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.
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.
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.
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:
- How ya going?
- G’day 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:
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?