Life happens… where to begin

It’s been a busy week – finishing off my temp assignment, going to interviews, pondering the many pitfalls of a long-distance relationship and, oh yeah, I have baby eggplants that have appeared.

Where to start.

The interviews were positive – two of them were just agency interviews, which is usually a whole lot of hoo-hah and not much else.  However both these agencies had actual roles that they wanted to put me forward for, which makes them better than average.  In better news, though, I got a call back from a law firm I applied to directly who had a paralegal job going.  It was a great interview (there’s an oxymoron) and I left feeling very positive about it – and really, really wanting to work there if only to use their subsidised in-house masseuse (oh the luxury…).  Anyway, I got a call back this morning asking me to meet with the partner of the practice division I’d be working in if I got the job.  It’s all set for tomorrow morning.

Of course, life wouldn’t be life if everything was going absolutely according to plan.  My other half is still in the UK, coming to grips with the idea that life in Australia is a) better than England and b) better than England.  Going from living together and being in each other’s hip pocket to Skype calls is a huge challenge, not least because I have no idea if he’s even coming out – and he’s been thinking it over for almost a year now.  He can be as intractable as… something intractable… and no amount of evidence, logic, cajoling, pleading, threatening or any other action seems to have any effect on him making a decision.  It’s maddening and not altogether confidence-inspiring.

In lighter news, however, I’m the mother of brand-new baby eggplants.  They are the absolute apple of my eye:

Also, CAPSICUMS:

In our next installment, Australian beaches: a study.  Plus either a really positive post about how great a decision is was to move out to Australia because I’ve got that job and everything is all falling into place… or a post about how you can never count on things turning out the way you thought they would 😛

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Stealth office shots for the insatiably curious

So, started the new temp job on Friday.  A huge improvement on the last first day.  These people were normal for a start and actually had a reception desk at the front door!

The job is all straightforward PA-type stuff so I won’t bore you with the details but I couldn’t resist taking some stealth shots of the office.  I’ve been in London office blocks for so long, I forgot what some Queensland offices can offer.

In my old London office, we had floor-to-ceiling glass windows, open-plan desks in rows (sort of like a cafeteria I guess) and, if I craned my neck, I could just see the London Eye.

Behold, my temporary Brisbane office:

The outside, open-air deck, framed with lovely leafiness.  Perfect for sandwich lunching.  

The massive staff kitchen, complete with tropical fish tank (which is dangerously distracting)

The office ‘bridge’, complete with bistro tables (the office is straddled across two buildings with an open-air – but under cover – bridge linking the two)

Street view from the bridge

In London, the closest thing I got to fresh air was the 5 minute walk between the Tube and the office.  By contrast, sitting on a Friday afternoon, eating your lunch while a soft tropical breeze floats past you and the birds twitter is… a very nice change.

Also, while we’re drawing comparisons, I’m curious as to how London and Australia compare with each and with the world.  For instance:

London:

  • 35,000 pounds is a good, average wage for someone in office admin.
  • Rent varies but you wouldn’t see much change out of 1200 pounds a month for a 1 bedroom flat that’s within a couple of zones of the City (unless you’re living in a dodgy area).
  • I could do a weekly shop for two people for 50 pounds but this didn’t include meat as my Guy is pescetarian and I figured I could definitely cut down on the red meat so I followed a similar diet.
  • Your wage is paid directly into your nominated bank account once a month.
  • 5 weeks holiday is standard with all permanent jobs.
  •  The hours for all my jobs has been 9am-5pm with a 1 hour lunch break – some people work 9-5.30, or 8.30-5.
  • All current pension plans are an 8% (roughly) contribution of your annual wage made by your employer (over and above your wage) into an investment account with a pension provider.  The pension provider invests these funds – there is no guaranteed income/amount of money at your retirement (you’re at the mercy of the markets, like with any stockmarket share).  In addition to the funds you’ll receive at your retirement from your work “pension”, the state also pays a pension to all people of retirement age.
  • All healthcare is free (all citizens pay a tax throughout their working life – deducted from their monthly wage – that contributes to the National Health Service).
  • All medicines issued by your doctor are paid at a flat rate – no matter what the real cost of the medicine you only pay the set rate (which is about 10 pounds I think?).  Unless the medicine you need is not on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS), in which case you pay the market rate (this would be fairly rare though).
  • Maternity-leave must be provided by all businesses (unless they’re a small business owner, I think).  Most businesses offer 3 months paid maternity leave full-pay and then an additional 3-6 months maternity leave at reduced pay.  Businesses are obliged to give your old job to you once you return (however, depending on the length of your maternity leave, your employers can give you an equivalent job at the same rate of pay rather than the exact same job).  Women have the right to demand flexible working hours upon their return.
  • Base income tax rate is 20% for wages up to 34,000 pounds, 40% from 34,000-150,000 pounds and 50% for income above 150,000

Brisbane:

