Friday, 31 January 2014

The Friendly Neighbour

Just a quick one from me. I know some of our readers are expecting a detailed post about how we got into trouble off-road in Central Gippsland (well within hardcore 4WD country. Not AWD, not soft-roader, definitely not Subaru Forester terrain there), or a post about how shitty Seven Seas International freight services are. I will owe you these accounts for now.

Central Gippsland is a beautiful region of Victoria. Then again, everywhere here seems beautiful to us!

I am also planning a post for a reader who asked about the security industry. I don't have the information now, but I know someone in the line. Please be patient, I will do it just for you! ;)

Anyway after I banged up the undercarriage of the Forester really well and got some disturbing low dipstick readings from my manual gearbox, today I decided to crawl underneath the car to hunt for oil leaks. I also knew that some of the plastic retainer clips for my undercarriage covers needed replacement, so it was time to break out my hydraulic jack and jack stands to raise and prop up the car safely.

Not exactly an internationally-recognised symbol of distress, but I didn't want anyone driving by without allowing us to demand assistance... Btw the green things are TRED 4x4 recovery tracks...
Approx 1cm diameter puncture in the sidewall with a tyre jack handle to show the scale. There are two punctures. Sidewall punctures are not repairable (out of desperation, I did try, but the hole was way too big). Now, CK, do you know why changing tyres is such a vital skill?

Cracked blocks on another of the tyres. Still held air, but I'm getting this replaced as well. These are almost brand new Yokohama Geolandar AT/S off road tyres...

A very kind Colin Farrell lookalike drove by in a Mitsubishi Triton 4x4 ute, family in tow, and guided us out safely. We were very apprehensive to drive out on our own because of the sheer ruggedness of the terrain we had traversed, and the fact that our spare tyre was a regular road tyre... But having a local guide us was a huge blessing and comfort.

I didn't manage to find any oil leaks from the transmission, which was reassuring. I removed samples of retaining clips and damaged bolts so that I could buy spares at a nearby auto parts dealer. The auto stores here probably pale in comparison to those in the USA, but any petrolhead from Singapore would have a wet dream inside any of the stores here. Autobacs is nothing!

Since I haven't actually got much experience, I was naturally making a hash of things. I always park my car close to the kerb so as to give as much space as possible to passing traffic. Not that the street is narrow or anything, but I used to live in an estate of terraced houses in SG, and the sensible drivers would park their cars within an inch or so of the kerb. Old habits die hard.

Not wanting to shift my car also meant that I had very little room to work the hydraulic jack. So the jack jammed itself against the kerb as I lowered my car after the checks. No problem whatsoever. Just  jack up the car again, lower it onto the jack stand, re align the jack, and repeat. Thrice.

By this time, I had attracted the attention of my 90+ year old geriatric neighbour (let's call him E) from across the street. He ambled slowly across the road with the aid of a walking stick, and asked:

"How's it going? Do you need help?"

I reassured him that I didn't, and cheerfully confirmed his unspoken suspicions that I was a total noob at this. Then we chatted for a while.

Turns out that he used to be an auto electrician, and that he was caring for his disabled wife (at well over 90!!). He was pretty frail, but looked somewhat younger than his years and still reasonably ambulant.

This is something one would not see in Singapore. The elderly are either scrounging for recyclables (here they will have no business as recycling is a way of life, and recyclables are collected in bins separated from household waste), vegetating in nursing homes, or vegetating at their offsprings' homes, under the care of domestic helpers from poorer Asian countries.

I decided to leave E both our numbers (sorry dear, I didn't tell you beforehand, but I know you don't mind!) and insisted that he call us should he ever need help. After all, there's this Chinese saying about a nearby neighbour being better than distant relatives, or something to that effect.

And maybe, if I have a question on auto electrics that Google can't answer, I'll pop across the street to consult him.

- S

P.S. If anyone is curious about racism in Australia, both E and Colin Farrell-lookalike appeared to be white/Caucasian Australians. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Elitism in Melbourne

Contributed by SGinMelbourne

Got a ride in my neighbour's beautiful Porsche Cayenne from my neighbour after dinner...

