Canberra, Australia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Canberra, Australia

Canberra, Australia 08/26/20

Background:

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

No. We previously lived in Kinshasa, DRC, and I previously lived in Toronto and in the UK.

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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?

Charlotte, NC - its a LOOOOOOOOOOONG way. There are no direct international flights from Canberra except to Singapore (and that may have gone away as well). So you have to fly from Canberra to either Sydney or Melbourne (approx. 2 hours), then transfer and fly on to LA, Houston or San Francisco (13+ hours) then on to the East coast (approx. 5 hours from LA to CLT). It certainly feels like nothing is close to Australia. It's probably the hardest part of living there.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived there for two years from 2017-2019.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We had an AMAZING house - a little older, but big and with an enormous yard (sometime a curse, but mostly a blessing). We could get into the City (such as it is) in about 10 minutes. Traffic is very, very light compared to any of the cities we've lived in (DC, Toronto, Kinshasa - even Charlotte, NC). For our mission the housing was not at all centrally located - people lived in newer houses in the "Northside" (north of the manmade Lake Burley Griffin) and people lived in the Southside in older houses with slower internet, but closer to the Embassies and downtown. Some people loved being in the North, others complained endlessly about the longer "commute."

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

Pretty much everything is available - there is a Costco, Target and Woolies and Coles (the two biggest grocery stores) have pretty much anything and everything you could want. We sometimes struggled to find some more "American" things like graham crackers, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce, but even those things could be found in a bigger city. Price was generally more expensive than the US, but the Australian dollar continued to decline while we were there and I, at least, found it was a mixed bag. Some things were definitely more expensive, but others could be cheaper (ie: avocados when in season = cheap), beer = always expensive). I didn't find the prices to be of particular hardship - especially after living in Africa.

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

Graham crackers and some grits (I used polenta and it worked ok, but if I could go back that is what I'd ship). Maybe marshmallows - most Australian marshmallows have flavor, but Costco usually had regular ones.

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

I'm sure there is food delivery, but other than the occasional pizza we didn't use it much. We loved to try out various restaurants and there are some goods ones - but they seem expensive. Again, I found that when I took out the 15-20% tip that is now typical in the US (pre-COVID) and added in the dollar exchange the costs was pretty close to what you'd pay in the US. The one exception to that was breakfast - that always seems REALLY expensive to me comparatively and after going out for brunch once early on we avoided leaving the house before lunch.

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

We didn't have any issues with bugs - notwithstanding what everyone says about Australia. We did see a few redback (like black widows) spiders, but they never bothered us. We had a pretty large Hunter spider in our house at one point, but it was significantly smaller than the one we had in Kinshasa - and they are harmless (in fact, they eat the bad spiders, so they are better than harmless). Otherwise, we didn't see much in the way of bugs other than a few flies and mosquitos in summer.

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Daily Life:

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

We used the diplomatic post office usually. Australia Post is, in my experience, dismal. It takes forever to get anything anywhere outside of Australia, and it is really expensive (inside and outside Australia).

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

We did not have household help - partially because we didn't really need it and partially because it is really expensive. Minimum wage is approx. $20/hour - even babysitters get paid in those types of numbers - and it adds up fast.

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

We used Fitness First which was only about a 10 min walk from our house (one of the best things about Canberra is every neighborhood has its own "shops" - small IGA, usually a coffee shop (or two), pharmacy, often gym and hairdresser as well as a post office). I didn't find it expensive compared to DC or CLT - I think it was around $40 US/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?

Not only are credit cards used everywhere (we almost never carried cash) but Australia was WAY ahead of the US in terms of contactless payment, tapping and chips. When we came back to the US in late 2019 I couldn't believe how antiquated things seemed - I have to open my wallet and pull out an actual card? How very 2010! Now in the US things have change primarily because of COVID, but you will have no issues using credit cards in Australia. We opened an Australian bank account to make paying some bills (ie: gym) easier, but all ATMs are common and safe (as safe as the US for sure - probably safer on average).

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

Everything is in English - if you consider Australian English. ;)

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

The local language is English - so assuming you are speaking English you'll be fine.

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

I'm not sure, but I would think people who are differently abled would be just fine - the Australians are pretty cognizant of making sure everyone can participate.

