Expats in Australia: What Are They Really Thinking?

As an American expat in Sydney, I often write about my own experiences as an ‘Accidental Australian’, in an attempt to help others who have made the move down under, or are contemplating doing so. However, despite my own opinions, and those of some of my fellow friends from overseas, I’ve often wondered about other expats- where do they come from, where do they work, and what do they make of a place filled with crocodiles, barefoot Aussies, meat pies, and a horse race which literally stops the nation? Surely I am not the only one who finds life here a (little) bit unusual?

Therefore, I was intrigued to come across some recent data from World First, a currency exchange company, who recently completed the What Expats Really Reckon survey, a large survey of expats living in Australia. This was the first large scale survey I’ve come across of Australian expats. I like to think of myself as unique, so not sure if it is a good thing or a bad that I find myself agreeing with most of the survey results…

I thought I’d share the results. and I should add there is no gain on my end from this, rather I just think readers would be interested in this information, as it gives great insight into what fellow expats are doing and thinking.

World First survey

What Expats Really Reckon

Over 2,000 expats currently residing in Australia were surveyed, from over 66 countries. Overall, respondents rated Australia 8/10, with the beaches and nature, safety, good working conditions, arts, culture, and food all ranking highly. On the lower end of the scale, expats didn’t enjoy high rental and property prices, as well as the political environment.

Living in Sydney, where average purchase prices in my neighbourhood are just under $2 million AUD, I completely agree with the sentiments on property, and it is a constant source of frustration for Australian locals too, especially in the capital cities. On the plus side, I do live near some of the country’s, if not the world’s, most beautiful beaches and coastlines, something I very much enjoy, and try to make the most of, whether through diving, coastal walks, or swimming.

Katie diving great barrier reef
Australian beaches and oceans, definitely 10/10 from me.

Other common downsides mentioned to life in Australia were its remoteness from the rest of the  world, high cost of living, and the wildlife. Personally, I enjoy the weird uniqueness of the Aussie wildlife (platypus, anyone?), but after a particularly painful encounter with a jellyfish in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, I get the hesitation with the Aussie fauna.

Aussie Slang

There does tend to be a casualness (some might call it laziness) in Australian slang and language, resulting in a tendency to shorten words that don’t really need to be shortened (breakfast becomes ‘brekkie’, for example), but seems the survey respondents found the most disliked Aussie slang as:

  1. How ya going?
  2. G’day mate
  3. Mate

I think this casual use of language more ties in to the laid back lifestyle here, but I can see how it would irk those from overseas.

Weird Local Customs

I love that the survey included questions on Australian customs and culture, rather than just socio-economic data, since moving overseas is about so much more than just salaries and visas. Despite Australia’s similarities to the US, my home country, as well as the UK, there are some quintessential facets to life here that have definitely made me shake my head from time to time, so glad to see I’m not alone in this regard.

Customs or local experiences that shock expats:

Weird Australian customs

Eating your coat of arms is certainly odd, as you aren’t likely to be served the revered bald eagle at an American dinner party (notwithstanding its protected status), and I still haven’t gotten used to a Southern Hemisphere Christmas. The social acceptance of going barefoot and great coffee are fine in my books, however.

Why It Matters

As immigration has been in the forefront of Australian politics of late, due to recent visa and residency changes, now is a great time to really highlight how important expats are not just to the Australian economy, but to Australian culture and quality of life in general. Diversity in language, culture, and background are part of what makes Sydney such a vibrant, exciting, and modern place to live, and I am grateful to be even a small part of it.


If you’re interested in reading the full results of the survey, which includes study, work, money transfer, and salary information, it can be found online here: https://www.worldfirst.com/app/uploads/sites/2/2016/11/World-First-What-Expats-Really-Reckon-Survey.pdf

What do you think of the results, and what do you like (and dislike) about Australia, whether you are an expat or a local?


  1. Interesting observations, some of them surprising. I had only read about first hand travel experiences in Australia as travelers but being an expat is a different ball game, just like it would be living anywhere. I glad that you have been able to enjoy some of the world’s best beaches and wildlife. I hope to visit this amazing country soon!

  2. Interesting article. The lovely outdoors, beaches and the overall natural beauty of Australis is what draws people to it like a magnet. I do understand that there will always be a culture shock in a new place and some things you adjust to, while there may be some which you will never be able to adjust to.

  3. I am currently living in OZ. I was backpacking and came to visit last year and haven’t left! It is a great country for beaches/scenery for sure. The only thing I don’t like about it here is lockout and how expensive everything is!

  4. I have been living in Australia for almost a year now. I absolutely love the coffee they have here and how laid back the lifestyle is, but they still manage to get a lot done. One thing I dont like is how early they stop serving alcohol 😛

    1. Thanks- yes, the coffee is definitely a winner! I didn’t even drink it before moving here, that’s how good it is!

  5. I am on a 1-year tourist visa and arrived 3 months ago. I am Belgian. My partner is Australian and we lived in the UK for the past 15 years. Unfortunately I don’t live in Sydney but in the bush near the ocean, between Coffs and Bellingen in NSW. While it is beautiful, I miss the city, the culture and the comfort. I can’t get used to the barefoot walking (however I used to practice this aged 16 in the 70s). What I miss MOST as it makes my life difficult is Bad Internet Connections. I work online so very frustrated. So bad that it’s a waste of time and money to have Netflix. Can’t wait for Amazon to finally open here and change the country as is has the Western world.

    I do like: the beaches and birds and roos. People are lovely too 🙂 . Food is great. Weather is getting too hot but I don’t miss the cold rain from the UK and my country.

    At the moment, I am not sure I will stay the whole year. I am pretty sure that if I lived in Sydney or Melbourne, things would be better.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yes, unfortunately Australia’s internet is behind, compared to many other countries, but hopefully the NBN will improve on that- definitely a challenge if you work online! The cities are very different than the country towns here, so hopefully you will have a chance to explore and find where you like best 🙂

  6. Hi, I am originally from the UK but have lived in NZ for the past 7 years and am now looking to relocate to Brisbane,or the Brisbane cairns area, I have just passed my real estate registration and am now registered to work as an agent in the state of QLD, so will be looking for work ones I get there,,,,,where to begin I have so many questions, what are the wages like compared to NZ, and the house prices, food, cars, fuel, and most of all what are the people like are they very clicky is it difficult to find work?…I would really love some feed back on this..thanks

    1. Hello, congratulations on the move! Unfortunately I haven’t lived in Bris or NZ, so hard to say, but I imagine Bris might be slightly more expensive than NZ, although I’ve heard salaries are higher here. I think every city can be a challenge for making friends at first, but there are lots of things you can do to meet people, like join a meetup.comi group, social sports team, club, or volunteer. Good luck! 🙂

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