Tag Archives: australia

Lessons from moving away, and coming home

In January 2011 I moved to Sydney, and wrote a post about my first impressions of living in Australia. I’ve now been back in Auckland for three months and have learnt a few things from moving away, and coming home again.



We don’t need much stuff
Packing to move away was one thing, but packing to return to New Zealand was a whole different story. I got rid of SO. MUCH. STUFF. We really don’t need much, and for those of us who are likely to move again in the future, the idea of accumulating lots of things is a not an attractive one.

You adapt to your environment 
When I first arrived in Sydney, ordering a ‘trim cap’ in a Kiwi accent just didn’t cut it. So, I soon found myself asking for a ‘skinny cap’ to be understood. This conscious change gradually spilt over to most words that contained ‘i’ or ‘e’ sounds. Having lived in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, I also found myself starting yoga, spending my weekends in gym gear, making green smoothies and eating kale chips.

You’re not afraid of spiders anymore
After close encounters with orb and huntsman spiders, a daddy long legs has about the same scare power as an ant.

You gain a new level of independence
Time alone and distance from people who shaped your thoughts historically leads to a new level of independent thinking. You meet people whose backgrounds are significantly different to yours, and gain insights from environments you’d never been exposed to.

You are who you spend time with
As the quote goes, ‘you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’. Thanks to my flatmates Claire, Jo and Nicole, I became a little more driven, manicured, fashionable and motivated in the kitchen. And I mean manicured in the literal sense – weekend brunching and walks to the nail salon are some of life’s simple pleasures!

You become an expert in communication
Most of your good friends and loved ones aren’t in the same time zone and you may only see them a few times a year, if that. But with a bit of juggling, keeping in touch when apart is easy with Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and Snapchat. But you have to plan for it.

You get better at asking for things
Kiwis are generally agreeable and like to go with the flow. Australians are generally better at piping up about their expectations and things they want. Well – they’re better at piping up in general! But this forward confidence is admirable and is a useful characteristic to have.

Special friends become your family
When times are tough or there’s reason to celebrate, your flatmates, workmates and closest friends become your family. They’re there for support, for festivities and for adventures. Personal relationships are what life’s about.

Your priorities change over time
My time in Sydney was phenomenal. I wouldn’t change a thing. It contained some of the most challenging moments, but also some of the most enjoyable. It was a great time but about a year ago I realised that my priorities were changing and my environment needed to change as well. And that was a lesson in itself – to be aware of your evolving needs and changing the things that aren’t working for you anymore.

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Port Stephens: Two days, 8 things

In early November my friend Lana and I drove to Port Stephens to spend the weekend. It’s about two and a half hours from Sydney although on a Friday afternoon it took us almost two hours just to get OUT of Sydney. Mental note….leave at midday next time!

Port Stephens serves a range of travellers – from the family group, to the corporate group, to lovers. Lana and I don’t fit any of those categories so I’ll add another: laughing, happy girlfriends. Here’s a rundown of what we got up to:

1) Parasailing
At first glance, parasailing seems like an extreme sport. In reality, it is quite the opposite. Yes, you’re held up quite high in the sky by a giant piece of fabric and a few ropes, but the feeling up there is surprisingly serene. It’s quiet and the views are spectacular. We went with Port Stephens Watersports.

Coming in to land

Lana getting dunked!

2) Dining
Merretts Restaurant at The Anchorage is off the hook. It is here that I tasted one of the most exquisitely presented and delicious dishes in my life: Confit duck Kromeski, Jerusalem artichoke veloute, parsley gel and apple smoke. This restaurant is reason alone to make the trip. The flavours had Lana and I in shock. Lana even texted her Mum to share the moment.

Another delicious meal was at Catch Restaurant at Shoal Bay Resort & Spa where I had the seared scallops with pear, chorizo and roquette salad. Divine! Greg from the resort showed us around the housing and accommodation site beforehand and we were pretty much ready to give him an offer and move into one of the apartments. Oh, to wake up to those views every day….

