I often get asked what it’s like living in Australia. It’s one thing taking a holiday to Australia, but moving to Australia permanently is a different experience altogether. Let me share with you what it’s really like living in Australia in this living in Australia guide!
Living in Australia | Moving abroad and settling in Australia
Australia is a vast country with a unique culture, stunning landscape and amazing wildlife. I personally love the laidback vibe, the high quality of life, the varied career and lifestyle opportunities, the beaches, the weather and the Australian people. We’re lucky enough to have ancient rainforests, enormous stretches of sandy beaches, clear oceans, barrier reefs and burnt orange outback dirt – the travel experiences here are just so exciting so there is always something new to explore.
The quality of life in Australia is high, and we have a strong economy, a great healthcare system (from my experience), and good education facilities. I think life in Australia is fabulous and although Australia living is more expensive than we were used to in the UK, things balance out as pay is usually higher and that gives us more options here about where to spend our extra money to improve our lifestyle (things like having private health insurance, paying for private schooling, running two cars – things we didn’t have the budget for in the UK).
Of course, the whole world is going through a cost of living crisis at the moment and in Australia it is no different, but I still feel thankful that we have choices here if we needed to scale back our expenses.
How is life in Australia? For us, living in Australia is pretty awesome. I won’t lie and say if you decide to emigrate to Australia that it’s easy and stress-free as it definitely isn’t. You need a positive mindset and to work at creating a life you love here – it doesn’t happen overnight. But for us it has been so worth it, and I think living abroad is something that really helps you grow and develop as a person as it takes you outside your comfort zone.
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What it’s really like living in Australia!
Are you planning on living in Australia? If so, this list of info and random nuggets will share a little about what life in Australia is really like so when your Aussie time finally arrives and your visa is ready to go, you’re prepared for the big change in lifestyle that awaits you.
Living in Australia: What you need to know!
These are some of my thoughts, opinions and some facts about living in Australia.
1 Weather in Australia
Australia’s weather can be intense. It can be insanely hot and humid in some parts during summer, mild or hot during spring and autumn and, in some parts, there is even snow in winter! When it comes to deciding where to move in Australia (if your visa gives you options to choose), think carefully about the sort of weather that will make you happy. This is Australia – a land of extremes – so just be prepared.
2 Australia has some dangerous creatures
Australia’s creatures aren’t out to get you, in fact, they want to avoid you at all costs. So yes, we do have dangerous and poisonous creatures here but please don’t let them stop you from following your dream as it’s pretty rare to see them.
3 Australia is HUGE!
Are you wondering how big is Australia? The answer is it’s reaaalllly huge!!! It’s hard to explain to somebody just how vast Australia is. Put it this way: to drive from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Scotland the drive time would be around 14 and a half hours and that is end to end. In Queensland, that drive time would only get you from Brisbane to just beyond Airlie Beach. You’d still be in the same state, even after a day of driving!
A drive from Brisbane to Cairns would take you 19 and a half hours, and Sydney to Cairns on the fastest inland route would take you an epic 27 hours of driving! It’s no wonder that Australia attracts people who love to travel as there is plenty of opportunities to get out and explore this enormous landscape. Even flying across the country takes hours!
4 Animals, birds and wildlife in Australia
We touched on the subject of the dangerous wildlife in Australia, but that does a disservice to all of the beautiful wildlife in this country. Here we’re lucky enough to have koalas, echidnas, dingos, whales, platypus, dolphins, turtles and so much more. Plus there are colourful birds – I never tire of seeing a tree filled with vibrant rainbow lorikeets. It makes me feel very lucky and, in my opinion, the wildlife is one of the best things about Australia.
5 Healthcare in Australia
The NHS was under immense pressure when we left, and here the Medicare system has pressures too. However, my experience of the Australian healthcare system has only been positive. We are lucky to still have a bulk-billed doctor (which means we don’t have to pay for appointments) although I know these are fewer and further between now for lots of people so many people do have to pay a gap fee to see a GP.
We’ve always been able to get a doctors appointment when we’ve needed one (unlike in the UK where it was almost impossible). We’ve used the home doctor service for bulk-billed out-of-hours visits in the past and really appreciated that, especially when our kids were small.
