Canberra, Australia Report of what it's like to live there - 10/01/09

Personal Experiences from Canberra, Australia

Canberra, Australia 10/01/09

Background:

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

My second foreign post, the first was Taiwan.

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2. How long have you lived here?

From Aug 2007 to Aug 2010.

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

US government assigned post.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Fly from US, LAX -- then Sydney -- then Canberra (a domestic flight).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Our housing is very nice (GleanEagles Kambah).

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

We consider it higher than in the US. Our (2 adults + 1 kid) weekly grocery bill is at least 200 AUD (about $180 US). Most of it is basic stuff like milk, bread, meats, canned goods.

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

Nothing for me.

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

They have KFC, McDonald's, Hungry Jacks, Burger King, etc, at reasonable prices. They have a lot of decent restaurants, here they are but a bit pricey! A meal for one person is at least 30AUD, not including drinks/wine.

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

Venous spiders.

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Daily Life:

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

We have APO here in the embassy.

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

I have not looked into, it but I have heard that it is very expensive with a lot requirements like regular vacation, etc.

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

Yes, they are. They have Fitness First, etc.

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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?

Very safe, of course with a fee.

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

It is an English-speaking country.

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

There's FOXTEL cable TV, there's a Football channel and most American shows.

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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?

It is an English-speaking country. They pronounce Z (in US "ZEE") here as "ZED". You'll get used to it, like we did.

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

None. The infrastructures here are well equipped with handicapped-accessible parking spaces, ramps, elevators, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Public transportation is widely available, but you still need to have car here -- especially if you have little ones. Shopping areas and housing are far apart.

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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?

We bought our car here (2nd hand). There are a lot of restrictions on bringing in a car. The steering wheel is on the right side, and you are driving the the left side of the road. V6 is nice because of hills, and that's what we have.

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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?

Great! Very reliable. We' re paying 70 AUD/month for our ADSL.

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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?

Telecoms here are like in the US: very reliable. The telecom company offers a good deal of packages.

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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, as I remember, 1 month.

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

Very good, lots of vets and kennels around the area.

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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, there are.

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

Like in U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Nothing that I know of.

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

None at all.

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

None. Quality and facilities are very nice. The only thing is that here you need to go to a GP (general practitioner) before you can go to a specialist. It means that even though you know you need an OB GYN, you still need to pay AUD 70 for a GP to give you a referral to go to the OB. There is always a GP cost involved.

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

Four seasons. Winter -5 to -10 Celcius , Spring +1 to + 10 C and Summer +10 to +30 C , Fall +10 to +1 C. Perfect climate, I should say!

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Schools & Children:

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

My child is not in school yet.

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

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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?

Daycare is so expensive here in Canberra. From 2007 to Mid-2008 I was paying 1,400 AUD/month (1,300 US estimate). In Oct 2009 I'm paying 1,700 AUD per month, and for sure they will increase it next year. The current US rate now is 1 US = to 1.13 AUD. Even though It's expensive here, it is my personal choice to work here. It is a win-win setup for me and my kid.

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

Yes, there are a lot of Public Sports facilities here. They are clean and well maintained. My son has been enrolled in swimming lessons since we got here.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

I can say high morale.

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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?

They have a lot of membership clubs here, depending on your interests/sports.

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

Good for families -- there are a lot of public parks, and they are clean and safe.

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

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

Not that I know of.

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

Seeing the beautiful outback, public parks with a lot of wild Kangaroos, and beatiful birds like parrots and lorikeets.

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

There's alot of Aboriginal artwork, like canvas paintings. Things like digeridoos and boomerangs, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

No, because 90% of my paycheck goes to daycare.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely! As long as my kids are in school so I won't need to deal with daycare.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Q-tips, we usually order them from the US. The only Q-tips here are for babies, and they are not soft.

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


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


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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Daycare here is expensive and the waiting list is so long. When you find out that you are pregnant, you should start shopping around and putting your expected child on their lists. I hope this helps!

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