Since we had to activate our visa with this initial trip to Melbourne, I decided to jot down my latest impressions as a mom, wife and adult who's already eaten a bit of salt in her working life.
MY MELBOURNE OBSERVATIONS :- Fresh food (fruits, veggies), packaged foods and generally everything in retail are really expensive! I had the impression they were cheaper than in Malaysia and was SOOO looking forward to experimental cooking with cheap, high quality foods. The good news is that during the sales / offers at Woolies and Coles, they become ridiculously cheap. So gotta buy and freeze and hoard.
- Meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken) are cheaper, even after conversion! Hooray!
- If you're earning in Oz dollars, everything is more affordable than in Malaysia. Your buying power is higher here because prices are almost dollar for dollar e.g. Fuel is RM1.90 in Malaysia, and AUD1.30 in Oz. So are salaries e.g. RM4k in Msia and for the same job, you'll probably earn AUD4k too.
- Pampers are ridiculous. AUD33 vs RM46 !!! No Mamy Poko, only Huggies so far. Thank God Josh is ok with using this brand. We have to ship a ton from home, and start potty training Joshua ASAP.
- King beds are non-existent. Mainly Queen beds due to small bedroom sizes, and they are about a foot longer than the Queen beds in Msia. All our bedsheets won't fit. Shit. No point buying quilts from home because they won't fit and won't be thick enough.
- Using dryers are bloody expensive. They take 2 hours of electricity-draining hot air to dry a small load. Dang. May still have to line dry the laundry.
- You can get sunburned (red face, not peeling yet) after walking in the morning sun for 1 hour. Sunblock is always a must.
- The water isn't as hard as it was in Adelaide. My hands didn't dry that much when I did washing, didn't really start cracking or hurting, and should be fine with regular moisturiser. Water can be drunk from the tap, but tastes a bit weird due to fluoride. Found out fluoride is really toxic and can reduce IQ over time. Can only get rid of it via reverse osmosis, and even then it's not all. Can't escape it since all water there is fluoridated, and bottled water is bloody bloody expensive there it seems.
- No more watching movies for us. Tickets are now AUD20 instead of AUD8 that I used to pay in Adelaide. OMG.
- Gotta get the kids used to other yogurts, because Petit Miam is more expensive than Malaysia after conversion. Dutch Lady UHT milk doesn't exist, so I gotta introduce fresh milk to them now. Kids are also ok with meat pies, which is VERY good news.
- My little chinamen need their rice. They can't put in much of the gwailo food. Get full really fast on the proteins. Condor 2 actually liked eating the steamed cauliflower and carrots there, without needed to mash it into the rice. The veggies are really sweet and yummy.
- Avocadoes and salmon are NOT cheap. But, gotta wait for the sales. Hoard, hoard, HOARD!
- I should ship my own stationery, since I already have so much here at home. Expensiveeee.
- Very expensive to eat out, if you convert. But it's almost dollar for dollar as when we eat out in Malaysia. e.g. dinner in an expensive celebrity chef restaurant for 4 adults + 2 kids came up to AUD120. Not so bad if you're earning money there. But the simple meals are really costly, as nothing under AUD10. Fish & Chips are AUD10, and good sandwiches can be about AUD15. McD can also come up to AUD25 for 3 adults + 2 kids. Good news is there are plenty of microwave dinners (Weight Watchers) and frozen pies, so even if we eat at home all the time, I don't need to panic if I can't cook dinner everyday. Pies are like AUD5 for a pack of 4, so yay!
- Tax is ridiculous. Very easy to hit the 45% tax bracket. At least we actually benefit from our tax money there.
- The boyz sleep very well in this weather, even though it was summer. Either that, or they're really tired. They could sleep more than 2 hours uninterrupted! WOOHOO! But C2 is still very hot stuff, and sweats in his sleep (back of head and neck, and his pillow, are drenched) even on the cold days, and at night, even though he's just wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt and diapers!
