Mai Lo is a French woman who lived in Brisbane for 3 years and fell in love with the city and with Australia. Since her return to France, she has set up tools to help other French travellers wanting to go to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa via her website Mai Lo is in Oz.
Recently, we chatted to Mai Lo who is now back in her hometown, Paris.
Mai Lo, you’ve got a website, Mai Lo is in Oz , through which you help French and francophone travellers, especially those who want to do a working holiday visa WHV in Australia. Tell us why you decided to create this site.
Hello! Thanks very much for this interview.
In fact I lived in Brisbane for 3 years and when I arrived, I made every possible and imaginable mistake. I came here with a lot of stuff (I even took my French hi-fi system, to be honest!), I opened my bank account at not such a good bank, I bought an Australian SIM card, which had the worst network in the country, I had a hard time finding a job…
In short, I had a difficult start. Today, I know the questions that French backpackers have when they arrive on the other side of the world, sometimes poorly prepared, often speaking only some English and are therefore a little lost.
I used to give a lot of advice on social networks, and after a while I realised that I was saying the same thing all the time. So I created a blog and a Youtube channel to centralise all my advice. I’m actually trying to create the content that I would have liked to have had access to when I was in their shoes in 2014.
How do you help people with their travels in Australia?
I have set up a number of things for French WHV holders in Australia.
- I help them for free by answering their questions on social networks (Instagram, Facebook). All they have to do is contact me in a private message, and I take the time to help them through each step of their WHV. They can also watch my videos that detail the whole process of going to Australia.
- For those who are more risk-averse, I also offer starter packs. I then manage all the administrative procedures for them: from the creation of their Australian CV, to the request for their Tax File Number, to taking out their travel insurance or enrolling in an English school. They don’t have to worry about anything, I take care of everything for them!
What is the most surprising thing that you discovered when you were in Australia?
I don’t know if it’s the most surprising thing, but in any event, it was the first thing that shocked me upon my arrival. I landed on 31 December and I slept all night long and the next day I went to Coles to buy myself a bottle of water. When I arrived at the checkout, the cashier asked me “Hey, how are you today?”
I was so surprised that you could be so nice at the supermarket checkout, and I was flabbergasted and couldn’t answer anything! The lady must not have understood anything haha!
Then, I walked out into the street and an elderly lady stopped in front of me, gave me her biggest smile and said “Happy New Year, dear”. Suffice to say that as a Parisian, I am not really used to total strangers being so friendly!
At that moment I said to myself “OK, welcome to Australia. The people are nice”. And I think that I was already falling in love with this country.
Why is Brisbane your favourite city in Australia? Did you visit all of the Australian capital cities?
I have visited almost every capital city in Australia. I only missed Canberra haha.
And I confirm, Brisbane is for me the best city in Australia (I would even say world haha)! I like it for many reasons: its proximity to the sea, its balance between green and urban areas, its good weather, its chill and relax atmosphere, its ferries on the Brisbane River, its beautiful botanical garden and the beautiful cliffs of Kangaroo Point. I will dream of settling here permanently.
Have you been able to help people stuck in Australia because of COVID-19?
In any case, I did my best. Between the very changing situation, the unclear government decisions and the more than shaky news on Facebook groups, I had to sort through it.
I tried to gather the official news and respond as best I could to my community who was there, but also to those who are still in France and who are only waiting for one thing: the reopening of the borders.
I keep them informed regularly on Instagram, and I made a special section “COVID 19” on my blog. But unfortunately, I don’t have Scott Morrison’s personal number (too bad!) so I don’t know more than what you can find on the official websites. My added value is that I know the difference between a rumour and an official news.
It’s been a few years since you left Australia and went back to France. Why is helping others with their travels in Australia something you hold so dear? Is there something in particular that you wish you had known before you arrived?
It’s important to me because it’s a way for me to stay in Australia. I don’t feel like I’m working when I get up in the morning. All my days turn into a trip to Australia, it’s the dream job!
I enjoyed my experience there so much! If I could pass on this love of this country and make their stay better, it would be a great accomplishment.
One thing I would have liked to have had before leaving: an app that would have helped me manage my WHV. There are apps for everything and nothing, but none of them are really dedicated to the Working Holiday Visa in Australia. So instead of complaining, I ended up creating it!
You can visit Mai Lo’s website Mai Lo is in Oz at https://www.mailoisinoz.com/
You can also connect with Mai Lo across the following social media platforms:
You can also download Mai Lo’s app here
If you’re already in Australia, what do you wish you knew before you came to Australia?