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Transportation:

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

Yes and yes. We used taxis, ubers, buses and trains - all lovely, clean and affordable (though not cheap - just "Australia" affordable).

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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?

Anything you'd like - except not really because you can only bring a right hand drive car - so you'll probably have to buy one when you arrive. We picked up a Toyota when we arrived and sold it when we left. Easy peasy.

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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?

Yes - it is readily available - various providers. I don't remember how long it took to get it installed, but we bought SIM cards when we arrived in Sydney and used them as hotspots until it was installed. Decent internet, not too expensive. In Canberra the internet is better/faster in the newer areas North of the Lake.

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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?

We kept our US phones (iPhone and Samsung) and put in Australian sims. Worked like a charm for two years.

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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?

Amazing vets and kennels - we shipped our dog from the US (and back when we left) and he did have to be quarantined, but only for 10 days (BUT you have to get the rabies titer done 6 months before departure otherwise the quarantine is longer). It was EXPENSIVE - but so totally worth it in our opinion. We loved the vet we went to (Northside Animal Hospital) and, while expensive compared to some places (ie: Kinshasa) we had them do some surgery on our dog when we arrived after we priced the same surgery in DC for $2100 and paid about $1300 in Canberra.

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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?

We both worked for the Embassy, but lots of spouses worked on the local economy - especially teaching. Telecommuting is pretty hard given the time difference (ranging from 14 to 16 hours from the US East Coast depending on the time of year), but I know someone who did therapy telecommuting for their whole tour.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

All the same types as you would find in the US. Animal shelters were very popular.

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

We were business casual mostly at work, and the typical dress code is pretty much the same as the US. The only time I used formal dress was for the Marine Corps Ball.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. Australia is very safe - safer than the US in many, many ways. However, there have been wildfires since we left - and those types of fires are always a possible issue - the US Embassy was evacuated due to fires in 2003, so that is always a risk. I'm sure there is petty crime like anywhere, but overall we felt MUCH safer in Canberra than anywhere else we have ever lived.

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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 great. No evacuation. In fact, while we were there about 8 people from our Embassy had babies in Australia - not one of them went back to the US and all said it was an amazing experience.

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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?

In Canberra - great. Not sure if I could say the same about Sydney. Definitely some season allergy issues, and obviously during the fires the air quality was terrible (on several days the worst in the world), but while we were there we had no issues.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Pretty much the same things they need to know in the US. Almost all restaurants will ask if anyone has any allergies or sensitivities. Environmental - Spring and Fall are going to involve some itchy eyes and sneezing for allergy sufferers, but I didn't find anything different than being on the East Coast of the US.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No. Though because it is so far away and the time difference is so difficult - lots of people do tend to feel very isolated from family and friends.

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

Four seasons. Beautiful spring, hot summer, lovely fall and cold (but not too cold) winter. It probably snows in the Canberra area about once every 2-3 years, but there is skiing only a few hours away in the Snowy Mountains

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Schools & Children:

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

There are no international school. Our child went to a private IB school which was, by far, the best school we have ever been involved with. They were loving and caring and amazing teachers and great parents. It was the hardest part of leaving for us. Most people send their children either to one of the private parochial schools (most are Anglican or Catholic) or to one of the local public schools. I never heard anyone complain about their choice. In fact, for the most part, people raved about the schooling. The hardest part is that the Southern Hemisphere school system can be complicated. We held our daughter back for half a term and she repeated kindergarten, but then we left half way through her 2nd grade year and she had to start her new school in the US only a couple of months later having skipped half of grade 2 (but back to the excellence of the schools - she was not at all behind, and, in some subjects ahead).

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

Lots. Like in the US. Very accommodating from what I heard (though I do not have any special needs children).

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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?

Yes - though expensive I did not have any children in pre-school, but my friends with children at the "early years" program thought it was great. Schools do have before/after care - we used it and it was much better than the before/after care at the US school our child went to.

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

Yes - lots of classes and sports. We did swimming, field hockey, cricket, soccer and horseback riding at various times. Pretty much anything you can think of other than US football.

