Immigration Blog

Highs and Lows

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Some colleague migrants once coined the term: Emogration, and this was a week worth the expression. Houses, family, work and a cat. All kind of emotions passed by in a week’s time.

House;

It started with a lazy Sunday morning browsing the Canberra real estate site ‘AllHomes’ to get an understanding what kind of houses were for rent in which suburbs. This is just an exercise we do once every few weeks to get a better understanding of the market. Renting a house from overseas isn’t normal practice in Australia and no one we knew had done it only one fellow blogger from Canberra.

But the house we discovered on allhomes.com.au was too good to do nothing and let someone else scoop it from the market. Apart from difficult to rent from abroad there are a few other oddities regarding renting in Australia.

Normally a house gets on the market, it will have a fixed timeslot for viewing and you are allowed to have a look at the property for a whole 15 minutes… If that doesn’t sound bizarre enough to us Dutchies, the viewing is not by yourself but at the same time with all other interested parties… So worst case scenario could be you and 20 other people running in and around a property for 15 minutes.

Step 2 is this thing called a ‘rental pack’. A kind of resume of yourself, your partner, your pets, your history in regards to renting, credit history and other paperwork which makes you look a credible renter. If you are still interested in the property after your full 15 minutes at the site, you hand in this big stack of documents and explain to the real estate agent YOU ARE THE BEST RENTER ON THIS SIDE OF THE UNIVERSE.

Step 3: Pray or bribe a little (just kidding)

Sitting in our empty house in the Netherlands we did not have the luxury of visiting the house for 15 minutes but we had a lucky break, it is summer holiday in Australia so there were no viewings scheduled for the next few weeks. We put on our brave face and just mailed the real estate agent (rental pack included!) that we wanted to rent the house as soon as possible. From there things went quickly (sometimes helped by the 10 hour’s time difference)

The real estate agent mailed back: We need to view the property before renting, but offered to do the viewing via FaceTime. Yes please!

Monday night/Tuesday morning 04:30; we are sitting in front of our laptop looking at our future home! Walking through the backyard she casually remarks that Kangaroos hop around here in the morning! Where can we sign the lease?!?!

After the viewing we requested the agent to arrange a rental contract with the owners.

Tuesday night 23:00; We receive a mail with some extra questions about the cats and our visa. We answer right away. Some further questions about our visa arrive in our mailbox half an hour later. (I understand the confusion on their end, deciphering Australian visa papers is not for the fainthearted) Some further mails go back and forth. Around 02:00 AM, stressed out and sleepy eyed, we receive the following message: The owners would love to offer you, Nataschja and your cats 36 Olympus Way, Lyons, Canberra to rent.

Yes! We did the unexpected! We rented a house in a great neighbourhood with spectacular views and Kangaroos roaming the area! Emo high 🙂

 

Family;

With Christmas in the same week we were prepared for some Emo lows. It is a bit odd having a ‘Last Christmas’ at home (especially if George Michael himself decides to die the exact same Christmas…)

We spent two wonderful days with both sides of the family but it also leaves you a bit empty afterwards. Next year we probably will be spending Christmas in a totally different way, sitting in the sun, 30 degrees, surrounded by Kangaroos… We’ll manage I guess 😉 But leaving loved ones behind always hurt, let’s see if we can do a FaceTime Christmas next year! Emo low for now though.

 

Cat;

We will take three of our four cats. Sadly Nicky, my sweet 21-year-old cat, she is too old to make the trip. Asthmatic, thyroid issues and just plain old. She’s better off staying in the Netherlands. Really happy my Mom took her as a Christmas present! Nicky is now in a loving home although it feels strange to leave a family member behind on our journey , even if it is for the best. Emo low.

 

Work;

Some very positive outcomes in the employment area, there are some wrinkles to iron out but it looks like I will be working as contractor for the next few months. Remotely managing a project in…Germany 😉 Glad our house in Canberra has room for an home office! Emo high.

 

I’m guessing our emo rollercoaster ride will continue for a while 😉 We will just stay in the moment and hang on for the ride!

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Big boxes, small boxes.

