First thing is the visa. Being the unmarried harlot that I am, this usually means endless "proof of relationship" documentation to prove that we haven't just been dicking around for funsies these past 6.5 years. Australia only asks for 4 or 5 pieces of documentation like joint bank accounts, leases and the like. I went overboard and provided 6 pieces of documentation, and we only had to prove that we've been living together for 6 months! Everywhere else in the world it's 2 years. And everywhere else in the world they pretty much demand to see homemade pornography of the two of you just because you don't have that magical piece of paper. Not Australia. A few documents showing our names and the same address sufficed. The time between lodging the application and acceptance was also astonishingly short, 3 weeks + 1 business day.
For reference, I am still waiting for a simple renewal on my Norwegian visa which was lodged on Halloween 2011. The wait time is predicted to be 6 months, which in Norwegian means "you will hit menopause before we get to this application". So....we left. In the interest of full disclose the Norwegian visa was not really "simple" (it had been expired for, oh, about 6 months) and Martin's company handled our visa application to Australia. But they only submitted the application! They had no say in its processing time or outcome. Australian immigration is like brushing your teeth, Norwegian immigration is like getting a filling without Novocaine. That ain't even hyperbole. That's the truth.
Next stop, mobile telephone. One of my favorite things about everywhere-but-USA is the ability to buy a SIM card, pop it in your phone, and voilà, you've got a fully operational, local telephone number. I haven't lived in the U.S. in many moons and don't claim to know the ways of my people, but I'm pretty sure the closest thing they've got to this is pre-paid cell phones, which are only used by grandparents and drug dealers. It took $22 and 15 minutes of set-up to get me a cell phone. I've used this same phone in Scotland, Norway and now Australia. Sorry, American Exceptionalism, if that really is your real name, but everybody else but you does this better. Those cellular companies have you by the cojones, charge you insane sums of money per month and you don't even realize it. No bueno.
If you hadn't noticed I speak Spanish now to convey my varying levels of displeasure.
Then there's internet. I had heard of (and used, quite unsuccessfully I might add, in the UK) an internet dongle before. To avoid paying exorbitant sums of money on wifi at our temporary accommodation I thought that's the route we'd have to take. But nope, technology has caught up to my impossibly high expectations and created the pocket wifi. I did not know this existed, but I am pleased with it. It's a little thingamajig that is actually a router and gives you internet where ever and whenever you need it.
Martin uses this thing literally and carries it around in his pocket so he has internet on his phone (he won't know his phone sitch until he starts work on Monday so for now he's just slumming it, walking around with a bulge in his pants pocket). 10 minutes and $99 later on our first day here we acquired 6 GB of internet usage. I will note here that hooking up internet at our flat in Scotland took 6 weeks. 6 mo-fo'ing weeks. We moved in 1 September and got internet just before Halloween. This of course meant we had to pay for 12 months of service, well after we moved out again on 1 September.
I could write a goddamn book on things the UK does that is annoyingly antiquated, illogical and unnecessary. They do give out free birth control, though, which I appreciate. Prooooobably a good idea.
And getting our bank account set up. Oh em ghee, the banking! If I had a weak heart I'd have to stop writing right now. I cannot even explain how quick and easy it was. I created the account online before we even got here. That took well under 10 minutes. Then, once we arrived in Oz we had to meet with a personal banker to verify our identities (show our passports). This appointment was scheduled while we were still in Norway. She set us up with internet banking and gave us our debit cards. She was real purdy, too, in stark contrast to the swamp donkeys manning the tills at Royal Bank of Scotland - Nicholson Street branch.
Eff my life, Scotland, the banking! I don't know if my heart can take this trip down memory lane. It took months for us to set up our bank account there. Months! Ok, maybe it was weeks (whatevs), but we had to do a disproportionate amount of running around town to get that set up. And the service was awful. You'd swear it was the first year in the history of time that students descended upon the city of Edinburgh and needed to set up a bank account. It was incompetence incarnate. To add feces frosting on the shit cake that is Royal Bank of Scotland using that card in Australia results in an enormous fee. Double what Norway charges. Hell, double what the US charges and their banks are about as friendly as the ebola virus. And yet, they are billions of dollars in the hole.
Like I said, incompetence incarnate.
In my last post I talked about our search for an apartment and as of Wednesday, 29 February I can say we have signed a lease and have a place to move in to come Friday! We were terrified that that process was going to be painful and difficult but really, meh. Wasn't bad at all.
So all the major chores are taken care of, most in under 1 week. It's now time to kick back, make some friends and throw some proverbial shrimps on barbies (I'm just kidding, I hope to do that very literally).
I wouldn't say that the welcoming locals, ease of getting around or smooth transitioning has been my favorite part about living in Australia so far. No, my favorite part so far is realizing that I am not the fattest person here. I totally thought I would be but hey, they have KFC, McDonald's and "Hungry Jack's" (BK by another name), too.
I consider this a great personal success.