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Comparing Life in Australia vs. the USA | An American's Perspective

I’m an American living in Australia. For the last 2.5 years, I’ve traveled around Australia and have integrated into society. I’ve received a partner visa, gotten a job, and used their socialized healthcare system.

My partner and I have mainly lived in these cities: Brisbane, Melbourne, and Hobart. But we've also spent time in Cairns, Gold Coast, Sydney, Launceston, and Adelaide.

Other than not tipping and driving on the left, there are some considerable differences between Australia and the USA.

I'll share some of my observations and cite a few sources for further reading. Of course, every country has its pros and cons. And I see a few key differences between Australia and the United States.

Healthcare System Comparison

Australians have a socialized healthcare system with access to free healthcare through Australian Medicare. I’ve obtained an Australian Medicare card in conjunction with my visa. In my experience, healthcare is fast and cheap, and I’ve enjoyed access to doctors. I’ve had a few colds in my time here and an extensive shoulder tear diagnosis, and I’ve walked away only ever paying less than $200.

In Australia, you can also purchase extra private healthcare (I pay $45/month), which gives you additional access to doctors and helps you skip the queue. However, I have heard people complain about surgery wait times, which seems to be an issue. But I’d take this healthcare system over the USA any day.

In the USA, I loved my doctors, but I always left having to pay a substantial out-of-pocket cost for small doctor visits. And as a single person, I paid $300 for my healthcare. Growing up, I remember my dad paying $2,000 a month for our family of five (almost ten years ago) and thinking back – I find that criminal.

And parental leave is a dream. Your employer must hold your job for you for a year if you decide to take time off. And the government pays you minimum wage for the first 20 weeks, roughly $812.45 per week. (“Parental Leave Pay”)

Education System Comparison

A few things that I noticed right away in Australia: all school-aged kids wear uniforms, and many schools have a religious affiliation.

For K-12

I haven’t attended school here, so it’s hard for me to weigh in on the quality of education. But I have a few teacher friends. It seems like most middle-income earning families and higher send their children to private schools. Most of our friends pay between $10,000 and $20,000/per year per kid (that’s USD - yikes!).

“The Futurity Planning for Education Index found Sydney parents with a child starting at a private school in 2022 will spend AUD 459,236 (USD 302,636) over the course of their education.” (“School fees in Australia: a full breakdown”)

I attended public school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unfortunately, a lot of people here don’t send their kids to public school. Public schools aren't as highly regarded. In the USA, it’s normal for parents of all incomes to send their kids to public school, but higher-income earners are likelier to send kids to private schools.

Higher Education

Conversely, higher education can be cheaper in Australia. For a public university, which is highly regarded, a bachelor’s degree could cost between $30,000 and $70,000 USD in total.

Most university students stay in-state for school at home to cut down on costs. There are very few students that are encouraged to leave their home state. Many US students spend 70K on tuition, take out loans for living costs, and sometimes leave with a bill of 150K or more. In Australia, trades are highly acceptable and regarded industries in Australia, and students aren’t always encouraged to go to college.

Vacation and Lifestyle

My first Australian job offered me a 38 hours work week, four weeks of vacation per year, and a 10% contribution to my retirement before any bonuses. And this is the norm for Australian employers. The Australian government mandates,

“Full-time and part-time workers get four weeks of annual leave every 12 months. Leave begins accumulating from the first day the employee works, and they can take leave as soon as they accumulate it.” (“Employees pay, leave and entitlements |”)

I love the more relaxed work culture in Australia. It’s great that healthcare is untied to your job and that your employer must give 10% to your retirement.

In the USA, leave and benefits are left up to the employer to distribute. Or course, there are generous employers in the USA. But such glamorous packages are often unaffordable for small businesses.

Cost of Living Comparison

The problem with comparing the cost of living is that it’s all relative. There are cheap and expensive cities in the USA and cheap and expensive cities in Australia. A lot of people say at large that Australia is expensive. But for the sake of comparison, let’s compare Phoenix, Arizona, and Brisbane, Queensland.

“You would need around $5,874.70 in Brisbane to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $5,600 in Phoenix, AZ.” (“Cost of Living Comparison Between Phoenix, AZ, United States And Brisbane, Australia”)

See below a few items compared in the USD. I’ll use USD as the standard throughout this blog.

(“Cost of Living Comparison Between Phoenix, AZ, United States And Brisbane, Australia”)

You can find expensive and more affordable cities in Australia or the United States.

