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

Personal Experiences from Perth, Australia

Perth, Australia 03/11/16

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Jamaica.

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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?

We moved there from New York City. There was no short way home. It takes at least 24 hours, more with layovers. Layover recommended with kids!

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3. How long have you lived here?

Late 2010 to early 2015

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

Corporate assignment

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Downtown Perth is where most offices are located. There are low-maintenance apartments there, often furnished and with a bit of outdoor space (patio, balcony) to accommodate the large number of transient employees of the mining and oil and gas industries. There is similar housing stock close to the coast in beach communities like Cottesloe and Swanbourne. There are also older and newer houses, often with outdoor space (yes, for your "shrimp on the barbie"). Housing stock nearer to the coast and in more walkable communities is costlier.

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

Food is expensive, but on par with many Western countries.

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

None, but note that clothes and other goods can be expensive. I went on shopping sprees when I went back to the U.S., as do many Aussies.

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

McDonald's and other similar fast food is available. Some good restaurants, excellent Asian food. Price ranges vary widely, fewer decent options on the budget side. If you are a carnivore, Australian beef is great.

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

Australia has a lot of insects, especially spiders. Some of those can be dangerous like that ubiquitous redback spider, but if you leave them alone, they will generally do the same.

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Daily Life:

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

Through Australian Post.

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

Expect to pay upwards of US$15 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?

Same as the U.S.

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

Plenty, though didn't attend many.

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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?

It's English!

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

No experience with this, but seems very accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Safe, yes. Affordable, not really. Public transport is not great, but there is a light rail and buses.

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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?

Right-hand drive. Four-wheel drive is useful if you want to go on dirt tracks in the Outback, but you don't really need to do that to see the country. You can easily get by with a small hatchback as we did (even on dirt tracks). If you want to do serious Outback exploration, you'll need a car kitted out for that.

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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's too expensive, but getting better.

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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, used a company phone.

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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?

Bringing pets in is VERY EXPENSIVE. Australia has very strict quarantine rules. Expect to pay thousands.

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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 depends on the boom/bust cycle of the resources economy. During boom times, companies bring people in and wages are high. There is plenty of work of all types, not only the resources industry. When the cycle is in a lull, you'll find it much more difficult, but living will be cheaper.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many NGOs that can use volunteers.

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

Very casual. Australians do get dolled up for parties, etc, but it's not uncommon to see people in the grocery store barefoot.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. Alcohol-fueled violence known as "anti-social behavior" is common, but is normally easily avoided by staying away some of the rougher drinking spots. Perth is a mining town at heart and has some of that swashbuckling culture.

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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?

The quality of medical care is excellent.

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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 clean.

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

None that I know of.

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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?

Very hot, dry, summers, mild rainy 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?

Did not have children there. There is no international school to my knowledge, just private 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. Many Australians get a daycare subsidy, so it is expensive, but generally quite high quality. Long waiting lists.

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

Yes! Sports is the national pastime.

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Expat Life:

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

It is large, and larger still when there is a resources boom. Lots of people from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, and various parts of Europe. Morale is mixed. Some people love it, some people don't and cannot wait to move on.

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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?

Go to the beach! Perth has a growing number of interesting places to eat out and a burgeoning art scene. While many complain about the lack of culture, there are great exhibits and world-class performers that come through the city. Getting out of the city to explore Western Australia, be it wineries or little country towns is a unique experience.

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

Great city for families-- everything is family-centric. Can be fun for singles and couples, but Australia is an insular society. It is hard to make Australian friends, especially if you don't have children. We found it much easier to make friends once we had a child.

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

It is ok. Australia does have a "bloke-y" side, especially in the West that can seem a bit hostile to those who are not heteronormative. This is not Sydney or Melbourne where there is a more visible gay community.

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

Yes. There tends to be a shocking amount of prejudice against Aboriginal people.

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

Visiting the Ningaloo Reef, heading out into the kind of Outback country you only see on nature specials. Western Australia is a dream for people who love hiking, surfing, biking, sailing, birding, any outdoor activity except maybe winter sports.

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

Try the wineries in areas other than Margaret River and Swan Valley, like in Porongurup. Not secret or hidden, but the Bibbulman track and the cape to cape tracks are great.

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

Fantastic wine, aboriginal art, traveling to isolated areas of Western Australia.

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

Western Australia is absolutely beautiful. There's lots of unspoiled wilderness, gorgeous beaches, clean air and water. The weather can be very hot in the summer and while winters are mild, there is poor insulation and indoor heating, so it can be chilly.

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10. Can you save money?

Not if there's a resources boom! It depends on the U.S. dollar to Aussie exchange rate, but things are not cheap.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known a bit more about Australian culture. As a person of color, it was sometimes difficult to fit in and I wish I had been a bit more prepared for that. Australians have a reputation of being friendly and easy-going abroad, but that is not always the case at home.

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

Yes.

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

Heavy winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen!

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

Anything by Tim Winton. For coastal culture, try "Breath." For Perth history, try "Cloudstreet." Also, "Dirt Music."

For an unblinking and painful look at Australia's convict history The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding is a must read.

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