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Next week around this time we will have are last good sleep for a while. When most Dutch families will be looking forward to Pakjesavond (translates to something like ‘presents evening’ or ‘unboxing night’)  We will be looking at a house full boxes and those will not be presents. All our possessions we want to hang on to in our new life down under will be boxed and packed, ready to be loaded in one very big box: a 20ft shipping container. Including our…

Moving to Australia is a bit different than moving to the UK, Sweden or Spain for example. Within Europe your belongings will be at their destination in a day or two. Moving your household 17000km takes around 8 weeks at sea and then some time at customs and quarantaine. In Europe the borders are pretty much gone and your goods, including dirty mountainbikes, greasy tools and muddy hiking boots move as easily across borders as you do. Meet Australian Border Control: The exact opposite. Dirty bike? Fail!  Muddy shoes? Fail!  Leafs, grass or other kind of garden litter on your stuff? Fail!  And if your container contains something on the pretty long list  and is deemed risky you get two options: They clean it for you (EXPENSIVE!!!) or the destroy it for you. Destroying is costly in two ways, you get charged for the destruction and you are left with nothing in the end, except the bill for destruction. But cleaning a used cat pole could set you back a a few hundred euros/dollars. So you really have to be careful what to bring and what not. And if you bring risky stuff (such as mountainbikes) you have to clean them meticulously.

For the last few weeks we’ve been sifting through endless stacks of books, old photos, utensils, cutlery, clothing, shoes, tools, etc. etc. (a 20ft container is big but not that big that you can take everything) Apart from the issues of fitting your entire life in 30 cubic meters , the whole thing is kind off a cleansing experience. And it makes you realise your life is much more than a packed to the brim shipping container. It is you, your loved ones and your health. Not much more and definitely not less! But lets not get emotional now, there is time enough left for that in the next few weeks.

For now we have more pressing matters. Due to the fact that our container needs about 10 weeks from door to door we will give it a 5 weeks head start which means it will arrive 5 weeks after our arrival in Canberra. Therefore we have some logistical challenge on our hands. We need to have clothing for another 5 to 6 weeks of winter in the Netherlands and clothing for another few weeks in the midst of the Australian summer before our container arrives. To make life a little more complicated we are limited to 35 kg each (and that’s with 5kg extra thanks to the friendly staff at Singapore Airlines) In reality this will mean 20kg for me and 50kg for Miss B. I will have to make do with a few socks and undies less I guess 😉

 

 

Tuesday’s

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Tuesdays are stupid days, the weekend is a vague memory and next weekend is still a long way off.

The Tuesday feeling, it’s better than the Monday blues but definitely not as good as Fridays.

And that’s where we feel we are at the moment. Tuesday. We worked hard on Monday, we made a lot happen, arranged a temporary house in Canberra, a rental car is already on standby at the airport and we will immediately meet some of our Dutch/Australian friends on our first day in Australia.

But what do after a busy and productive Monday? Daydream of the weekend? Question if it’s already Friday? Only to discover it still is…Tuesday! That’s a bit how the last few months felt. Let’s see how the last three months will feel. Total panic kicking in? 😉

I must admit, it’s definitely not a bad thing we still have some time left here. That’s time to meet some people, time to take out more junk to the dump (amazing how much junk you collect over the years, and having two big garages doesn’t help either ) And time to answer some difficult questions: What to put in the container and what not?

All our furniture, our mountain bikes and all other stuff we take to Australia will be in a big shipping container as of 6 December. This container will travel by boat to Sydney and then by truck to Canberra. All in all, it will take around 10 weeks door to door. So we have to think carefully about what to put in the container and what not.  You don’t want to be without clean underwear for 10 weeks do you? So…

  • Toothbrush: No.
  • Underwear: No
  • Clothing: Most of it?
  • Bed: Yes, but where are we going to sleep?
  • TV: Yes
  • Kitchenware: Hmmm… Good question, some of it?
  • Tools: Yes
  • Bike gear: Yes
  • Etc. etc.

Tools, bikes and gear is another story in itself. We will need to clean those items with a toothbrush otherwise everything will be stopped at the border due to quarantine issues (mud on the bikes) Same goes for camping and climbing gear, cooking equipment, untreated wood and a long long list of other stuff. Fully understandable but a lot of work so I better get started over the next few weeks now biking season is drawing to a close.

One thing that does gets easier and easier is parting from things that were important to you before. At some point you arrive at the point where you are more or less ready for the big leap and things are just like anchors from your past. Heavy and they keep you in one place.

A big thing was the house of course. But now we are OK with it. Another example is our little old caravan. We had some great great times with it. Camping on free campsites/parking-spots everywhere in the Alps region and more. You can stay in the most beautiful places for free if you look around a little. But in the end also the caravan has to go of course and selling this sort of stuff also frees your mind and simplifies your life. Nice!

A bit more of a complicated topic are our pets.The fish are easy. They live in a pond in the backyard so they stay behind for the new owners.

