The Story of Our Beginning
In Feb 2014, I and my husband moved to Sydney right after getting married the last December. My husband is listed under skilled work migration list, and we were lucky enough to settle in this beautiful country with permanent resident visa. The excitement of starting a new life in an unknown country came with a fear of leaving my friends and family behind. We had little or no friends at all, and the only person we knew in Sydney was Dhawal’s friend, who had just migrated on the same visa only a month before our migration. We had many things in common with him, along with the lack of knowledge about the land we are going to inhabit.
Most of the Indians looking to fulfill their dreams in the overseas countries are on a tight budget and have very little financial support from their family. Belonging to a middle class and working class backgrounds, little finances are available to spare for accommodation in hotels or service apartments as they can fall very expensive. To save money and build a secure future, we started to hunt for rental houses for temporary moving. This brought, even more, troubles, as with our little knowledge of the landscape, making the right decision for the location of our home was hard. We faced challenges like determining the type of suburb, will it be convenient to travel to my university/workplace/job interviews, what if we face racism, will I get Indian food, how will people treat us, how far is the transportation, and other similar dilemmas. Getting information from the Internet is not always possible, and most of the natives are not appreciative or encouraging for people settling from overseas in Australia. To add more to our worries, the renting, moving in, and moving out process in Sydney takes up to 1 week to 1 month. The renter has the right to conduct a personal inspection, and then finalize the date of the moving, and so on. Considering the suspicion of illegal and criminal activities, their worries are valid.
Due to these certain reasons, we asked the friend who migrated just a month earlier to look for accommodation for us too. So he did, and as much as we are grateful for him to do that, we also hated the house to our guts.
Now as the days got closer to moving, there was a variety of mixed emotions in us, we were scared of the unknown, we feared everything, we kept questioning ourselves to what if something goes wrong. On top of that, we were on a tight budget, already winded up things in India, bags ready and now getting ready to leave. But questions like what we buy from India, what we might need there, should we take any Indian spices, Indian sweets, should we take more of formal wear, more of winter clothes, more of summer clothes, maybe some food for the first night, etc. I guess the first challenge we faced was to what to pack in our bags and what are the essentials.
The fear of the unknown, what will happen when I land that country, what if I am unable to find the accommodation were always hovering in my mind.
Somehow we left the country and flew into Sydney. The main challenges we faced on our arrival were not how to reach our final destination, home. Knowing that we are tired and exhausted from the journey, the best option is usually the cab, but wait a minute that can be horribly expensive- one-way taxi fare from the airport to 25 km can be anywhere between 50-75 AUD depending on traffic and up to 50 km, it can be 110-175 AUD. That is 2500-10000 INR gone instantly just in the cab. Taking train and buses with luggage is not really the best option, as it’s time-consuming and depending on your landing time of the flight, it might not even be convenient. Can you imagine going to an unknown country with no knowledge of transport, having luggage and may even have the company of wife and children? It’s simply daunting, but we had no choice and decided to take the cab, and our bill was under 50 AUD.
We finally arrived at our new residence, exhausted from the journey, and were just looking for a place to call our home. To our surprise, the house turned out to be very old, and a single Australian man in his 60s owned the place. He rented out all his 5 rooms to men for 200 AUD a week and no deposit, which is very cheap according to Sydney standards. With reasonable rooms and all men population, you can imagine what it was like for me to adjust to such environment. To my relief, Dhawal’s friend welcomed us into the house, and we were then happy to have found a cheaper, yet decent place in this money. Our aim was to stay here until we find jobs and progress to better accommodation.
The first night as I entered the house I cried my eyes out, as I was disgusted by the conditions of the rooms, and doubted my decision of leaving home and settling in Australia. The paint on the wall was peeling, the carpet smelled funny, the toilets were not clean, there were cockroaches in the house, and I happen to find a bunch of unclean underwear rolled up and thrown away under the bed, which made me want to puke. Also, the old man didn’t allow us to cook Indian as he didn’t like the smell of the spices. We stayed there for a month and left the place the moment we found jobs. What I learned from this experience is that it’s important to ask the owners the questions regarding cooking, heating, cooling, etc., and demand basic sanitary conditions.
