After selling our car, storing everything we hadn’t given away and shipping the pets off to quarantine it was our turn to take the long trip (16 hours from DFW to Sydney and 1 hour from Sydney to Melbourne). For once we broke our “no checking bags” rule, since this was the only way to get anything with us to Australia. The logistics involved in getting ourselves, two bike boxes (yes we brought our bikes) and 10 bags of luggage to the airport, checked, through customs in Sydney, re-checked and then to our new place in Melbourne from the airport are more harrowing than you could imagine. But, we managed with the help of some angels that showed up to help us drag our luggage along just when we needed it at the airports and one Maxi Taxi in Melbourne that we managed to stuff everything into and just make one trip (we had anticipated each having to get a taxi to get it all).
We are staying in temporary housing in South Melbourne. It is a lovely house (if you are coming for a long’ish visit, We highly recommend checking out www.boutiquestays.com.au) and we are very close to the South Melbourne market. It’s a huge, mostly outdoor market, very similar to Pike Market in Seattle. Kelly has gotten into the habit of walking over daily and shopping for the evening meal in order to get out of the house and see the area a bit. We are noticing that each suburb has it’s own shopping district and everything is extremely walkable. There is also great public transportation, our goal of not having a car while we are here seems very doable.
Todd’s company provided us with a relocation agent that drove us around the first few days we were here. She gave us a bit of an orientation to Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs and set up some appointments to look at rentals in the area that met our specifications we had sent her. We were pleasantly surprised to find that most rentals will consider pets even if they do not mark themselves as pet friendly. Apparently we also have a bit of an advantage, coming in with a relocation agent immediately tells the realtor that we have a company that’s paying to get us here, we must be good tenants.
This turned out to be a very good thing, because renting in Australia is a bit different than in the US… First of all you never have any contact with the owner, it is all done through the realtor. They are basically the go to even after they rent you the place. If you need anything fixed or have any questions about the place you contact them. There is also no such thing as an apartment building as we know them in the US. There are no buildings that are fully for rent, everything is for sale and if the owner then decides to rent it out only then is it available for rent. Which means options can be limited and you can not just go to one building and see what all they have available. They also only show rental properties at one time a week for only 15 minutes. We showed up at one on a Saturday and literally had 30 other people there looking through the same small apartment with us and they shooed us all out at the end of the 15 minutes. So after looking through several places we let our relocation agent know which one we liked best and she called and followed up with the renting agent to let them know we were with her and kind of pushed us as good tenets.
It worked! We found a wonderful townhouse in Port Melbourne with several outdoor spaces, close to the beach and still close to the CBD (central business district, where Todd’s office is), with a light rail that drops Todd off almost at his office doorstep. We have a park near by that allows dogs off leash and the main shopping drag is just a couple blocks away. It is a little larger than we had intended, but we now have two extra bedrooms for visitors!
Now that we have been here a week, some things we have noticed that are different from the US:
- The drive on the left. Obviously quite different and we will be taking driving lessons. We are also having to learn to walk on the left as we keep drifting right. Crossing at cross walks we keep saying to ourselves, “look right then left”. It is becoming more natural with each passing day.
- There are no familiar brands of anything. We know that sounds weird but it is amazing how much we associate with a brand name. Like Walmart, oh that is where you get cheap stuff but they have everything… we are totally lacking that with the Australia brands and we are having a hard time picking it up. We are sure it will come, just slowly.
- They do EVERYTHING online or through SMS text. It’s amazing and very frustrating when you don’t have a local mobile phone. I have not signed a single piece of paper anywhere, it’s all online and while you have to remember a million pins and access codes, it is quite remarkable.
- Everything is more expensive. Some of it is due to the currency conversion rates between USD and AUD, but certain things like US brand products are just ridiculous. It costs us $4 to buy a single can of Diet Coke here, We will definitely be breaking that habit soon!
- Australians are super friendly! Like woke up and drank 5 cups of coffee friendly. In the brief time We have been here we can tell if a customer support agent is from Australia originally or not, even while texting with them, it’s that noticeable.
- We think the reason they are so friendly is there are no guns and almost no crime in Australia! Kelly’s theory is that there are so many deadly insects, reptiles and animals, that all the humans have pulled together and said lets not have something else to worry about, mate.
- So far we have not seen any spiders, snakes or sharks. From what we hear we are blessed to be in Melbourne and the colder weather we get here keeps them away for the most part. It is also funny that while talking to the locals, we have realized that they are more afraid of all the crazy gun toting people we have in the US than they are of any of their poisonous critters or sharks.
- BBQ – only because several people asked me to scope this out specifically. It is not something you go and get in a restaurant here and they don’t have BBQ sauce, it’s just something you do in your backyard. The grills have been an endless source of amusement for Todd and I as we have looked around at places to rent. They look just like our grills in the US from the outside and they have gas or coal options, etc. But, when you open them up they look like a George Forman grill on the inside. Just a solid piece of flat metal that you cook your food on. At first we just thought we had seen a weird one, but every single one we have opened looks the same. I think our relocation agent thinks we are slightly insane the way we giggle every time we open a grill.