The rabbits have found a great place in Maaskantje (yes the one and only 🙂 ) A lovely couple have adopted Romeo & Julia and as they own a nice big property the bunnies have a very spacious set-up.

Last but not least the cats. That’s a completely different story, worth of a separate blogpost. The hoops you have to jump and the money it costs is mind boggling… but simply put; Nicky my dearest 21-year-old cat will move to my mother, there she is again: mother, your guardian angel! Someone you can always count on when you need some help. So happy Nicky  found a new home.

The other three cats will come with us. The 3 amigos are not yet past their due date so we’ll take them and introduce them to the Kangaroo’s. Looking forward to their first encounter already hahaha.

Another ‘to do’ is handing in my notice at Atos. My manager is (unofficially) already aware of our move and this week I also informed my main client. Finally, it is out in the open and the next few days I can tell it to my colleagues. Will probably create some waves, but that’s OK!

90 days to go!

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Lists

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One piece of advice to any aspirant migrant:

You need to have a deeply rooted love for lists.

During our visa application we had long lists of things to do: Get a new passport, get diplomas from education and courses you took a long long time ago, get letters of recommendation from former employers, get a report from the GP, get… etc. At some point the number of items on this list only seemed to increase and increase. And then suddenly, at some point, you discover the list is getting shorter and shorter! Till the point it’s finally empty and you are ready to receive your visa (in reality it was a bit more complicated than this, but you get my drift)

And then, before you know it, there is a new to do list?!?! This list has items like painting the bedroom, fixing a light fixture, clean up the garden and so forth and so forth. Same thing happens, items pop up from nowhere and the list grows and grows. You keep your head down and after (quite) a while the list gets shorter and shorter. Before you know it (Not really…) you have ticked of all items and you have a For Sale sign in the frontyard!

Does this mean the end of the ever-present lists? Of course not! Now the time has come to prepare the migration (I must admit, working on this list is way more exciting than any of the previous lists!) Now the list consist of getting the paper work for the cats in order, finding a place to live for the first few weeks, researching suburbs in Canberra,  finding the right insurances, translating CV’s, getting medical records, how to move your furniture, clothing, bikes and loads of other stuff across two oceans etc. etc.

And we are already creating the list of things to do for the first few weeks in Australia; Getting an Australian drivers license, Medicare, tax file number, telephone, buying a car and the list goes on and on…

Second piece of advice:

Make lists!

This is the only way to keep you sane in this insane process 😉

Letting go

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As so many times before in my life, I signed of a big stack of papers, but this time it was of great significance…

When we made the decision to migrate this automatically meant that we would have to let go of a lot of things and one of them was our beloved house…

This house really is our home, we had a few houses over our 20 odd years together. But this house was really special to me.

I was around 8 or 9 years old when I first set foot in this house. At that time it belonged to a family who had a son my age, we often played in the garden or when it was grim outside we stayed in the special playroom (a small rumpus for you Ozzies) Some years later the family moved out and the house was sold to another family. That new family had even nicer offspring 😉 They had two daughters of which I liked one in particular. The next 3 years I spent quite some time in the house at the Enk until our relationship ended and my longest stint without a visit to the house started.

Fast forward 15 years and N. and myself thought of moving out of Rotterdam when we learned the house at the Enk was up for sale. We immediately arranged a visit and not long after we were the proud owners of this house:

Garden Panorama

 

When we made the decision to migrate this automatically meant that we would have to let go of a lot of things, one of them was our beloved house…

At first it was a pretty discomforting thought. Of course we wanted to go to Australia, but couldn’t we have a kind of ‘have your cake and eat it to’ scenario? Something like keeping the house or take it with us? Of course we couldn’t take it with us, and not selling wasn’t a very viable financial strategy either… So with pain in our heart we defined the sale strategy. And the letting go began…

Letting go happens in phases and by the time we arrived in the ‘put your house up for sale’ phase we were ready for it, strange how this stuff works. In our case the process from receiving our visa grant till the time we will leave is quite long (over 4 years) and although the wait was, and is, sometimes frustrating, it also helps us to slowly adjust to the fact we need to let go of a lot of stuff. Letting go of your career and network over here, all the stuff you’ve gathered over the years like your motorbikes, your car etc. And last but not least family and friends… and the house… There will be a lot more of letting go in the next 7 months.

 

On the 3rd of June, my birthday, we received the signed contract from the future residents of the Enk 30.

We have sold our house!

Amazing

In my last post I made the remark that money makes the world go round. But I guess mothers come in a close second (or maybe even first, no mother > no me…)

I must give it to my mother, she keeps her spirits hight although her only child leaves the place where we have lived our lives together most of my life. And where she probably expected us to be close by for the rest of her life we chose to move 18.000 km.