Other than the accommodation, the main challenge was also to get phone SIM cards and data plans. It gets very hard to know which company is the best and which data plans should one opt for, questions arise such as how will we call back home, how much data plan required, we need the internet for GPS, maps, etc. at this point. Should we get into a contract phone or prepaid SIMs, etc? We needed someone who could give us the best answers.
The problem of transportation soon hit us. We didn’t know which sites to use for navigation, timetables of buses and trains, where to get your OPAL cards from (tickets for public transport in Sydney), cab fares, maps, etc.
Once you have figured the basics out, then the main problems like opening a bank account, how to go to the bank, what documents will be required, do I take an appointment, and if we are on a PR visa. We also have to apply for a Medicare card, which provides free access to Medicare benefits for a range of medical services, lower cost prescriptions and free care as a public patient in a public hospital. Questions about how to apply for this card, where to apply, what documents will be required, etc. troubled us. We also have to apply for tax registration too, which is considered as an offense if you don’t have one. Then the part of driving license came along, and finding out how to get a driving license, what are the rules for driving in this country, and where do I go to get my license became a challenge.
Now coming to grocery – as, without planning, a week for 2 people can easily hit 100-150 AUD. Determining what to buy that will last, which is cheap and at the same time healthy was difficult. We also didn’t know how to shop for essentials, where can you get cheap stuff, which brands to shop in, etc. are very tricky questions and can be answered by only someone who has lived here a while. Also issues such as where to buy bed sheets, towels, heaters or coolers can also cause a lot of stress initially. One can be a mess, and the settlement can take a long time and can be very upsetting if the person doesn’t have the right set of knowledge and essentials.
Imagine if you’re new to the country and have just arrived at the airport, having no knowledge, you decide to take public transport to an accommodation you don’t know and have never seen before. You are horribly tired, it’s a little late maybe, and somehow with your entire luggage, you arrive at the accommodation. You have been given a room, and there are no bed sheets provided on the bed, as they are mostly never included in the accommodation rent. You have no quilt, maybe no heater and it’s really cold, and you don’t have any friend who can take you even to buy those at this hour. And you are also really hungry. All of this can make one cry to bits and be very stressful. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone told you this could happen and carry extra bed sheets? Wouldn’t it be helpful if someone has gone prior and checked the accommodation and made necessary arrangements? What if someone was there to pick you up at the airport and tell you things you need? Someone who can guide you at every step and give you more insights and you are not even guilty about imposing on that person, because you know it’s their job to help you.
My husband and I had the first month in total despair; we faced all sorts of problems. Problems of not knowing where to eat, what to buy, where to buy, where to go, how to use public transport, getting late on interviews, sometimes not even reaching the place of the interview were too real for us. Communicating with people, local cultural barriers, not having a comfortable accommodation, no friends, no support, not knowing where to go for help, what to do in case of emergency and top of it all having no job and money running out were even more challenging. We only wished we knew more or knew someone, anyone really who could have helped and not made us wonder our decision of why we chose to move to a new country firstly.
We want to make the transition of settling into a new country as easy as possible, to help people make their dream a reality without having to go through what we did. We want to make it fun for people when they move in . Hence, I have also included services such as being a personal guide and taking the client around the city and showing some famous attractions so that they can enjoy and familiarize themselves with the city.
We want to provide as much as support as possible, and hence, there are more services included for students as well- we can arrange study tips for students who will be first-time international students. Another service can be arranged as well, where we have actual students who are already settled here whom we can make our clients meet so that they get first-hand information on things like where to buy cheap books, cheap hacks for studies and tips on living, food hacks, cheap food buys, etc.
We learned everything through our own trial and error. We learned through mistakes, we learned the hard way and then we realized it doesn’t need to be that hard. It could have been easy if only we found someone right. Some support to get us going mentally strong, and that’s how the whole idea came into being.