This is not a "show-off" post, but to share my observation here that there is simply no class divide in Australia. The rich and poor mingle freely, and I don't feel the sense of elitism and exclusiveness that I did back in Singapore
This car would most likely cost over half a million dollars in Singapore and about $AU150K in Australia but either way, I wouldn't be able to afford it.
But the fact that they drive such a car didn't bother me, nor did they look down on me for driving a humble toyota.
Over the years, something inside of me as a Singaporean has changed..I don't know what it is and it can't really be explained in words..
Perhaps, I have completely let go of the mindset of amassing material possessions, and pursuing status or wealth. I guess Australia has changed me a lot. Now, I appreciate whatever I have and am thankful that my new country has given me a second chance in my career and my new life.

Additional commentary by S
In view of all the hoo-ha about the Anton Casey case, a friend and reader SGinMelbourne felt strongly enough about it to share this account. It seems that there is little stigma whether one chooses to cycle, drive, or take public transport to work. In fact I suspect that most people will think of those who drive to the city and park there, as idiots. Only an idiot would face such congestion and pay such hefty fees for parking. Like a Singaporean.

Then again, although it has only been about two months since we have first set foot in Melbourne, I can't say that there is zero elitism or materialism here. Certainly there must be such traits in every society. Driving along Toorak Road (apparently Melbourne's equivalent of Orchard Rd in SG), I saw many posh luxury cars and expensive homes. There are 'poor' suburbs with high crime rates as well. And just yesterday there seemed to have been a racially-motivated crime in the area as well.
But I would agree that Melbourne (and probably most of Oz) is way more egalitarian than SG. People appreciate your company, and not for your possessions or status. You may get friendly questions about where you live and what you do, but nobody is going to tell you about how wonderful their house is and how lousy your house/car/dog/bike/job is.
This was very apparent in the mountain biking group I joined, as a newbie to Melbourne, and a relatively less fit and competent rider than most of the group. Not once did they make me feel bad for being slower on climbs, or for not knowing the way. In fact, I almost never had the chance to get lost, as someone would be waiting for me every time the trail split. Unlike in SG where people with expensive bikes tend to form exclusive cliques, here, you would get less-experienced riders riding entry-level bikes riding alongside race-ready bikers with expensive bikes, with hardly any talk about which was the latest component or whose bike had what cool features.
Truly a refreshing experience. Now I need a GoPro to show you people what sort of trails you are missing out on... Meanwhile, this is someone else's YouTube video of a trail segment I did on Sunday. It was awesome...

Rediscovering the Kampung Spirit

I first saw this post in Facebook group SG Kongsi (Australia), and was granted permission by its author to share it here. - S

Contributed by SGinMelbourne

Just want to share my feeling with regards to what is happening in Australia, especially over here in Melbourne. As many of you are aware, we are experiencing many days of heat waves.
This afternoon, Melbourne commuters could not get home as train lines were cancelled. One of the many lessons I learnt about integration of being a migrant is sharing the "kampong spirit".
In today scenario, we offer to a lift to a colleague who could not go back home. It is a simple gesture but people appreciate. in 2011, during the Brisbane flood crisis, I was involved in some disaster recovery but that is another story which I don't want to blog it down here.
This is not a show off thread but to tell us that a crisis can bond people or break people. This is also not a thread for us to use this sort of opportunity to shed crocodiles tears and pretend to help. What I am trying to say when we show the "kampong spirit", we can make an impact for the locals and integrate with them.
One of the recent example of how bonds and trust are broken during crisis was shared by some fellow Singaporeans. Last year, Singapore was hit with a bad haze. Some of his FT colleagues flew off to "holiday destinations" that are not affected by the haze, leaving the problems and work to be done by the Singaporeans.
Again, this is not a hate thread but it show that if people are in a country for economy benefits, when crisis comes, they disappears. That is why many young Singaporeans are frustrated and coined slogans like "NS for locals, (to protect everyone including FT that runs away) and jobs for FT"
If we really want to be integrated with Australians, BE with them in their UPs and DOWNS and you find them accepting you more and even defending you in time of need.

Friday, 17 January 2014

"Are you proud to be Singaporean?"

This post comes bit late to the party, I know, but I had this topic in mind even before K-pop Star Hunt 3 Finalist Stephanie Koh's video started going viral. You can watch her video here:

A week ago, an ex-Singaporean had asked me this question over dinner gathering in Melbourne. I responded, without a second's hesitation:


It was then I realised, this is really a tough question which deserves some thought and introspection. If your answer is "yes", what exactly are you proud of? If "no", why, and what would you be proud of?

