Fancy a new life on the other side of the world? How about Australia? Whether you’re looking to move abroad for six months, a year or for the rest of your life, Australia has more than enough going on to keep you occupied. And if you’re running away from something, you really can’t run any further. Here’s what we think you need to know about everyone’s favourite country-continent.
Our Top Five reasons to move to Australia
- Fresh air: Australia has one of the lowest air pollution levels in the world.
- The vast and relatively unspoilt landscape: beaches, reefs, rainforests, deserts and snowy mountains. There are over 500 national parks in Australia and 14 world heritage areas.
- The people. Relaxed, funny, diverse.
- The sporting life. Whether it’s surfing, cricket or football with funny rules, Australians embrace sport with gusto.
- The animals*. Kangaroos, koalas, platypuses. What’s not to love?
* To be fair, animals are also our Top One reason for not moving to Australia. It’s home to 21 of the world’s 25 deadliest snakes and nine of the world’s 10 most poisonous spiders.
Five places to consider living in Australia
- Melbourne, Victoria. Surprised to see Melbourne at number one? The Economist Intelligence Unit has named Australia’s second largest city ‘the world’s most liveable city’ every year since 2011. The ranking takes into account stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure. Melbourne has a great comedy festival and any city that can spawn both Dame Edna Everage and Kath & Kim must have something going for it.
- Sydney, New South Wales. The obvious candidate for first-time visitors to Australia. Bondi Beach, the beautiful harbour bridge, an iconic opera house – what more could you ask in a city? The excuse to travel around by ferry? Done. Easily Australia’s best transport hub, Sydney’s the obvious place to base yourself, especially if your time in Oz is limited. On the other hand, it’s over-crowded, competitive and expensive.
- Brisbane, Queensland. If it’s weather you’re after, Queensland’s capital is your best bet. There’s no winter to speak of and you’re less than an hour’s drive from Australia’s most popular ocean resort cities. As a plus, the cost of living in Brisbane is generally cheaper than in Sydney or Melbourne.
- Perth, Western Australia. This year, Qantas launched the first ever non-stop scheduled flights from the UK to Australia and if you take one, Perth is the where you end up. Ignore Perth’s tongue-in-cheek Twitter and Instagram tag #perthisok and know that this relatively small (2 million) city is relaxed and friendly. And with 3,200 hours of sunshine a year it is officially Australia’s sunniest city.
- Wodonga, Victoria. Because big city life isn’t for everyone. With fewer than 40,000 inhabitants, Wodonga has a nice community feel and nestles in a beautiful landscape of lush green hills near the Murray River. It boasts a lot of sports, has a nice community feel and is home to the world’s biggest rolling pin. We’re not making this up.
The moving to Australia checklist
How to work in Australia
Hey, we’ve all found ourselves slumped on the sofa flicking through the channels and ending up on Pick 1 glued to Border Security: Australia’s Front Line. It’s a curiously compelling show and we now all know just how super-strict Australia is about people having the right visa and preventing unauthorised vegetables from sneaking into the country. So, don’t even think about going there with a non-indigenous root vegetable or trying to work without the right paperwork. Your options are pretty limited though:
- Fall in love with and marry an Australian. In fact, you don’t even have to get married. You can be in a ‘de facto’ relationship. This includes same-sex relationships. Other family ties may get you in too if you’re lucky.
- If you’re looking to move to Australia for good, your best hope is to have skills that are 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 manager in construction, engineering, childcare or health and welfare services.
- The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. You can generally work for up to six months with each employer. If you fancy experiencing the less trodden parts of the country while you’re on this kind of visa, why not look at The Harvest Trail which offers the opportunity to combine seasonal harvest work with travel around Australia? You’ll need to be unafraid of hard work and low pay, though.
Check out the Australian Government’s Visa Finder to see your options.
How to manage your money in Australia
If you’re moving to Australia, it’s probably easier to set up a bank account before you leave. You can apply online using your UK address and your passport details. The big four Australian banks – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac – all offer migrant banking facilities that you can set up before you travel. You’ll probably need to provide a file full of documents once you arrive. If you wait until you get to Australia before opening an account you will need to have an Australian address.
