Sydney, Australia was recently rated the seventh most expensive city in the world to live. When I first arrived here in May, I thought the hardest thing to adjust to would be the accents and driving on the other side of the road. I was wrong; it’s the cost of living that has been challenging to adjust to.
One of the biggest differences between Australia and the U.S. is rental properties and prices. In Australia rent is paid weekly (as opposed to monthly, like in many cities in the U.S.). I discovered from a friend that the reason landlords and owners charge tenants weekly rent as opposed to monthly rent is so that at the end of the year, they receive more money from the tenants.
Most of what is available to rent is what’s called a room share, meaning you share a bedroom (with anywhere from one to three other people) as well as the rest of the house or apartment. Talk about cramped spaces! The average rent for a room share in Sydney is $120 per week but many rent prices include amenities like electricity, cable television, and wireless internet.
Of course, there are places that offer your own room, but these are more challenging to find and the cost is twice as much, if not higher, than a room share.
The work / life balance in Australia is impeccable compared to the U.S. Many companies and businesses offer their employees great health insurance, gym discounts, Superannuation (the U.S. equivalent of a 401K account), and strongly encourage you to take annual leave. In fact, some business actually forces their employees to take annual leave each year. Salaries for most jobs tend to pay higher than in the U.S., but mainly because the cost of living is more expensive. For industries like hospitality, staff can earn an hourly wage as low as $12 an hour and no (or very little) tips.
Food and alcohol is noticeably more expensive in Australia than the U.S (even if we include the not so low US Taxes). Like any big city, certain neighborhoods are more expensive to dine than others, but for a dinner out the average price is $22 per person. Of course, if you dine out in Australia you generally do not have to tip (which I’m kind of fond of now!), but don’t expect the customer service to be any good. In many hotels and pubs, you order everything at the bar and then the food is brought out to you.
For the more upscale establishments, waiters may come to your table once after your food is brought out to you.
American expats who travel or move to Australia will certainly notice the difference in the cost of living, but with accessibility to wonderful weather year-round and pristine beaches sometimes it’s enough for you to forget how expensive life on the island can be.