I am also happy to pay for private healthcare to take some of the weight off the public system – we have had a number of operations privately while living in Australia and the benefit of this is that we’ve mostly been able to book them in at convenient times to us and get them out of the way quickly (which was helpful for things like our daughter’s tonsils/adenoids as that was impacting her sleep and her hearing which was causing issues with her learning).
We’ve had minor injuries dealt with via the public system (X-rays, scans, minor operations, stitches…) and all of these have been very smooth, quick and efficient (and bulk-billed so no costs involved).
We do pay more for some things though (like dentists although again having private healthcare means we get some cleans and basic checkups included annually) but overall, I feel like healthcare in Australia is excellent.
6 Driving in Australia
Driving in Australia is quite different because the place is so huge! You can drive for days and days to get somewhere, so there are some epic rural road trips to be taken. Because everything is so much further apart (as we have so much more space!), I have to have a car here to get around (whereas in the UK I used to walk and use the train). Public transport is OK but not as comprehensive as it was in the UK, and because of the extreme weather, you can’t really walk too far as it can be too hot, or too dangerous if it gets stormy.
You usually find parking bays in Australia are a little bigger (seeing as so many people drive big utes) which makes it easier to park here. Lots of places in Australia also offer free roadside parking which means you can have a beach day without needing to pay parking.
Most cars in Australia are automatic – I don’t know anybody who owns a manual car here so be aware of that when it comes to shopping for a car in Australia.
7 Mateship in Australia
There are so many friendly people in Australia who will welcome you and do their best to make you feel at home. It can be a worry when you’re trying to move to a new country and set up a new home and new support network, but you can make some amazing new friends in Australia and it’s a very sociable country. The idea of mateship is an important value here.
8 Bushfires in Australia
Because of our extreme heat in Australia, bushfires are unfortunately a common occurrence. It’s definitely something to be aware of when it comes to choosing where to live in Australia by considering past events. It’s also important to have an emergency plan in place in case the worst ever happened. Bushfires can quickly get out of control, so it’s important to follow the news if there is one located nearby so you know when and where to evacuate.
9 Sun in Australia
The sun is incredibly fierce in Australia and you need to protect your skin accordingly, especially when you’ve moved to Australia from another country that isn’t as hot. During Australia’s summer, we are closer to the sun than places in the Northern Hemisphere during their summer, and the ozone layer above us is thinner which results in higher UV intensity.
Being aware and respecting the sun is just one of those things in Australia that everybody living here has to do. Wearing sunscreen and reapplying regularly, wearing hats, sun shirts or rash vests, staying under shade and avoiding being outdoors during the hottest part of the day all help you stay safe in the sun. I LOVE the sun but limit my time in it and I never go out without sunscreen.
10 Outdoor dining in Australia
From pavement cafes to free beachfront BBQs, Australians love to eat outdoors! Who can blame them with this amazing weather! I love cooking BBQs all year round, and we have a portable BBQ that we take to the beach for days out too. From picnics in the park to evenings spent enjoying wine and snacks on the deck, Australia’s weather makes it perfect for outdoor dining.
11 Language in Australia – Australians shorten words
We didn’t expect there to be a big learning curve when moving to Australia as it felt similar to the UK in so many ways, but there are all kinds of language differences! Lots of words here are shortened (often by adding he letters ‘o’ or ‘ie’ to the end) – relatives becomes relos, service station where you get petrol becomes servo, afternoon becomes arvo, avocado becomes avo, trade worker becomes tradie, postal worker becomes postie…
They are mostly easy enough to get your head around but there are other Aussie words that still catch us out. My kids STILL now almost nine years after moving here ask what certain words mean as they aren’t familiar with them (things like snags for sausages and chooks for chickens). Then there are even words that are different in different states – for instance, in Queensland bags are known as ‘ports’ so you put your bag on a ‘port rack’!
Be prepared that when you’re living in Australia you’re going to have a bit of a learning curve to pick up the local lingo.
12 Tax returns every year
Most people in Australia have to complete a tax return every year, even if you’re employed! The great news about this is it means you get to save up receipts for all of the things you’ve invested in for your work (stationary, courses, tools etc.) and claim them on your tax return as expenses. Find yourself a tax agent to help you (at least for the first year) as they will help you work out what you can and can’t claim for. Some industries can claim for laundry, or even mileage so you might find you get a healthy tax refund at the end of the year!
Just keep receipts for absolutely everything and you can sort it out when the tax year ends (our tax year runs from 1st July to 30 June).
