Being an American Expat in Australia: The Ups and Downs

categories: australia travel


brooke outback

Being 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 the 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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Brooke Schoenman

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.

25 Responses to “Being an American Expat in Australia: The Ups and Downs”



As an American expat myself, I always enjoy reading about fellow expat’s experiences. Though Australia’s culture is more similar to back home than Spain, it just goes to show, no matter how close the cultures may seem to be, there’s always more than what meets the eye. Great post, Brooke!

Brooke, WhyGo Australia


Thanks for reading 🙂 It’s very true. No place is ever quite like home.

Australia Travel News 05/14/2011 | Australia Travel Guide


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Andrea Johnston Adsett


I have been in Oz for just over 6 yrs. I’m married to an Aussie and have a beautiful 5-yr-old sone. Here are the ups and downs for me thus far:

Ups: Beautiful country;wonderful weather; fewer people; stable economy (compared to the rest of the world right now); safe; FANTASTIC wildlife; Aussie accents; AFL; NRL; my son!!!!!!!!!

Downs: Some hatred of Yanks; isolation (geographically speaking); chauvenism; racism; my in-laws!; venomous snakes; humid summers in QLD; hot Christmas with no snow; no good snow skiing!!!



Great post Brooke ! Pretty much spot on about mexican food. I arrived over 5years ago for uni then met an aussie and now working on Defacto PR/citizenship. I was shocked to see Xquisito in Macquarie Centre serving crepes as tortillas made by korean students hahah just makes me chuckle but then again thats sort of the beauty of this country, so many mix of cultures and everyday is a challenge of undue stereotypes.

Andrea I must say I agree with you on your ups n downs,
Having been a new south welshman until 6mo ago I must say I find racism/xenophobia/ignorance in Queensland is as bad as in the deep south/Texas and I’m only in Gold Coast. Even my Aussie partner has found things to be almost like a different culture here, his comment was “welcome to Queensland, set your watches back 50years” sorry am not trying to generalise there are positive and ignorant people everywhere just seems to be higher number here and it is the birth place of “one nation”.

In all I must say I like that Australian Ghetto is almost unheard of and we don’t have that “other side of the tracks” mentality. Things are a bit more about a “fair go”.
And the hatred of yanks usually comes down to those who hate the same things many others in the US also hate about it such as the wars, terrorism/fear/ignorance and Divine Imperialism etc But I have found coming with an open mind and an embrace of the “aussie kultcha” relieves one of the “dirty american” stereotype.

Gudonya for a great post mate and may cross paths someday, kick boots with a Carlton n some prawns on the barbie 🙂

Jeanette Bokland


My partner and I are getting ready to relocate to Sydney area for a 2 year work assignment.
I have a million questions on minor details…like to they use flavored coffee creamer? Can I get fresh cilantro?



I’m going to be visiting a cousin who lives in Australia – I was thinking of bringing her a gift of some kind of food item that is harder to find in Australia – anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!



Im from Australia and I lived in Virginia for 3 months last year.

Jeanette Bokland – There is only Coffee Mate coffee creamer here in the small individual sizes you can get in a pack of 10. I first tried a coffee creamer when we went there as my bestie introduced us to it. It was international delight? My husband bought some online and got it shipped to aust it cost us $90 for 10 vanilla and 10 hazelnt small bottles lol. They’re so good though! I miss it!

I loved the shopping there in the US. But i didnt like the fact how fast the day went and everything was work work work. I LOVE the family life work life balance here in Aust 🙂



I miss being some place I can go shoot a gun. I can go listen to country music. Road worthy, seriously sometimes I’m just over it. Fortunately Im accepting enough to deal with it but sometimes Im really really really over it…..



“welcome to Queensland, set your watches back 50years”
That’s how we like it Benja. Come up to Cairns, it’s far better than the GC!



I have been in Australia from the US for almost 3 years and love it here! I have gotten my partner temp resident visa and am so happy about that. The only real downside I have found is that I haven’t been able to find work – I would like to soon, but the crackdown on employing visa holders means likely I won’t be finding a job anytime soon. Although I understand the reasons behind it, having something at least part time would certainly help us. I am just north of Brisbane near Redcliffe if anyone knows of a place hiring 🙂

stuck in the usa


You poor poor thing…go home before you have children and get stuck there



I’ve been pondering whether or not becoming an american expat to australia. my views on where the united states is heading socially, government-wise and economically are some-what alarming to me. are there any strong legal hurdles that most americans are unaware of? i have served in the united states navy, would that allow: more, less or no differing benefits on trying to expatriate? relevant information would be extremely appreciated! 🙂



Hi folks
Australia sucks! I’m from Chicago – been here for almost 3 yrs and I could care less about the weather, food, accents here: it’s the politics, lack of custimer service, being invisible in the work force, small town mentality, backwardness, ignorance, racism, boys club mentality

Isaac Annan Jr.