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Expat Life:

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

I have no idea how big the expat community is as it is not really a tight knit group. Like many other posts like Australia, most people make their own fun, travel a lot, and don't really need the expat community to either keep them occupied or help them fit in. We made (and kept) Australian friends and, though we did participate in Embassy sponsored events they were really not a big deal compared to some posts.

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

I joined a book club that included other Americans, and I was part of a group of mums who ran, but otherwise, as noted above, you make your own fun. People go to Sydney or the beach for the weekend, or they go skiing or they meet up at a local pool. It mostly just feels like you are in the US living your life most of the time (except for the accents and the kangaroos in the streets).

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

I think it is hard for single people. In reality Canberra is a small town. It was FABULOUS for a family with small children - tons of things to do, both inside and outside, and a wonderful family atmosphere - with easy traffic. I don't think it would be the most exciting place for some singles - though there were bars and dance clubs - and it seemed that it was definitely becoming more hip and trendy when we left.

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

I think it is fine, but I'm not sure. I knew several who seemed happy - except for the lack of excitement - I think they would have preferred to be in Sydney or Melbourne, but more because of the access to fun, rather than the LGBT issues. Australians generally seem very accepting and welcoming to the LGBT community from my observations.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

We had no problem making friends - though it is a VERY homogenous place. I think it is certainly possible for people to feel uncomfortable given the lack of diversity, but I can't speak to that from experience.

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

Not that I saw at all.

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

Perth and Western Australia were amazing (Margaret River!), we loved Brisbane and Noosaville, Melbourne is exciting and fun, Sydney is wonderful, the beaches are great, skiing was pretty good (though REALLY expensive). We were unsure about doing Uluru and the Red Center, but we had an amazing time and would highly recommend it - just do it in July (winter) as the flies are terrible. Tasmania was one of our favorite trips as well. It's all great! (just don't forget Australia is a big country - it takes a while to get places!)

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

Questacon - the kids science museum is great, the botanical gardens and the arboretum are both great places to take kids (and the gardens do movies in the summer). There are hikes all over Canberra - we tried to do as many as we could and loved them all.

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

Meh. You can buy didgeridoos and Aboriginal art, but I not sure that I'd say there is anything "typical."

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

The traffic is amazing - not crowded and so well organized. Really though we loved this tour and loved the ease of living in Canberra.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How far removed you feel from people on the East Coast of the US (and really everywhere) due to the distance and time change.

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

Absolutely!

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

Hopes of saving a ton of money - you are going to spend it on traveling and enjoying an easy life with good food, good restaurants and lots of places to go.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and camera!

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

In a Sunburned Country. Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Muriel's Wedding.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you are looking for non-stop excitement and a place that is really "different" from home (assuming that is the US or Canada) you will not find it in Australia, but you will find amazingly friendly people, a relatively easy life and lots of kangaroos!

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Canberra, Australia 05/17/12

Background:

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

I have lived in 7 other countries. Djbouti, Afghanistan, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and South Africa.

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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?

Fairbanks Alaska, 40 hours worth of flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mostly single family houses, I drive about 25 minutes to the Embassy housing area.

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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 easily twice as expensive as in the United States. Quality of produce is not as good, and fresh food tends to go bad quicker. Cured meat products and sausages are not as good as the States. Meat products are good, cookies and things like that are excellent. Bakery isn't as good as the States, nor does it have the variety.

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

Clothing is very expensive like everything else here. We have tires shipped via tire rack to the APO.

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

McDonald's, Burger King (called Hungry Jacks), KFC, and some local Australian ones. Sit down restaurants are very expensive. My wife and I typically spend $100 on a meal at a sit-down.

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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?

All are available.

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

Tons of spiders and black flies.

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Daily Life:

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

APO.

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

Expensive, minimum wage is $20 per hour.

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

Yes, very expensive and equipment is kind of 3rd rate.

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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 problems!

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

The only problem lies with Orthodoxy. None of the Orthodox services are in English.

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

Cable TV is expensive and about 4 years behind the USA.

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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?

Speak English.

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

None, this town is really well set up for that.

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Transportation:

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

All are safe, all are expensive. The train only goes to Sydney.

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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?

Unless you are DOD and not a Diplomat you have to buy a vehicle here. It has to be right-hand drive. You can get some super deals on Diplomatic car sales through BMW, Volvo and so on.