13 Treats in Australia
From Tim Tams and Cherry Ripes to Anzac cookies and lamingtons, there are no end of Aussie sweet treats to try! You may not be able to get your hands on your favourites from your home country, but in Australia there are plenty of yummy treats to try.
14 Australian birds can be dangerous!
I know I said you don’t need to be afraid of the wildlife in Australia, but it’s important to be mindful of magpies in Australia. They are black and white like mapgpies in the UK, but they are very different birds. At certain times of the year, they swoop at anyone passing by their nests.
It can be a very scary experience, and it can be dangerous as you can trip and fall while trying to escape (it’s especially dangerous if you’re on the road on a bike). Don’t underestimate the experience of being swooped – I can vouch that it is scary as my son got quite badly swooped one day when we were out on a walk (we were on the pavement besides a busy road so it can happen anywhere).
If you are being swooped, the tips are to walk away calmly and protect your head and face with your arms. If you can, walk away while facing the magpie as they say they’re less likely to keep swooping if you’re facing them. And when it has happened, avoid that area during swooping season as it’s not just a one-off event – they will swoop you every time you pass through their area.
15 Australia Day celebrations
Australia Day is 26th January and it’s is a huge day of celebration in Australia. I have a post all about whether Australia Day is a day to be celebrated here. There are always lots of events on Australia Day as it’s a public holiday.
16 Tipping isn’t expected
Tipping in Australia isn’t really expected and a lot of people don’t tip. Once I tried to tip someone and they actually refused to accept it and acted offended by it! I still like to tip good service here but it’s not something you’re expected to do.
17 Cats don’t seem to be liked in Australia
While lots of people in the UK had cats that lived mostly outdoors, here in Australia people expect cats to live indoors or to have enclosures (in some council areas cats must live indoors or adhere to a curfew so check with your local council).
Where I live, people seem to really dislike cats and I often hear people in community groups talking about putting out cat traps so they can catch cats (humanely) that repeatedly come into their gardens and then take them to the vets or shelter to see if they’re chipped. The owners then have to pay a fee to get them back.
Cats can do damage to the local wildlife here so that is a big reason why lots of people aren’t keen on them.
18 Dogs are treated differently in Australia
As cats are treated differently here, so are dogs. Lots of people here have outside dogs that live permanently outside. It’s mostly warm enough for them to be outside all the time and dogs provide protection in the form of guard dogs too (so lots of rural properties have outdoor dogs for security). Some people travel with their dogs (tied or even untied which makes my stomach lurch!) in the back of utes or flatbed trucks. Some people go away on holiday and leave their dogs outside.
I find it difficult to imagine as our pup is treated like a member of our family and he sleeps in our bed and lives like a king. There are plenty of other people here like us who pamper their pooches, but there are a lot that don’t too.
Walking your dog off leash was very common in the UK but here it is less so. Where we live (Moreton Bay in Queensland), you only take your dog off their lead in an enclosed off-lead dog park or on an off-leash dog beach. I prefer this as I think it’s the safest thing for all dogs and for our surrounding wildlife. It does make it more challenging if you have a big dog that needs a lot of exercise though but the off-leash beaches are a lot of fun for social dogs.
19 Comprehensive car insurance isn’t compulsory!
I still find this slightly crazy, but while you have to have compulsory third party (CTP) insurance in every state and territory in Australia (this covers death and injury to any other person involved in a motor accident where you’re at fault), it isn’t compulsory to have comprehensive car insurance or a third party policy that covers damage to someone else’s vehicle in the event of an accident.
In most places, you’ll find the CTP is included with your car registration fee (known as reggo for short) but all states and territories do things slightly differently.
This means, there are lots of drivers on the roads who aren’t covered if they hit your car. If your car is hit by somebody without insurance, you can still claim for the damage on your own insurance if you’ve taken out cover (we did this when it happened to us) and your insurance company will aim to claim the cost back from the individual who hit you. If you were injured in an accident and it wasn’t your fault, the other driver’s CTP would kick in to help cover your medical expenses.
If you choose not to take out additional insurance because you feel like your car isn’t valuable, you need to think about what would happen if you accidentally hit a Porche!!!! Personally, I feel like having comprehensive car insurance is really important as you can’t rely on others having this.
20 Plan fuel stops on road trips
We’ve already talked about how vast Australia is. If you’re living in Australia and decide to take a big road trip around Australia, be prepared to plan when you’re going to get fuel if you’re heading somewhere remote.
