If I had to make a list of my life’s top conversations thus far, “Reasons Why I Moved to Australia and Decided Very Quickly That I Didn’t Want to Leave” would absolutely be number one (followed closely, of course, by “Ways in Which People Discriminate Against Cats” and “Please Don’t Ask Me How My PhD is Going”, but those are exciting conversations for a different day). Whether it’s people I’ve met here through work or study, or even friends and family back in the US, everyone wants to know what made me drop out of university in my first semester, pack a few suitcases, and fly halfway around the world to live in Australia. Of course, there’s a lot more background to my own story, and I probably should write a post about that as well, but basically there are a million reasons that anyone would (and should) do the exact same thing, even if it is only on a temporary basis. I dare you to find a better place to live.
Australia is drop-dead gorgeous
The first thing I noticed about Australia when I stepped off the plane back in 2012 was that this country is seriously beautiful— even yesterday, I literally cried on the drive back to Wollongong because I was overwhelmed by a view right off the motorway (and I’d be lying if I said this was an isolated incident). My overflowing emotions aside, no one who has ever been to Australia would be able to disagree that the Sydney Harbour is breathtaking, or that the Great Barrier Reef is awe-inspiring, or that Melbourne’s cityscape at night is simply magical.
There are a lot of beautiful places in the world, true, but Australia sure seems to have far more than its share. And why live somewhere uninspiring when you could call home a place whose own splendour routinely makes you well-up on an evening commute? If that’s not happiness, I don’t know what is.
Australians are some of the loveliest people you’ll ever meet
If the first thing I noticed about Australia was the sparkling cities and rugged natural beauty, the second thing was definitely the people. Australians have a well-deserved reputation overseas as being incredibly relaxed, but they are also some of the friendliest, most welcoming people I’ve ever encountered (and I grew up 2 hours from Canada, so I should know).
Even in my first few days of living in Wollongong, I was never made to feel out of place or like I didn’t belong, and that was due in large part to the people who wanted to know all about my life and share their own culture with me. Present day, I would still stop someone on the street to ask directions, or even ask to borrow someone’s phone at the airport (I really need to replace that battery), and get nothing but a positive response. If anything, this has made me grossly out of touch with the rest of the world, as I’m always surprised in a foreign city if someone doesn’t want to stop and chat with me on the street or let me use their new iPhone.. It’s the Australia Bubble: people are just nicer here.
And not only that, but Australians also have a great sense of humour. Maybe that was even bigger for me than the friendliness, as I always felt growing up like most people didn’t understand my humour (which, admittedly, has always erred on the side of offensive and sarcastic). Finally, I feel like people actually appreciate my jokes (which have oft been misinterpreted as shockingly insulting) for the comedic gold that I always knew them to be.
Australian animals aren’t as bad as everyone says
An incredibly popular view of Australia held exclusively by people who aren’t very familiar with the country is that everything here will kill you: this island is just covered in deadly snakes poised to strike, the ocean is overflowing with sharks who skipped breakfast, and don’t even get me started on the spiders..
Although I’d prefer that you actually not get me started on the spiders, I don’t live in constant fear of imminent death and it’s simply not as bad as the rumours would have you believe. While there are a number of incredibly deadly snakes, spiders, crocs, jellyfish, octopus, and various other sea critters that are indigenous to Australia, unless you’re living in the Outback or FNQ, it’s unlikely that you would encounter more than a handful in your lifetime.
In 6 years of living here, I’ve seen only one snake (and I think Callum has seen only two or three more than that in his entire life); never seen more than a reef shark, and I’ve lived on the beach for the majority of that time; admittedly seen more spiders than I ever cared to in this lifetime, but have only seen about a single poisonous variety, to which anti-venom is readily available (although it would probably be the shock of a spider on me that would do me in rather than any bite, but anyway); and never encountered more than a Blue Bottle in the tide pools. To further the point, the most frequent perpetrators of animal-related deaths in recent years have been horses, cows, dogs, kangaroos, and bees, in that order. Hardly a shark attack in sight!
Australia is incredibly advanced for a small country
I think it’s often easy to forget that Australia has just 23 million people (or, to put that in context, the approximate population of Shanghai, which is not even the most populous city on earth), yet we routinely churn out some of the most advanced scientific research and remain very close behind countries 10x our size in terms of technology. A group of Aussie scientists invented WIFI, FFS. Just try and name a more meaningful contribution to modern technology (in the list of things I couldn’t live without, WIFI ranks very closely behind my cat and guacamole).
Friends from high school always love to joke that Australia is just a big, deserted island, which, I suppose, is technically true, but we are by no means living in the past. We have to wait a few extra weeks for tv shows to air here and we’re only just now getting Amazon, but we are still home to some of the world’s top research institutions and scientists, plenty of world-class doctors, and all the same technology you’d enjoy in any other developed country. You can, and should, expect big things from Australia— the benefit of being a small country with a healthy economy is that there is no where to go but up.
Australians have the best work-life balance
One of the things that played an enormous role in convincing me to make Australia my permanent home was the lifestyle here, which is very much “work to live” rather than “live to work”. This absolutely isn’t to say that Aussies don’t enjoy their jobs or pursue careers that bring them personal joy, but there just isn’t the same emphasis placed on climbing the corporate ladder, earning the highest salary possible, or sacrificing weekends and holidays to get ahead. I hate the idea that my job might define my entire life, and Australians do too. It probably helps that we get 4 weeks of annual leave each year, 14 public holidays, and the option to take 2 months of paid long-service leave after working with the same company for 10 years.