- There are a disappointingly high number of Asians in the Boxhill / Mont Albert area, mainly people from China, since they are all conversing in sharp and and hissy Mandarin. They also brought their unpleasant social behaviour with them e.g. not waiting for people to alight a train before they barged on board, only mixing among themselves and not with the locals, sprawling themselves all over the seat on the train so that others won't take the vacant seats opposite them etc.... Me no likee. Didn't run across many Malaysians or Singaporeans.
- Australians (caucasians) kept staring at me and Papa Condor wherever we went. Not with hostility, but with a mix of interest and curiosity. They were also really friendly, and ready to engage. At first, I thought that it was because I was so exotic and gorgeous, despite my mommy fats, that they couldn't help but stare. But later, we surmised that it was because we looked Asian, but not typically Chinese. And we conversed in English, and so did our kids. Not in Mandarin. Our accents were not Indian, Hongkie nor Pinoy, so they must be wondering what the hell we were. You can see how their initial expressions (which are a little guarded) melt into friendly ones the minute they hear us speaking English to each other.
- Australia Day is a bad day to go out. 2 pimply punk-ass teenagers snubbed me and the kids, choosing to take the stairs rather than wait for the lift with us. I had smiled at them (since everyone to that point had been super friendly and chatty), but didn't return it and looked away, saying loudly after they had passed, "Get out of the country!" I was shocked, then replied loudly, "Assholes!" In-bred dickwads.
This experience ruined the trip for me because if I can get this treatment 4 days into a short holiday, what happens if I extrapolate it into 40 years of making a life here?!? How will my boyz be treated, growing up? Will they be bullied, or will they be accepted? Taking my previous bullet point into this analysis, it's possible that the hostility to Asians is due to their unwillingness to assimilate into the society they've joined - if that's the case, we should be fine since we are as Western-minded and eager to assimilate as they come. We can't even speak Chinese. We love the Australian way of life and plan to fully embrace it and have plenty of Aussie friends (if we can) and not just stick to our own people.
- They have DAISO and CRABTREE here! WOOHOO! But must go to the big malls like Westfield. The others only have small-time or local brands. And Daiso seems to be AUD3 per item, not AUD2 like the 2 dollar Oz shops. Oh can someone please bring Uniqlo to Melbourne??
- The most fantastic beautiful weather for exercise and outdoor play with the kids. Even when it's hot, the cold wind makes the heat non-existent (dangerous without sunblock, as you burn without realising) and you don't SWEAT! Oh joy! No more sweating!!! Although I did sweat since we are struggling with 2 demon boyz, one hour of struggling produces a light misting of sweat, not the torrential sticky mess you get in KL after 1min of struggling. It's sort of a similar comparison when you talk about rain in Melbourne.
- The sun goes down at 8.30pm-ish. So we have such a huge window for taking the kids out to the playground, and not have to worry about the dark, muggers, or Aedes mosquitoes. Although their mozzies are quite big and itchy too, as the only existing mozzie in a 5-kilometre radius can always somehow find ME to bite me all over the place.
- Safe to leave things unattended. Garage doors can be left open, without worry that people will walk into the ungated yard and swipe your shit. For once, I didn't constantly worry about keeping my pouch in front of me for fear of pickpockets. I could comfortably carry Joshua, with my pouch dangling safely behind me, instead of Joshua using it as a foothold to rock-climb the front of my body.
- The air is very dry, and C2 drank tons of water. He went thru diapers like crazy. His skin is also too sensitive to the air, and he had dry skin or some sort of eczema all over the parts that were exposed to the air (calves). Condor 1 got it on his cheeks. Windburn, maybe? I have to moisturise the boyz like mad before every outing. But at least I won't be sweating buckets each time I put the lotion on, or have to worry that the lotion will burn their face or neck, or that it's stinks or that it's toxic if they accidentally get some in their mouths or eyes (the thing I hate the most in Msia is putting on heavy-duty mozzie lotion each time we go out). Lip balm is a must.
