I first came to Australia nearly 6 six years ago on a Working Holiday Visa. While this was a great opportunity to visit this amazing country, there are some things that everybody should know before traveling down under. So if you are thinking of moving to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, keep reading! These recommendations will give you the best chance to live a successful trip… and you might never go back home either!
Over the years, I met a lot of people moving to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa who are hanging out with their “own” nationalities. No offense, it is always good to meet friends coming from the same place than you, especially when you are at the other end of the world! However, don’t forget that it is an English speaking country and that (like me) you are probably coming here hoping to improve your English as well.
Don’t limit yourself and be open to everybody. For example, if you are part of backpacker groups on Facebook, maybe try to join the international one. Same goes when you are looking for a room: always ask who you will be living with, and it is always better if some of your flatmates are Aussies or native English speakers. The first few weeks will probably be hard, but you’ll learn faster and better.
Speak English (and get used to with the Aussie accent)
Following the first point, it is always better to have a Basic English level before traveling here. I lived for one year in the UK before coming to Australia and even if I was far from being fluent, I could hold a conversation with someone. However, my first few days in Melbourne were a bit rocky as locals have a (really) strong accent – which doesn’t sound like anything I heard before. I remember going to a local bank branch to open an account and struggling to understand what the lady was asking me.
In the professional world, you will find a lot of concurrence to get a job. Even if you plan to work in the hospitality industry, on a farm, or a factory, you still need a basic conversation level to understand instructions or to have a chat with customers. Bear in mind that despite employers being happy to employ foreigners, they are not waiting for you. Although a lot of them will be willing to give a job to French nationals in a French restaurant (for example), you still have to be able to communicate properly. So put all the chances on your side and practice your English as much as you can.
Have enough money
It is a common mistake to think that you will earn money quickly and easily in Australia. It might be true (if you are lucky) but it could also take you a while to find a job, especially with the country being so popular among backpackers. The department of immigration recommends coming with sufficient funds (at least 5000 AUD) on your bank account, and I think that this is the best way to protect yourself.
Daily life here is pretty expensive, especially in the big cities where the cost of living can add up quickly, particularly for accommodation. You might be tempted by eating out as well, which can be pricey. So just be sure that you have enough money to support yourself for a while. It would be a shame to be forced to leave before visiting this amazing country just because you are running out of cash.
Subscribe to an insurance
This is probably the most important thing to do before moving to Australia with a Working Holiday Visa. Whether it is for your health or any liability, taking out an insurance policy is essential. You don’t know what to expect in life and you can also have an accident here: if you need to go to hospital, medical costs can add up quickly. If you break down a car, you might find yourself having to pay money for the rest of your life. So be aware: subscribing to an insurance company might keep you away from a lot of trouble.
Stand up for yourself
Even if you are a foreigner in this country, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything. My first advice would be to take your time to find proper accommodation and don’t rush to rent the first room you will be visiting. You are probably going to see some bad ones where people are trying to take advantage of you. I remember coming upon a crowded dirty flat with a bathroom for eight people (for a ridiculously high price) when I was looking for a place to stay.
If you can, search outside the city center. Especially in Melbourne, there is some nice neighborhood around the CBD (South Yarra, Elwood, or Brunswick to name a few). And if you don’t find straight away, it is better to stay a few more nights in a hostel than having to rush in a flatshare where you will not feel comfortable. The same thing goes when looking for a job: some employers might try to underpay you. Just have a look at the minimal wages according to your field (that are available online) before accepting a job.
It’s not hot all year round
Unless you are going to spend all your time on the Gold Coast or in the Top End, pack some warm clothes. If you are going on a road trip on the southwest coast, in Tasmania or around Melbourne, winter will be shocking, not to mention the temperatures dropping at night pretty much everywhere. People often have the idea that Australia is a sunny country all year round and let me tell you something: it is far from the truth! Melbourne winter is still rough for me (even after a few years), as it tends to be windy most of the time. But even in summer don’t forget that Melbourne is called the city of four seasons in one day for a reason: you might need to use a sun hat and an umbrella the same day (true story).
These are the few things you have to keep in mind when traveling and working around Australia. However, what you need to do in return is being respectful. This country is welcoming you for a year (or more) so make the most of your time here but don’t think you are above the law: don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do back home. Have fun, discover everything Australia has to offer, and enjoy your time down under!