Whether it’s the koalas, the kangaroos, or simply the beauty of this unique country, Australia is a favorite location for US expats.
When many Americans think of Australia, they envision a land of enchantment. A land where vast countrysides and cattle ranches coincide with rich forests and sprawling beaches. A place where a pioneering, innovative spirit is somehow at harmony with the friendly, laid-back personality of the people.
All of this is true, and Australia beckons people around the world to enjoy its natural beauties and leisurely lifestyle. But it is also a country with growing prowess as a business center for many global companies, and chances are good your expats will one day relocate there.
When they do, they’ll find they have more in common with Australians than they may think.
Australia and the US are both nations of immigrants. We also share a common heritage of British rule. English is the country’s official language, although Asian languages and others are also taught in secondary schools and universities.
But while we share strong similarities in behavior, there are also many differences – in speech, manner, and business style – that your expats need to be aware of.
Australians at work and play
Australians are known for their outgoing ways, personal warmth and informality, and use first names from the start of an acquaintance. In Melbourne and Sydney, people are concerned with being dressed correctly. Typically, business suits are the norm at work. Elsewhere, however, things are a little more relaxed. In Brisbane, for example, business suits are worn only for initial meetings.
Like their counterparts in the US, Australians appreciate humor, although Americans may find their humor has a bit more “bite” than they are used to at home. Australians, on the other hand, often find Americans too serious. These differences are exemplified during times of stress: Americans grow more serious, while Australians use humor to lighten things up.
The Australian lifestyle is relatively simple and uncomplicated, and there is little compulsion to “keep up with the Joneses.” Most people consider themselves middle class, yet often enjoy a higher standard of living than in the US, since the costs of housing and eating out are less.
Social connections are often the basis for business, and establishing relationships with clients is key. Australians, as a whole, are not very mobile, and often reside in the town or city where they grew up. As a result, social connections are quite extensive.
Unions have a strong presence in the Australian workforce. Over half the nation’s employees are union members, and The Australian Council of Trade Unions is a powerful organization dedicated to protecting the jobs and high wages of its members.
Women are beginning to take a more active role in the workplace. In fact, a recent study found that 37% of middle managers are women. As is still true in the US, however, few hold senior management positions, and there is a very solid glass ceiling in place.
Where the expats are
Sydney and Melbourne are home to the majority of foreign business enterprises, but international activity takes place as far west as Karratha, in the middle of the desert. Overall, there is good quality housing available for expatriates in the cities and suburbs. As in most other parts of the world, however, expats rent rather than buy.
Personal security is quite high, and people tend to feel very safe in Australia. The country also maintains an excellent health system. Other than a high incidence of skin cancer in the country – likely due to the amount of time Aussies spend outside – there are few health risks to concern expatriates.
Following are some of the most popular locations for expatriates:
The capital of Victoria, Melbourne sits at the annex of Port Phillip Bay on the Yarra River. The city boasts many beautiful parks and gardens. Expats will also find excellent sports and shopping facilities, both in the city center and its suburbs.
Popular with young business couples, singles and families, Toorak and South Yarra are lively Melbourne suburbs with many late night cafes, wine bars and restaurants. Expats will find apartment buildings as well as single family homes, some of which are quite luxurious. Both areas are within easy commuting distance of the city, and both have excellent private schools.
An attractive, well-situated area with many parks and beautiful landscapes, Hawthorn/Kew is easily accessible from the Melbourne business district. Commuting by train, car, or tram takes from 15 to 25 minutes. The area has many grand Victorian and Edwardian private homes, as well as town houses, semi-detached and single-family homes. There are also some stately “mansions” with swimming pools and tennis courts available for rent, although these are quite costly and not the expatriate norm.
Brighton has the atmosphere of a seaside village and possesses excellent recreational facilities. Commuting time to the Melbourne business district is 25 to 30 minutes by bus or train, and approximately 20 to 45 minutes by car. The area has a variety of Victorian and Edwardian houses available for rent, as well as garden apartments, semi-detached and private homes. Real estate near the beach is the most desirable. Quality state and private schools are in abundance.
The capital of New South Wales, Sydney is the largest – and oldest – Australian city. Due to its age, parts of the city are poorly laid-out, making driving difficult. However, public transportation to the suburbs is quite good. Areas popular among expatriates include Mosman, Neutral Bay and Cremore, all located near downtown Sydney. Apartment buildings with beautiful harbor views, and semi-detached and detached houses are available for rent. There is also an international school and several private schools within easy access.
Pymble, Roseville, Lindfield, St. Ives and Wahroonga are also popular spots for expatriates, and have many attractive single-family homes. Public transportation is quite good, and the international school is just 5 miles from the residential area.
Other favorable expat locations include Darling Point, Rose Double Pay, Paddington, Bellevue Hill, Point Piper, Vaucluse and Woolahra. The area boasts Sydney’s most exclusive homes, and apartments as well as private homes are available for rent. Although an international school is within easy access, the area is not as family oriented as others.
Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is a well-landscaped city surrounded by parks. Beaches, and many fashionable shopping centers, theaters, night clubs and art galleries are only a short distance away. North Adelaide and City have excellent transportation, a selection of private homes and garden apartments for rent, and several public and private schools.
Perth is the capital of Western Australia, and is quite cosmopolitan due to the recent immigration of Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Chinese and Vietnamese. South Perth is especially appealing to expats. Most people live in rented apartments, and many properties have grand views over the water. Nedlands is also quite popular, and is within access of the city center and local schools.
Australia’s third largest urban center and one of its largest ports, Brisbane is prospering due to its proximity to Pacific Rim markets. The fastest-growing region of the country, it welcomes 50,000 migrants a year from Australia and abroad. The average family dwelling is a single-story house on a quarter acre of land, and often a swimming pool. Cars are necessary for getting around, but fine shopping facilities, parks, theaters and beaches are within easy access.
Ascot and Hamilton are the city’s most prestigious residential suburbs, with large homes available on tree-lined avenues. The area is within easy access to the airport, race tracks, shopping and hospitals. Although public transportation is excellent, there are no international or American schools in the area.
At home down under
From the beauty of its landscapes and cosmopolitan cities, to the easygoing nature of its people, Australia has many assets to warm the hearts of American expatriates. Most find that in no time at all, they are feeling quite at home in the land “down under.”