My time as a British expat in Australia is coming to an end. As my one-year Working Holiday Visa finishes here in Australia, it’s got me thinking about all the things I’m going to miss about the country Down Under.
I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Australia. When I was younger it was somewhere I always saw myself moving to. I had this notion that it is the best country to live in on Earth – a perception shaped solely by travel documentaries and dinner time TV shows that only show the good bits.
We’re talking when I was around 9 or 10. I had no friends or family who’d actually been there, but for some reason, I’d convinced myself I would move there permanently one day. (I was quite the wanderlusting child!)
It was probably the never-ending sunny photographs and tropical-tinted videos that were forever splashed across magazines and the TV. Or maybe it was just daily Neighbours and Home And Away!
Don’t get me wrong, there are things I love and hate about every country, including Australia. But for some reason, the ex-British colony just doesn’t do it for me. Saying that I have had some incredible experiences while travelling the country. In fact, I’m having more of those right now (I’m writing this from my beachfront campsite).
Being on the road, I’ve had a lot of time to sit back and reflect on the things I’m going to miss and the things I won’t as I prepare to make the move across the water to Aotearoa (that’s Maori for New Zealand, mate.)
Here are the 10 things I’d take back to the UK:
- Public BBQs
They’re dotted along every beachfront for public use, which I think is a great idea. It not only gives big groups somewhere to enjoy gatherings, the beaches they sit in front of are usually pretty incredible.
- High Wages
If you didn’t know this already, wages in Australia are very high, which makes sense because the cost of living is also very high. I lived in Canada before Australia, where the minimum wage was around $11.25ph so coming here made a huge difference to my savings!
- Incredible Beaches
Australia is home to some of the world’s best beaches. Most people travel to visit Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands, which is where I spent my birthday this year. I’ve never seen water so clear or sand so pure and white.
I have a love-hate relationship with the weather in Australia. There are times I can’t get enough of the sunshine and love nothing more than chilling on one of the beautiful beaches reading a book. But then there are times in the height of summer where the humidity is just too much. I lived in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast for the majority of my time in Australia so I got used to tropical thunderstorms, but they only cooled the air down temporarily and often made it worse. Living in a constant pool of sweat is not fun.
- Island Adventures
I’m an island kind of gal. I hit my fair share of islands on my Queensland road trip, but Australia has something crazy like 8,222 islands along its coastline so you could spend a lifetime trying to hit them all. Some of my favourites are Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, Whitsunday Island, and Palm Island.
Coming from the UK, the only kind of wildlife I’m used to are scabby-looking pigeons, grey squirrels, nuisance foxes, and your standard farmyard animals. So naturally, I love Australia’s native kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and tropical birds. The first time I saw a huge snake on the road, I even ran to look at it.
- Beachfront Campsites
Something I realised on my Australian road trip is the abundance of beachfront camping. In some places like Queensland parks, I only paid $6.25pppn and found a lot that were free too. It doesn’t get much better waking up to oceanfront views for less than the price of a beer.
- Sunsets + The Milkyway
The sunsets and sunrises here are absolutely incredible. There have been times where I think my eyes are seeing the colours dancing across the sky; they’re so vivid they don’t seem real. The other thing I love about being somewhere so sparsely populated is the lack of light pollution, which means I can see the Milkyway at night. That was something I’d never had the chance to experience before.
- World Heritage Sites – GBR, Daintree
Australia’s incredible landscape and seascape include the world’s most well-known World Heritage Sites. Of course, there’s the Great Barrier Reef, which although is dying and severely bleached in parts, is also thriving and full of colour in others. I saw both sides. I also spent some time in the Daintree Rainforest in Tropical North Queensland, the world’s oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest. It’s like something out of Jurassic Park, especially with all the crocs roaming around.
- It’s Ginormous
The sheer size of Australia (it has an area of 7.692 million km²) means there’s too much to explore in one road trip, or in one lifetime, even. You’ll never run out of ideas of places to visit, things to do, beaches to relax on or places to camp.
And the 5 things I’d leave behind:
- SSSS – Spiders, Snakes, Sharks + Swooping Magpies
When you think of wildlife to fear in Australia, you’d probably think of snakes, spiders and sharks. And you’d be right to; they can all kill you in one bite. The other thing you should probably be aware of is box jellyfish and crocodiles. Both infest the waters in the north, stopping you from swimming in the ocean which can be frustrating at times. What you probably weren’t aware of are swopping magpies. I shit you not, they swoop at your head here! I’ve never heard of this or had a problem with this in the UK (although I’m sure it probably does happen). I had such a problem with it that I began to develop a real phobia of birds. Every time I left my house I had to look for them and nearly always got attacked. The sound of their wings as they swoop down to your head is enough to scar anyone for life. All this was of course, hilarious for Ro and our housemate!
- Beer + Scooners
I have had some good craft beer here, but for the most part, it’s pretty crap. The only thing that makes drinking beer worse is that for whatever reason, Aussies (who pride themselves on their drinking culture) don’t believe in pints! Everything comes in schooner size (which is 285ml) Why, Australia, why?!
- Cost of Petrol
Nothing fluctuates more than the price of petrol. It’s ridiculous. It’s already crazy expensive and can go up by as much as $20c a litre within the hour or between towns. And it’s the only place in the world where I’ve seen the price of diesel cost more than petrol.
- Aussie Slang +Accents
Apologies in advance to my Aussie mates, but I can’t stand your accent. What’s worse, a lot of people mistake my British accent for Australian and vice versa. I also can’t stand the slang Australians use: “How ya going?”, “c*nt” (as an endearing term!!!), and the way they put the word “but” on the end of every sentence for no reason. It’s a bit like British people saying “innit” though, which I also hate.
- Visa System
This one really gets me going. The Working Holiday Visa for Australia is not only the most expensive out of the Commonwealth countries at $470 for a year, but it’s also the most restrictive. If you want a second year, you have to slave away doing 90 days farm work to “give back to the country”. You are also restricted in that you can only work for employers for 6 months so if you have a profession you want to continue doing over here, you’ll likely have trouble getting hired because you’re not permanent. Then if you want to stay past your year’s Working Holiday to travel, you have to apply and pay $355 if you’re already in the country. It’s infuriating. What makes it worse is that Australians are pretty much given free rein to travel to the UK, Canada and New Zealand. How does that work?!
Have you been a British expat in Australia? Or vice versa?