Say goodbye to the luxury of free banking. Most banks charge a monthly fee unless you meet certain requirements but these are quite modest – typically you’ll need to be putting in AUS $2,000 a month to avoid them. Withdrawing money from another bank’s ATMs incurs a fee, so make sure you choose a bank that’s well served for cashpoints.
Applying for a credit card in Australia is harder than it is in the UK. You could be asked to provide three months’ proof of income.
Don’t forget, if you need to transfer money from the UK to Australia or vice versa, WorldFirst offers the easier, cheaper, and faster way to safely get your money where you need it.
How to make friends in Australia
After the typical reserve of people in the UK, Australia can feel like a breath of fresh air when it comes to making new friends. Of course, it depends on where you are: the bigger the city, the harder it can be to break in.
Use your existing networks to get introductions. If you struggle, look for a Meetup ex-pat group such as this one in Sydney to find people who can share their integration experiences with you.
One thing is certain: if you like sports you’ll find no shortage of people in bars willing to discuss them. You may want to gen up on Aussie rules football before you go, although you can easily get by with a knowledge of cricket or Rugby League in Sydney and Brisbane.
How to find a place to live in Australia
If you’re looking to rent a place in Australia expect to be asked for a ton of documentation including proof of employment and salary, character references, and possibly a letter from a previous landlord. Most rentals are unfurnished which makes things even more complicated. An easier option when you first arrive is to rent a room through sites such as flatmates.com.au or gumtree.com.au.
If you’re looking to buy, you’re probably a few years late to clean up. Sydney house prices have risen by 70 per cent since 2012 and Melbourne by 50 per cent. In some ways the Australian housing market is even more dysfunctional than the UK’s with many people letting out the home they own and living in one they rent in the interests of tax-efficiency.
Eating in Australia
Think Oz, think barbecue. There are no Michelin-starred restaurants in Australia but to be fair that is because Michelin doesn’t go to Australia.
Contrary to the stereotype, Australians are thinking about what they eat these days and healthy eating is very much on the rise. Cities with large immigrant communities such as Sydney have benefited from an explosion in world foods and fusion cuisines that are a million miles away from the traditional chicken-in-a-basket.
Although dining out can be expensive, Australians go to restaurants a lot and nowhere more seriously than in Melbourne which is bursting with some of the best cafés, bistros and fine-dining restaurants. Take your pick.
You may also find the experience of dining out in Australia quite refreshing after the UK. Hospitality is very much considered a serious career in Australia so the service you get is generally much better.
Party like it’s 1999 in Australia
As in the UK, there’s been an explosion in music festivals over the last few years but with the added attraction of more reliable weather. Look out for Falls Festival, Splendour in the Grass, and Vivid. The hipster culture has also made it to Australia so craft beer and beards are all the rage.
How to live like a local in Australia
There are little things you need to know that can help you to fit in:
- Love espresso coffee and Thai food.
- Feel free to wear shorts to a formal event. Lighten up.
- Cover yourself up. The ozone layer over Australia has been thinning since the 1960s so UV is a greater threat than in most other places around the world. The Slip! Slop! Slap! Campaign of the early 1980s was one of the most successful public health campaigns ever and encouraged Australians to slip on a shirt, slop on the suncream and slap on a hat. It was so successful its now part of the national psyche.
- Don’t ask what someone does for a living. It may be a safe opening conversation opening gambit here, but strangely it’s just not done there.
- Start learning how to save money. The cost of living is high. Anything free in the way of events and entertainment is going to be rammed.
- Walk on the left. If you’re driving, one thing you don’t have to worry about is that Australians also drive on the correct side of the road. But there’s a long-standing convention that you should walk on the left-hand side of the pavement, too. It makes sense, when you think about it. Sadly, it’s a rule that seems to be in decline and there’s a lot of tutting that people have forgotten how to do this. Oh, and remember that jaywalking is a crime in Australia. So maybe …
- …Drive everywhere. Even to the corner shop. Pretty much everyone does.
More advice on Australia from WorldFirst
- British expats’ best and worst of Australia
- WorldFirst 2018 Currency Outlook – Australian Dollar
- WorldFirst launches new currency accounts- Australia, New Zealand, Singapore
- Top tips for buying a property in Australia