I also really love the overall attitude towards travel in Australia, which is something I certainly didn’t grow up with in America. It’s become a huge part of my life since moving away, and yet there are a lot of friends and family members who likely don’t understand why I spend a good portion of my year (and an even greater portion of my money) on trips overseas when I could be hunkered down and saving for a house.
Americans may travel, but they just don’t place the same cultural emphasis on it— a gap year is just one great example of that, as I clearly remember rumours flying around about the one kid in my high school graduating class who wanted to take time off to travel before university. By comparison, I’d probably say that I know more people in Australia who did take gap years before getting their degree than those who didn’t; it’s not only widely accepted, but actually encouraged, and I identify so much more with this attitude towards adventure than one that places it on the back-burner.
Australia is one of the healthiest countries in the world
Not only does Australia have an amazing universal healthcare system (even lauded by POTUS as better than America’s healthcare, which is obvious, but you know it must be really good if a pathological patriot like Trump would admit something like that out loud), Australia was also rated the 3rd healthiest country in the world for its high standard of medical care, long life expectancy, and overall emphasis on healthy lifestyle (which likely has something to do with the country’s obsession with sport).
I was so blown away when I first moved here that, even without healthcare of any kind, I could pay less to visit the doctor than I would have in the US, despite paying for expensive medical insurance every single month since turning 18. Now, with incredibly basic private health cover in Australia, I enjoy entirely free clinic visits and basic procedures, plus highly subsidised specialist visits. But the best thing about Australia is that, with Medicare, everyone has the opportunity to receive care, regardless of their ability to buy private insurance. Just one of the many ways in which this country is doing a phenomenal job of looking after its citizens.
Australia is so safe, it’s ridiculous
The more I travel to large and notoriously unsafe cities like Johannesburg or Rio de Janeiro, where even the locals won’t wear a watch when they leave their house or walk with their phone in their hands down the street, the more I appreciate Australia for its high level of safety. There are sketchy neighbourhoods in every big city, sure, but I would comfortably walk alone through Sydney or Melbourne in the middle of the night, I would accept a ride off a stranger if my car broke down, and I have even gotten my lost handbag back from a kind soul with not a single dollar missing— I wouldn’t be able to say that about a majority of places in the world.
Just in case you needed further convincing, Australia experiences less than 10% of the gun-related deaths that America does, a fraction of a percent of the overall homicides, hasn’t had a school shooting since 1996, and was recently listed as one of the 12 safest countries in the world. I think this pretty much speaks for itself.
Australians get paid extremely well
One of my favourite things to share with people about Australia is just how much casual jobs pay, as we actually have the highest minimum wage of any country in the world. In fact, I doubt I would have been able to pay off my student loans 2 years after graduation if I had been working casual jobs in any other country, or even take as many international trips as I did during my studies, so this has been a pretty monumental deal to me! Currently, the minimum wage is just over $18 for part-time or full-time employees and nearly $23 for casual employees (in lieu of annual leave and other benefits).
On top of this, employers also contribute an additional 10% towards your superannuation, which is intended to supplement the retirement pension that will pay out when you reach a certain age. The good news is that, if you do only move to Australia on a temporary basis, you can collect the balance of your Super when you leave— better yet, though, just make the move to Australia permanently and reap the benefits of a financially secure retirement rather than rolling the dice with Social Security or other, far flimsier pension plans.
The quality of living in Australia is off the charts
Besides all the other fantastic reasons to move, Australian cities routinely rank in the top Most Liveable Cities for their political stability, strong sense of culture, beautiful natural environment, healthcare system, high quality education, and growing infrastructure. In fact, Melbourne has been rated #1 for SEVEN years in a row, more than any other city in the history of the Global Liveability Rankings! Adelaide also came in at #6 and Perth at #7 this year, and Sydney followed only shortly behind at #11.
Basically, this just confirms everything that has taken me 2500 words to cover in this post: Australia is the place to be. Come for the stunning natural scenery just minutes from the bustling metropolitan cities, the indescribably charming slang, the nationwide belief that thongs count as formal attire if worn with a button-up shirt, and the deep-seated obsession with putting everything on the barbecue.. stay for the universal healthcare, the thriving sports culture, the top-tier education, and the ability to frequently lose your wallet around town and get it back every single time, still full of pineapples.
Australia truly has something for everyone
Maybe you think of Australia as nothing but beaches, a land overflowing with kangaroos, maybe as a country dominated by desert, or as an entire nation of Steve Irwins, but you’d be wrong any way you slice it. Australia is actually one of the world’s most geographically, ecologically, socially, and culturally diverse countries in the world, and I just can’t emphasise enough how much variety there is on this island. You’ll find bustling global cities, red dust outback towns, pristine beaches, snowy mountains, rolling vineyards, flourishing reefs, ancient rainforests; more unique species than anywhere else in the world; die-hard sports fans, world-class researchers, businessmen and tradesmen, bogans, hipsters; and people from every spiritual and ethnic background imaginable, all of whom lend just a little bit of colour and flavour to the unique and inimitable blend of cultures that is Australia.