  • 65,000 dollars is a good, average wage for someone in office admin.
  • Rent varies but I’m currently looking at flats in inner-city Brisbane that are 400 dollars per week (1 and 2 bedroom flats with very large balconies that are intended to be outdoor living space. If you go out into the suburbs, you can get a 3 bedroom house for the same amount).
  • 4 years ago, I used to be able to do a weekly shop for one person for 100 dollars – with meat.  I suspect this will have increased somewhat.
  • Your wage is paid directly into your nominated bank account once a fortnight (2 weeks).
  • 4 weeks holiday is standard with all permanent jobs.
  • Standard hours for office admin are 9am-5.30pm, with a 1 hour lunch break.  However, some people start at 8/8.30am and finish 4.30/5/5.30pm.
  • All current pension plans (called superannuation in Australia) are a 9% contribution of your annual wage made by your employer (over and above your wage) into an investment account with a superannuation provider.  The pension provider invests these funds – there is no guaranteed income/amount of money at your retirement (you’re at the mercy of the markets, like with any stockmarket share).  In addition to the funds you’ll receive at your retirement from your work “pension”, the state also pays a pension to all people of retirement age.
  • Healthcare is mostly free, however you have to pay a hefty penalty when you do your taxes if you do not have private health insurance.  Not all GPs ‘bulk bill’ (where they charge the government 100% of your bill and you pay nothing) – some make you pay up front and you get a portion of it back later when you claim it from the government (via Medicare).  If you need emergency care and go to hospital, it will be ALWAYS be free to you, even if you don’t have private health insurance.
  • Medicines vary in price – they are subsidised but not to the same degree in the UK.  You will pay different prices for your antibiotics, etc, depending on what you’re buying.
  • Maternity-leave was only recently introduced (in the last year or so) and businesses are not obliged to offer it.    If they don’t, the government offers paid maternity-leave in their stead.  Government paid maternity-leave is at the national minimum wage of 570 dollars per week.  Businesses tend not to offer paid maternity leave much beyond 6 weeks (I believe), however women can be on unpaid maternity leave for some months and have the right to demand flexible working hours upon their return (as well as their old job) so long as they’re back within 1 year.
  • Base income tax rate is 15% up to 37,000 dollars, 30% between 37,000 and 80,000 dollars, 37% between 80,000 and 180,000 dollars and 45% for income over 180,000 dollars.

How does this compare to where you are?

Job dating

When I met my guy, I thought the whole dating thing would be over.  Never again the doubt, the fear or the soul-sucking feeling that you’re the only sad, lonely loser person around.

Alas, I forgot how similar job hunting was.

Meeting someone

First, you trawl the posh places, looking for the guy job of your dreams.  This only lasts for as long as your confidence holds out.  Soon, you start listening to your inner fear: you won’t ever find it and you’re not getting any younger you know.  Then the internal negotiating starts.  Perhaps your expectations are too high.  Are you thinking overmuch of yourself?  Maybe a ‘job for now’ will do – you kid yourself that you’re still looking for the job of your dreams but, lets face it, you’ve already resigned to settling.  Without a support group, you’re only a bottle and two chocolate bars away from considering just how bad those call centre marketing jobs could be… 

Waiting for that call

You meet.  You like what you see.  You give them your number.   They might even promise to call.  Hope flares.   Maybe it will work out ok after all.  You wait.  And wait.  And wait.  You don’t stray more than jumping distance away from the phone.  You start taking your mobile with you everywhere – everywhere.   You check your emails every 20 minutes.  You start to panic about whether you gave the right number.  You start harbouring suspicions that your internet provider has done something drastically, drastically wrong with your connection.  

The date

They contact you.  You’ve gotten through the first cull that are deemed worthy of a call back.  They’ve been overwhelmed with responses, they’re trying to pull together a shortlist.  They want to discuss your resume.  Just a casual chat – but you’re being judged on every word you say.  So you do this interview that’s not an interview.  You pull out all your best experience.  You’re witty, charming and professional.  You’re doing the verbal equivalents of a LBD and killer heels.  They cannot resist.  He They seem to be buying it impressed.  They’ll get back to you.  

The second date?

You hang up feeling completely confident.  The next day, you’re a nervous wreck.  You’ve replayed every sentence, every nuance of reaction.  You’re a fool – fool! – for thinking that they might actually like you.  You resist the urge to call.  To ‘follow up’.  Doesn’t everyone say you should play hard to get?  You’re a strong, confident woman.  They would be lucky to have you.  You reach for a bag to stop from hyperventilating.  You consider getting a cream for the stress rash.

Honestly, if job dating doesn’t make you feel exactly like a love junkie then I’ll eat my hat (it’s a fabulous new hat, too, that I got as a little present for myself).  

Right now, I’m waiting to see whether I’ve made the shortlist for three jobs after some promising signals.  In the meantime, I have a temp job starting Friday, which is great news.  It will only be a week and a half but it’s better than nothing!