Pros and cons of living in Australia, compared to my home country, the USA.
For those who don’t know, I came to Australia because I fell in love with an Australian guy in Costa Rica in 2017.
My travel-obsessed self saw this as the perfect opportunity to get a Working Holiday Visa and go live in Australia for a year.
So I flew to Sydney in June 2018, but I wasn’t really thinking about living here long term.
2 years later, I’m still in love with that same Australian guy and now I’m in love with Australia too.
I’ve hopped around to different countries and different jobs so much in the last five years. So this is the first time I’ve settled down somewhere for over a year.
My name is on a one-year lease for an apartment, I have a full-time job with a salary, and I’m in a committed relationship.
I’m feeling like a real adult for the first time ever!
Settling down for a while means I’ve had lots of time to reflect on my life in Australia.
I’ve really tuned in to the positives and negatives of life here. Luckily, there are more positives than negatives (otherwise I probably wouldn’t live here).
So here it is. My assessment of living in Australia. What it is REALLY like.
I’m sure my blog articles and Instagram photos make it look like Australia is heaven. And it definitely feels like it some of the time!
But moving to the opposite side of the world is HARD. I won’t lie, there are days that homesickness makes me cry and I consider moving home.
That doesn’t mean I don’t love it here, because I do. But it’s a huge change in my life and that comes with challenges.
So maybe you’re in a similar situation, or you’re just curious about what it’s like to live in Australia.
Or maybe you’re just a friend or family member from home who is reading this to check up on me (I appreciate you).
Here are the pros and cons of living in Australia!
Pros of Living in Australia
There is so much to love about Australia. Of all the countries I’ve visited this is definitely one of the best ones to live in.
From free universal healthcare and affordable education to good infrastructure and a high minimum wage, Australia really looks out for its citizens.
Here are some of my favorite things about living in Australia.
Keep in mind, this country is massive (similar to the USA). I’ve lived mainly in New South Wales near Sydney. So my experience here may differ from life in other states around the country.
Australians are friendly and chill, and it resonates in every aspect of life.
Every Aussie boss I’ve had has been easy-going and respectable. Strangers smile and make conversation. Customers like to chat while you’re serving them in a bar or cafe.
Australia is just a warm and welcoming country, which makes living here a pleasant experience.
Living in New South Wales means the weather is warm, sunny, and breezy for most of the year.
It’s never too humid, and it rains here and there. Sometimes summers can get super hot, but that’s my only complaint.
“Winter” consists of 40°F temperatures at night and 60°F during the day. It’s amazing. (That’s a low of 4 and high of 15 degrees Celsius)
Even though I’ve already finished school, I really admire the education system here.
Universities in Australia are affordable.
If someone does need loans for university, they don’t have to start paying them back until they are making $51,957 a year. (Australian Dollars)
On top of that, people only go to university if they really have a clear career path in mind. Choosing the work force over higher education is extremely common here.
In the USA, so many young people are in crippling debt from attending an expensive university and getting a degree that they don’t even really need or want. And you have to start paying back your loans within 6 months of graduating, regardless of how financially stable you are.
So Australia does it right.
In coastal Australia, life revolves around the beach.
This means there are lots of affordable living options right next to the ocean.
Never did I think I’d live walking distance from the beach. But after a couple years of it, I’m in love and wouldn’t want it any other way.
Australia is a very well-developed country with great transportation and architecture. Everything is functional and it’s easy to get around.
Public transport is straightforward. Roads are generally well-paved and navigation is simple.
Small towns are charming and big cities are clean, modern and thriving.
Beaches are equipped with toilets and showers (sometimes hot ones!).
So living in Australia is generally hassle-free and easy, in terms of the country’s physical infrastructure.
One of my favorite things about Australia is all the national parks. There are SO MANY, and most of them are free.
All national parks I’ve visited have clear walking tracks and detailed signage (another nod to the great infrastructure).
Most parks also have display signs about the unique plants, wildlife, and history of the area. It’s clear that Australians respect and care about their wildlife, which I love.
Coming from a country where I was once charged 300 USD for one shot, Australia’s healthcare system is a dream.
Medicare provides basic health care to all residents here. You can also get private health care if you want, but medicare takes care of most things.
Even if you don’t have medicare, which I didn’t for my first year in Australia, a basic doctor’s visit and medications are still so cheap compared to home.
Fitness Is A Priority
Australians are generally very fit and love staying active outside.
There are so many bike paths, running trails, outdoor gyms, yoga classes, and water sports to keep people moving. I love the emphasis on fitness here.
Australia has gorgeous beaches, hot deserts, tropical rainforests, snowy mountains, remote islands, flourishing bushland, and more.
Visiting another part of the country can feel like a totally different world. So you can honestly never get bored while living in Australia!
Superannuation is basically a retirement fund that is set up for you when you start working.
A small percentage of every paycheck is put into your Superannuation fund every week.
Then your funds are invested and you gain interest. So over time, you save up some retirement money for yourself without even trying.
Good Minimum Wage
$19.84 per hour is the national minimum wage in Australia. ($753.80 per 38 hour week).
So no matter what job you have, you’ll at least be earning enough to support yourself.
It is pretty cool to live in a country that has some of the world’s most unique wildlife.
From giant colorful jungle birds to furry koalas and wallabies, there is always some special creature to see in Australia.
Watching kangaroos hop around or spotting an echidna crawling through the bush is something I’ll never take for granted.
The stereotype is true: Aussies abbreviate everything. Not only that, but they have random nicknames for people, places, and things.
If I listed examples we’d be here for days. But listening to Aussies talk is ALWAYS entertaining.
Affordable Living Costs
I’ve written an entire article about the cheap cost of living in Australia. So I won’t go into too much detail here.
