An American Expat's Guide to Australia

By WillNorman, 01 September, 2015

If you’re planning on making a big move, you’ve probably already figured out all the visa and tax information. That’s only the basics. The transition to Australia may be shocking and difficult if you don’t know exactly what the implications of your surroundings are. You’re going to have to adapt quickly, and researching exactly how beforehand is never a bad idea.

Finding Long Term Housing

Chances are, you’re not going to buy a house as soon as your plane lands. You also don’t want to agree to rent an apartment that you haven’t even seen. For all you know from what you’ve seen online, it’s dangling off the edge of a cliff. Check Stayz  for cheap accommodation and send out some messages to see if anyone would be willing to give you a slight discount on a long term stay. You’ll have enough room to keep all of your stuff while you’re setting up a permanent arrangement. Carefully consider where you’ll call home. If you don’t have to live in or around a major city, don’t do it. Things can cost as much as triple there. And speaking of costs…

Expect Everything to Cost You

Australia is a country, a continent, and a huge island. Since it’s isolated from everyone else, it costs a lot more to import goods into the country.  Your $5 lunch from McDonald’s at home might cost $10 at Macca’s (that’s what they call McDonald’s) in Australia. When you consider that Australia’s minimum wage is more than double what it is in some parts of America, that makes it a little easier to swallow.

The Language Barrier

This might throw you off. Australia is an English speaking country, but it’s not the same English that you’re used to. You may have some stereotypes about the way Australians speak swimming around your head, thanks to pop culture, but those aren’t accurate, either. They’re very informal speakers in most situations, and a significant portion of their regular conversational language is slang. While we do this with some things in the states (like saying fridge instead of refrigerator), Australians have a tendency to do this a lot more often, and some of the terms are a lot more abstract. When you couple those terms with a heavy accent, it can be easy to feel lost or confused.

The Seasons Will Get to You

You expect certain things to happen at certain times of year, and when December is sweltering hot, you’ll have a hard time wrapping your head around it. Santa comes to meet the kids at water parks, because that’s where they are in the summertime. At the times of year you’re used to having backyard barbecues, some parts of the country will be experiencing snow.

You’re also making a lot of trades on holidays. You’re getting rid of the Fourth of July for Australia Day (or Straya Day, as many call it) and they have no reason at all to celebrate Thanksgiving, since it doesn’t pertain to their country. Most of Australia isn’t crazy about Halloween, so you’ll likely be giving up those traditions as well.

AnchorThe Culture is Completely Different

You’re used to certain forms of etiquette in certain situations. Job interviews, dining out, and even meeting new people all have a certain set of rules we generally follow in America. Australia is tremendously different, and it’s because they’re not big on mundane social niceties. Talking yourself up or bragging is the quickest way to get shot down by someone. Aussies don’t have time for show-offs who flaunt their ego. Tipping in restaurants is abnormal, because unlike in America, the restaurants pay their servers well. When someone offers you out for drinks, it’s because they want to get drunk with you. Australia is much more forward, and you may have to teach yourself to be more candid and blunt if you want to fit in.