My Australian Experience

After leaving Korea, I still wasn’t ready to begin my career. What a typical millennial I was; putting my life on hold for years!

As much as I enjoyed being in Korea, I was tired of teaching (and Korean work ethic)! An American working long hours in a non-English speaking country is tiring. Winters were too harsh for me as well. I guess I’m a snowflake who hates the snow!

Moving to Australia solved all of these issues. They speak English, they don’t work too hard, and it doesn’t snow!

When researching options to continue working abroad, I came to realize that Western Australia in particular had a minimum wage close to $20 an hour. Working full-time at a coffee shop would pay me more than I could make as an English teacher in Korea! It was even more than many of my friends in Los Angeles were making out of school.

This was 2011 and Australia was booming. Their mining was on a roll and the AUD was stronger than the USD. No education was necessary for locals to make large salaries, these were great times to be an Aussie.

So after visiting friends and family throughout USA and Canada, we packed our bags and moved to Perth. It’s easy to get a one-year visa if you’re under 30 and they allowed us to work anywhere that was willing to hire us for up to six-months at a time.

On the way to Perth, we had a free layover in Auckland, New Zealand. We extended the layover to three nights and enjoyed ourselves very much. On the last day we realized we had no accomodation booked for Perth and no idea where we would stay once we landed. This was back when we were happy and carefree. After arriving to the Perth airport we considered sleeping there and tackling accommodation in the morning. Clearer heads prevailed as the missus (my favorite Australian term) went on the Korean dark web and found us a Korean-owned hostel to stay at for our first couple of night nights. We secured a room in a large house shortly thereafter.

We were naive in our job prospects but found work rather easily. We simply printed about thirty resumes each and started walking in opposite direction of our new place. Within a couple of weeks we were both working full-time at different coffee shops.

Coffee is serious business in Australia. This is where the flat white was born. Aussies rightfully trash on American drip filter coffee, while praising their superior brew. When starting work at a coffee shop you are a runner and a cashier until you have months of proper training. It’s common in Australia to have a trial day where you work for free. Afterward, management will decide if you’re a good fit for the position.

After my trial day, my conversation with the manager went something like this:

Me: “I really like this coffee shop, I’d like to work here for the next six months.”

Manager: “Perfect, we will put you on the schedule starting next week. You will start at $19 an hour.”

Me: “You’re going to pay me $19 an hour to carry coffee to the customer’s table?”

Manager: “Yes that’s the minimum wage, we will give you a raise in three months if you do a good job. You will be paid every fortnight.”

Me: “Thank you so much, I’m so excited! Also, what’s a fortnight?”

I didn’t think about financial independence at this point in my life but I was preparing for the future. I knew I wanted to marry Sally and that living together in Australia would be a trial run of life together. I was also very bearish on my American job prospects, having no idea what I would do for a career or how much money I would make.

In Australia we both had visas that allowed us to work. If we moved to USA that wouldn’t be the case until months after we got married. When you take a girl from her home country, you need to be able to provide for her. This is especially if she can’t even legally work in your home country! I figured if we both worked and saved half our pay in Australia, we could have a year’s emergency fund if I couldn’t find work once we moved back to the states.

Australians are nice people but many assumed their booming economy would last forever. We rented a master bedroom within walking distance of work and picked up extra shifts as many locals weren’t keen on working too often. The bar is quite low in the Western world so I just kept showing up to cover extra shifts and they kept paying me.

In Korea I was known as a lazy teacher but in Australia I was known as a reliable, hard worker.

We ended up making about $85,000 combined during our twelve months there. We worked almost full-time about eleven of the months and traveled for four weeks. We went to Bali for one week in December and through the Australian cities of Cairns, Melbourne, Hobart, and Sydney during the last three weeks of our visa. If you’re in your twenties and want a change of pace, I’d highly recommend a move to Australia.

Looking back on it, this was the best time of our lives. We worked hard but were worry free. We were carless and careless.

And after months of training, I learned how to make a proper flat white.

This article has 3 comments

  1. RootofGood

    How often did you get the “hey mate, you got a weiahd accent. Weh ah you from?”

  2. Roadmap2Retire

    That was a great story…thanks for sharing. It’s interesting how you might be perceived as lazy or hard worker depending on local traditions and culture.


  3. Ty Roberts

    I had no idea you lived Down Under? I’ve never been but I’ve got a fascination with the place and would love to visit (New Zealand as well).

    Would you or the missus ever consider retiring there?