Last updated on April 3rd, 2020
It was a big dream coming true for us: at the end of 2013, we arrived in Australia for the very first time. The land down under has always been at the top of our bucket list and now we were finally there. Even better: we were going to spend a whole year there! After a year we left, but not for good, because 2 years later we were back again in Australia, to spend another year and to explore the west coast. How was it like living in Australia? How are the people? Was it easy to work and travel? We tell you all about it in this blog.
Living in Australia With a Working Holiday Visa
If we wanted to start living in Australia for a year we needed a visa. We chose for the working holiday visa because that visa allowed us to stay in Oz for 1 year, working and traveling. We were only allowed to work 6 months for the same employer, and if we did 3 months of farm work we could apply for a second working holiday visa. Getting the visa was quite easy (depending on where you are from): we applied and had it the next morning. From the moment that it is approved you have one year to go to Australia and you can stay for 1 year from the moment of entering.
Farm Work Experience in Australia
During our first year in Australia, we traveled a lot, but also did all kinds of different jobs. We especially looked for farm work, just in case if we wanted to stay another year. There is a harvesting line that you can call and they can set you up with farm work. Many backpackers do this though, which made it a bit harder to find a job, so we had to call every day for opportunities coming up.
Fortunately, we found a few farm jobs in order to get our three months signed off. We picked raspberries, tomatoes, apples, and grapes and we also worked in a packaging shed. Some jobs were terrible, like the tomatoes. After half a day we earned 30 dollars each… Of course we didn’t stick with this shitty job. Another experience was working on a remote farm in the outback of Queensland. It was a nice place, the facilities were great but you could notice how unsocial the farmers were, just not used to people. We hated to work for them, but we were running out of time for our farm work so we had to…
Luckily, we also had some great experiences! Our first job, for example, was picking raspberries and this was a really nice farmer, he paid good wages and there were friendly people around. But since this was our first job and we heard that we could earn so much more than there, we quit the job pretty soon already. Of course, we couldn’t find anything that earned better and in the end, this was actually the best farm job we had in Australia!
A giant downside of farm work is that during our time in Australia, a lot of farmers took advantage of backpackers that wanted to have the second year visa. After all the work we did, we got underpaid very badly and some farmers would only sign off the paper with proof that you worked there for money! It’s terrible, but the farmers thought: those backpackers will work anyway, because they want the second visa, even if we pay them very badly.
Fortunately, for the rest that wants to start farm work in the future, the rules are much more strict now, to protect backpackers from getting ripped off like us! For example, you now need to earn a minimum wage, otherwise the job doesn’t count for the 3 months of farm work for the second visa.
After all the effort and hassle we’ve gone through with the farm work in the first year, and because we loved Australia and wanted to see more, we decided to go for our second year! First, we finished our world trip though and saved some more money at home in the Netherlands, but in November 2016, we were back again in Australia.
The second visa was actually pretty easy to apply for. You just send in your proof of 3 months of farm work, pay the fee and done. Well, mostly then. Unfortunately, Manon had to do a medical examination because she wanted to work in childcare, but once that was done, the visa was approved very quickly.
Kings Park in Perth
Besides the 3 months of farm work in the first year, we did some other jobs as well, like working at a campervan hire, at festivals, and at a wedding company. Backpacker jobs like that are actually plentiful in Australia and pretty easy to find, as long as you’re willing to do everything. We always looked on Gumtree or on Backpacker Facebooks.
Work at a festival
The second year we didn’t go for farm work at all, but you probably understand why 😉 This year, we had the idea to find a job in our own occupation and maybe we could even stay longer than a year with a sponsorship. Unfortunately, the timing was wrong, because the mining industry had collapsed and it was hard to find jobs. Also, the diplomas were an issue, as Manon’s Bachelors Degree wasn’t recognized in Australia so she had to let it be assessed. We wasted a lot of time by doing so, and we better should have stuck to the temporary jobs. So after the first plan didn’t work out, we still did a few simple jobs. Bram worked in a factory and campervan hire, we both did some cleaning and Manon did some babysitting. This was fine too! With our experience in mind, we would advise you to not focus on one particular job, but keep your mind open to anything.
