They may be at the other end of the world, but Australia and New Zealand are probably the closest to the UK in terms of culture. And it seems distance is no obstacle, with 1.2 million Britons living in Australia and the number of Brits heading for New Zealand almost doubling in the last two years.
So what is so great about these two countries? Well they are strangely familiar, but with a great outdoorsy lifestyle, relaxed attitude and often a better work-life balance. One is vast and varied, with spectacular coastal cities and a rust-red outback, while the other is made up of two islands, soaring mountains, glacial fjords and verdant rolling countryside. But which would suit you better? Read on to discover the similarities, differences and what makes each country unique…
Lifestyle and Culture Comparison
Of course, both countries are former British colonies and have the Queen as head of state, but they have strong cultural differences, too. It begins with ancient indigenous cultures, Australia’s Aboriginal people are the most ancient continuous civilisation on Earth, while the New Zealand Maoris are a Polynesian people that arrived in the country more than 1,000 years ago. In general, the Maoris are much more celebrated than the many Aboriginal groups of Australia and Maori is one of New Zealand’s official languages. If you want more details on the lifestyle in New Zealand, you might find our overview of New Zealand culture a good read.
The differences continue with size, whileAustralia has a population of around 25 million, little New Zealand has just4.8 million, its cities are smaller, the centres are easily walkable, but thereis slightly less variety than in the cities of its larger neighbour. This makeslife in New Zealand a bit calmer and more laid-back than in Australia. Some sayit reminds them of the UK 30 years ago, while Australia’s buzzing metropolisesare more similar to home.
The climates of both countries are different – New Zealand is more temperate, while Australia has more extreme temperatures – but both have a wonderful outdoors culture. Whether you want to go hiking, biking, sailing, mountaineering or scuba diving, both countries offer amazing diversity both on land and at sea. They are also sporting mad, with rugby taking the top spot in New Zealand and rivalling Aussie Rules football in Australia.
So how will you live in each? Expats talk of New Zealand being a bit behind the times when it comes to internet connections and mobile phone plans, however public transport is well organised and frequent and parents praise New Zealand for being a great family-friendly destination. Do keep in mind the seismic activity, Christchurch was hit by two devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
Australia is also more than the scenes you saw on Neighbours and Home & Away when you were younger. On the whole Aussies are extroverts, a little more brash than their near neighbours, and they take family and their circle of mates seriously. They also value directness and saying what you think, which is not naturally a very British trait. Keep in mind the country is vast, too, so you will often need flights to move between cities, in fact Perth – a favourite with British expats – is one of the most remote cities in the world, closer to Jakarta, Indonesia, than any Australian city. For more info on Australian culture, read our blog on settling into the Australia lifestyle as an expat.
Which has the Lower Cost of Living?
When it comes to disparity of wealth, it is probably felt more keenly in New Zealand. The country struggled in the worldwide recession, but the economy has really picked up in recent years and was even named the easiest country to start a business by the World Bank in 2017.
That said, it can still sometimes be hard to find a job and wages will be lower than at home and in neighbouring Australia. To balance that out, the general cost of living such as housing can be lower and public healthcare is free or low cost if you are a citizen, resident or have a work visa that is valid for two years or more. But of course New Zealand is an island and has to import a lot of goods, which can make food shopping pricy.
If you are going to live in Australia, you will likely join the 82 per cent of people living within 50km of the coastline, although finding a house close to the beach in a city comes at a premium. You’ll probably find it easier to find a job than in neighbouring New Zealand – after all, Australia is the world’s 13th largest economy – but the Australians do work hard and there can be long hours.
The cost of living in Australia is generally lower than in New Zealand, but it is still high compared to home, with everything from restaurants and groceries to petrol costing more. You should also expect to spend about 30 per cent of your wage on renting, with housing prices surprisingly steep in the cities. Australia does have a good public healthcare system, Medicare, however there are costs for temporary residents.
How do you get Visas?
If you want to secure a work visa for either Australia or New Zealand, the easiest way for both is to have a job offer. In New Zealand, there is a system that works on skills shortages in the country to bring in foreign workers, while Australian has just updated its visa system. It is now harder to secure temporary visas for skilled workers and employers need to look for local workers first.
Both countries have interesting visa opportunities if you are willing to be of use in more challenging areas. New Zealand offers special visas for skilled workers who can help rebuild Christchurch following the earthquakes, while Australia has a programme offering visas for skilled workers who want to work outside of the big cities.
Australia is streamlining the number of visa types it is offering, which has led to the demise of the Investor Retirement Visa, making it harder to retire to the country, while New Zealand just offers a Temporary Retirement Visa for up to two years, unless you have immediate family living in the country.
Both countries have websites that clearly outline their visa policies, the Australian Department of Home Affairs can give the latest updates, while New Zealand’s immigration website is a work of art that answers any questions or doubts you may have about moving to the country, it is a great advert for New Zealand living.
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How Does Education Compare?
Most children in Australia go to state school, following a national curriculum which is then managed at state level. Keep in mind that as temporary residents you may be expected pay tuition fees to enroll your child at school, while entry is also based on catchment area, which you may want to take into account when choosing where to live.
New Zealand state schools are also based on catchment area and generally offer a good level of education, too, although if you are a temporary resident you may need to get a student visa for your child separately, it is quite straight-forward.
Both countries also offer good higher education with excellent universities. New Zealand resident visa holders can pay local fees to attend the eight state universities, while in Australia you have 43 universities to choose from, with six rated among the world’s top 100 and prices are similar to or lower than at home.
Both Australia and New Zealand are wonderful countries for expats, but choosing between them depends on what you are looking for. They both offer great outdoors living and spectacular scenery, but smaller New Zealand tends to have a quieter more relaxed lifestyle, while Australia is perhaps more similar to our big cities at home, but with more sunshine. Both countries can be expensive, especially if you are using funds from the UK, but both offer a fantastic family lifestyle often considered superior to that in Britain. Which one will you choose?