Being an American Expat in Australia: The Ups and Downs

by Brooke Schoenman  Add comments
categories: australia travel

brooke outbackBeing an expat as an American in the land down under is not really a challenge when you consider all the other possibilities in the world. Yet, like transplanting yourself in any foreign country, there are definitely ups and downs, those of which I can talk about now that I’ve been in Australia for 2 years. I’ve dealt with many of those reaffirming moments where you know you’ve made a great decision to head somewhere abroad, as well as many of those bittersweet moments where lacking a simple piece of comfort food makes you bang your head on the table in disappointment.

Of course, those moments are going to vary by person, but the following ups and downs could probably be considered a standard.


Australia is an English-speaking country.

Even though I like to joke about the language differences between Australia and America, it is still English that they are speaking. Language difficulties are not really an issue because you can always ask and understand what a new piece of Aussie slang refers to when the time comes. Because of this, the transition is quite easy for Americans who can slip on in, apply for jobs where communication is key and simply become one of the mates.

Australia is easy for my family to visit and adjust to.

Culturally, there aren’t that many big differences between Australia and America, so when my American family comes to visit, they really don’t have a lot of trouble getting around and fitting in. In fact, I think my family in particular took to Australia a bit too much on their first visit and was probably more concerned with chatting with the locals at the pub than hanging out with their expat daughter. I guess whatever makes the stay more enjoyable and helps them come back again is a good thing, right?

The weather is generally fantastic and snowy winters are a thing of the past.

A large part of North America suffers through brutal, cold winters – something of which I am not a fan having been subjected to a Midwestern childhood. I enjoy the mild winters of Sydney, as well as the “winter” of the tropical north where the sun is shining and a jacket is only occasionally necessary. Even when it’s sweltering in the summer, there’s always a beach nearby here in Sydney!


Australia is very far from North America.

As you can imagine, a 20 hour flight home is not an easy feat, and the price is doubly bad. Because of this, I find it hard to make both time and money to visit home, and I’m sure it is the same for my family when they want to come here. As advanced as Australia may be in this world, it really does feel, sometimes, as though you’re in the middle of nowhere, and that’s not good for homesickness.

Australia lacks good Mexican food.

I’m becoming a broken record here. Just within the last year, I’ve seen major improvements in this sphere of restaurant choices, but it will continue to take a bit of time to make it one that I can trust. Spaghetti sauce instead of salsa? This has happened on several occasions at Mexican joints in Australia, so just be warned, future Australia travelers and expats. That comfort food you know and love might not be available when you need it most.

Australia’s sunshine is very strong.

While the weather is typically awesome down under, I must point out that the sunshine is some of the harshest in the world. That, combined with it being an outdoors country, means that people who live here need to be extra smart about sun protection or else face a higher risk of skin cancer than any other part of the world. I’m not saying this to deter any would be expats coming to Oz; I’m just telling the facts. It makes you second guess your decision to be down under when the TV commercials are warning of the dangers of being outside.

These points are just the beginning of the world of being an American expat in Australia, but they are a few good ones to mention. Moving overseas is never a situation where you make the move and life is immediately and always blissful; you have to weigh in your mind the issues such as leaving family behind and how hard it will be to get home if you ever need to in the future.

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by Brooke Schoenman

Brooke Schoenman is the writer behind WhyGo Australia, an online travel guide to Oz. Brooke is an American that is living the expat dream in Sydney, having barbies on the beach with Sunday arvo beers, and wearing lots of sunscreen. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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