Let's begin by breaking down the qualities of Singapore and Singaporeans into two categories - "Good" and "bad". This will be my opinions (or what I think the world thinks about SG), and yes there will be stereotypes. So if you don't fit that mould, good for you. If you take it personally, you can stop reading, or do some self-reflection and make the change. Or re-watch the last ten seconds of Steph's video, and take that to heart instead...

Finally, I will give some examples of things that I am proud of, and why.

Good things about Singapore

1. Singapore has an efficient government. However, I have noticed key exceptions, which I will elaborate on in the next section.

2. Singapore has high GDP. Whether everyone benefits from this or not, is highly-questionable. But a high score is what it is.

3. Singapore has a reputation for being safe. I'm not going to bring in figures or anything, and yes I acknowledge that the reputation is gradually becoming sullied after the recent spate of murders, Little India riots, PRCs coming here to burglarise houses. But most Singaporeans and almost any foreigner will tell you that Singapore is very safe indeed. So "safety" makes the list.
Let's attribute this spate to coincidence. Besides, crime stats are usually given by per 100k population, and we all know how much Singapore's population has grown in recent times. (more people = more murders, nothing to worry about)

4. Good Singaporean food. I have to qualify and emphasise again: Singaporean food. After coming to Melbourne, I realise what I was missing out in terms of the quality of the international cuisine over in SG. But I do love SG food, and the in two months that we've been in Melbourne, we have cooked chicken rice twice. There's no lack of quality Malaysian food (typically, close enough) here, though we didn't migrate only to fixate on the food that we used to get in SG.

5. Relatively free from natural disasters. As pointed out by K-Pop Star Hunt 3 Finalist Stephanie Koh in her video, this is entirely due to geographical location. Flooding caused by man-made reasons such as building too much and too fast, such that water can't soak into the ground naturally, insufficient drainage for the level of development, I can't say that that qualifies as a "natural disaster".

6. Singapore really spoon feeds its citizens, processes-wise. Welfare is practically non-existent, but boy, do you people there have very little to worry about (other than money - but refer to point #2 =D) as compared to a country like Australia. I've discussed and compared this in a previous post, for those who are interested.

7. Strong defence. Soon to be better than ever with the addition of F-35s to the mix.

The Formidable-class Stealth Frigate RSS-Tenacious. Yield to None!
8. It's not a boring place. Or so claim some of A's relatives in SG who think places like Australia are very boring, in comparison.

Bad things about Singapore (and this section is certainly nothing to be proud of)

1. Carrot and stick approach. "Fine" city. No chewing gum. To be fair, I think Singapore is unfairly-vilified for this by some quarters. Apparently in Australia one can get fined for leaving one's car windows open, if one is more than 3 meters away from his car. I find that a far stupider law than the chewing gum ban. Of course in less than two months in Oz, we have flouted this law countless times. Usually when doing things like this.

2. Creativity is stifled. Just look at what happened to Sticker Lady. Sure she eventually got off with a slap on the wrist. Sure, people can go against the system or even break the law like she did, to pursue their artistic passions. But the truth is people go the path of least resistance.

Here in Australia, there are TONS of graffiti. Now, I don't even like most of it, and I would not like ANY of it on my property - should we own property in future. But among the graffiti, there are gems. I'm not very artistic, so condemn me for poor taste if you wish, but I kinda like this one. I might not mind that on the wall of our place, come to think of it. Though one does not simply commission graffiti artists to do one's bidding, methinks.

I won't say Singapore should just legalise or encourage graffiti/vandalism. But it's the entire package, and the entire environment. If you still don't get it, I shan't waste any more of my time, and on on the next point...

3. Things in SG are bloody expensive, and the average salary has not increased to match. I don't think this needs much elaboration. I hear you guys had another fare hike yesterday right? Suck it up! Then again, I'm sure they will put the money to good use and improve on the reliability of the trains... =D

4. Narrowly-defined measures of success. Doctor, lawyer or banker. That's about it. I believe the shine of being an engineer has been abraded by the constant influx of cheap foreign "talents". I'm not sure how the dynamic will further evolve further down the road, but it's always been about the money and assets one has, in SG. It's not as if there's very much to do anyway, besides making and spending money. I know a few of you guys might define happiness or success by your relationships with others or investing in your kids holistic upbringing but trust me, I count very few among those that I know who subscribe to such thinking. 