Hello there Brooke my name is Isaac I’m 22 from the USA thinking about getting a working visa then applying for an onshore partner visa to be with my Aussie girlfriend of 2 years my question is if you did the onshore visa did you do the medical check in Australia and how long did it take you to get approved? Thanks



I’ve lived in Oz for over 20 years (because I married an Aussie and he did not want to live in the USA) and I still feel like a migrant although I am now an Australian citizen. I have run into a fair bit of anti-American sentiment since I’ve lived here such as total strangers walking straight up to me and saying “I don’t like Americans!”, and random slights like “American’s have no taste in Clothes”, “Americans are stupid”, etc… It hasn’t gotten any better over the years and now with the advent of Trump it seems to be getting a lot worse. I am wondering if any other US expats have had the same experience? It’s gotten to the point where I am automatically on the defensive whenever I meet anyone new which is sad. Because of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” and Aussies not liking anyone that blows their own horn or are too “loud” I have become more introverted and shy and think I have lost a lot of self confidence. Oddly, my best friends have not been Australians but other migrants especially those from England as they seem to like Yanks a bit better than Aussies do (At least in my personal experience). I have lived in small rural regional towns since 2001 and have been having a harder and harder time adjusting to small town life as I grew up in a big city. Sometimes I think I would like to return to the USA simply to be around other people that are just like me and that take me for granted as being the same. I know the USA has a lot of huge problems right now but I am still thinking about returning. When I lived in America it was at the height of The Crocodile Hunter/Paul Hogan – Crocodile Dundee mania and every American I knew loved Australia. I think that Americans are more in love with Australians then they are with us and it didn’t take me long to find that out. I do love this country. I love the beauty of nature and wildlife here. It is uniquely amazing and like nowhere else in the world. (Horrible that most recently most of the Great Barrier Reef has died!!! :o( Have any other expat Americans had the same experience? The seemingly recent (although years in the making) looming threat of war is adding angst to living here as well. I’ve heard comments from Aussies that they wish we would bugger off and that they don’t need our military over here. Living here often makes me feel like I’m a rock stuck in a hard place.



Hi, I am from Hawaii and I would like to visit OZ, have met many here in Hawaii. I heard that living in OZ was like living in Jurassic Park, but with plenty of people incorporated as living together in a wildlife environment and a spider to be worried about. i am very adventurous and want to visit or live there part time, or maybe become and expat. I am retired Air force with my own monthly income but do work part time with my online store. I wonder if it is possible to live there with the right visa. I know these comments are old, but any information is helpful. I applied for a visa a while back but never used it, this time I am going for it!



Hi Polly (and others), I have to agree with so much of what you’ve expressed. I’ve been here around 15 years and it has had its ups and downs. I agree it’s hard to be yourself here especially. Maybe that’s the case for any migrant in a foreign land – you have to try to assimilate more than others need to. I have kids who now are in high school / entering high school and now it’s really too late to move back to the US. I highly, highly recommend that if some of you are here and have young children that you consider moving back to the US before high school gets close. It’s very hard to move after that for several reasons. My kids consider themselves “Aussies” now as this is almost all they know. They are not interested in living in the US as I’ve left it too late. I’m definitely “stuck” here at this point. This puts a strain on a marriage and yourself individually. All the best!



As a retiree of the American forces, are there opportunities for employment with the Veterans or Indigenous Peoples that are available if me and my partner relocated?



My partner is from Seattle and is having difficulty adjusting and settling here.
Any advice or suggestions?



I wanted to know about Australia after a guy said on his podcast his great experience and loving the differences and the opportunities he is having. I am reading all these different post and all I can do is smile and wonder because many do not realize that all of us who move to another country have the same experiences. For my Americans who are missing home we as expatriates living in US experience the same things you write about. When we arrive and try to assimilate we get the same pushback; applying for jobs it is the same. Americans tell us the same thing – sometimes in your face or subtle with the prejudices depending on the neighbourhood or environment you live or work in. Every story about Australia can be found in America. When our children are in high school it is more difficult to return to the native land. The children becomes priority and we the parents have to suffer the consequences of moving to another country. We have to begin again and sometimes in a lesser position and lifestyle. The reality is we are people dealing with people and their prejudices; their need to hug what is theirs and push outsiders away – territorial. It is hard. There is no place like home but sometimes we move thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Maybe it is but a few negative people spoil the day. The only place I am aware of where expatriates are welcome and treated better than natives is Jamaica.

Chris Christensen


Even inside the same country, you can see considerable differences. In my neighborhood in San Jose, it feels like half the people I meet are immigrants but also engineers. Even just on the other side of town an immigrant means something else.

Chris Christensen


Even inside the same country, you can see considerable differences. In my neighborhood in San Jose, it feels like half the people I meet are immigrants but also engineers. Even just on the other side of town, an immigrant means something else.



It’s such a mixed bag with all the comments. I am engaged to an Australian and have visited 6 times so far. My longest stay 6 weeks at a time. We are about to drop 14K in immigration and attorney fee’s for me to come over to stay. For me, I have no family in the states, all have passed away. I have a handful of friends who I really don’t care if I see again. I debate over and over if this is the best move. Being with someone you love is priority but I am also scared of finding work, paying taxes in both countries, food is different here, life is slower (I live near Los Angeles) and everything seems different but the same in some ways. I’ve not yet met too many nasty anti Americans. Only one years ago who said I didn’t look “manly” enough, which was odd. Most have been kind. I’m not a “typical American” in their eyes though. I am quiet, I am not a gun loving, flag waving yankee doodle dandy. Most people until they hear me speak, had no idea I was American. So I blend in I guess. It’s a mixed bag of emotions and questions though. My biggest issue being work and not finding my favorite foods. I sometimes have a fantasy of opening a traditional mexican restaruant and introducing good mexican food to OZ. Anyway, these are my ramblings.

Charles L


I’m an American looking to retire in Oz in a few years. I’ve visited Oz many times because I have family members there. Is there a website for American Expat where I can find all the resources like banking, visa, etc.? Thanks.

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