Work at the poffertjes stall 😉
Traveling Around Australia
Eventually, traveling is the reason why we actually went to Australia of course! And let Australia be the ultimate country for road trips, which we love to do. It is a huge country and you’ll drive a lot if you want to see it all, but doing it with your own transport is the best way to experience the freedom of traveling in Australia!
Want to know more about buying a car or van in Australia?
↠ Also read: Buying a Car or Van in Australia: Complete Guide
The first year, we started in Sydney and made our way down to Melbourne via the coast and the Australian Alps. From there we drove the Great Ocean Road towards Adelaide and went up North straight through the middle. In the outback, we took an off-road path: The Oodnadatta Track which was such an amazing drive. We visited Uluru and Alice Springs in the middle before we arrived in the tropical North and went up to Darwin. From there we went to the east coast and back down towards Sydney with all the awesome places in between. It took us a year, but as told we worked as well. It was a road trip we will never forget!
The second year we were more based in Perth on the west coast. From there we did some road trips to the South West, and around Perth. We really wanted to get a 4WD to drive up the west coast, but the problems with finding jobs and wasting time like that made it impossible. We would definitely do it differently if we could do it over, but we still had an amazing time. The west coast is beautiful, in our opinion the best side of Australia. There are fewer tourists and it is a bit more adventurous.
When we road tripped around we always went camping in our van and in our car. We stayed in some amazing places. There are some rules about where you can camp, and if you want to know everything about camping in Australia you should definitely check out our blog with everything you need to know about camping in Australia.
Australia is a western country with a laid-back feeling. We absolutely love this lifestyle, the beach and outdoor lifestyle, the Aussie sense of humor, the whole BBQ culture, the camping life AND the wildlife! Life in Australia is just super chill and we definitely feel great over there!
The only thing that makes the Aussie lifestyle a bit hard: thousands of rules! We are used to some rules coming from the Netherlands, but we still think it’s crazy in Australia. You need a ticket/permit for almost everything, but at the same time, the people are laid back so it is really hard to get things organized.
This is another reason to just go for the easy jobs, and this cultural difference shouldn’t really be a problem if you just want to work a bit and travel around. It will be a bit harder though if you want to stay in Australia and find more professional jobs like we tried.
With this, we don’t wanna say the culture in Australia is bad. Not at all! Because besides this one difference, we just love everything about Australia!
Living in Australia
So how easy is it to find a living space and how was it to actually live in Australia? The first year we mainly lived in our van, on campsites, or sometimes at farms. The ideal way to live in Australia! In Darwin, we spent a few months in an apartment while working there, because the campsites were a bit too expensive and out of the city. This apartment was actually really easy to find. We looked on Gumtree for a share house and immediately found this one!
The second year, we wanted to work for 6 months in Perth so we looked for an apartment as well, but this time for our own, since the shared house wasn’t really our thing. It was, again, really easy to find a place. Within a few weeks, we had a lovely 1 bedroom apartment close to the beach and with a shared pool! We met some lovely neighbors and living there was super nice. This way, we got a real feel for the true Aussie lifestyle. In the end we almost stayed for a year as told above not everything went to plan.
On the balcony of our apartment in Perth
A Future in Australia?
So after living for two years in Australia, do we think we will go back again and maybe even live there in the future? Well, we will definitely go back some time to Australia, as it feels a bit like a second home after spending so much time there. And we still have the north of the west coast to see. When that will be we don’t know yet, because for now there are first other countries to discover!
If we are ever going to live in Australia? No, possibly not. Don’t get us wrong, we love the lifestyle in Australia and it would be a great country to live, also work-wise, but it just doesn’t feel like the perfect country for us to live in at the moment.
So as you have read, we had many good times in Australia, but also some harder times. We tried to keep this blog really honest, so we really hope you don’t find it a bit negative as this is just our experiences. Of course, not everybody experiences Australia the same way! You just have to go there for yourself, as it is an incredible country to travel in!
If you’re going, we definitely recommend going for a working holiday visa. That way you can explore the country and see what it has to offer in two years time before you make any decision to live there permanently. We would advise to just go with the flow. Don’t focus on a certain job or place you want to stay, but just go where the wind takes you. That’s the best way to enjoy this country. There is so much to see, and we think you really should visit the west coast as well! You’ll find the best beaches on that side 😉
Go to Australia Yourself
Read all our other blogs about Australia here
What do you think after reading about our experiences? Did we make you excited about going? Or would you rather skip this country? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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