5. The media is muzzled and misleads. I've elaborated here before, no point repeating myself.

6. Singapore IS boring. According to me, anyway.

7. Singapore is tiny, yet it takes a long time to get anywhere meaningful. Bad on two counts.

Good things about Singaporeans

1. We work among the longest hours in the world. Somebody has to pay, and contrary to what you might have thought, it won't be your employer.

2. We are mostly bilingual. Ok I can't say that with a straight face. But I know we are set up to be, and I think the education system does a fair job to that end.

3. We are efficient. Ok I've seen articles screaming the contrary, but I can go with the oft-held perception and count efficiency as a plus.

4. We suck it up at work. Yes, we take a lot more shit than employees in Western countries. I don't have figures, but anecdotes abound.

5. We are good at academic benchmarks. No ifs or buts.

6. Competitive. Aka kiasu. We want to win, and that can be good.

Bad things about Singaporeans (again, don't be offended if these don't apply to you. Not all the good things apply to everyone anyway)

1. We are kiasu. Not everything in life is a competition, but some of us just don't seem to get it.

2. We don't speak up enough where it counts. Complaining online no count hor. It's getting better for sure, but with the 60% mandate handed on a silver platter to the PAP, I'm not so sure you guys are moving quickly enough in the right direction.

3. We lack perspective. Yes, as Steph said, many of us are narrow-minded. And I think fair-minded readers can agree with me on this. But if you lack perspective, feel free to dismiss everything I have written, thereby proving my point.

4. We lack resilience. See point 6 under "good points about SG". There's the cause of this. Our forefathers were resilient, but many of us have lost it. Many people bitch about SG, but when it comes to the crunch, they do sod all for themselves. They don't even change jobs unless sibeh jialat already. Complaining is good enough.

Some with no jobs, rather remain jobless than doing "low-level" jobs. I hope grass tastes good to them.

5. We want to have our cake and eat it. Singaporeans want to migrate to Australia only if they can have a good job at their level. They want to have at least the same take-home pay as before, even though you saved a tonne on your house and car and medical and education are pretty much taken care of. You want, you want. But you don't want to yield an inch.

Stay in Singapore.

6. We are materialistic. We judge people by their possessions. What car they have. What house they have. Which suburb they stay in.

7. We are elitist. We judge people by who they know, what job they have, what schools they went to.

To be fair, all of the good and bad points are not exclusive to Singaporeans. So don't get me wrong.

What I am proud of, and why?

At the end of the day, not everything good about something, would make one proud of it. For example, I could not be "proud" to live in a country just because it has high GDP, especially if there is huge income inequality. If the country has high GDP and everyone is uplifted along with it and has a decent living, then yes, I could be proud to hail from such a country.

Conversely, just because there are bad points about something, one cannot be proud of it. As many people have commented online, they are proud of Singapore, but not the Government. And that is a view I highly-respect.

1. I am proud of the two ships where I held appointment. RSS Justice and RSS Tenacious. RSS Justice won best ship three years in a row. I was there for only half a year, and I don't claim any credit, but I am proud to have served by their side. Even just pulling my weight, or when I needed help, I had support. Those were the days.

On Tenacious, we didn't win any award during my stint. But we sailed for an exercise and conducted it well. There was no tangible reward, but a sense of satisfaction from a job well-done. The ship as a unit looked smart, and as on Justice, the team was motivated and united.

Those are things I was proud of, and am very happy to have been a part of.

2. I am proud to have hailed from Raffles ODAC. It was where A and I first met, but that is not why I am proud to be from there. I am proud to have grown and and learned alongside very talented fellow ODACians, and we did some pretty amazing things together in those two years, and in the years that followed after our graduation.

Practicing for the grand opening to Outdoor Week. A is seen abseiling. Picture taken at the old Raffles JC campus

What I am not proud of, and why?

1. I am not proud to have been in the Navy. Despite the fact that those who know me may have seen me in a Navy singlet about half the time, since we landed in Melbourne. Now, I am NOT ASHAMED to have been from the Navy. It's just something that I'm not proud of. Know the difference.

To me, the navy is just my employer. It's a small Navy, to be sure, but I don't feel a sense of belonging or camaraderie. I feel it at the ship-level, with my batch mates. But not organisation-wide.

The navy has achieved some commendable things. But I am turned off when shooting an abandoned skiff keeps getting played up like some achievement. Perhaps that one issue alone would prevent me from saying I am proud to be from the RSN.