Not only does she stays upbeat, she also puts in real effort to clean the house when we are at the office or too busy ticking of the ‘To Do’ list (aka doing home improvements). She even went as far as offering her help cleaning the house every time we expect viewers as soon as it goes up for sale. I find all of this quite amazing!

Mother

Decluttering

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“…Zachtjes tikt de regen tegen mijn zolderraam…” This is a line from a famous Dutch song from the sixties (no, I am not that old but I know the lyrics anyway…) It means something along the line of: I hear the rain softly tapping my attic window.

A sound way to familiair to us Dutchies. It is 5 weeks into spring and the temperature hoovers around 8 degrees at noon. Rain, hail and sleet are fighting for the honours and surely don’t softly strike but slash brutally. In the midst of this we wait for the short periods of sun so we can take some reasonable pictures of our interior without having rain and thunder in the background through the windows. This translates into:

  1. Camera ready to go
  2. Checking the weather radar online.
  3. Waiting on a break in the clouds so to have a bit more light in the rooms.
  4. Run!
  5. Click! And hope for the best.

This exercise repeats itself a few times during the day. Most of our fellow countrymen are celebrating Kings-day today, but we have more important things to do (it suddenly strikes me that this is our last Kings-day in the Netherlands. Wow…! Another ‘last’.) But anyway, taking pictures with the climate we have is an arduous task. As soon as our house is up for sale you can tell me if you think we succeeded 😉

Another item on the dreaded ‘to do’ list is cleaning out cupboards, closets and the two garages. Although it is a bit easier to be motivated for this compared to doing home improvements; Decluttering your life feels good, less stuff crowding your life. Everything with some value is put up at marktplaats.nl (a Dutch E-Bay) and sold, which is a good thing as money does make the world go round. Another benefit is that it already gives insight in what, or what not to take to Australia later. We probably have a bit more time (and right state of mind) compared to the final stressful months before the move.

Last few days it was my ‘personal’ garage’s turn. The man cave where I keep all my bikes, motorbikes and more random stuff. Clean out 3 big cabinets, a few shelves and took apart a project motorbike I will never finish. Everything what looked even slightly obsolete needed to go which resulted in a nearly empty shed and two small trailers heading to the tip. Everything what is left now is sold over the next few months or kept till we move (and then dumped or taken with us.) Another benefit is that I can use some of the money to build my new mountainbike which I will definitely take to Canberra! There’s something good in every situation 😉

Home Improvement

Woosh, woosh. Woosh, woosh…

Up and down went my paint roller. Up and down, and on to the next wall. The paint roller and me. We spent a lot of time lately. Much more than we ever did before. It is a behavior you see time and time again when people are moving house. Fixing all those things which were perfectly OK for the last X years but now suddenly really need fixing before you put the house on the market. Redecorating a bedroom you hardly ever used, cleaning out those closets, fix a leaking faucet and putting in some new flooring in a spare room (to name a few activities…)

I never enjoyed the home improvement thing very much. I just live in a house, it’s not a palace nor something to show off to your friends. Mind me, we have a great house in a very nice location but I am very good at looking the other way when I see a door still in undercoat instead of fresh paint. It is still a functional door isn’t it? (Oh man, I will fit in great in Australia hahaha)

The fact I won’t enjoy the upgrades to the house for long isn’t making it any easier to pick up some sandpaper and masking tape on Sunday morning… nor is it helping me to feel ‘ happy’. You know you do all of this for the next occupants anyway (This reasoning is flawed of course. I do it to make the house easier to sell and at a better price, which is the reward in the end but tell this to the Instant Gratification Monkey…)

The road to the Australian visa was long and the road to settle on a date for the big move took even longer. As it might seem bad, it also has a positive side. It gave me the time to get used to the idea that we would not only leave our friends and family behind but also our house (home!) in NL. This sounds, and is obvious, but still…

…Our home. The house with the beautiful, green, sunny garden. The big workshop and separate garage, the off street parking places, the quiet street. The house we have worked hard for, we thought it would be the last house we’d ever buy. Our home…! The thought of leaving it behind was a tough one. It probably was the re-start(?) of the emotional roller coaster which they call migration. And the last few days the roller coaster was gaining momentum.

At the moment all my time is divided between work, home improvement and sleeping. And I’m not digging it at all. Being a Generation X bloke, I am pretty bad at delayed gratification and moving to Australia versus sanding another window frame are not linked to each other at all in my brain. So my Instant Gratification Monkey is getting bored and he is not happy about it.

