Ever dreamt of a Christmas barbeque followed by some beach volleyball? A lot of Brits clearly have as there are some 1.3 million currently living in Australia! To most, the combination of sunshine and a robust economy is irresistible, but there are lots of other reasons to emigrate Down Under.
- Fresh air: Australia has one of the lowest air pollution levels in the world
- The vast and relatively unspoilt landscape including beaches, reefs, rainforests, deserts, and snowcapped mountains
- The people: Australians are generally known for being laid back, funny and diverse
- The sporting life: Whether it’s surfing, cricket, or football with funny rules, Australians embrace sport with gusto
- The unique fauna: Kangaroos, koalas, and platypuses are all pleasingly weird
Tempting, right? Now, if you’re seriously considering packing your bags and leaving for Australia, here’s what you need to know about everyone’s favourite country-continent.
What now? Deciding where to settle down in Oz
If you like beach-side cities which are pleasant places to live – who doesn’t? – Australia has got it covered with three of the top ten most liveable cities in the world. Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney all make The Economist’s coveted list. So, to discover which destination is most likely to float your boat, check our our guide to the pros and cons of the major cities here.
Cost of living in a land Down Under
There’s no getting around it, Australia is pricey. From groceries to petrol, the price of goods tends to be inflated by the fact that Australia is huge and remote with a relatively small population. That said, salaries tend to be significantly higher, including a respectable minimum wage. Australians earn roughly 25% more than their British counterparts and taxes are closer to US rates than higher European ones.
For most, housing will be your number one expense. Surpassed only by Singapore, New York and Hong Kong, average rents in Sydney come in at AU$709 per week for a house, although the other big cities are significantly cheaper. Most rental apartments come unfurnished, so a more economical option when you first arrive it to rent a furnished room in a shared house (try flatmates.com.au or gumtree.com.au). If you’re looking to buy, Sydney house prices have risen by 70% and Melbournce by 50% since 2012, but the market has shown signs of cooling down at last in 2018.
Daily outgoings vary according to lifestyle of course. Commuting on public transport is eminently affordable in the cities, but buying even basic groceries in Sydney and Melbourne can be wincingly expensive (a dozen eggs costs around $5.00). Restaurant dining in the CBD tends to be steep, but head to Chinatown or suburban eateries for more reasonably priced fare. Check out expatistan.com for a detailed breakdown of daily expenses.
A place for culture connoisseurs?
Fair or not, Australia long had a reputation as a cultural backwater, but the major cities are now bursting with artistic and culinary talent. Not only does Oz boast world-class arts institutions and year-round festivals, you’ll find that Melbourne and Sydney in particular often stage free shows in public spaces. Foodies also have a treat in store: cities with sizeable immigrant communities such as Sydney have seen an explosion in world foods and fusion cuisines (expect Europe meets Asia flavour-wise). Even the main street in your average suburb will likely include Thai, Japanese and Greek eateries. But although the restaurant scene is sophisticated, Australians still love the outdoors and barbeques are readily available in parts and beaches. With hefty penalties against littering, a respect for nature is intrinsic to Australian culture, but at the same time the economy is dependent on mining mineral resources, so environmental issues remain a perennial hot topic.
Get your paperwork ready for inspection
Australia is notoriously super-strict about arrivals having the correct visa, so don’t even think about trying to work without the necessary paperwork (or sneaking in any non-indigenous plants or vegetables either). Your options are pretty limited however.
- Marry an Australian. In fact, you don’t even have to get married, you can be in a ‘de facto’ relationship (including same-sex relationships). Other family ties may get you in too if you’re lucky.
- Do you have skills in short supply there? See Skillselect, the government’s online service for its skilled migration program. You’re most in with a chance if you’re a livestock farmer, or a manger in construction, engineering, childcare or health and welfare services.
- The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) if for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year.
- Check out the Australian Government’s Visa Finder to see your options
And Rover comes too…
Since a shorter quarantine period was introduced in 2014, emigrating to Australia with your hairy companion is much less of an emotional wrench. If your dog or cat is healthy and tick-free, expect to be reunited with them after only ten days. An expensive long-haul flight and plenty of paperwork – including vet checks, permit applications and quarantine bookings – hardly makes this a stress-free option. But all the planning will be worth it when they get to enjoy the spacious Aussie outdoors alongside you.
For a tailored step-by-step guide to importing pets, use the online tool provided by the Department of Agriculture.
Getting about and keeping healthy
Australia’s public services are undoubtedly first-rate. Permanent residents have access to the government-run Medicare healthcare system, but many Australians also take out private health insurance to cover extras like dental and specialist care. If you are emigrating on a temporary work or study visa, you won’t be covered by Medicare and will need to take out private health insurance. Check out privatehealth.gov.au or iSelect to compare coverage for overseas visitors. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) website provides more information about the minimum required level of insurance.
Affordable and comprehensive, public transport in the major cities is excellent. Integrated transport systems are the norm. For example, Sydney-siders use the top-up Opal card across rail, bus and ferry services. In more rural areas, relying on patchy bus services is usually impractical, so you will a car. Check out our tips on buying a car in Australia here.
Handy to know
- Feel free to wear shorts to a formal event. Lighten up.
- Cover yourself up. The ozone layer over Australia has been thinning since the 1960’s so UV is a greater threat than in most other places around the world.
- Don’t ask what someone does for a living. It may be a sage conversational gambit elsewhere, but it is considered rude here.
- You’ll probably end up driving to the corner shop just like everyone else. But for adamant pedestrians, there’s a long-standing convention that people walk on the left-hand side of the pavement. Jaywalking is also a crime in Australia too.
Moving to retire?
Retiring in Australia has just a couple more complications than moving ‘just because’. Read our advice here to make sure you don’t forget anything important when retiring Down Under.