Comparing value: Phone and internet

Last week’s mini-rant about Australia’s dominant telecommunications company, Telstra, got me thinking. Are they really ‘behind the times fleece merchants’ or am I just looking back to Europe with rose-tinted lenses?

To check if my ire was justified, I decided to compare my experiences – of cost versus quality of service – to see how Telstra stacks up against companies of a similar type in other countries.

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Trial and error

Gatherings of expats invariably lead to one conversation topic, things you wish you’d done and things you wish you hadn’t.

These aren’t confessions of the stag/hen night variety, but wistful glances back at the process of moving to Australia and learning some lessons of relocation the hard way.

So, for today’s post, 18 months after our move, I’ve put together a list of the best and worst three decisions we’ve made in our journey to a new life down under.

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Canberra’s energy inefficient housing

Let me start this by saying that I’m not an expert in environmental matters, but by adding that I am interested in environmental matters. I was an early adopter of LED bulbs back when they cost more than the light fitting you put them into; I set up a couple of compost heaps in our last house and reduced our weekly rubbish collection by a third; and I’m generally happy to invest in something that I think will reap longer term benefits either in efficiency or in reducing my environmental footprint.

So when we arrived in Canberra, I was interested to learn that every property is assessed according to an ‘Energy Efficiency Rating’ or EER. Our year in a rental house – which is freezing in winter, boiling in summer and generates energy bills that would make a sheikh weep – only served to heighten my interest in energy efficiency when hunting for a house to buy.

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Putting down roots

House.jpg

It all happened very quickly, but last week we bought a house in Canberra.

So, we bought a house. There’s no way of tip-toeing around that one, so there it is. We bought a house.

As a new migrant, this is no small undertaking. There are the exchange rates to consider… are you cashing in your foreign currency at a rate that won’t make you fume in a few years time? There’s the fact that you have little credit history with which to support any mortgage application. You also have to familiarise yourself with a buying process that is rather alien, particularly if you buy in an auction. And then there’s the psychological question of: what does this really mean? Continue reading

The Canberra Weekly property section.

Dealing with Canberra’s undesirables

There’s quite a funny song that appeared on the British TV comedy show ‘Spitting Image’ many years ago, entitled ‘I’ve Never Met A Nice South African’ and it provides a suitable backdrop for the trouble I’ve had with writing this post.

Originally, this piece had an introduction along the lines of: “Every city has their undesirables and Canberra is no exception. In London, it’s investment bankers, in Copenhagen, it’s the hipsters, while in Canberra, it’s estate agents.”

But, just like the Spitting Image song, this sweeping claim troubled me. For the record, I’ve met plenty of lovely South Africans. I actually know an investment banker who’s a pretty good guy. And I even know an estate agent whom I believe to be ethical and principled.

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House prices a complex picture for migrants

If there’s one thing that Aussies and Brits have in common, it’s a constant fretting about the housing market – are prices going up or down? Are we at the peak of a price bubble? Should you rent until things calm down?

There’s no shortage of experts willing to offer answers to all of these questions but, in truth, only time will offer up the real answers.

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Credit crunch

Despite being in Australia for more than six months now, there are still things that take us by surprise. Mostly, when we are caught off guard, it has little consequence other than to teach us something new – like a new piece of Aussie slang, or the curiosity of getting a day off for the Queen’s birthday when they don’t get one in Britain – but occasionally the surprises are slightly more problematic, as we found when applying for a credit card this month. Continue reading