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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?

Yes, cost is about $100 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?

Same as in the States.

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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, for a month and a $5000 bill.

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

Good.

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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?

Tons, and the pay is much better than in the USA or anywhere else.

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

Same as the USA.

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Health & Safety:

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

Safest capitol city in the world.

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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?

Health care is horrible, good quality doctors but a really bad system of delivery. Hospitals are 3rd world: don't come here with medical problems.

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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?

Good.

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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?

Hot dry summers, wonderful spring and fall, cold, but not snowy, winters.

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Schools & Children:

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

None, everyone goes to public or private school. Public school education quality is very low, and the kids are very poorly behaved. My wife teaches school at a public school near our house.

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

They take care of them well.

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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?

Preschool is $50-150 per day.

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

Tons, every sport.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge, but they don't hang out.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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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 much, BBQ at the park?

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

Excellent for families, fine for couples. Singles will have to work hard and network to meet others.

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

Australians seem to be more accepting of the community, and there are a few in the Embassy.

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

I wouldn't want to be a non-native English speaker in this country, and if you are not white you might not want to come here either. Racism is more of the kid type than the KKK type.

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

Wonderful wildlife: kangaroos, cockatoos, other birds.

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

Anything involving the outdoors. Lake Burley Griffon splits the city in half. Tons of parks, wildlife, golf. Very well set up competitive shooting disciplines.

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

You could buy aboriginal art if you wanted to. But the prices are horrible.

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

Australia is a vacation spot, but not really Canberra. Australia is easily the most expensive place I have ever been.

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11. Can you save money?

No chance, all things together we make $100,000 per year and are just barely surviving.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Only to visit.

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

Pet, left-hand drive car, and firearms. A new law prohibits the importation of firearms. You can join a gun club and eventually shoot in matches. Hunting will involve hiring a paid hunting guide. Hunting is excellent here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Coat. It gets cold here in the winter.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Canberra is an OK town. The Australians will infuriate you with the antiquated medical system, lack of customer service, and arrogance. You will love the wildlife, the scenery, and often the food.

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Canberra, Australia 05/26/11

Background:

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

No, London, Yerevan, Guangzhou

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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?

Washington, DC.About 20 hours totaly travel time. Connections in Sydney, LA or San Francisco.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

U.S. Embassy Employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mostly single family homes. The availability of apts is very limited, especially in the desirable sections of town. This is a driving city and public transport is impractical. Commute times are generally reasponable. My guess is 15 minutes is the average, but traffic is getting worse as the city grows. Commute times go up if you have to cross the lake as the bridges are bottlenecks.

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

Almost everything you could want is available in grocery stores, although some brands are different than in the States. Groceries are significantly more expensive.

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

There isn't really anything I can't get here.

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

Lots of good neighborhood restaurants. McDonalds and Burger King (it's called Hungry Jack's here) are everywhere. There are also a number of Australian fast food chains. It is expensive though. It costs around $10 U.S. to eat at McDonald's.

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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?

All are widely available.

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

Lots of black flies, but those are little more than an annoyance. There are poisonous spiders and I see them quite often. They come into the house when it starts to get cold, but they aren't aggressive and antidote is available if you are bitten.

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Daily Life:

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

APO

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

Expensive, but available.

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

Yes, but they are expensive.

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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?

Easy and everywhere.

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

Various options.

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

Free to air TV with lots of U.S. shows. Sattellite for $60-100 a month with a lot 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?

If you don't speak English it will be difficult, but they you probably wouldn't be reading this.

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

No more than in the average U.S. city.

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Transportation:

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

Safe, but not always convenient. Local public transport leaves a lot to be desired. Taxis are prohibitively expensive. Buses and trains to Sydney and Melbourne are great.

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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?

Must be right-hand drive unless you are in the military. Any make or model will work.

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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?

Widely available. Costs around $60-100, depending on download limit.

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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?

Similar to the U.S.

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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, this can be very problematic. Australia is rabies free and the quarantine restrictions are extreme (and costly)

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

yes

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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.

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

Generally just a bit less formal than the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

Less than an average U.S. city.

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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?

Some poinsonous wild life. Health care is great.

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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?