But the monkey has to move over for something bigger. The P-word. After the Global Financial Crisis the P-word looks more like the Grim Reaper than the Wolf of Wall street. Real estate prices in the Netherlands have decreased by 10 to 20% since 2008. And this is not good news for a lot of people. By the time we wanted to cash in on the ever rising house prices the markets have crashed and our house has lost every excess value it had (and more…) It is something we need to face pretty soon and I do not like what I see in the distance…

(It is the real estate agent with a undertakers face…)

To Be Continued

A visa?

A visa? Why? Are we not good enough to just enter the country and give it a go? These were questions that popped up in my mind after discovering that entering Australia isn’t a walk in the park. Being from Europe, being white and being relatively rich when compared to 90% of the world population gives you a lot of perks*. And maybe even a bit of complacency… Shame on me.

* I don’t want to brag, I just want you to understand the fact that a lot of us are very, very lucky to be born where we are born and been given so many opportunities

So when you discover you can’t just rock up at Sydney Airport and start a new life in the country of your choosing, that’s a bit of a surprise. And I quickly learned that an Australian permanent visa can’t be had by just filling in some easy paperwork. Australia: 1 – Me: 0

Luckily the internet is patient and, I must admit, the websites of the Australian Government are quite good. So after some time things became more clear. The process (tedious), the requirements (many), the money involved (a lot) and how much time it would take (long) That’s when we decided to take a migration agency on board. Yes, these guys don’t work for free but let me use an analogy here…

Your partner has an apple placed on their head. And yes, you have to split it in two with that big ass bow an arrow.  Who do you trust more? Yourself or William Tell…? I would pay William Tell a fair amount to do the duties, thank you.

So back to our story: Due to our age (being below a certain age is a requirement), our current type of jobs (another requirement) and the experience in that line of work (did I mention the thing about requirements…?) we had more or less one shot. One shot… Think apple, arrow and your significant other… So we forked out the extra cash. William Tell was on our side.

As an innocent bystander you probably are not familiar with the OZ visa system and the requirements so let me take you through the basics of an Australian Permanent Resident Visa. (note: the government changes the whole system every two years or so, to make sure everybody goes mental once in a while…)

The permanent resident visa will give you the right to stay in the country indefinitely, work in Australia etc. All the things normal citizens do. But you are not a citizen though. So you cannot vote, cannot work in the army or in many other jobs that require background security checks (as you do not have a background in Australia yet) Adn god, do they love security checks nowadays. But let us touch upon that specific topic in another blog post.

The visa works with a points system. You get points for age, your type of work, your experience, your proficiency in English etc. Small note, if your job is not on the infamous list you are not allowed to request a visa. And you can’t just make up that you are carpenter by trade. ‘…Oh I have been a carpenter all my life…’ NOT. They check your resume, your experience and your education. If one is not up to their standards your out.

Getting all this proof can be a pain in the #%@, so here is where the migration agent helps. You still have to do a lot yourself. But at least they tell you exactly what to deliver and when to deliver it. They check the content of what you provide, if it is fit for purpose and they point out mistakes etc. All in all very helpful. Our agent turned out to be indispensable as we ran into major issues with the assessing body. This institute checks if your qualifications and job experience are real and ticks all boxes. In our case there was a dispute in regards the years of experience N. had in the job we applied for. Only after the agent himself paid a visit  to the assessment agency in Melbourne things turned for the better (mind you the agent was based in Adelaide). Having a migration agent in Australia was indispensable in our case and after this final intervention  we received the much needed stamp of approval for job experience. Another 20 points in the pocket!

After gathering points for all the different items your score has to be over 60 points to qualify for a visa. We got to 55… Damn… Lucky for us, you can request a specific state in Australia to sponsor you. In return you promise that you will move to this state and not somewhere else. This way you have the benefit of receiving another 5 points and the state makes sure they attract the right people to their state. A win-win as they call it.

So we did, we aimed for sponsorship by South Australia, but before we even started South Australia took our job from their State Sponsored list. So no 5 points. No visa… Arrrgggghhhh.

The migration agent knew of one other state which sponsored our line of work and that was the Australian Capital Territory or better known as ACT. Talking about one shot…

Bloody hell, we didn’t know anything about this miniature state except that they have a real winter! Never been there, never heard much about it. But heck, if ACT is the only way to get into Australia, than that’s the way is should be. We requested sponsorship in ACT and received it! Finally after little more than a year planning, doing and waiting we received the coveted Visa Grant in June 2012! ACT it is!