When you live so far away from your family and friends you miss a lot of the important dates such as birthdays, Christmas, etc. Of course, you can call them, organise Skype sessions, text and email but you will most likely want to send a parcel per post with gifts, Australian delicacies (such as Tim Tam!), etc.
Sending a parcel overseas is quite expensive and you end up spending around $100 so you only do it for special people and special occasions. Sometimes the postage can be more than the full cost of the things you’re sending 😉
Well, this Christmas season I sent a parcel to some very special friends and was mortified to find out that they were asked to pay around 90 Euros for custom fees! I called Australia Post and the spoke to a very nice girl who explained that since it is an international parcel, customs at the receiving country can choose to randomly check any parcel and charge a fee. The post offices in both countries have no control over that and cannot stop or avoid it.
It was definitely a nasty surprise and it has definitely put me off sending parcels again. Can you imagine having to pay to get a gift? I can’t believe that the fee was actually more expensive than the postage which I already find expensive!
There was nothing in the parcel that would cause customs to suspect anything, nothing that was tax exempt and not one item that exceed $150 in value.
So be warned, when you are sending a parcel overseas you never know when the receiver will be asked to pay an absurd amount to customs!
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.
Australia is not cheap. Going out to eat at a café or restaurant is expensive and so is the grocery bill at the end of each week. There are two major supermarkets chains (Wooloworths and Coles) and their prices are not that competitive. I usually shop at both as each have different things that appeal to me.
But if you want to buy good quality fruit and vegetables at very appealing prices you should definitely head to the Brisbane Markets, in Rocklea, on Saturday mornings. You can also buy fresh bread, cupcakes, speciality sauces, nuts, eggs, cured and fresh meats, etc.
There are also plenty of places to have coffee and snacks. I even found a stall of Dutch poffertjes which reminded me of the time I spent in The Netherlands. In these stalls you can also find some very interesting international foods so enjoy a nice breakfast, brunch or lunch ;-p
Across the street you can find the Flower Market, which is open everyday. If you want to buy someone a nice gift this is the place to go! There are many options and though flowers are quite expensive you can find nice arrangements for a reasonable price. I bought a nice orchid which is still sitting pretty by the window.