As good as it gets.

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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?

Hot, dry summers. Chilly, wet winters. The buildings aren't insulated like at home, so while the winters are relatively mild they are pretty chilly.

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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 kids, so I couldn't say.

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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?

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

Tons. Australians love their sports. U.S. sports like baseball and American football are around, but much less prevalent than soccer or rugby.

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Expat Life:

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

Relatively small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally high.

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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?

Lots of options. You have to work a bit to find the spots you like, but you can find pretty much anything you would want to do here. Canberra can be sleepy sometimes, but there is a lot of fun to be found if you go looking for it.

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

Families definitely. Couples definitely. For singles its a mixed bag. It is a good dating environment for both genders, but the cost of taxis and need to drive most places can make going out difficult. The social scene might be a bit sleepy at first glance, but there are some gems hidden around town. Generally, anyone should be able to be comfortable here.

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

Very accepting. I don't know what the social scene is like, though.

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

Australians might make the odd comment that comes across as prejudice to American ears, but I don't see any serious problems with discrimination.

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

Travel to places like the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania.

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

Anything outdoors. The nature parks are great. There is a suprisingly good food scene and a passable wine region. It's also a 2-3 hour drive to the beach, skiing, and Sydney.

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

Local art. Australian wine.

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

Beautiful weather and tons of outdoor experiences. Great for hiking, biking, etc. It is easy to make friends in the local community.

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11. Can you save money?

Not easily.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a second.

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

Expectations that you are going to a big city. Canberra is a small town and if you can accept it for that it is a great place to live.

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3. But don't forget your:

Cash. No way around it. It is 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?

There aren't a lot of books on Canberra. The Party Thieves is great for politics. The Fatal Shore for history.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Castle. It's everything you need to know about Aussie humor. The longer you live here the better it gets.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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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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Canberra, Australia 11/01/10

Background:

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

No

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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?

DC-5 hours to LA, then 14 hours to Sydney and then 45 minutes to Canberra

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost a year and a half

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most have single-family dwellings with 4 bedrooms/2baths. Canberra is not that big, so even if one lives in the outer suburbs, the commute is 30 minutes max. Tne average commute would be 15-20 minutes.

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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 very expensive, especially compared to DC. You get used to it after a year.

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

Nothing particular. One can always order anything via APO.

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

McDonald's, KFC, Subway, and Hungry Jack (Burger King).There are some nice restaurants in city centre and Manuka/Kingston. Everything is more expensive than in DC.

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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?

One can easily find organic products here.

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

Be careful of redback spiders which are poisonous.

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Daily Life:

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

APO

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

Average is $30 an hour for a cleaner.

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

Yes, and very nice ones. Unfortunately, like everything else in Australia, gym memberships are pricey.

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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 problems with ATMs or credit cards.

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

Yes--heaps of different ones available.

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

Canberra Times--which isn't anything special. Cable TV is not as good as I was expecting for the expensive price one must pay. Popular US shows are at least 1 season behind.

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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?

English is spoken here.

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

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Transportation:

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

Safe yes, but not convenient--some neighboorhoods don't even have bus service. This is a hard city to be in without a car.

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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?

Diplomats can't bring in a car unless the steering wheel is on the right-hand size.

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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?

Yes, and it is pricey and not even unlimited.

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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?

No--there are many options to choose from.

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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--minimum one month and it will cost you.

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

Good.

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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. People who work on the economy make much more than working at the embassy. Even high-schoolers working part-time at the grocery store after school make more money per hour than most EFMS at the embassy.

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

Like DC.

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Health & Safety:

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

Brushfires are a threat during the summer.

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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?

Good health care, but ambulances are not quick. Also, expect to wait hours and pay a lot of $$ to use an emergency room. Better to use an after-hours clinic if one is sick during the weekend or in the evening if it is not an emergency.

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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?

Good.

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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?

There are 4 seasons. Spring and Fall are the lovliest. Winter can get cold, but mild compared to DC. Summer is hot and dry.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is no international school--but the Australian schools are quite good. Boys' Grammar and Girls' Grammar are the premier private schools and are excellent. One has to be mindful, however, about the differences in curriculum and the differences in the school calendar (February-December.)