I’ve driven through Western Australia on some very long drives and you need to make sure you fill up with fuel (as well as water and emergency supplies) when you can because you might have a very long drive in between petrol stations! Do not assume there will be plenty of places to fuel up, as on some of Australia’s rural roads petrol stations are very few and far between.
21 Burger King is Hungry Jacks
Burger King is known as Hungry Jacks in Australia due to a trademark dispute. It’s the same, just with a different name.
22 Postal delivery people travel on scooters
Because Australia is so vast, Aussie postal workers (known as ‘posties’) ride on a scooter to deliver mail. They can ride on the grass at the front of properties to go from mailbox to mailbox. If they have a parcel, they honk their horn for you to come out to collect it from them. Also, we don’t have letterboxes in our doors, instead we have mailboxes at the end of our driveways.
23 Bins are emptied with mechanical trucks
Our bins (where we live at least) are emptied trucks using a mechanical arm to pick up the bin. An arm comes out and grabs the bin, lifts it and empties it (unlike where we lived in the UK where a team would walk down the street and wheel the bins to the truck.) I’m sure it’s different in inner cities as there are more cars on the streets but this is how it operates in the suburbs around where I live.
It’s really efficient and quick. You just need to remember to leave your bin out near the edge of the road facing the right way.
24 Coffee in Australia
If you love coffee, you will love living in Australia. Coffee here is awesome and it’s taken very seriously. You are never far some an amazing coffee shop. And iced coffee is just the best on a hot summer’s day.
25 It’s all about the beach lifestyle
Australia has so many beaches, and the beach lifestyle is definitely a benefit of living in Australia. There are lots of hobbies in Australia that are focused around the beach – surfing, body boarding, paddle boarding, wake boarding, jet skiing…
There are beaches with roaring waves, and calm little coves so you can find a different beach depending on your mood. As the weather is so good here, it’s so much fun spending a day at the beach.
26 Drink sizes are weird
You don’t get pints or half pints in Australia and that really threw us when we first moved as we’d go to the bar and order a pint of lager or half a Coke and get a funny luck! Instead, we have a ‘pot’ (small) or a ‘schooner’ (large). It takes a bit of getting used to! Different states and territories might also have different words for drink sizes too.
27 Proof of age
You will usually be asked to show your ID before you enter a club, bar or gig venue at night, so you should always take some ID with you. During schoolies week, things get even stricter and I’ve had my ID checked in a restaurant while eating, even in my 40s!
28 Having your bags checked as you leave stores
Something that surprised me when we moved here was that lots of the bigger stores check your bags as you leave. It’s nothing personal, but shops like Bunnings and K-Mart have somebody on the door and they check your receipt and bags as you exit so be prepared for it.
29 The ocean can be dangerous
Sharks seem to be the thing most people fear in the ocean, but really it’s the water that is more likely to cause you issues. You need to learn some ocean safety basics before you begin swimming in Australia, and the most important is learning how to spot a rip and what to do if you ever get caught in one.
The most important thing to remember is to always swim on patrolled beaches in between the flags so you’re close to help if you need it.
It’s useful to teach your kids beach safety as soon as you arrive – the local surf clubs run Nippers clubs usually on Sunday mornings during the summer season and sometimes on weeknight evenings, and it’s a great way of giving your little ones water confidence as well as introducing them to the ocean in a safe way.
30 Be shark aware (but don’t let it put you off the ocean)
Drowning is by far the biggest danger in the ocean, but Australia does also have sharks so you need to be aware of them (but not afraid).
It’s not something that should stop you from entering the water but there are things you should do to stay safe. Keep an eye on local conditions and local advice. Avoid waterways where there are known to be sharks, for instance some rivers and canals are known for their populations of bull sharks so it’s just not worth the risk. Avoid swimming out at dusk or dawn.
There are very few shark attacks in Australia, but just take local advice to stay up to date.
31 We have drive-through bottle shops! (And you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket in every state/territory)
I still find the concept of drive-through bottle shops strange, but we have them here! I’ve also visited places where they had a bottle shop window/hole in the wall and you’d tell the person at the counter what you wanted and they’d go off into the shop behind to grab the bottle.
Here in Queensland where I live, you can’t buy alcohol at the supermarket, you have to visit a bottle shop to get it.