A pirate skiff. Might not be The Pirate Skiff, but just to illustrate.
Anyway, the RSAF Super Puma from the task force was the piece of equipment doing the empty skiff-destroying. So if anything perhaps the Air Force could be the one tootling its horn for this "achievement"
2. I am not proud to be a Singaporean. Because the values that typical Singaporeans hold, or that Singapore seems to cherish, simply do not resonate with me. 

I am not usually ashamed to be Singaporean (just on occasions when fellow Sinkies sia suay the entire nation. Like Steven Lim or Ris Low. BOOMZ). But I can't say I am proud to be Singaporean.

I would be insulted to be thought of as "from China". But that's NOT the same as being proud to be from Singapore. I would feel more pride in being mistaken as a Malaysian, because Malaysian Chinese are usually at least tri-lingual and are a resilient bunch, having to face such discrimination in their home country. They are also far more innovative and willing to take risks.

I can't be proud to be Singaporean, because even there were a strong identity or qualities we could be proud of, it has been rapidly-eroded by the huge influx of foreigners. They have their good and bad points. But a Red passport presented on a silver platter does not make them Singaporean overnight. But still they are allowed to dilute what little Singapore had in the way of culture and identity.

I would be proud of Singapore, if it could be proud of itself. If it could cherish its past better, instead of destroying the past to build a new shopping mall or casino or whatever. Once upon a time, I could be. But it's too late.

I would be proud to be Australian one day. Call me lazy, but I like the lifestyle. I like the DIY culture. Most Singaporeans know squat about their cars. I'm still like that, but working to change it. When I was in SG I even had to personally teach two Singaporean guy friends how to change tires! What kind of guy doesn't know how to change a car tyre??? (a Singaporean guy) 

Most Singaporeans would rather die than spend a couple of days in the Australian bush. Maybe some really would die, I wouldn't know. But I would be proud to survive and enjoy such conditions, on my own.

That day will come. Because being Australian is far more than having the passport. It's a way of life.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Milestone 3: Getting a full time job!

Hi folks! I believe this is a post that many regular readers have been waiting for. At approximately 10 am today, I got a job offer for a full time position, a few days shy of 2 months after landing in Melbourne. This post serves to share some of my insights, learning points and the process of job hunting in Melbourne, which I hope will be useful to others who intend to migrate in time to come.

1. Be prepared to start over.

If you have read other migration to Oz blogs and forums, you've probably heard this before. What it means is this : Job-wise, you need to be prepared to start at entry level again. Right now, you may be a senior officer, an executive, a manager, a CEO, a high flyer -- the truth is, your prior overseas job experiences may not be fully recognized or even relevant to the employers in Australia. Whatever your circumstances, it will be wise to adopt this general mindset during the actual job hunt. I find that it opens more doors to the jobs one can apply for since there are usually more entry level jobs available than middle management jobs (which typically require Australian experience anyway).

Not everyone can accept starting over -- it is a humbling experience indeed. Unless you are super rich, extremely talented in your field (then why are you reading this?) or have no overseas working experience whatsoever, be prepared to cast aside your pride and pre-conceived notions when looking for a job. Depending on the number of applications sent, you should also be prepared for a number of rejections, as sometimes you are simply not what the company is looking for.

Have a slice!

2. Be patient, realistic and have faith.

If you are applying onshore (like I did), make sure you provide your phone number in your resume and remain contactable during working hours. Most online advertisements for full time jobs indicate an application deadline and typically the shortlisting process can take another 1-2 weeks. Factor that in and you are looking at an average 2-3 week wait for the outcome of each application.

If you are applying for a job offshore, be prepared for an even longer wait and a lower chance of success. I didn't try this route but this might work for those migrating with kids and those who are simply too uncomfortable with the notion of migrating without a job at hand. During the job application phase, it is probably a good idea to get a phone plan that allows you to make and receive overseas calls without breaking the bank. S and I have observed that Australians generally prefer to communicate verbally over the phone instead of over email and SMS.

An image of Yarra Valley, an hour's drive away from Melb CBD.
Spend some time exploring your new 'neighbourhood' while you wait!

Statistics from the Australian Immigration states that over 80% of new immigrants find a job within the first 6 months. If you have done your due diligence and put in genuine effort in your applications, then just sit back, relax and enjoy all that Australia has to offer while you wait! Of course, spend your savings wisely in the meantime.