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

Private schools do not make accomodations--one must go to public school. I don't know much more about it, other than speech therapy is not offered. There is a program for autistic children.

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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?

My kids are school-age, so I have no experience, but I've heard its like DC--pricey, and one must be on a waiting list before arrival.

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

Heaps. You name it--soccer, basketball, rowing, horseback riding, futsal, hockey, softball, baseball, swimming, gymnastics, and so on...

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Expat Life:

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

A decent size.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent. The U.S. Embassy has a friendly and popular ambassador, which helps. This is also a nice place to live.

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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?

BBQs are popular, of course!

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

All the above--although better for families because Canberra can be sleepy compared to Sydney or Melbourne.

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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?

Noen that I'm personally aware of.

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

Traveling around Australia--to the Outback, Darwin and "Crocodile Dundee country", Tasmania and more.

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

Bush-walking/hiking is the biggest. Also it is only about 2 hours from skiing and beach. Close to vineyards.

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

Dijoridoos, boomerangs, opals, and aboriginal art

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

Little to no traffic or pollution, low crime, loads of kids activities

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely not. EVERYTHING is expensive, and with the currently unfavorable exchange rate, it is even worse.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat. Most people leave kicking and screaming.

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

notion that Australians are exactly like Americans.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen--the sun is really strong here (actually you can buy that 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?

"In a Sunburnt Country" and "The Thorn Birds"

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Muriel's wedding, Stricly Ballroom, and The Thorn Birds

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Canberra, Australia 04/30/10

Background:

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

Not my first- Moscow, Yekaterinburg- Russia, Bishkek- Kyrgyzstan, Kiev- Ukraine, Frankfurt- Germany, Tripoli- Libya, Riga- Latvia, Tirana- Albania, Olso- Norway, Bern- Switzerland, Minsk- Belarus, Perth- Australia.

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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?

Washington D.C, with 2 plane changes, one in LA or San Fransisco, another plane change in Sydney.

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3. How long have you lived here?

April 2008- April 2009

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

Diplomat at US embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most people are in single-family houses spread out all across ACT, some even live just inside New South Wales (NSW). My commute was usually 20 minutes. Singles were usually in small bungalow houses or apartments.

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

Again, more sticker shock. Australia is a VERY expensive place to live. Think $3.50 for a bottle of Coke when it's on sale. We were spending about $500 every 2 weeks on groceries for just the two of us. Use the butcher shops, though -- the meat is much better in quality at a lower price!

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

Charcoal-lighter fluid, US BBQ sauce, but that's about it.

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

McD's is here, as well as Hungry Jack's (It's Burger King). There are also all of the usual pizza places (as in the US) and KFC. I felt they were better than in the USA -- but much more expensive.

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

Many different kinds of poisonous spiders and scorpions! I had them all in my house at one time or another. We also had a HUGE fire ant problem outside. The pest control company we called brought a small army of people to get rid of them.

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Daily Life:

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

We used the embassy APO, but we also used the local Aussie Post for mailing letters and packages to Europe. Local post was a bit more expensive but very reliable.

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

We didn't use regular domestic help, but we did occasionally hire a company to help keep the yard tidy...quite expensive, but very high quality.

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

Yes, but be ready for the sticker shock! Very expensive.

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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?

Credit cards are safe here, and ATMs are more common than fast-food places!

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

Yes! All denominations, and in english. They even have a Buddhist service in english.

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

Yes! You name the paper, and it's here. There is Fox cable TV in my area, but its far too expensive for what it is. It's better not to be a TV addict here.

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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's an english country! It helps to know some of the local slang. Otherwise you could easily take something the wrong way.

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

None whatsoever. This is probably the most handicap-friendly country in the world.

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Transportation:

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

Trains are the best way to get between major cities. They are very cheap, comfortable and reliable.

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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?

Don't even think about bringing a car here -- even if you're from the UK. They have very strict rules for cars here, and they must have been made to Australian specifications. We bought a Toyota RAV4 when we got here, but we wish we'd bought one with a bit more power. Australians are very aggressive drivers, even outside the city. Think of driving in DC or London to get an idea. Car repairs are very expensive here, so I'd suggest buying a model that is also available in the US. Then you can order parts from the US and save a lot of money. I have heard that car-jackings have been a problem in Melbourne and in some of the more remote outback locations (bike gangs).

