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Living in Australia

Your guide to expat life in the land down under

Want to live in Australia?

Australia has a huge amount to offer expats, from exciting outdoor pursuits and cosmopolitan cities to world-class healthcare, excellent schools and a good work-life balance. Often ranked among the most liveable cities in the world, Australia's main expat destinations are also some of the most expensive. The cost of living in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney is similar to many European and US cities.

Accommodation in Australia

Most agencies won't let you rent or buy a property until you've viewed it. So, while you can start looking online, you can't get somewhere to live until you've arrived in the country. As a stopgap, serviced and furnished temporary apartments are widely available in most cities.

The quality of Australian housing is usually excellent. Many places come with garages, gardens and swimming pools. Apartments (known as flats) and townhouses are also common.

The rental market moves very quickly due to high demand. It's a good idea to take all the necessary documents to viewings in case you want to sign up on the spot. You'll have to put down a deposit (a bond), which is usually 4 to 6 weeks' rent. You'll also have to pay quarterly utility bills in addition to your rent.

Local culture in Australia

An English-speaking nation with a sophisticated infrastructure, Australia may seem familiar to expats from Europe and the US, but there are some cultural nuances to be aware of. The values of fairness and equality underpin all aspects of life and largely determine how people relate to one another.

Men and women often share the responsibilities of bringing in an income and doing domestic chores.

Meanwhile, Australians place high value on camaraderie or ‘mateship’, which is reflected in their love of team sports and socialising. Australians are sports mad, particularly Aussie Rules, a rugby-like sport unique to the country, and wide, open spaces and clear skies make for an active lifestyle.

Education in Australia

The standard of education in Australia is excellent, attracting students from around the world. The academic year runs from January to December, with 4 terms and major holidays in June/July and December/January.

Public schools

Most children, including many expats, attend government-funded public schools. If you're on a temporary visa, you may have to pay fees for these schools. Children go to schools in their geographic or catchment area, which pushes up property prices in areas with good schools.

Private schools

There's a good selection of private schools, but waiting lists are long and fees are high. It's worth considering a private school if you'd prefer for your children to take the International Baccalaureate.

Faith schools

These fall somewhere between public and private schools. Most are Catholic-run and can be a more cost-effective option than sending children to fully private schools.

International schools

Though there aren't as many international schools in Australia as in other expat destinations, you can still find a selection of IB schools. In some cities, independent schools offer the curricula of other countries, such as the USA, the UK, Germany, France and more. These schools come at a cost though, and you should be warned that fees for international schools can be astronomical.

Keeping in touch in Australia

The main mobile providers are Vodafone, Telstra and Optus. Prepaid options are better for shorter stays while contracts are best if you plan to live in the country for a few years.

The main internet providers are iiNet, Optus and Telstra. It's worth shopping around for packages that combine internet, landline phone and cable TV. The Australian government's eSafety Office has plenty of resources available to help you make sure your children are safe online.

Australia Post is very efficient and offers extra services such as ID checks and document certification.

Healthcare in Australia

Known as Medicare, Australia's public healthcare system is efficient, world class and government funded. It's free for citizens and permanent residents, but most expats have to pay, so you may want to take out medical insurance when you move to the country.

There are many private healthcare providers in Australia – and the government offers tax incentives to encourage people to take out medical insurance.

Pharmacies are called 'chemists' in Australia. They're often open in the evenings, on Sundays and sometimes 24/7. As well as dispensing prescriptions, chemists also offer free advice on minor ailments.

Australia's emergency medical services are state-run. Both land and air ambulances are efficient, and paramedics are well trained.

Getting around in Australia

Although Australia has excellent highways connecting the state capitals, domestic flights are the most popular way to travel around this vast country. Many local airlines offer frequent flights at competitive prices.

If you live in a city you may not need a car, but it's a good option if you want to explore the country. When you're driving across Australia, be prepared for very long stretches without fuel or refreshment stops. If you're not a permanent resident yet, you can drive on your licence from home as long as it hasn't expired. Permanent residents can use a foreign licence for 3 months before converting to an Australian licence. Cars drive on the left.

Travelling by rail is another way to enjoy Australia's beautiful scenery. Just bear in mind train services can be infrequent and there are currently no high-speed services. Interstate buses are cheap and comprehensive, but travelling by bus takes a lot longer than by car or plane.

Cost of living in Australia

Australia's major cities usually rank fairly high on cost of living surveys and are expensive compared to many other expat destinations. Property is particularly pricey, especially in Sydney. You can expect to spend at least 30% of your salary on accommodation. And if you're on a temporary visa and not eligible for Medicare, you'll also have to fork out for private medical insurance, which can be expensive.

Top tips for Australia

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Australia.

Make sure you are psychologically ready for distance separation. Australia is a long way to travel so future visits to/from family and friends are costly and may be limited.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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