Canberra, Australia Report of what it's like to live there - 12/21/10

Personal Experiences from Canberra, Australia

Canberra, Australia 12/21/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have also lived in Spain, Greece, Turkey, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Italy.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US Embassy Canberra, 10 miles from home to work.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 Month

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Embassy Government Worker

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Very few apartments, lots of big houses.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive! We spend $500 per month for 2 adults.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything is expensive, but easy stuff like Mrs Dash, Lowerys Seasoning Salt, and things like that hard to get.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

A big-mac meal is $11 USD. McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dominos, and KFC are available, price is much more than America. Schwarma/Gyro roll is $9 USD. A cheap resteraunt meal would be $15.00.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Lots of farmers markets.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lots of black flies and mosquitos

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use both Australian and US Diplomatic mail. APO is great.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes excellent gyms are available for about $100 a month.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problem -- excepting weird things like the Telstra tower.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, we are actually having a problem with no Orthodox Christian service in English. Other than that, everything is in English.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

TV is $120 a month for 100 channels. Mostly British and American programing with some Australian. Spanish, Greek, Italian, and Russian TV is available for more $$$.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Australian English is difficult to get sometimes. But it's not much different than speaking to someone from the South if you're from Wyoming.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

None!

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, but not cheap.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can't bring one, so you will have to buy. Something good for offroad if that is an interest. But there are lots of highways in Australia.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

$120 per month for 100 gig.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The embassy issued ours, plans are cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, and it can cost about $5000 per dog to import one.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I think so.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, especially if you are a school teacher with credentials for America or a nurse or doctor.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

A suit everyday at the embassy, except Friday.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is fine, but there is much more BS.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Great air, rainy at the moment.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

We are having quite a bit of rain, but it has been a drought.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No international schools, all kids go to public or private school or at boarding school in America.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Same as America.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, they do that very well.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

3000?

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2. Morale among expats:

Great!

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Not really. 18 is the drinking age and the bars are full of idiots.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, yes, yes. I think families will like it best, but I would say single wouldn't be bad either. You have to get out and network to meet people.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No idea, I don't know of anyone that is gay at the embassy. A lot of alternative lifestyle and prostitution venues here. Not sure if that helps or not.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, if your anything other than white you will not be treated as an equal 100% of the time. Australia is going through very big learning curve on racial equality. Only something like 5% of all Australians are something other than white, and they want to keep it that way. This is especially true of high school and junior high aged kids. We have several mixed couples at work and their kids hate it here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Friendly people and iconic Australian wildlife.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Fishing, hunting, hiking, BBQ, lots of professional sports teams. Of course you have the opera house and lots of live entertainment and movie theaters.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Outdoors is great, nice weather, people are friendly.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

Outdoor stuff. It is very expensive here!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson is out of date.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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