s Birthday” (Thank you Queenie) and “Ëkka”,which is the equivalent of the County Show, except here you actually get a day off work to attend. The annual Ekka is a must even if you only ever do it once; if you have children, you will be pressurised to go every year and will probably spend the rest of the year trying to save up for the next one.
Working in Australia
If you are thinking of working with children at any level or in a child-based job, you will need what is known as a “Blue Card”. This is a sort of Police Check which is compulsory for child workers; completely painless to obtain but will cost you around $40.00. Initial applications can take up to 3 months to obtain and many employers won’t touch you with a barge pole until you have one, so once you get here, (or maybe before hand) get in touch with the Commission at www.bluecard.qld.gov.au.
Any qualifications which you hold and you think may be an asset to you if you are looking for work within Australia should be cross-accredited. This can be done once you are here, or you can do it before you arrive, either way, be prepared for red tape at its best and do not be surprised if your qualification appears to be worth less here than in your base country. Be prepared to part with a fair amount of money to get this cross-accreditation and book in for the nervous breakdown in advance; I’ve yet to come across anyone who gets through it unscathed.
Australian Health Care
One of the major things to get sorted out AS SOON as you get here is medical insurance. There is no such thing as the National Health in the UK, even the state-based Medicare cover needs financial input from people, either via their workplace or benefits office. The private system over here can be a minefield. If the company you are working for provides a benefit fund, then you will be fine; if it is up to you to choose one for yourself, then my best suggestion is to go to a web site www.iselect.com.au and check with that, or good old recommendation from others can go a long way.
So start packing....
All in all, it’s not a bad place to live. The pace is still a little slower than, say, Sydney which is probably a good thing as it means you have a chance to enjoy yourself whilst you are here rather than live at breakneck speed.
“Give it a go”, as they say over here and I bet you won’t be disappointed.