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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?

High Speed internet in Canberra is something of a joke. All companies avertise "Up to 20mb per second" and charge $100 a month for it. On a good day I may have had 3mb per second, and forget about doing anything serious on the internet during prime time (6-9 pm) because the speed will slow down to dial-up speeds. I had frequent outages and very poor service from Big Pond.

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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?

They are cheap, and you have a choice of companies. We were most happy with Vodaphone. Look at the plans carefully, though, because overage charges will break the bank.

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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 they also need a massive number of tests and shots before you even get here. Quarantine times can be 3 months long! I don't know what goes on at the facility, but people have told me that their pets were never quite the same after they got out.

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

Pets get very good care here. I think the only thing the Aussies love more than leisure time is their pets.

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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?

It's a very good place to work on the local economy. Pay scales were better than at the embassy.

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

Same as working at HST! Public dress is the same as the US.

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Health & Safety:

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

No real concerns. There is a growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, and there have been some attacks on Asian and Indians/Pakistani students. There are problems with motorcycle gangs in the deeper parts of the outback.

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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?

Allergies. I was never allergic to anything until I got here. Now I test positive for allergies to just about every native plant. There is excellent private medical care, but the hospitals are almost third-world quality. Don't come here with major medical issues!

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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?

Very good, except people like me, who have never had allergy issues, may find that they're allergic to every growing thing in Australia.

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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?

Very similar to southwestern Texas. Hot, dry summers with cool wet winters. I saw only one snowfall ( in July!) the whole time I was there.

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Schools & Children:

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

I didn't have any direct experience with them...but I knew of some children that attended Australian public schools.

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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?

YES! I didn't have my daughter in one, but I knew Australians that had their childern in them. They are very heavily regulated and quite expensive. Fees for being just 15 minutes late could range up and over $100.

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

Yes...but limited to swimming, soccer and tennis.

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Expat Life:

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

There is a huge expat community but very little interaction among expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Outside of work, morale was very high because it's such a great place to live. You just had to survive the very low morale at the embassy.

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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?

Australians are a very social people, and its easy to make Australian friends. Be sure you bring a bbq grill with you -- that seems to be their number-one past time!

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

It's very good for families and singles! For families there are a ton of parks and activities geared towards childern. Australians love children, and it shows in the summer-time events in the city. For singles, the Australians are just very nice people. I knew a lot of single men who left Australia either engaged or married to Australians! Clubbing is essentially dead in Canberra, since the whole city seems to roll up by 7 pm. Best to head to Sydney for that.

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

I knew some gays and lesbians, and they were quite happy there. There really aren't any problems with anti-gay hostility. Again, though, best to head to Sydney for the gay clubs.

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

Just a few. Like Europe, there is a real backlash against immigration, and there have been some attacks on Asians, Indian/Pakistanis, and Africans.

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

Trips to the Beach! Its a 2.5-hour ride to the Pacific ocean from Canberra, but the road can be quite frightening through the mountains.

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

PARKS! Without a doubt, they do have the best wildlife parks in the world. It was easy for my wife and me to find pristine beaches that weren't overrun with tourists.

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

Aboriginal art and the usual touristy junk you find in Florida.

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

Best advantange is the Australian people- nowhere in the world will you find a nicer people.

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11. Can you save money?

No way. Even with the huge COLA, the cost of groceries and the necessity of getting out for a weekend will ruin your wallet.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but only for vacations!

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

...pets. It is best not to put them through all of that. I really missed my dog. Leave your car behind, too. And don't pack any plant-based material, like spices or furniture.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses and sunscreen! Bring some Claratin-D or Zyrtec-D, just in case.

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

It is tough to find books on Canberra. The best way is to look up Aussie news on the web.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

I can't remember the titles, but keep an eye on PB -- they show some Aussie TV programs.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

We loved Australia and wish we didn't have to leave early!

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

US government assigned post.

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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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Canberra, Australia 04/27/09

Background:

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

No, Shanghai.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Nearly 3 years.

