Monthly Archives: April 2014

Yeeeaaahhhh!!!!!!

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This was possibly the expression I made when I checked my inbox this morning. There, unread, was an email from the Australian Immigration to advice that they had granted us the Permanent Visa!!!

When we moved here, we had been granted a work visa sponsored by hubbie´s employer, which was valid for 4 years. It was always our intention to get the Permanent Visa that would allow us to live and work indefinitely in Australia without being tied down to one specific employer. Today we have accomplished this very important step in our Aussie adventure 😀

We are stoked to see that our investment is paying off. We are relieved to know that we no longer have an expiry date ahead of us. We can hardly wait for whatever else this country has in store for us…

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English – One language, so many nuances

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´ºI first learnt English in the United States, when I was 12 years old and attended an American school. My parents moved to New Jersey for my dad’s job and I completed 7th and 8th grade there. At the age of 12 it is amazing how quickly and easily you pick up another language. It was an awesome skill to acquire at such a young age and definitely one of the great gifts that my parents gave me to face the future.

Many years later, when I moved to the United Kingdom, back in 2010, I found it difficult to get used to a different accent and so many different words and expressions. All of the sudden, I had trouble understanding people who were using a language that was second nature to me and I felt truly awkward having to ask them to repeat themselves. In a couple of months, I was already used to the different accents and had picked up so many different words. I found myself saying trainers instead of sneakers, cooker instead of stove, petrol instead of gas, Hoover instead of vacuum cleaner, and washer instead of washing machine. (Believe me, there are so many more!)

image005Surprisingly enough, the experience was to be repeated in 2012 when we first arrived in Australia. Some words are similar to the “American English” and therefore were not foreign to me. However, I had just gotten used to say football instead of soccer and crisps instead of chips and now I was back to square one! And then there were all the “Australian” words and expressions which differ from anything I knew. Here flip-flops are thongs (I know!!!!), chickens are chooks, pick-ups are Utes, etc.

Not to mention the Aussie custom of shortening words such as Maccas (McDonald’s), Woolies (Woolworths), barbie (barbecue), brekkie (breakfast), roo (kangaroo), tradie (tradesman/construction worker), etc. They also come up with funny names such as sparky for electrician, chippy for carpenter, and jackeroo for farmer.

Names are also shortened, even when they are quite short to begin with, and you’ll find that Gary will be called Gaz, Barry Baz, etc.

The Aussie slang is also quite funny and I remember reading a phrase book filled with so many funny expressions just before moving here. The one that stuck with me was “Bondi cigar” and I’ll let you Google it as it is too gross to explain here 😉

In a way, I feel very lucky to be able to understand these variations. This is one of the small perks of being able to travel and live in different countries and learn from those experiences. My accent has been affected by all this (plus my Portuguese mother tongue and the 4 years that I lived in The Netherlands) so it is very funny seeing locals trying to guess where I am from. By the way, they never get it right 😉

Pizza delivery

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2012_f_uppercrust_whiteprosciuttoYou know those lazy evenings when you don’t feel like cooking?! Those long days at work after which you get home and just want to put your feet up? Those Friday movie nights with your better-half?!

Well, who among us doesn’t, every now and again, resort to a take-out? Well, if you like pizza then Crust is the way to go!

They have lovely flavour combinations, their ingredients are fresh and their pizza base is crispy and thin as it should be. I truly recommend it 🙂

They can get quite busy on weekends and the delivery times might be around 1 hour but if you live close by, you can opt to pick up your pizza from the local store, and that is usually quite quick.

The prices are quite reasonable as well and depending on your spend you might be entitled to free delivery. And the upper crust pizzas are big enough for two.

Enjoy your pizza!

Underwater World – Mooloolaba

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We had already visited Sealife in Sydney, when we came to Australia on holidays, and so were not very curious about the one on our doorstep. However, when our friends were here, from the UK, they decided that it would be something fun to do and invited me to tag along. I am so glad they did!!!

As we went during the week, we got a great deal on the entry ($15) and it was extremely quiet so we were able to spend as much time as we liked watching the fishies. Also, we did not have to worry about avoiding other people, tourist and the like, that can sometimes run your experience as you get frazzled with all the commotion.

DSC_2951You could actually touch these little guys. They are velvety smooth 😉

DSC_2964And there was Nemo again…

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DSC_2993There is a daily seal show which is not to be missed. They show their amazing skills and the trainer even explains how he trains them. They are such smart and gorgeous creatures!

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DSC_2985This little (not so little…) guy was called Oscar. I don´t understand much about fish, so do not ask me what species it is, but I did find its colours quite interesting.

DSC_3005The jelly fish exhibition is amazing! The environment has been carefully thought to give emphasis to their grace and beauty. You can play with the colours in the tank which makes the whole visit interactive.