Job Market Comparison

In the US, you have more of the uber-rich and uber-poor. Whereas in Australia, it seems more balanced. In Australia, the minimum wage is $14.38, whereas in the USA is $7.25 per hour. I’ve rarely if ever, seen homeless people on the streets.

Trades are encouraged for school-age students, and they’re well-paying industries. We have many friends who are carpenters, construction managers, electricians etc., and in Australia, they’re affectionately called “tradies.” Cute.

Australia is almost as big as the US, with 10% of the population. There are 25 million people in Australia vs. 331 million in the United States.

Image Credit: The Australian Government.


I took an equivalent-title marketing job in Australia because the pay was 30% higher. Australians are compensated well. But beware, it can be hard to move into this market at an executive level if you don't have Australian business experience. There are more opportunities in America, especially if you’re willing to move for a job.

Cultural Differences between Australia and the USA

Especially after living in Denmark, the Australian culture looks similar to American culture. The best way to learn about the culture is to make some Australian friends and ask them questions. I’ve asked my friends tons of questions.

Australians seem less interested in politics and are more easygoing. Australians love sports, and they love their holidays. Australians seem a bit more laid back and generally a bit kinder to strangers. The beaches in Australia are to die for, along with their warm, sunny climate. Most Australians live on a coast somewhere, so it feels a lot like California culture to me.

You’ll get the cool “hey mate” every time you walk into a store. But their humor here is quite different. I’ve heard it described as a cross between American optimism and British cynicism. I don’t always pick up on it.

Here’s a huge list of slang words I collected. Slang is a big part of Australian culture. There’s a shorter word for everything.

Security and Safety Comparison

There is a lot less crime in Australia, particularly violent crime. Rouge citizens cannot buy guns. There have been no mass shootings since 1996, when the government bought back all the guns.

“In 1996, Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement after a mass shooting in Tasmania in April of that year. In that incident, a 28-year-old man, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed 35 people and injured 18 others, in what was known as the Port Arthur Massacre.
Under the 1996 law, Australia banned certain semi-automatic, self-loading rifles and shotguns, and imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements. It also instituted a mandatory buyback program for firearms banned by the 1996 law.
During the buyback program, Australians sold 640,000 prohibited firearms to the government, and voluntarily surrendered about 60,000 non-prohibited firearms. In all, more than 700,000 weapons were surrendered, according to a Library of Congress report on Australian gun policy.” (Kiely)

I’ve enjoyed chatting with my friends about the gun laws here. It seems that people of all ages and generations believe it was the right move by the government. Of course, hunters can still hunt with a special background check and permit, but getting your hands on a gun is much more complicated.

The US has 23 times the rate of firearm homicide seen in Australia. (“On gun violence, the United States is an outlier”)

Where Would I Rather Live?

It’s cliche, but home is where the heart is. That’s what I’ve learned. We lived in Denmark, crowned the “happiest country on earth,” and in Australia, where the laid-back sun-soaked Aussies enjoy the beautiful southern hemisphere climate. And honestly, for me, they’ll never be home.

The US is still where my heart is. I couldn’t live permanently abroad because being away from family is too difficult. We’re internally grateful for our friends who’ve welcomed us like family, but nonetheless, it’s not home.

The US could learn a lot from small countries like Australia, which do many things right, like holidays, parental leave, guns, and healthcare. And sometimes, I wish I had gone into politics to try and remedy these issues. But at large, I’d place my bets on the USA and its future.

As an American, I’ve loved living in Australia. I hope you've enjoyed some of my insights, these are just some of my personal observations, and others might disagree with me.

Anyone with the opportunity to explore Australia for a little while should take it. Australia is a beautiful country and a wonderful place to live!

Works Cited

“Cost of Living Comparison Between Phoenix, AZ, United States And Brisbane, Australia.” Cost of Living, Accessed 8 March 2023.

“Employees pay, leave and entitlements |”, 13 January 2023, Accessed 8 March 2023.

Kiely, Eugene. “Gun Control in Australia, Updated.”, 4 October 2017, Accessed 9 March 2023.

“On gun violence, the United States is an outlier.” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation |, 31 May 2022, Accessed 9 March 2023.

“Parental Leave Pay.” Services Australia, 20 January 2023, Accessed 9 March 2023.

“School fees in Australia: a full breakdown.” Futurity Investment Group, 27 April 2022, Accessed 8 March 2023.

1 Yorum

10 Mar 2023

Can't wait to visit Australia and New Zealand. Both have been on my list for a long time. Thanks for the great post!

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