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Australia vs UK: The Showdown

So, as many of you either know or have worked out I’m not planning on heading back to the UK any time soon. It’s not that I don’t miss the place. I do, a lot; for the time being I really don’t have any desire to live back in good old Blighty. I look forward to visits and trips back, but it’s not somewhere I see myself living again.

Lots of people ask me why I want to stay out here. Those people are largely people who have never been out here themselves, so I thought I’d assemble a little comparison blog to illustrate why Down Under is such a fantastic place to call home.

Obviously there are huge differences in day to day life depending on whereabouts you live, so I’m going to go off the places I’ve lived…

Usually there are very serious categories to measure quality of life like GDP and political freedom. But how about we use things that actually matter when choosing a place to live? Like…

The Weather

A typical winter day in North Queensland…

It probably goes without saying that the weather out here is pretty bad ass… Although that does depend on whereabouts out here you live. If you live inland it can get bloody cold in winter and Melbourne has it’s fair share of drizzle. The main benefit to being out here weather wise is that you’re guaranteed a lovely long stretch of good weather at some point during the year.

My favourite place in Australia if Far Northern Queensland (FNQ) where the winters are dry and warm** requiring a snuggly duvet at night but a bikini during the day. It does get ridiculously sweaty and hot during the rainy season, but I’d happily cope with a few months of being too hot to go outside during the day for the pay off nine months of perfect weather* in between. At home it’s too cold to be outside all of the time for the majority of the year.

I haven’t had a winter now since 2011 and sometimes I find myself missing crisp cold mornings and snuggling up inside on a dark evening. The trouble is that UK winters often tend to be dark and miserable. I can remember a time living in Lancaster where we just had to keep the lights on for days on end because the sun never managed to quite break through the grey cloud. This would be ok if we were guaranteed smashing weather from May-September; the UK doesn’t seem to ever have that. One minute it’s a heatwave in April and the next it’s snowing. It would be nice to be able to shove all your warm clothes in the attic come spring knowing they can stay up there battling moths for a few months.

On the flipside we do get cyclones out here, the wet season in the tropics is near unbearable and it did piss it down in Sydney last Christmas. I still think Australia wins this one though.

**Sydney has just had it’s warmest winter on record, so even down south things aren’t too bad!

*We’ve had pretty much unbroken blue skies and no rain since about the 10th September, with much of the same forecast for the next week…just to give you an idea.

The Work

In London I got paid £23,000 per annum in an executive sales job. I wore a suit every day, had targets that I worried about hitting and had to sit in an office for most of my working week. After taking out rent, council tax, bills and my travel card I had about £450 left over a month to play with. Take food costs out of that and I had a pretty crap disposable income especially considering the cost of living in London.

In Australia you usually get paid around $20 an hour for a standard ‘minimum wage’ job. That works out as $41,600 per annum, or £24,340. The cost of living is higher out here, but still doesn’t match how good the wages are. I currently pay $140 a week rent (bills inlc.) which will drop to $100 when the ball and chain moves in with me this week ($100 each…bargain). I usually spend about $100 a week on food which is a lot in GBP terms but not in relation to my wages. It’s just so insanely easy to save money here without compromising your lifestyle; it’s just as easy to fritter it away on nights out when pints cost you $7.

At the moment Australia has an unemployment rate of 5.8%, the highest it’s been since 2009. People are freaking out about it. The UK’s has dropped to 7.7% and everyone is celebrating.

2-0 to Australia.

The Lifestyle

Living in London was amazing. The free museums! The culture! The nightlife! I used to get to the theatre about twice a week thanks to volunteering and writing for a website. Even aside from the free tickets, it’s just so cheap to see shows in the UK. Most theatres offer cheap youth tickets and most fringe shows are around £10 (or at least used to be two years ago!).

You just can’t get stuff that cheaply over here and as a result I’ve barely seen any sort of art or theatre since I moved out here. It’s not just a Cairns thing either, Aussies just don’t seem as interesting in that sort of thing. My ‘strayan friend reckons it’s because the UK weather keeps us inside for the majority of the time and I guess that makes a lot of sense – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the place with Australia’s worst weather, Melbourne, is the culture capital here!

London’s West End…

The flipside is obviously the outdoor living over here. There are public BBQs everywhere, you will always know someone with a pool and it’s unusual to find a house with no large veranda or balcony. Houses are open. Most Queenslanders even have outside stairs! It’s hard to imagine living somewhere and not having some sort of outside seating area that’s used on a regular basis.

An awesome public BBQ, such a brilliant idea

Back home I’d usually spend one of my days off hungover and in bed. Out here I usually spend one of my days off scuba diving. My mum used to finish work on a Wednesday night and go sailing. There are an insane number of amazing inland places to swim within an hours drive of Cairns; my tour guide for Uncle Brians described Lake Eacham as his ‘local swimming pool’. Even elsewhere you get the stereotypical beach lifestyle only it’s not sterotypical it’s just where people hang out.

Aussie’s, however, have not perfected the art of the pub. They tend to have ‘hotels’ or drab, personality free bars. It’s also near impossible to get a decent beer, Aussie brew tends to be more like carbonated piss than anything else. I can’t work out if this is a cause or a result of the fact that most of the time people want to drink outside on the beach or in their pools.

Not that you can particularly afford to drink much out here. A six pack of beer or cider will set you back roughly $16 (£10). I fondly remember the days of buying two crates for £18 from the supermarket…and I cringe when I think about how much I complained when Sainsbury’s increased the cost of their ‘basics’ cider up to £1.25 for 2 litres. Since my mum moved back and I’d had to source my own gin (miss you) I barely drink the stuff; every time I visit the bottle-O I stare longingly at a bottle of Hendricks ($80) then resign myself to picking up a box of fruity lexia ‘goon‘ (sometimes as cheap as $12 for 5 litres). I like to think of it as ‘sunshine tax’.

It’s hard to love Australia when I can’t afford to drink gin; it’s hard to love the UK when it’s too cold to drink gin outside.

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So there you go, a few things to explain why I love it out here compared to back ‘home’. Anything else you’d like me to discuss about my old life vs my new? I can always do with suggestions…

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