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

About 24 hours from the East coast via SFO or LAX.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing market is very tight here. Embassy is mostly putting new families on the North end of town where there is new development. The commute to the Embassy is 15-20 minutes by car and there is no public bus where we live.

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

With the current exchange rate the prices are fine. But if the dollars are equal Canberra is very very expensive. You can find most products here expcept for a few things like Mexican food supplies, grape jelly and bisquick.

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

If you are on a very limited budget then sending extra skin care products, shaving products, and paper goods would help a great deal.

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

Typical McDonald's etc. Restraunts are good around Canberra but have restrictive hours. You will not find any 24-hour restaurants and many places don't start serving food until 6pm. Costs are high.

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

Ahhh Australia has tons of insects. The most bothersome but not deadly is the common house fly which are in mass quantaties anytime the temperature is over 70 degrees. Canberra has lots of spiders including red backs which are poisonous. Lots of ants too and wasps and and and...

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Daily Life:

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

We use the APO at the Embassy which takes 2 or more weeks for stuff to get through. The APO is subject to the strict quaranteen standards so nothing with egg or corn products.

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

Hard to find and very expensive. Regular cleaners are about US$30 an hour.

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

Yes.

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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?

ATM's are fine and plentiful. Your U.S. credit card will charge you a fee for exchange rates. Some people have been able to get Australian Credit cards but some have not.

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

Yes in most denominations.

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

Yes. You can get 4 basic channels on free to air. Most people have cable or satalite. Currently a full package on satalite is about US$90.

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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?

Everyone speaks English but it takes a while to figure out what they are saying. But people are very friendly and helpful.

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

Depends...our neighborhood has no sidewalks and in many stores the doors are not wheelcair friendly. I think the downtown part of the city would be fine.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are expensive and often not reliable. No trains and bus system is fine if it goes to your neighborhood.

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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 are not allowed to bring a left hand drive vehicle so will have to buy one here. We are not the offroadign type so just have a people mover.(station wagon). Gas is expensive about US$1.20 per liter at the moment.

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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?

Yes but NOT very high speed. You will notice a significant difference in speed if you are coming from the U.S. Also very expensive and there are no unlimited use plans.

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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?

You will want to buy one once you are here. They have a different philosophy on who pays. There are no plans with unlimited minutes and the person making the phone call is charged minutes not the one receiving.

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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 for 6 months and they are very strict on this.

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

Fine.

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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.

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

Buisness dress at work and casual around town.

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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?

Same as U.S.

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

Depends on the suburb you live in. But overall a safe city. Embassy houses have an alarm system. We live in the south end of town and have had no problems.

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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?

Great health care. The only thing you have to get used to is waiting for your turn. Unlike care in the U.S. you can wait several weeks and or months to get into speicalist docotors and or testing. Some people end up in Sydney if they need to see a specialist.

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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?

Currently Canberra is in a pretty bad drought. This means lots of water restrictions and not a lot of green grass in a city that was built to look much like a park. But there are 4 distinct seasons with no snow in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are no international schools and no schools with U.S. curriculum. One of our children attends private school and the other who has special needs attends public school.

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

Public schools seem to work with special needs more than private school. There is far less integration into the mainstream classes than in the U.S. Early intervention services through the age of 5 are similar to the U.S. But waiting times to get into the system can be long.

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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?

Yes but expensive. Public preschool is avaialable for 12 hours per week. Either in 3 short days or two long days.

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

Yes soccer, netball, rugby, cricket, rowing, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fine.

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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?

Social life is ok. Being a small city you get small city entertainment. But Sydney is onlya 3 hour dirve if you need a big city fix.

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

Really great for families not so great for singles. Great for couples if you like outdoor things. If you are into the big city stuff you will be dissapointed here.

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

Yes Australia is pretty open.

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

Canberra is not a very diverse town but people are friendly.

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

Lots of outdoor things and not a far drive to the snow in winter and great beaches in summer.

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

Aboriginal artwork.

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9. 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 we love it here.

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

Extended family and friends as getting them here for a visit is a long long journey and expensive.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, hat, suncreen and waterbottle. The sun is really really strong.

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

None to Canberra but Tim Winton an Australian writer has some good fiction about Australia.

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

None to Canberra but Tim Winton an Australian writer has some good fiction about Australia.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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