3) The beer
We had lunch at Murray’s Brewery on the Sunday and the food was not only tasty, but very well presented. We also tasted a few beers, including an annual Halloween Spiced Pumpkin one.

4) The clouds
I’m a little obsessed with clouds, and Port Stephens did not disappoint my infatuation. The wilderness of a brewing storm against the water made for many beautiful pictures.

5) Dolphin watching
On Saturday we went on an afternoon dolphin cruise with Tamboi Queen Cruises to explore the bay and hope for a sighting. We were lucky and found a small pod who were playing together right in front of us.  Most humans love dolphins but Lana’s adoration is next level – she was in heaven. 

6) Sailing
We had a tour of a stunning luxury yacht, ‘Champagne on Ice’. In addition to fully customisable private events, Blue Water Sailing host luxury cruises, team building events and corporate sailing. Donna told us that some groups don’t even go sailing, they just sit on the yacht, eat lobster and drink champagne. Don’t mind if I do!

7) The friendly locals
Throughout our short visit we encountered many lovely people who made us feel at home. One of them was Angela from Aqua Blu Bistro and Bar. We had lunch and a glass of wine here on the Saturday between parasailing and dolphin watching. Aqua Blu is located right next the marina where all these activities depart from.

8) Sand-boarding
I was more nervous about sand-boarding than parasailing, but the scariest moment of the entire trip was when the 4WD we were travelling in went down a sand slope that felt almost vertical. Yes, Lana and I both screamed at this roller-coaster experience!

Yep, those are the track marks from our 4WD rollercoaster!

It’s remarkable how other-worldly this land seems

We went sand-boarding with Port Stephens 4WD who first gave us a little tour of the sand dune area, told us how some of the sand is sent to Hawaii and showed us the remains of whale bones. Then, it was time to sand-board. And yes, I’ll be doing that again!

I was a guest of Port Stephens Tourism and stayed at The Anchorage Port Stephens

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Instagram hashtag tips for Sydney, Australia photos

Some of the most popular Sydney, Australia related tags to use for your photos are:

#SurryHills, #Darlinghurst, #Glebe, etc
#SydneyOperaHouse, #SydneyHarbourBridge, etc
#summer (or appropriate season)
#sun, #moon, #sunrise, #sunset #sky, #night, etc
#nature, #wildlife, #animal, #mountain, #waterfall, etc

Tags that are super popular and can still be applied to Sydney/Australia scenery photos include:

#photooftheday, #picoftheday and #bestoftheday (if it’s a super good photo!)

You can also follow these Sydney accounts and use their hashtags:

@CityofSydney – #CityofSydney
@SeeAustralia – #SeeAustralia
@Australiagram – #Australiagram
@BestofAustralia – #BestofAustralia
@Instralia – #Instralia
@iPhoneographyOz – #iOz

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How to move to Australia: The guide for Kiwis

One of my good Uni friends is moving here in a few weeks! Very exciting!

When I moved over I read up on what I needed to get sorted before the move, but there was no one single resource that told me everything so I’ve put a little something together for my friends, and for strangers.



1) Tax file number (TFN)
One of the most important things you’ll need! Want to get paid? Yes, you do. The easiest way to get this number is online but you can only do it once you’re in Australia. I tried doing it from NZ before I moved, and it’s very smart and knows that you’re not in the country. So, to save yourself from any delays in getting your first pay, get your TFN when/if you’re visiting Australia before the actual move. 

2) Decide what bank/s you want to join
There’s a lot of choice! ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank (NAB),  St George Bank, Westpac, HSBC….
I went with NAB and I’ll tell you why: I like their logo and advertising. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Plus, they have a handy iPhone app, my credit card is pink, and they’re friendly on Twitter. It was easy to join, I did it online from NZ and then just went into a branch with supporting documents when I arrived.

3) Sort stuff out in NZ
Before you leave NZ, contact the IRD and tell them your intentions. I don’t understand the ins and outs exactly but depending on what assets/debt you have in NZ, it may be best for them to know where you are.
I would hold onto your NZ credit card for a while after your move because you can’t aways (if at all) get a credit card as soon as you move here. They need to make sure you have an income rolling in for a few months before they offer you an overdraft, but you’ll be able to get a debit card immediately.


