Since my arrival on Australian soil 4 weeks ago, I have been scrambling to get my life here in order and set up some semblance of normalcy. This has involved job hunting, flat searching, getting my tax file number and setting up a bank account. I can officially say that I have completed all four task and I have succeeded in settling in Sydney.
First and foremost, to legally work in Australia, you must have a tax file number. Registering for a Tax File Number (TFN) is very simple – all you have to do is go to the government website and fill in all the boxes with your personal information and you should receive your TFN within a month. I received mine within two weeks. Simple as that.
Secondly, you’ll need to set up a bank account. This proved to be the most annoying and difficult part of my settling in Sydney. On my second day here, I walked into Westpac bank bright and early and was told I would have to wait for about an hour before I could see someone about opening an account. An hour and a half later, I was greeted by Maggie, who took me into her office and helped me set up a basic bank account. Before I had left Canada I went to my own bank and had explained my situation (that I was moving to another country and wanted to bring some money with me — but didn’t want to have to carry around all that cash. I was told to have a bank draft issued, so after spending an afternoon dealing with bank draft stuff, I figured I was well on my way. Well.. lo and behold, I went to the teller at the bank in Australia and asked if I could deposit the bank draft into my new account. They said no.
- The bank draft was not in Australian funds.
- They only process bank drafts for customers who have been with their bank for a year or two.
- If I had fit this criteria, it still would have taken 6-8weeks to process.
So I said screw that, tore up the bank draft and got on the phone with my mother (who is my power of attorney) and got her to go down to my bank and wire transfer me the money. It took 4 business days and a lot of headaches, but by the end of my first week in Australia I finally had money in my Australian bank account and felt like a normal human being, with access to my own money!
Thirdly, finding a job. To be honest, this came a lot easier than I expected. I was simply planning to do waitressing work, so right away I signed up for an Responsible Service of Alcohol course (certification is required by all people working in any sort of food/drink service environment). Upon completion, I also attended a bartending and cocktail prep course as well as received my certification in Barista Level 1 & 2 and learned coffee art, just for fun (and to boost my resume). I submitted my resume to three different places, and within a day had been called for an interview. Went in for a very quick interview at a bistro the following day, and was given a trial for the day after that. The trial consisted of me going in for about an hour and actually proving to them that I did have experience working in a bar and I knew how to do the basic tasks of pouring beers and mixing cocktails. Two days later one of the managers texted me letting me know that I had gotten the job and gave me my hours for the coming week. I assume that getting hospitality work is fairly simple here in Australia, especially if you have prior experience and good English skills. For myself, having worked in pubs, restaurants and bars for 5 years definitely gave me a distinct advantage over any other potential candidates. And there’s always something to be said for people who are outgoing and talkative – a personality trait I am definitely not lacking in.
Lastly, it was time for me to say goodbye to my hostel ways and set up shop elsewhere – get a flat of my own. I popped onto Gumtree (a classifieds website much like Kijiji or Craigslist back home in Canada), and started perusing the listings. I came across one listing in particular that caught my eye – it was in North Sydney, steps from the train station, 10 minutes from the CBD, large room that came furnished with a double bed, couch, television, and clothes rack, and best of all it wasn’t a shared bedroom (something very common in Sydney’s CBD. Rent was a little more than I was hoping to pay, but after making an appointment with one of the flatmates to take a look at the place, I knew it was the place for me. The day after I went to look at the flat, the flatmate who had showed me around called me to let me know that if I wanted it, it was mine. I met her that night to drop off my deposit and 6 days later I moved in.
I’ve been living here now for almost a week and love my independence and especially love the fact that I have some semblance of normalcy back in my life – I’m back into a routine and I am enjoying life in Sydney. It’s no longer a vacation, but a true working holiday. I get up in the morning, have breakfast, pack my lunch, go to work, and come home to my flat at the end of the day. My flatmates and I sit out on our front porch and drink wine and watch people stroll by, or stumble out of the pub across the street. I go to the beach on my days off and go out for beers with friends. It’s funny to think that less than 1month ago, I was stepping off the plane and returning to the hostel I’ve spent nearly a total of 2months at in the last year. I truly love Sydney and love my life here. I don’t want this year to end.