DSC_3048Impressive stingray! Looking at it I could not help but think of the tragic death of Steve Irwin. It just reminds you that though beautiful, these are wild, potentially deadly, animals and that one should never take that for granted.

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DSC_3026I just love this picture of the monitors intertwined!

NMS_3037And no visit would be complete without the shark. It is amazing walking into a tunnel where you have sharks swimming peacefully above your head. And there is always someone who decides to hum the Jaws´ soundtrack while they do so.

“Home is where the heart is”

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Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

I have read a rather interesting account of a fellow expat in the InterNations website (link below) regarding the “Double Life of an expat” and I could related to her feelings well.

When living abroad there is a part of you that always seems out-of-place. You don´t really belong in your new country, as you feel different in so many ways, but you no longer fit in at home either because you have changed so much due to your new experiences.

At times this can be a difficult thing and even hard to accept. You struggle to get used to new habits, schedules, weather conditions, etc . while, at the same time, things are continuously changing back home which means that every time you return you´ll feel out of touch with the reality that used to be yours.

However, this expat experience is truly enriching and should be seen as a magnificent opportunity and a blessing. We get to feel understand and be part of two different worlds.

As Emily put it: We get the best of both – the enjoyment of a new culture and lifestyle, and the promise that our native countries will always be there when we go back, even for a short while. For every expat, visiting our native countries evokes some strange, nostalgic emotions, but for me, at least, visiting ‘home’ made me rethink the definition of the word. As expats, we either have no home, or two – and it’s up to us to decide which way we prefer.

Medicare

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When you come to Australia with a temporary visa, regardless of the length of your stay, you are required to have private medical insurance. You will not be entitled to Medicare, which is the health service provided by the Australian Government, unless you are a Citizen or Permanent Resident. Some countries, however, such as the United Kingdom, do have mutual agreements with Medicare and therefore you might have the right to these benefits.

When we came to Australia, we arranged for private medical insurance as this was one of the requirements for our visa. When it came time to complete our first tax return we applied for the Medicare Levy Exemption, as we had not have had any benefits, and this was denied. Very surprised we asked for an explanation and were advised that because as we had lived in the UK for two and half years prior to moving here (despite not having British nationality) we were entitled to Medicare. We found that quite bizarre and visited a Medicare office where we were actually given a Medicare card with the expiry date being the one in our visa!

On the immigration website it did not say anything to this effect, stating that only citizens of countries with the mutual agreement would be entitled to Medicare benefits. We then called immigration advising that we had been given the card and asking if we could cancel the private health insurance that we had been paying for over a year. They were happy for us to cancel the insurance policy but we felt that the information was not clear and that we had poured money down the drain. After all, the insurance just covered the same services that our Medicare card covers now.

I do hope that by posting this, some other people new to Australia might avoid falling prey to this misinformation like we have. I love my green Medicare card as it makes me feel more of a local, lol, but I would have loved it even more if I had been given the correct information by immigration from the start 😉

Please note that Medicare does not cover your health expenses completely and there are a few services, such as orthodontics for example, which are not covered. Most people will have a private health insurance policy to complement  their basic Medicare benefits. However, this is a choice and not a legal requirement for foreigners with permanent residency or other Medicare entitlements due to their country of origin’s mutual agreements.

Books, books, books

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Ever since I had to part with some books when I moved to Australia (remember?!), I have tried to control myself and not buy so many books as I used to.

I have started using Kindle and I must confess that it is most practical and I actually really like it. It is not the same, and it will never replace my passion for books as a physical object!, but it is definitely a great way to carry books in your purse, purchase books for a cheaper price and having lots of new books without having to worry about reorganising your bookshelves. Not mention how convenient it is when you’re travelling.

However, I still love visiting bookstores! I love browsing through the aisles, opening books, smelling their pages, reading random passages. I love to get a feel for the bestsellers and the ones chosen to be on the spotlight. I love browsing through the stationery shelves, usually close to the tills, and check out the bookmarks, the notebooks, the pens, etc.

There are a few bookstores around Brisbane that have a coffee bar and these are quite appealing. Combining coffee and books can never be wrong! But there is also a chain of bookstores that I really like: Dymocks. These are usually big stores where you can get lost for hours. They have a great travel section and every time I visit their stores I always end up bringing something home. I have found  some great books: walks around Brisbane, “foodies guide” for Brisbane, nature walks around Australia, and some others that have proved very useful when discovering a new city and country.

I have refrained from buying novels or fiction though, and have been getting e-books instead.

When my mother-in-law came to visit over the Christmas period she did bring some new books from Portuguese authors, that are not available at the Kindle Store or in any other bookstore in Australia for that matter, and it make me very happy 😀 I have now read them all and even though I have been reading on my Kindle I can feel “the itch” again. I will surely be paying Dymocks a visit in the near future!