3. Be aware of Hiring 'Seasons' and Trends

Unlike (some) Singaporeans who work all the time throughout the year (including weekends and PH, yes you know who you are), most Australians do have a life and work-life balance. During the job hunt period, you are not likely to get a call or email over weekends and public holidays. There are also periods in the year where the HR processes are significantly slower, such as long holiday periods over Christmas or Easter, where some companies may close for a week or two - so be prepared for a slightly longer wait. On the other hand, holiday seasons do offer more opportunities for casual employment - restaurants and cafes will have an increased number of positions for delivery drivers, wait staff, counter staff and bartenders etc. Casual employment may be a good way to start offsetting your running costs while you are searching for longer-term employment.

Depending on your trade, it will be good to find out beforehand if there are periods in the year where more specific vacancies may be available. For example, if you hope to work in a school (like I did initially), it is good to know that the new school year generally starts at the end of January. This means that many school vacancies may be available in the months of October to December in preparation for the coming school year.

4. Consider other Alternatives

Depending on your circumstances, full time employment may not be the only way or best option for you. One alternative I've mentioned earlier is casual work. Another widely available alternative is part-time employment, which may be a better choice for mothers of young children.

As S has mentioned in this earlier post, the educational qualifications of PRs who are dependents or secondary applicants are not formally recognized by Australia. As such, if you have sufficient savings  and are considering a career change, you may also consider doing a certificate or degree in Australia before applying for a job. Australia has numerous government-funded courses for upgrading of skills in general. Some universities/institutes also assist their graduating students with subsequent internships, apprenticeships and job placements.

Anyway, these are just suggestions. Perhaps none of them work for you, for one reason or another. My main point here is this: find solutions, not give excuses. If status quo is not working out, do something about it. I've chosen to share these specific alternatives because these are the ones I considered during my own job hunting period the past 2 months. Helpful readers are more than welcome to suggest other constructive alternatives!

5. Useful websites

Most of them are online job portals. You can also create a job profile using most of these websites for free.

6. Networking in the new community

"It's not what you know, it's who you know." The same is true everywhere, I guess. Although I managed to secure a job on my own, many new friends and acquaintances we have made in Melbourne through family, existing friends, ex-colleagues and church have all contributed greatly to our new life here. Some have offered to pass our resumes to their friends who are hiring, some have kept us in their prayers, some have offered specific advice about employment and many have encouraged us in one way or another. A million heartfelt thanks to this special bunch of people!!

Cultivate a new sense of belonging!

7. Your visa makes a difference

More than half of the job adverts for full time and part-time jobs I have come across typically include a statement such as "only citizens and PRs need apply" or "only candidates with valid unrestricted work rights in Australia will be considered" etc.

Yes, like I've mentioned several times in my pre-migration posts, the type of visa you hold makes a HUGE difference. Permanent Residents are essentially on the same playing field with citizens, whereas temporary residents or offshore applicants looking for sponsorship will face a lot more challenges during the application phase. Its not impossible, though. 

8. Technical Tips 

The following points may be quite 'DUH' to those who have gone through many interviews and job applications in their lifetimes, but it never hurts to be reminded.. :) I picked up some of these learning points during my time as a HR manager, having gone through countless resumes and sat through many interviews myself.
  • Your resume/CV should not be longer than 3-4 pages in general. Place the most 'impressive' or important information about yourself on the first page. In Australia, a recent photograph is not required by default, unless specifically requested for. If you need specific help with resume writing, click here.
  • Click here for some helpful interview tips, if you need them
  • Higher salaried jobs usually involve applications that require your unique response to the job position's key selection criteria. Respond to each criteria honestly and in good written English. Respond in such a way that helps you stand out from the other candidates (in a good way!) 
  • If called for an interview, read through the key selection criteria and your responses in preparation for the interview. It is likely that most of the interview questions are derivatives of the key selection criteria.
  • Use more than one job search website. Don't be lazy! Take the effort to create a profile of yourself on some recruitment websites and make your resume available for prospective employers to view. When I was a recruiter, I have actually searched for and found candidates this way for a couple of vacancies.
  • Most advertisements will indicate where the job is located. Google-map the location before you apply, especially if you are not too familiar with the suburbs yet. Bear in mind that each Australian city is huge and it may not be feasible to travel a long distance (more than 50km?) to work everyday! Don't assume that the job location is always in the CBD area.