4) Find a place to live
Easier said than done! If you’re looking for a room in an established place, it’s a lot easier. But finding a place of your own can be a challenge (in Sydney, anyway). There is so much competition, especially in the summer. You need to provide a lot of references and have copies of your passport, driver’s license (if you have an NZ Full License you can get this easily at the RTA in NSW – one year is $50), proof of income, etc. The best sites for finding places are domain.com.aurealestate.com.au or gumtree.com.au. (Of course, you can start looking and applying before you move, but the likelihood is you’ll have someone to stay with for at least a few weeks when you arrive, and you’ll probably want to inspect the places you apply for).

5) Health insurance
Australians have Medicare which is the government healthcare system. You can get the form online and take it with you to a Medicare branch when you arrive. Tax payers in Australia fund Medicare with 1.5% of their pay. Medicare is great and covers many things, but you pay another 1% on top if you earn over a certain amount and don’t have private health insurance. Private health insurance in Australia is really good. For someone like me, with a bung back and short-sighted eyes, it’s very useful. My osteopath swipes my private health insurance card and the covered amount is deducted immediately – I don’t have to make a claim. I get my eyes checked for free, two dental cleans a year and a bunch of other great deals – just got prescription sunglasses for $57. Choosing a provider is hard because there are so many, but the iSelect site will help you. My shortlist was between HCF, NIB and MBF. You’ll know if it’s worth it or what’s best for you, but it’s quite flexible – you can choose between hospital only, extras only, or a combo. 

6) Superannuation
Superannuation in Australia is compulsory and 9% of your salary goes into it. Choosing a provider is tricky, again because there are so many! Read this or just flip a coin. I’m sorry I can’t help you more on this topic – I found it a particularly mind-numbing experience. 

7) Mobile phone
Vodafone, Telstra, Optus, 3….. which one? Go here for a very handy way to see what kind of plan you should go on. I went with Telstra because word on the street is that they’ve got the best coverage. I haven’t been disappointed.

8) Staying in touch
Moving countries, even when it’s just across the ditch or only for a short time, can be emotionally taxing. You’ve left your family and some of your closest friends in NZ, and you will miss them. But you’ll have many new experiences to look forward to, and you’ve got tools/apps like Skype, Heytell, Whatsapp that you can use for free/cheap to stay in touch with people. And if you need to fly over for a weekend, it’s only a few hours away and there are always deals on – check out Webjet or Expedia.

For those moving to Australia – and Sydney in particular – look out for my top money-saving tips in the next few weeks 🙂


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Living in Australia: First impressions

Last week I moved to Sydney, Australia. I still don’t have my tax code, my accounts aren’t functional and I’ve barely started working, but I’m already viewing the city with the eyes of an inhabitant rather than a visitor.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

  • Bats really do flap about at night (don’t know how I didn’t notice this earlier)
  • TV ads are really bad
  • Health insurance is pretty good
  • Cockroaches are BIG and EVERYWHERE
  • The little green man at pedestrian lights takes a long time to appear
  • If you pick the right places, eating out can be cheaper than dining in
  • Telstra staff are very friendly
  • There is a lot of sport on TV

I’ve also taken a few snaps of things that have caught my attention, like pretty sunsets:


Boomerang shops that provide free boomerang-throwing classes:


Liquor shops with punny names:


Morning shows that address very important topics:


Stickers on the back of road signs that ask how you are:


And of course, something that pleases me greatly – the civilised order of lining up for the bus:


Friends have asked me, “Are you moving there forever?” No, I very much doubt it. There are other places I’d like the chance to live in one day and I imagine that in the future I’ll want to return to New Zealand. When you’ve been away as much as I have you know that aside from the rain, the low dollar and the questionable New Years fireworks from the Sky Tower, NZ is a pretty choice place to live in. But for now, I’m excited about giving the Sydney thing a go and I hope you’ll join me as I blog about travel, food, wine, music and a bunch of other stuff from Australia! x

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