Recently, we celebrated our 5th anniversary of arriving in Australia. 5 years. Some days it feels like we’ve just arrived. Other days it feels like we’ve never lived anywhere else.
It got me thinking about how I feel after so long, and what I’ve learnt after living here for 5 years.
5 Things I’ve Learnt After 5 Years In Australia
#1 – Job Security Is Rare
Working is tough here. Compared to the UK, we’ve never worked so hard as we do in Australia.
I can’t really compare to South Africa, as I left after I finished my degree, but I think in general South Africans are known to have an amazing work ethic. While in the UK, people would rarely do anything outside their job role, South Africans are generally not afraid to get their hands dirty doing whatever needs to be done.
For the first 3 years after we moved to Australia, I worked for a small business here in Perth. It was an entry-level role which taught me a great deal about a completely new industry (online marketing). On my 3rd anniversary of working for the company, I was suspended and then fired. I haven’t spoken publicly about this because it was extremely acrimonious and ended up going through mediation via Fair Work. I suspect my ex-employer still stalks me (hello there!), as others who were fired before me (yes there were others too!) say they still get notifications of their LinkedIn profile being looked at by said ex-boss.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because, you may work for a small business and love your job, but do you realise how easy it is for them to get rid of you? Since it happened to me, I know 3 other close friends went through the same thing. I also get emails and messages from you, my readers, and several people contacted me asking for advice as they were unfairly dismissed.
If you work for a small business (under 15 employees), you may want to check the legislation around what reasons they can use to fire you. Actually, does it really matter? Because big companies seem to be able to do what they want as well, and they get away with it most of the time.
Often you’re left with no notice and no payout. If wages are withheld, or you were given no notice, you need to decide if it’s worth your while to pursue it purely for the money. The emotional stress could far outweigh the monetary gain, especially if you have been dismissed.
In South Africa and the UK, I never knew of anyone being fired for anything. Here in Australia, I’ve run out of fingers counting the people I know personally who’ve been fired at some point in their careers in Australia. It’s actually insane.
You might think, well that’s all well and good but generally if you work for a multi-million dollar, international company, you’ll be fine.
Mr C, after almost 5 years with the same company, lost his job earlier this year. The Australian branch of the company went into administration and all staff were let go one lunchtime – no notice and no wages. It took him a couple of months, but he now has another job, thank goodness. It’s pretty stressful living on one income if you’re reliant on two.
For me, getting fired turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.
I became a freelance digital marketer in Perth, offering SEO, Google AdWords and business blogging for businesses around Australia. I work when I want, so if I need to do something in the day, I can work evenings or weekends instead. I also took on an extra role for Rand Rescue, helping South Africans get their retirement annuities and cash out of South Africa. I would never have been able to fit this in had I have still been employed.
The best bits are this though. No more commuting, no more missing out on sports days and lapathons and school assemblies. I get to see my son get his merit awards, without having to clock-watch and work out how much time I need to make up when I get to the office. No more OSH club, so no more hefty childcare fees, hurrah! No more having to negotiate office politics or worry about who said what to who about what. I freaking LOVE being my own boss and can never imagine working for anyone else again.
So, moral of the story here is always, always, always keep building your connections. You never know when you’re going to need them.
#2 – Housing Is Expensive
This may be obvious when you have real estate data at your fingertips, but I can’t get used to just how much it costs to rent or buy a home here.
It’s not as bad in Perth either, compared to Sydney and Melbourne. The median house price in Sydney is now over $1.1m – who the hell can afford that? Seriously unless you are on megabucks, Sydney is probably not the location you want to choose, unless you’re happy to spend hours each day commuting.
#3 – Be Humble
In the 5 years I’ve lived in Australia, I’ve met a lot of people: Australians, South Africans, Brits, Irish, and many other cultures.
Most of them have been so friendly, welcoming and helpful. I’ve made some great friendships over the years, but it is hard to make friends, especially as an adult.
The best tip I can give you when it comes to meeting people and making friends is this – be humble.
Don’t go in there with your arrogance and bolshiness, expecting people to listen to you and respect you. This applies to social and work situations. There’s nothing the Aussies hate more than being told to do things another way. Just don’t do it – or at least don’t do it until you’re settled in!
It saddens me that there are so many arrogant South Africans here in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why we as a nation have such a tarnished reputation among the Aussies when you meet ones like this.
So next time you’re invited somewhere, make a mental note of how you speak and act, as well as your body language. If you want to make friends and integrate, be humble.
#4 – Embrace Everything
If you’re coming to Australia and expect to recreate your own little pocket of South Africa, think again. If you’re coming to live in Australia, you need to embrace everything that Australia has to offer you.
Discover where Australians hang out, what they do, what they eat and drink.
It’s not to say you should forget your roots, and abandon everything South African. Of course not. But don’t assume you can’t discover new things in your new home country.
Australia has a plethora of amazing places, shops, produce, people, activities, animals, and more. Embrace them! Learn about them, and you’ll find you settle in a whole lot easier than if you resist everything Australian and only focus on your South African heritage.
#5 – You Can Still Miss Where You Came From
Now here’s the thing that annoys me. A lot. You’re likely to come across some very bitter and twisted South Africans. Sad but true.
Ones that are so bitter about having to leave South Africa, they’re hell-bent on telling everyone that they’ll never ever set foot back there, that it’s a ‘shithole’ (to quote Donald Trump) and they can’t understand anyone who would ever want to go back there on holiday or for any reason at all.
Well, you know what, that’s YOUR opinion. You don’t have to ever go back, but you know what, some of us will never stop loving our roots, no matter what is happening in South Africa.
If you don’t miss South Africa, that’s fine.
If you miss South Africa, that’s fine too.
And if anyone tells you what your opinion should be in South Africa, you just tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Don’t let these negative Nancy’s tell you how you should feel – about anything!
I will always miss the South Africa I lived in. I will always miss my friends and family – who are now scattered throughout the world. I will miss the natural beauty, the animals, the beaches, the food, the weather, and more.
But you know what?
We have some pretty amazing food here and the weather in Perth is fantastic for at least 6 months of the year (and winter really isn’t THAT bad).
Australia has over 50,000km of coastline and over 10,000 beaches, and most of them are spectacular.
We may not have lions and elephants, but I still get a thrill when I see wild kangaroos and hear a kookaburra in the trees (even the crows and their ridiculous noises make me laugh – maybe less so at 5am!).
I’ve only had time to explore a small section of WA, from the Pinnacles in the north to Albany in the south. And the landscapes have been breathtaking and so different from area to area.
I can’t wait to explore more of Australia but I’ll always miss South Africa. Just you try and stop me!
How long have you been in Australia? What have you learned? Do any of the points above resonate with you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.