32 Vegemite isn’t as good as Marmite!
Haha this is obviously an emotive subject and one that Aussies will fight me on, but I am always going to be loyal to Marmite! You can still get Marmite in Australia but it’s called ‘Our Mate’ here. (I think it might be a trademark issue again).
33 Kids parties ALWAYS include fairy bread
Like in the UK kids’ parties always included jelly and ice cream, here they always involve fairy bread. Fairy bread is white buttered bread with sprinkles. I think it’s gross but my kids always loved it! You will see it at every single kids’ party.
34 It’s who you know
When it comes to finding work in Australia, a lot of it comes down to who you know rather than what you know. That can make it tricky when it comes to finding your first opportunity in Australia.
Make the effort to network online and off-line to find some new connections. Physically go into places to drop off your resume as that will get you much further than just emailing it in (find out the name of who you spoke to and then connect with them on LinkedIn and follow up with an email – you want them to remember you!).
Make the effort to meet others in your industry, even if you’ve got a job as you never know when you might need to call on that network. My husband got his first opportunity here because he knew somebody who recommended him, and often his company don’t advertise for new roles and instead ask the staff if they know of people looking for work. It’s common for recruitment to happen this way so make sure you go all in on networking when you arrive.
35 Christmas in the sun takes some getting used to
Christmas in Australia can feel a bit unusual (so can Halloween in Australia!) – it’s odd having a sunny Christmas when you’ve only experienced a cold Christmas before! This is why I love to embrace Christmas in July as it seems to make sense to celebrate it when our weather is cooler!
When you choose to embrace Christmas in the sun though it becomes a very special experience and you can bring in all kinds of new Australian traditions!
Make sure you don’t compare it (it will be a very different experience) and instead enjoy it for what it is!
36 Everything closes early
Everything closes early in Australia. We went to a sports bar last night for dinner – it was a busy Saturday night with live music and entertainment and the bars are open fairly late – and we were asked to settle up the bill as we’d finished our main meals. When we asked if we order desserts first, we were told the kitchen had closed already (it was about 8.45pm). This is Australia and eating beyond 9pm can be tricky.
Heaps of places in Australia close early. Shops and take aways aren’t often open for 24 hours as they sometimes were in the UK (other than MacDonald’s which sometimes is). If we go out to see a concert and come home wanting a late-night snack at midnight it can be a challenge finding anywhere to get a bite to eat.
Further out of the city, you’ll find that restaurants can close very early, some kitchens will be shut down at 8pm. It’s something that really takes some getting used to when you live in Australia.
37 People get up early in Australia
Because it gets hot here in Australia, and it is light and bright very early in the day, a lot of people in Australia get up really early. We don’t make loud noises before 9am on a weekend as it just doesn’t seem polite for our neighbours (like mowing the lawn or drilling or playing in the pool) but we do sometimes find people in our street cut their grass and bang hammers from 7.15am which feels crazy early for it. It’s just expected that people are up and about early here.
In the UK on a Sunday morning at 7am the roads would be empty, but here you’ll find loads of cyclists out enjoying the cooler morning air plus quite a few cars on the road. And when it comes to weekdays, lots of people start work at 5, 6 or 7am so they can be done for the day early.
I’m not an early riser, so I find this all a bit strange!
38 Bands and comedians from other countries play Australia
Something I was worried about when we moved to Australia was missing my favourite bands and comedians live on stage.
Thankfully, we haven’t had to miss out too much as lots of acts come to tour Australia. And the best part is that bands who were quite big in the UK often aren’t so well known in Australia so they play smaller venues which makes it way more fun.
We’ve seen lots of bands and comedy acts. It does depend on where you live though – Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are the most common cities for bands and comedians to tour.
39 Air conditioning is a non-negotiable
When we moved to Australia I didn’t realise just how important air conditioning was for me to lead a happy and comfortable life in Australia. I personally couldn’t live in a house without it. We do only have one unit but one of the next big renovation tasks on our agenda is to add ducted air conditioning so we can stay cool all around the house. When the weather is crazy-hot as it gets through summer, air conditioning is so so important.
Living in Australia | Life in Australia for expats
I hope this list about what it’s like living in Australia has opened your eyes to some of the quirks of living in this beautiful country! I feel like this list could go on and on so I’m sure I’ll have to keep updating it as I think of more things about living in Australia to share!