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A Life of Leisure: Greener Pastures in Oz?

Expat life in Australia has some undeniable advantages. Nowhere are the available leisure opportunities more attractive, and the country makes it among the global top 5 for health and safety, work-life balance, and general family well-being. But alas, there’s always a catch…
The Australian beach culture has found favor with visitors and expats alike.

Life’s a beach – when it comes to fun and games, "Down Under" comes out on top. In the sub-category "Leisure Options" of the Quality of Life Index, the participants in our Expat Insider 2014 survey voted Australia the best destination worldwide.

Both tourists and expats agree on the attractions of "Oz". According to the latest statistics from Tourism Australia, the country welcomed 6.8 million visitors in 2013/14 (October-September). The vast majority cites leisure tourism as their reason for coming to Australia, rather than business or education. 

Obviously, expatriates benefit from the various opportunities for pleasure and relaxation. Of our survey respondents, 62% were very satisfied with the available leisure activities. This number is nearly twice as high as the global average (34%), and it’s indeed the best result across the globe.

Maybe this praise for Australia isn’t that much of a surprise: you could go and marvel at ecospheres like the Great Barrier Reef, merrily drink – sorry, taste! – your way through the wineries of Yarra Valley, or volunteer with behavioral scientists to study the local Koala population.

Okay, that last endeavor is probably less fun than it sounds: Australia’s cute and cuddly mascots have razor-sharp claws and strong teeth, and they lash out easily when they feel threatened. Still, what’s not to like about the Aussies?

Take a Break – on the Beach or at the "Barbie"

The two most important motivations for moving to Australia were "looking for a better quality of life" (20%) and the wish to live in this particular country (15%). Did the expats surveyed get it right when they made the decision to relocate?

It’s not only the data on available leisure opportunities that confirms their choice. They have plenty of time to enjoy their hobbies, too.

Australia ranked 4th out of 61 countries for work-life balance. About eight in ten of respondents were satisfied with this aspect of life in Australia. On a global scale, only six in ten survey participants would say the same about their own work-life balance.

A good work-life balance means lots of occasions for socializing and making new friends. Meeting new people at work (66%) and via friends of friends (59%) are still perennial favorites, so don’t neglect to issue invitations to a "barbie" (aka barbecue, for the non-Australians).

However, volunteering (18%) – with or without koalas – and sports (24%) are other popular ways of expanding your social circle. Perhaps it’s time to swing a cricket bat or brush up on your knowledge of "Aussie rules" football!

Or you could make the most of Australia’s beach culture and the great climate: 57% of our expat respondents thought the local weather is excellent – while only 4% were equally enthusiastic about the climate in the UK. Perhaps that’s the reason why Brits are among the top three nationalities that make the move to Australia.

Great for Your Health, but Bad for Your Wallet

The Australian way of life seems to be beneficial to the health of our resident expats. The country had the second-best results worldwide in the sub-category "Health and Safety", right after Switzerland. And as far as general family life and children’s well-being is concerned, Australia made it to #4 (out of 34 countries).

So should we all gather our belongings and hop on the next plane to salubrious Sydney? Not quite.

There’s always trouble in paradise – even in Australia. And that trouble mostly spells m-o-n-e-y. Australia ranked 52nd out of 61 expat destinations on our (reverse) Cost of Living Index, which makes it one of the 10 most expensive countries in the world. Again, very similar to Switzerland (#58).

But unlike the largely affluent expats in Switzerland, new arrivals in Australia often don’t feel adequately compensated for their steep living expenses. One-quarter of our survey participants said that their income in Australia is lower than the local average, and for one-third their earnings were just about enough to cover what they need.

"I didn’t realize how expensive Perth was until I got here," expat blogger Anita remembers. "The price of everything here was shocking."

Another expat’s strategy to cut back on costs backfired: "To save on money, we tried to pack as little as possible. However, we didn’t factor in how much more expensive items were in Australia than in the United States," Mandy from Colorado says. In the end, the family would have been better off by spending more money on shipping their furniture halfway round the world.

In short: living in Oz is a breeze – but only if you can afford it. Without a nice paycheck and a financial cushion, your dream of a carefree beach lifestyle might turn as nasty as a suddenly vicious koala bear. 

Serhat Ahmed

"Without experience of having lived abroad, I thought it would be hard to get to know other expats. But not with InterNations."

Lotta Koskinen

"When I first attended the Sydney Bar night I was really nervous. But everyone welcomed me and I quickly felt as part of the community."

Global Expat Guide