Note: the following is a personal experience only. It by no means should be used to judge everyone’s experience and are my own views. But obviously you’re smart and already knew that. Anyway…
Six months ago I made the call to move indefinitely to Melbourne, Australia after 14 years in New Zealand. Why? I needed a change. I’ve had a major travel itch for probably over 5 years but was putting it off due to uni, and then Covid. But this virus wasn’t going anywhere and I was properly done with wasting my early 20’s.
I didn’t have a job to go to, I hadn’t arranged a flat, and I barely knew anyone over there. I just (somewhat spontaneously) gave work my 4 weeks notice, did a North Island roadie to say farewells to people, then booked my flight over.
Little did I know, that flight would be the last one going to Australia for months as NZ recorded its first case of Delta, plunging the entire country into a hard Level 4 lockdown. No going back.
The months since have certainly been quite the romp. Some good things, some bad, and some things that were just plain unexpected.
Going over, I hedged a bet that the lockdown wouldn’t last much more than a couple of weeks. Only 3 months later, did I discover just how wrong I was.
This was a mixed bag. On the one hand, not being able to meet people, visit flats, interview for jobs in-person, complete moving admin, or see the city was frustrating to say the least.
On the other, it presented an opportunity to really hone down on job applications, learn the suburbs (by map), understand the politics, take up running a 10k, baking and start to get a feel for Australian culture.
I quickly learned just how state-based the country is with restrictions. Initially, it can get confusing drawing the line between what decisions are made federally and what is state-based (lockdowns for instance were state-based calls, whereas international borders were federal).
I see the benefit of being more regionalised like this, but it also creates one heck of a lot of conflict and inconsistency between the two. Anyway, yuck, enough politics.
One thing I quickly realised was how different the attitudes to the pandemic was in Australia. It started off with people being as fearful of the virus as it was in NZ. But this quickly turned to fatigue and irritation from the vast number (and duration) of lockdowns.
By the time Omicron came around, everyone had pretty much resigned themselves to the fact they'd get it. An uncomfortable thought as little as 3 months ago. Now, very much the norm and sure as hell beats the constant fear.
Moving over with nothing secured was a pretty risky decision. But I was adamant about seeking out new opportunities rather than having them “land in my lap” as they had done in NZ (which don’t get me wrong was great and flattering, but admittedly as a bit of a "yes man" I felt like I needed the challenge of hustling for myself again). I found LinkedIn and Seek to be the best platforms for the job hunt.
Looking for a job has to be one of the most soul-destroying tasks in the world. Firstly, reading through a company’s job description, researching the culture, history and more to see if it’s a good fit.
Then sending your CV and cover letter through, making it personalised, stand out and not be generic. Don’t even get me started on the companies that also insist you re-write your entire backstory into 578 different form fields on their online HR platform.
Best of all, after all that, is when you get the most blatant template of all emails stating “Thank-you for your time in applying. Unfortunately, on this occasion we have decided to…” bla bla bla you’ve heard it all before 🙃
This time, I took an ex-colleague's recommendation and decided to create a spreadsheet of all the places I applied for (yeah I'm a dork like that). I entered the company name, job title, date applied, and more info to help me keep a track of applications. This also meant I could see who was responsive, how far I got in the recruitment process, and who I should follow-up with.
It worked beautifully! I had several offers come within 4 weeks and then agonised over which one to choose.
I eventually chose a marketing agency which paid about $20,000 less than what I was on in NZ. I was determined not to be money-driven, and rather focus on the experience and impact of a new career.
It didn’t end up working out, mainly due to me realising how much I disliked time tracking and the effect this has on company culture. This also made me discover that it’s okay to try a job out for a while, then work out whether it’s for you or not.
This is what a probation (90-day) period is for, and isn’t just so that an employer can easily turf you out. It's easy to forget that this works both ways.
Personally, I was extremely lucky enough to find a job (and now another job) really quickly and I don’t take that for granted. It really does depend heavily on what field(s), number of years, and skillset you’re experienced in however, as well as the job market at that time.
People and Culture
For the most part, I’ve loved the people. They’re extremely warm and friendly, very relaxed about most things, have terrific chat, and the slang/accent, I often find hilarious. Of course you get the occasional arsehole, but what country doesn’t?
Alcohol is huge here though. I was a little surprised (but not against) how casually it’s thrown into work chat and the overall culture. I’m even more surprised it’s such a big thing given the sheer expense of it. At the “bottle-o” (liquor store), I accidentally bought a 24-pack of Seltzers for AUD $115 (didn't realise till I got to the counter) and just about cried myself to sleep that night.
I thought Australia was notorious for racism, but I’ve honestly not seen or heard much of it (but as a white guy, I'm admittedly a lot less likely to see it).
That being said, I’ve also not observed as much be done to help incorporate Aboriginal culture as New Zealand does with Maori, aside from a phrase said at many occasions called “Welcome/Acknowledgement of Country” (which is very much just that, a few pretty arbitrary words).
It does feel like there’s an air of slightly more sexism and xenophobia but this may be due to currently having a pretty corrupt government, or personal exposure to older generations. It's really difficult to distinguish whether this is a widespread thing however, or just the people I've interacted with. Again though, what country doesn't have nobheads?
Living-wise has definitely been a big jump out my comfort zone. Being out in the wop-wops, a 1.5 hour train out of the city, and no car of my own was certainly a big challenge.
Anything that required some sort of urban interaction felt like a real drag and meeting new young people was off the cards. Having relatives who were kind enough to put me up for a few months though was beyond selfless and I’m extremely grateful for them showing me the ropes.
Being rural also had its perks: being able to see the classic Aussie wildlife on the daily, be blissfully away from the rest of the world, and get a real community feel was fantastic.
Regaining independence by moving to the beach/city-life and into a new flat though, I can't really put into describable words. Having a 10-minute walk to the softest sand, beautiful ocean, a small community and more has felt like a real “pinch me” moment.
I’ve also been extremely lucky to have 3 Aussie flatmates that have similar interests, like to get out and do activities, and have outstanding banter with. 6 years of flatting has taught me how surprisingly difficult that is to come by.
Verdict… so far
I could go on but this already feels long enough. If you're ever thinking of making the move though, I get the hesitancy, the "what-if's" and the nerves but giving it a chance, I'd say it's beyond worth it.
Obviously a lot can change and 6 months still isn’t long in the grand scheme of things. But despite some of the hiccups, moving to Australia feels like the best call I’ve made in a long time. I love the people, the lifestyle, and of course a classic “snag and a cold one from the esky” (heh sorry couldn't help myself).
Most of all though, I love the sheer sense of hope, novelty, and adventure that I felt like I’d really started to lose in the last couple of years. And to me, that's priceless.
Bring on the next <insert number here> months/years, no wucka's.
[BONUS] Admin checklist if you’re ever moving over
Bank account (would highly recommend Up Bank)
Medicare card (health system)
Australia Tax Number (ATN)
Phone number/SIM card
Drivers licence (an NZ one is valid for first 3 months in most states I believe)
Student loan in NZ (if applicable)
Covid vaccination status (if applicable at time you’re reading this, need Medicare first)
Public transport (get a MyKi card for Melbourne, Opal for Sydney)
Superannuation account (would recommend Future Super or an ethical one)
Place to stay