9. Response to FAQs 

I anticipate some specific questions (especially from kiasu Singaporeans who love to compare) regarding my job offer, so I shall pre-empt my Singaporean readers here. :D

How far is your workplace? About 8km from home and located in CBD. A good distance to cycle or tram!

What are your work hours like? Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Definitely shorter hours than working in a Singapore school...

Is it a teaching job since you were a teacher in Singapore? Nope. I decided to apply for an office-based admin job as my first job in Oz.

What is the salary like? More lucrative than an ex-MOE teacher with 4 years experience and an Honours degree. What more could I ask for? 

What are the benefits and entitlements like? About the same as the average Singaporean I think.

How did you manage to find a full time job in such a short time? By God's grace and by following my own advice as documented in this rather long post! I truly am looking forward to going back to work this coming Monday after such a long sabbatical. Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

9 ways to beat the heat - Australian heatwave January 2014

With a heatwave descending upon most of the south of Australia this week, I thought it timely to brainstorm some ways to beat the heat. Ok, I read point 1 off Lifehacker some time back, and perhaps everything here is commonsense in one way or another. But those of us who have exercised in hot weather may have discovered, heat and fatigue can impair one's thinking. So here goes:

1. Open all your windows at night when it is cool. Close the windows at dawn - or the first thing in the morning. This will ensure a "reserve" of cool air is trapped in your house. Obviously on Thursday, January 16 2014, this method will provide the least effect during this particular hot spell.

Latest update from Accuweather

Yesterday, this ensured reasonable comfort in up to 35°C for most of the day. Around 4pm, we switched on the fan and that kept us cool enough.

2. Head to the beach or swimming pool. Fancy a free trial for Carlton Baths?

Just remember your sunblock. I remember sunblock was much cheaper in Tasmania and Perth just a few years ago. Either it's more expensive in Melbourne, or it's simply more expensive now. But at about $20 per litre for SPF 30, there's no excuse to go unprotected.

Brighton Beach. Photo taken on a much balmier day.

For those a little more sensitive to sun, rash guards or rash tops provide even more protection. Of course, remember to get a broad-brimmed hat and pants as well, to give you total protection.

3. It's time to go shopping. I've made a list, and intend to go shopping for auto parts, outdoor gear, among other things. We'll take our time, and enjoy the air-conditioning.

4. If you are on a budget or simply don't wish to keep walking around, try an indoor cafe or library.

Victoria State Library

5. Air-conditioning pooling.

Time to catch up with friends. Most of us have air-conditioning, but we might as well share our homes, and save money as well.

6. Flexi-hours, if your employer allows. Go to work later. The aim is to leave the office at about six pm or so, after the worst of the afternoon heat. Of course, this only works if your office is air-conditioned.

7. Ok this is a reader contribution - cover the windows which would receive the most intense sunlight with emergency blankets (those aluminised lightweight sheets). Reflective car sun-shades and plain ol' aluminium foil would work as well.

8. "Boundary cooling". Spray your roof or whichever wall faces the sun with water. This is a technique used on board ships to remove heat from a compartment which is on fire, without actually entering the compartment. It may or may not be super effective, but I suppose that unless there are water restrictions (at last check in December, Victoria's water levels were healthy), it might be worth a try.

It was a technique which I have occasionally attempted in Singapore on the inside (obviously...) walls of our flat's toilet.

9. If all else fails, have a cool shower!

Now, do share your ways to beat the heat!

- S

My subsidised studies as a fresh Australian PR

Update - More details on this lobang may be found here.

Our readers may have noticed that ever since migrating here, we have gotten rather lazy to blog. So if you have noticed the departure from our ordinarily well-researched posts, we hope you can bear with it. I've found that references take up more of my time than they seem to be worth to our readers, anyway.

So this will be a 'quick and dirty' post. Subsidised studies probably aren't a major reason for most people who choose to migrate anyway. Either you haven't studied and thus would face challenges getting a Skilled Migrant Visa, or you are qualified and shouldn't have much trouble landing a job if you are willing to start at a lower level and aren't too fussy.

Except for those who came on a dependants' Visa, like me. What do we, the lesser-qualified, do?

I could start my job search with my existing qualifications. Bachelor's degree in Communication Studies, majoring in Journalism. No relevant working experience in this field.