- Woolies lasagnia is very very nice!
- General consensus when talking to people living here is that there is a racial ceiling. Caucasians will always be chosen for management positions over the Asians, or so we've been told, but that's if you're looking at promotions within the country and not cross-country transfers within the same company. I'm still not 100% sure about it being a skin colour thing. I have a suspicion it's an industry and language thing. Some industries will be harder for non-Aussies, usually the more corporate or political ones, like banking, finance, consultancy etc... But for industries like video games, it's super multicultural and it's run like a meritocracy. Onto language, people will never want to promote someone who can't communicate as well as their closest competitor. Come on, even I won't do that here if I was the boss. Also, if you're still speaking in an accent that makes it hard for the other Aussies to understand you, it makes you a less appealing candidate. So I gotta put on my Aussie voice if I wanna get back into the corporate world. But I'm not into the rat race anymore, so I guess that's a moot worry.
- Education is STILL very expensive, even if you're a Permanent Resident. State Schools will still cost you AUD4k, which is about the same as a private education in Malaysia. FUCK la. Not yet enter University also so expensive already. Feel really depressed now. Kindy is semi-subsidised, so it's about AUD400 a term. About half of what kindies here cost, but that's only for 2 days a week whereas Msia is for 5 days a week! So I guess the cost is the same. WTF am I doing going to Oz?!?!?!?!? Oh yeah, education is in English and quality of life will be better, and we will be physically safer from all the crime. I really hope this move is the right one for us.
- Kindies are very play-based. Unlike here, where 3-4 year old kids are already pressured to learn how to read, write, use phonics - the kids this age are still encouraged to learn via play. They don't teach the kids to read or write alphabets / numbers till they are 5, when they go to Prep School. Then they start Year 1 at 6 years old! I think C1 will thrive better in such a system, but I hope we can get him into a school in time for him to benefit! So rushed!!
- Gardens are a must, by law! Every house must have a certain ratio allotted to a garden, and you must upkeep it and remove all the constant weeds or you can get fined. Also, you can't just cut down a tree cuz it's pissing you off, even if it's on your property. You need permission from the council and you gotta plant a new one to replace it. Guess we should create a herb or veggie garden to make all the effort of weeding worth it. At least you're growing something you can use, and not just pretty, useless flowers.
- Papa Condor is awesome at his job and will always be in demand. But I'm a bit worried for myself now. Will I be awesome enough? I know I am awesome, but it's been so long since I've had to show it professionally. God, please help guide me.
- Property is ridiculously expensive. And the rental is low, so no way you can make up for the repayments by earnings from rental. AUD500k on average for a 2 bedroom house in a moderately good area. AUD1million and above for apartments nearer to or in the CBD. Scared if we buy a place now, property value will drop next year, since they are predicting a bit of an economic downturn, and we lose out. Please God, guide us to choose well.
- I will hopefully lose weight. It's too expensive to overeat and gorge myself here.
CONCLUSION :I had this impression of Australia being the solution to all our problems, and boy have my eyes been opened. Things are not much better there, in terms of cost of living and salary. The consumerism we enjoyed in Malaysia will not be as easily enjoyed there if we want to save money, but overall quality of life is better due to the culture, laws, weather, people, mindset and WEATHER (did I stress that one enough?). Education will hopefully prove to be better. I really hope and pray for this one, since there seems to be no cost savings.
I'm also reminded of the unpleasantness I had to brush off while in Adelaide (the racist fellas telling us to "Go back to Asia"), but we are getting that in Malaysia more and more now thanks to the politicians and stupid brainwashing happening in local universities, so if we're gonna be treated as second-class citizens, better it be in a country where your rights are actually safeguarded by the government.
All in all, the experience removed the rose-tint from my memories and my assumptions, but I'm still surprisingly optimistic about the move. That's a big thing, considering my penchant for preparing for the worst. I'm 90% sure we will be happy there. Fingers crossed :)