The loose ends – tips for Canadians visiting / moving to Australia

Since these posts are in part a random collection of observations from my travels, it seems fitting to have one last one giving some pointers on miscellaneous things.  Most of this post will focus on Australianisms and language, but first a couple bits of advice for anyone planning a working holiday or a move to Australia from Canada:

 

First, finding a place to live – go to www.realestate.com.au. While there are some listings on places like Craigslist or Gumtree, if you’re looking for a legitimate rental this is the centralised database for all the listings.  (Flatshares are listed on here too, though Gumtree is pretty safe for those).  Once you’ve gotten onto the site and have had a chance to look at some of the places you want to see, don’t make the same mistakes I made.

Showings are generally in short time blocks, primarily on Saturdays.  The real estate agent (who will almost certainly be the person managing your property too) should be there – if they’re not, it’s entirely likely they really don’t care about leasing it, and it’s even more likely they won’t take good care of it while you’re there (i.e., if there’s a need for repairs).  To find out when the open times are, you can usually look up the estate agent through the website directly, or Google them.  Many of them will post their listings on their own site, too, and will directly post the open times on there. If they don’t post them, it’s a matter of a quick email to request a time. (Having a mobile will help too, so you can make calls and look stuff up the day of – I suggest that a visit to the Virgin Mobile store be the first stop on any long-term move!)

Be prepared for the open time – go early and be willing to wait until the end of the block of time available for them to bother to show up.  Also be prepared for there to be as many as 5 or 6 dozen other people there seeing the apartment too.  If you’re really keen on the apartment (which, if you’re like I was, might be the case for any apartment you see as you have a limited time to find one), bring copies of your passport and visa and be prepared to complete the application on the spot – showing you’re serious about the property could help your chances.  Another strategy I learned about when it was too late is to bid up – bidding an extra $5-10/week will increase the estate agent’s commission and, in turn, will increase your odds of getting the place.

Finally, be prepared for sticker shock.  Unless you’re sharing a place, you will pay more in Australia than for an equivalent apartment in Canada.  It cannot be avoided.  Have a realistic price in mind, which you can research online before going.

The only other practical thing that is useful is dealing with money.  If you bank with Scotiabank in Canada, they have an agreement with Westpac that allows you to use your ScotiaCard in Westpac’s machines for no service charge (the withdrawals are just translated at their regular exchange rates).  Westpac also operates in New Zealand, and these agreements are reciprocal, so banking with either bank will allow you access to ATMs in Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.

The other money-related tip is for transferring cash.  Since I was still working for Canadians, all my income was going into my Canadian account, but my expenses were mostly in Australian dollars and often required an Australian bank account (i.e., for my rent).  I chose Westpac to bank with because the Scotia agreement made dealing with cash easier, but the agreements don’t extend to transferring cash.  A friend recommended, and I’ve reliably used ever since, XE.com for transfers.  It takes a bit of setting up – you need to provide them with various forms of ID and proof of where you live in order to comply with the money laundering laws in both Canada and Australia, but once you’re set up you can plug in your bank account information and start making transfers.  They offer better rates than the banks or exchange companies do, don’t charge fees like a wire transfer company like Western Union would, and between Canada and Australia everything is electronic.  I set up the transaction on their site whenever I wanted to transfer money over, and within the next week or so the agreed amount was withdrawn from my Canadian account and deposited into my Australian one.  Easy.

Now, onto language.

One point before getting into specific words – one thing I had to quickly adjust to (and, being half-British, I was able to adjust quickly) was the Aussie sarcasm.  An Australian can say something wholly in jest with the straightest face.  It often takes a moment to figure out that they’re totally bullshitting you for a laugh – and the longer it takes you to figure it out, the more hilarious the result.

Equally, though, Australians are so wonderfully frank when communicating.  The blunt and honest approach is one I’ve always tried to use, and I get so frustrated with Canadians when trying to communicate on sensitive issues.  Where a Canadian will kind of sort of hint that maybe something might be wrong, an Australian will tell you straight up.  While it might offend a Canadian’s sensibility, it rarely leads to an actual offensive situation – it’s simply honesty.  And I think we Canadians could use a hell of a lot more of it.

Anyways, on with the language.  Australian English can be a confusing mix of American and British English, but of course not the same mix that Canadian is.  For example, while most words sound British, many are of American origin or use American pronunciations.  A good example is “foyer,” pronounced “foy-errr” in Australian or American English, “foy-yay” in Canadian. Similarly, “scone” is pronounced “scon” in British and Canadian but “scohn” in Australia and American.  Other than some of these exceptions, the Australian accent generally drops Rs in the same way that Brits do and vowels (as in “bath”) usually follow the British pronunciation.  Finally – Australians love to abbreviate things.  Five-syllable words simply won’t do, why not just use two?

An assortment of words for translation… Feel free to add your own in the comments! There are plenty more.

Australian Canadian
Mobile Cell phone
Lift (used interchangeably with elevator) Elevator
Uni University
Singlet Tank top
Thongs Flip-flops
Toilet Washroom (both are acceptable in both countries, but saying “toilet” in Canada would be rather out of place)
Capsicum Pepper (as in green pepper – “red capsicum” would be for red pepper)
Seat Riding (in the political context)
Public transport Public transit
Crossing Crosswalk
How you goin’? How are you doing?
Chemist Pharmacy
Scull / sculling Chug / Chugging (as in a drink)
Hotel Usually a pub or a bar (could also mean the same as hotel in Canada)
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4 responses to this post.

  1. […] The loose ends – tips for Canadians visiting / moving to Australia […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by LF on 2013/08/17 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the advice. Very helpful.

    Reply

  3. Posted by grant morris on 2013/08/18 at 7:36 pm

    after selling in Canada I want to take money to buy a new home in Australia, is it difficult to move money, also is there tarrifs for things I ship over ie furniture atvs car

    Reply

    • Moving money isn’t too hard – as I said, I’ve used Xe.com with no trouble, but it does take some time to set up so start planning before you leave. If you’re moving the whole proceeds of a house there might be extra paperwork so it’s worth asking them.

      I think you can bring personal effects over without taxes but it’s best to ask before you go… the shipping company you use will know better than anyone!

      Reply

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