My only working experience thus far was as a Navigating Officer, and I am not willing (or allowed - by Mindef) to pursue a similar line. Besides, the Navy gives  its officers no internationally-recognised qualifications - apart from sponsored degree or diploma studies. My ship-driving certificate which allows me to drive a Frigate isn't even recognised by Singapore's very own MPA! But I digress.

Someone on Facebook suggested that I do a Automotive certificate. So I thought: Why not? I've always had an interest in cars.

On that sleepless night, I did some Googling, and came up with a few institutes to try applying for. I didn't have much idea of how much the courses would cost, and I had a $3-4k budget in mind. I didn't find much feedback differentiating between the various institutes, so I shortlisted by distance.

Menzies Institute of Technology got back to me first. And based on the info I gave them, they told me that I would likely qualify for a government subsidy, and would I like to go and check out their campus?

So we headed there the very same day. I was happy enough with what I saw, and learned that I qualified for a subsidised Certificate 3 in Automotive Mechanical Technology. Usual Price: A$14k. My price after subsidy: A$825.

What the heck. I signed up on the spot.

- Be a PR
- Your desired course must be an 'upgrade'. A's highest recognised qualification is a BSc, as she had her NUS credentials certified and submitted to AITSL for her teacher assessment. My highest recognised education level is essentially a Form 12 (A-level) in the eyes of the Aussie Government, as my NTU degree was not certified by the relevant Australian Authority. It doesn't matter that I have a Bachelor's in Communication Studies as I am not the primary applicant. 

This is so even though I submitted my complete educational qualifications as part of the migration process. Or so Menzies assured me.

A would qualify for a subsidy for any course above a Bachelor's level, should she choose to go for that. And I will continue to qualify for subsidies for subsequent upgrading courses such as a certificate 4, or degree course.

- The upgrading course may not have to be related to your previous expertise or field of study. In future, I could do a Cert 4 in aged-care, for instance, if they do not require earlier certification. Likewise, I was not required to have a Cert 1 or 2 in Automotive as prerequisites for the Cert 3 course I am taking.

Pre-Christmas goodies from the Bakery Class at Menzies!

- Your level of subsidy varies according to course. For courses which are popular or which the Government deems that industry has low demand for, the subsidy is lower. E.g. a subsidised dental assistant certificate 3 course costs around $4k.

- Do your homework first before committing. Due to visa fraud cases (some abused student visas to work, and paid for courses just to be in Oz to work, without actually studying), attendance is taken seriously. There might be implications for those who fail to attend or complete their courses.

And here's a video of one of my classmate's cars. I think it is not viewable on mobile devices, in case you notice an error..


- S

Our adventures around Melbourne

Hey everyone,

Some of you may be wondering what we have been up to. Here are a few random pictures, and I hope the captions are descriptive enough.

View from the summit of Mt Feathertop, Victoria's second-highest peak. It's a 20km return hike from the trailhead, so good hiking shoes are critical for this.
Camping by Lake Catani. I've noticed that the Wikipedia picture looks remarkably similar to mine.
This is one of the rare campsites with free camping AND hot showers.
Mt Buffalo's picnic area with scenic hut. A far less gruelling experience than Feathertop, with the carpark just 50m away from the picnic area, and the summit a mere 20 minutes leisurely hike away. The view from the top is more of the same, except that it is a pretty nice 360-degree view.
Bike path by the railway.
Most railway tracks here have a parallel foot/bicycle path, which is useful for those who don't mind sacrificing a bit of speed to avoid jostling with traffic along the main roads. 
Lake Eildon at dawn.
Lake Eildon is a popular destination among locals for camping and watersports.
Driving the scenic Skyline Road from Lake Eildon to the town of Eildon.
Car camping at Eildon. Camping gear is very cheap in Oz!
The red containers are petrol jerrycans, though we have not needed the extra fuel thus far, on our trips.
Australia is truly a haven for lovers of the Great Outdoors like ourselves! We are starting off with easy campsites and relatively easy hikes and trips, but there are really remote areas for those who are 'hardcore' outback types. Though we suspect fresh migrants from Singapore won't reach that stage anytime soon.

The pictures were taken with a Canon S100 compact (identical to the camera that took this manta picture - I have two of these cameras), and my Sony Xperia Z. No editing, except for auto-levels on one pic, blurring of number plate, and watermarks.

I'm not sure what else you guys want to know. Do drop a comment below and we'll try to post more stuff that you might actually be interested in!

- S