Saturday, August 8, 2015

Melbourne: SOOO many lessons learned already

Lesson #1: American banks are NOT easy to work with when you aren't in America or in a developing country.  So when you move overseas from America you get mixed messages about what to do with your American finances. Keep the bank account? Close the bank account? The Mister and I decided to keep our bank account Stateside because it would allow us to transfer money to friends and family (a la group Christmas gifts, etc) and we could maintain some form of credit while being overseas.

HOLY CANOLI is it ever difficult to get your money out of those American banks once you have left! Well, I can only speak to the difficulty I had with our bank which will remain un-named. Let's call it Fells Wargo.

So I had transferred all our money from Kuwait to our Fells Wargo account before we left and figured I could easily transfer it to my Australian bank account once I had established one (see lesson #2). Nope. It was a FOUR DAY ordeal to get OUR money out of our Fells Wargo account and to us so that we could pay the deposit and first month's rent on our apartment. In the end, we had to have a friend transfer the money to us while we simultaneously had my parents Western Union us the money because the bank transfer was going to take too long. The full story will get its own blog post for those that want to hear it.

Lesson #2: You can't get a bank account without an Australian address. You can't get an address without a phone number. You can't get a phone number without a bank account.  To say the first couple of days in the country were maddeningly confusing is putting it lightly. I mean, I get it. You don't want to do business with just anybody. But are we seriously the only people that had come to this country with nothing but big dreams and the promise of a grad school program starting in two weeks?!

Thankfully the owners of the airbnb we stayed in were super cool and allowed us to use their address to establish our bank account which got the ball rolling on everything else. I don't know what we would have done had we stayed in a hotel!

Lesson #3: The trams lie. In general, the public transportation in Melbourne is not designed for out-of-towners. There is one phone app that can be handy when planning your trip from point A to point B, but if the trams are included on any part of that journey, you need another app to help you navigate that part of your trip and heaven help you if buses are involved!

The bus lines don't show up on Google maps, so you could be standing 10 feet away from a public transportation point but never know it.

The trams don't stop at every stop during non-peak hours, which seems to just be a tacit understanding among tram users here 'cause it sure ain't posted anywhere!

Sometimes there is construction at an existing tram stop, so they move the stop to a temporary one like 25 feet BEFORE the original tram stop and you don't realize it until after you have passed both and you're screwed.

As previously mentioned, the trams don't stop at all the stops during non-peak hours, so you have to keep an eye on where your tram is and pull the cord or push the button to let the driver know you want to stop at the next one. That means you have to know what the stops before yours look like so you can recognize your surroundings and pull the cord at the right time. But what if you've never lived in this city before? That's where the TramTracker app comes in handy, unless you're wanting to stop at a temporary tram stop and you don't know it because YOU'VE NEVER LIVED IN THIS CITY BEFORE.

Lesson #4: Random things don't play on YouTube here. In Kuwait we could watch all the Comedy Central clips with no problem, but they won't play here. I wonder if it's because you can get Comedy Central on cable television here so they're trying to force you to buy it instead of watch it for free? Eh, either way, we just kick ZenMate into gear and enjoy unfettered YouTubing via VPN.

Lesson #5: Everything works on the left side. I had never noticed it before because this is my first time living in a country that drives on the left, but we tend to follow the rules of the road even when we're not on the road. On a sidewalk in America, if someone is coming toward you, you go right so they can pass you on your left side (unless you're on a super crowded sidewalk; then it is a toss-up and things get awkward). On the escalators in America, you stand to the right and let people pass on the left. Same generally goes for bike paths and things like that.

Not here! You stand on the left of the escalators because when driving on the highway you pass on the right (I assume). It took us a couple days to realize we were being Those People.

Lesson #6: Rentals don't come with a fridge here. They also don't come with a washer or a dryer, but that's also not assumed in American rentals, so we weren't surprised by that lesson. Also, dishwashers aren't always a given (not unusual by American rental standards), but often times there is space and the hookups for a dishwasher, you just have to bring your own (unusual by American rental standards). But no fridge?! Really!? Australia is the place to move if you're in the refrigerator business!

Thankfully we found a delightful business that specializes in refurbished and factory second-hand appliances and were able to get our fridge, washer and dryer, and microwave for *just* under budget!

Learning the Lessons after moving to a new place is, strangely, one of my favorite parts of living overseas. Even though it can be very frustrating and lonely at times, its lessons like these that separate you from the tourists and get you one step closer to being a local.

Vicariously yours,

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