Most UK expats move to Australia in search of the bountiful sun, sea and sand – and who can blame them with more than 10,000 beaches at their fingertips, a laidback lifestyle on tap, and abundant natural beauty at every twist and turn. Some expats move to the land down under for the space – the world’s sixth largest country has one of the lowest population densities on the planet. Others head to Oz for the education and healthcare, low pollution and crime rates, and fairly strong economy.
Whatever the reason, Australia remains one of the top destinations for expats heading to its numerous world-class cities to start a life here, much like I did seven years ago. Life down under can range from the straightforward to the ever so slightly bizarre.
Australians place a high value on family, friends, hard work and egalitarianism – you’ll often hear the term ‘mateship’ thrown around referring to equality, loyalty and friendship. Australians would also describe themselves as easy-going, carefree and plain-speaking. Any class system is based largely on financial standing and Aussies value a straight-talking, loyal friend over and above any snobbery or standoffishness.
To fit in, you’ll therefore need to adopt the easy-going nature of the locals and embrace the commonly held view that a new start is available to anyone with the skills and enthusiasm to make it happen. Read the local papers, get involved in clubs and social events, offer to help out at the surf club or school, and embrace your new environment with an open mind and generous heart.
Learning the lingo
For British expats, living in Australia is relatively easy from a linguistic perspective. We all speak the same language but with a few subtle variations. Some would say that Australian or “Strine” is basically UK English with as many words abbreviated as possible or with an “o” at the end of every word (think “servo” for service station, “bottlo” for bottle shop or “bowlo” for bowling club).
You’ll regularly hear words like “arvo” (afternoon) and “spewing” (mad, angry) thrown about, along with phrases such as “take a squiz at this” (have a look at this) and “as mad as a cut snake” (a crazy person). The Australian dialect is colourful and almost Cockney in nature.
Dealing with critters
The facts speak for themselves. Australia is home to six of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world and has many other deadly critters, including an interesting array of spiders (one of the most poisonous, the Funnel Web, being common to Sydney households), the box jellyfish and blue-ringed octopus (one of the world’s most venomous marine creatures), sharks, crocodiles and even the odd wayward kangaroo.
But there’s one thing they don’t tell you before arriving – it can be hard to find these nasties unless you actually go looking for them. Spiders are the most common pest you’ll stumble upon and should be treated with respect and as much avoidance as possible – garden with gloves on, turn rocks and bricks with the utmost care, and try to avoid those dark, dank areas where spiders like to frequent. An annual pest inspection and house spray is generally recommended.
Know the national sports
It’s well known that Australians pride themselves on their sporting prowess. They are intensely serious as competitors and are terrible at losing. As per the UK, sports here are played at different times of the year and emphasis is regularly placed on sporting ability over intellectual know-how.
Cricket is one of the most popular national sports, played across the land during the hot summer months and often coinciding with a visit from an international team. In winter, rugby is played with three codes dominating – rugby league (mainly in New South Wales and Queensland), Australian rules football (also known as AFL and popular across most of the country), and rugby union. Football or “soccer” is the up-and-coming sport, with the top-flight A-League growing in stature and numbers every year.
So whether you come to Australia for the high standard of living, the beauty of the natural environment or for the country’s steady economic growth, you’ll be joining countless other Brits in a sea of UK expats who made the decision to call the “lucky country” their brand new home.
Russell Ward is a British expat living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where he writes about his search for a life less ordinary at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com, one of Australia’s leading expat and travel blogs.
He also writes for businesses and brands at www.theinternationalwriter.com and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @russellvjward.