Moving to the Other Side of the World, Part 3: Settling in Australia

I have now been in Australia for two weeks, and things are going amazingly well. I arrived via the Overland train from Melbourne. It does take 10.5 hours but time goes by quickly. I definitely recommend it for those who do not like flying or driving long distances.

I have settled in my apartment, obtained my student ID/discount card (oh how I love being a student again!!), met with my supervisors at the university, and explored the library already. I have had absolutely no problems with the paperwork or university bureaucracy, which is a miracle. The day after I arrived I was able to obtain my student ID right away as well as receive my login credentials for the university system and e-mail. Then I signed my lease at the accomodation office and received the keys to my apartment. I managed to get the electricity in my name within 2 hours and since the unit is internet ready, I simply plugged in my ethernet cable and set up a pre-paid account for the data usage. I don’t have a landline or cable TV because I would never use them.

I am less than a 5 minute walk from campus, and a 2 minute walk to the post office, grocery store (open on Sundays!!), bakery, fruit & vegetable vendor, etc. There is a bus stop across the street where I can hop on a direct, and sometimes express, bus to the CBD of Adelaide every 15 minutes (and thanks to my student ID, one two-hour trip is only 81 cents!) My apartment is very quiet as I was lucky enough to be in the building that is not on the street, but back in the corner by the parking lot.

I have received my bank card and PIN so I no longer have to use American dollars (thankfully, since the exchange rate is not so good). Here’s a timeline of what opening by bank account was like:

  • One month before leaving France: Opened account online and transferred money into it
  • Two-three weeks later: Received first bank statement and welcome letter in France, stating which identification documents would be necessary n Australia
  • After arrival: Went to a bank branch that was not my own (remember, I arrived in Melbourne and then came to Adelaide later on), gave them my passport, signed two papers, got my telephone/online banking set up, ordered my debit card and could start withdrawing money immediately. I did not need any actual proof of my address in Australia – I simply told them what it was, and they printed out an official paper just in case I did need to prove my address (such as buying a cell phone on contract.)

Then I went next door to the cell phone store and bought a pre-paid phone. I only needed to tell them my address and show my passport. I could not believe how incredibly easy everything was. So there you have it. Housing, bank account and cell phone are completely taken care of, as are utility hookups in my apartment. Now I’m just finishing up some shopping for little things for the apartment.

I haven’t been experiencing much culture shock, but I have noticed that I automatically behave or think how I used to in France because I’m more used to the French way than the American way. The first time I went grocery shopping, I started to get ready to bag my own groceries and then realized the cashier was already doing it for me. I had second thoughts about ordering the debit card while at the bank branch in Melbourne because I was afraid that it would not be delivered if my name wasn’t on the mailbox at my apartment in Adelaide. But just like the US, your name isn’t always on the mailbox and the post office just uses the number. While at the large shopping center, I started looking to see how much change I had so that I could use the bathroom and then remembered that they were free to use.

Other things throw me off a little: cars driving on the left, not receiving mail on Saturdays, data caps on home internet, most stores closing at 5pm on Saturdays (I understand closing at 5 on Sunday, but why so early on Saturdays?) Not having a car is probably the only “problem” I have, but I would really only need one for bringing home larger items that I can’t carry. Fortunately my colleagues are helping me out on the weekends.

I am doing rather well and the weather is lovely. It’s good to know that this winter is “unusually cold,” which at 15° C / 59° F is a nice spring day to me. It hasn’t really set in yet that this is as cold as it will get all year. That is perhaps the best part so far! Besides the cute animals, of course.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.