But compared to the USA, the cost of living is so affordable for a young person in their 20s without much money.
Taxes are higher here, but wages are high. Healthcare, education, and rent are also cheaper than the USA.
This is a weird point, but it’s something I’ve always noticed.
In the USA, there is a lot of aggressive, over-the-top patriotism. Yet, I’ve met lots of fellow Americans who have deep concerns about how our country is run.
Australia is the opposite.
People aren’t overly patriotic. But when you ask an Australian what they think of their own country, they always have positive things to say. Most Australians would never want to live anywhere else.
The way locals talk about their own country is a great reflection of how well the country treats its citizens.
Cons of Living in Australia
So yes, Australia is an amazing country and I feel so lucky to be here.
But moving to the other side of the world is difficult, no matter what your new home is like.
The hardest things about living in Australia aren’t even about the country itself. Most of them are just emotional obstacles that I’ve struggled with while living here.
There are only a few cons that I can think of, but the first two carry a lot of weight.
I miss my family more than ever.
I’m lucky to have an amazing family. They’re fun, smart, loving, supportive, and overall just great people with unique personalities.
My family is pretty big too! I have four grandparents, lots of wonderful aunts, uncles, and cousins, and of course my beautiful sister and my parents/stepparents. AND, all the family dogs.
I think traveling and living away from home has made me appreciate family more than I ever have. But as my love and appreciation for them grows, so does my homesickness when I’m away.
Seeing the people I love most only once or twice a year is really hard. But I cherish those visits more and more every time!
So missing my family is definitely the hardest part of living in Australia.
It’s been a struggle to make new friends.
Not only do I have an amazing family, I also have the BEST friends back home!
I was lucky to go to elementary and high school with such a great group of people. So most of the people I consider my best friends are the same best friends I had when I was 8.
I have made some lovely friends in Australia. But I’ve also had to move around a few times so I haven’t made too many lasting bonds with people in one place.
My closest friends in Australia are actually all Americans that live in different cities! So it’s like I’m in a long-distance relationship with them as well as my friends back home.
I know I’ll make more close friends one day if I stick around long enough. But it’s been a bit of a struggle so far.
I prefer working for tips.
Though making a stable, secure hourly wage is great, I prefer working for tips like we do in the USA.
I’ve had so many Aussies ask me about working for tips, as it’s such an insane concept over here. People just can’t fathom relying on tips and not making an hourly wage.
But after experiencing both methods, I definitely prefer working for tips. There’s more of an incentive to work hard, and you actually make more money overall.
I’ve made 300 USD in one Friday night waitressing shift. Even on slow lunch shifts, I would still make at least minimum wage. I used to love busy shifts at home, and now I don’t because I’m still just making the same hourly rate.
Visa logistics are super stressful.
Moving to a new country means SO MUCH PAPERWORK.
The logistics of getting a visa can be insanely stressful. There are so many rules to follow.
Even if I fill out every form and obtain every certificate and meet every requirement, I still don’t know exactly what the future holds. No matter what I do, my fate is in the hands of an immigration officer.
So the stress of my visa applications and their decisions just hovers in the back of my mind at all times.
Taxes are pretty high.
This isn’t really a con of living in Australia. I know that high taxes contribute to affordable healthcare, education, infrastructure, national park maintenance, and other great things about the country.
But I just wanted to mention it because it can feel frustrating at times.
Australian citizens don’t have to pay taxes on the first $18,200 they make in a year. But as a foreign resident, I’m taxed around 32% all the time regardless of my income.
However, high taxes really are worth it.
For example, Sydney went into a covid-19 lockdown for 3 months in 2021. Anyone who lost work could get $450 – $750 per week to support themselves.
My family back home was shocked, especially considering Americans only got one or two $1400 payments to support themselves for months.
So high taxes can seem annoying when you look at your payslip each week. But it contributes to the overall wellbeing of society, especially in bleak situations.
Side note about taxes: I only recently learned that as an American living in Australia, you still have to file USA taxes. Even if you don’t live or work there. So I started using H&R Block Expat taxes, which has been super helpful.
Summer Christmas is weird.
To me, Christmas means snow. Snow angels, snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights. It means hot chocolate, warm cookies, sledding, skiing, comfy pajamas, and snuggles.
Christmas means frolicking in the snow and then thawing out in front of the fire. Christmas is sparkly snowflake decorations and tinsel and Santa hats. It’s bundling up and going for a frigid afternoon walk with the family after a big meal.
It’s Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Robin and Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph.
Here in Australia, it’s NONE of those things. Here, Christmas is in the middle of summer and people have barbecues and go to the beach. It is WEIRD to me.
Though this isn’t enough to make me leave Australia, it is an obstacle that I will have to learn to live with.
It’s so incredibly far from home.
I think I could overcome my homesickness easily if I could visit home a few times a year.
However, Australia is pretty much the opposite side of the globe from east coast USA. So it’s unrealistic to just fly home for a quick weekend visit.
Traveling home takes over 24 hours, and the jet lag that accompanies that trip is brutal. It’s also a very expensive flight.
So it’s not exactly easy to visit home. And, I know it’s unlikely that many people from home would have the time or money to visit me here. Which I totally understand. I just wish teleportation were possible, ya know?
Overall, the pros outweigh the cons.
Despite the emotional struggles I’ve had while living here, Australia is an incredible place to live and I feel very lucky to be having this experience here.
This is a country that takes care of its citizens, values the environment, and is full of natural beauty and wildlife.
My only real problem with living here is that the physical distance from my home makes it hard to see my loved ones often.
☼ ☼ ☼
So that’s my assessment of living in Australia!
I hope this was enlightening to read. You can read about more of my experiences in Australia here:
For budget travel tips and information about traveling or moving abroad, check out these articles:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read more about this in my About Me page!