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The cost of living in Australia versus the UK

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Australia has become one of the most expensive places in the world.

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently ranked Sydney and Melbourne in the world’s top ten most expensive cities to live and, as the results came out, every British expat in the neighbourhood let out a collective sigh as we acknowledged what everyone else now knows – living in the lucky country doesn’t come cheap.


We pay top dollar for everything – from movie tickets to health insurance, bouquets of flowers to pints of beer. While a loaf of bread costs you about £1.70 in Australia, it may only set you back £1 in the UK. An average bottle of wine might be £9 in the land down under but less than £6 back in the motherland. And it’s not uncommon to spend £80 in an Aussie supermarket yet only walk out with several shopping bags under your arms.

Combine the cost of groceries with rising utilities, high rents and unwieldy mortgages. For example, the property market in cities like Sydney has been spiraling upwards for years when compared to slower growth in the UK. While petrol prices continue to fluctuate, they are still much lower that the cost of petrol in Britain, but you will pay more income tax in Australia compared to the 22 percent or so in the UK. With the cost of living more than a fifth higher than in the UK, you start to wonder what drives large numbers of Brits to these shores every year.

The economy is one reason. While the UK is recovering from a period of recession and financial turmoil, Australia has enjoyed almost 23 continuous years of economic growth, remaining largely untouched by events that occurred overseas. A high-performing economy mixed with a strong dollar, booming house market and relatively low interest rates have contributed to a high standard of living but an equally high cost.

The desirability of the Australian lifestyle is another major draw. The great outdoors, sandy beaches and year-round sunshine are as important as the money in your pocket.

Wages are also much higher in Australia than in the UK and while the cost of living compared to the UK has soared, so too has the cost of our lifestyles. High wages allow us to pay for more, including childcare, gardening and housekeeping. We take longer holidays to more exotic places and eat out often. Our way of life has grown bigger – and more expensive – as a result.

But when you’re living in Australia, earning Aussie dollars and spending them locally, it feels expensive but, at the same time, affordable. It’s the price to pay for living in a prosperous country where we’re financially better off than ever before. Even though the cities are some of the world’s most expensive, they are also rated as some of the best places to live and work.

In an interview a few years ago, the radio DJ, Jono Coleman, summed it up best. He posed the question that when you’re broke, hard up and cash-strapped, where would you rather be – sitting in a park in the rain in London or by the harbour in sunny Sydney gazing out at the deep blue sea?  Although financially tougher by comparison, the latter option still seems a better fit right now for me.

Russell Ward is a British expat living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where he writes about his search for a life less ordinary at, one of Australia’s leading expat and travel blogs.

He also writes for businesses and brands at and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @russellvjward.

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