Expensive Isolation: Why You May Regret Moving to Australia
Do you regret moving to Australia? I don’t. This post was written when I moved back to Australia in 2017, after being away for three years. I’m not inviting anyone to agree or disagree with them – it’s a personal perspective.
I would like to start this post by making something very clear.
I do not hate Australia or living in Australia
I also don’t really need any aspect of why Australia is the way it is
mansexplained to me. I’ve lived here for most of my life. I’m fluent in how this country functions.
There are certain elements of living here that aren’t great. However, you could say that about any country of the world. Australia is not the “best damn country in the world” as some may claim, because nowhere is perfect.
After living away from the country for a spell of time, or coming to live here in the first place, you may regret moving to Australia.
I personally think life Down Under is pretty good, most of the time. However, I do think there are things about Australia that could be improved.
These are some aspects of life in Australia that those living here have to deal with. You may not necessarily regret moving to Australia but you should know what you’re signing up for, well in advance.
The Internet is pretty awful
There was once this dream of having fibre optic Internet in Australia. It was an ambitious idea, as Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world (in terms of population density there are around 3 people to every square kilometre).
This dream tanked when the conservative Federal Government instead chose to save on costs by continuing using decades-old copper phone lines for Internet connection, having chosen a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) strategy.
This was due to be completed in 2016. It’s 2019 as I write this, I live in the second largest city in the country and I don’t yet have access to the National Broadband Network (the NBN). Fun times.
The most irritating thing is, eventually we will have to catch up to everyone else and replace the links with fibre optics, taking the investment way beyond its initial calculated price of AU $45.6 billion.
We’re currently ranked 62nd for Internet speed in the world, which is pretty abysmal for a country with an economy as advanced as our own.
The not very funny punchline of this joke – WE INVENTED WIFI.
At least Australia’s mobile internet speeds are at 5th, globally. Port off your phone, perhaps?
It’s isolated, both geographically and metaphorically
Australia is a very self-contained place. This makes sense when you think about how isolated we are geographically – hanging out on the bottom of the globe, taking hours to get across the country, let alone leave its shores.
This sense of isolation is perpetuated by our media. Commercial networks don’t give nearly as much airtime to world events (depending on where in the world it’s taking place), tending to report mostly on what’s happening within the country’s borders.
It’s nice in some ways, as you can feel quite safe living here, which is something that should not be taken for granted.
On the other, we should care about what’s happening in the world, quite simply because we are a part of it.
Travelling abroad is an expensive and time consuming endeavour
I didn’t step foot outside Australia until I was 20 years old and I’m not alone in this.
Most of my friends were in the same boat, unless they went on exchange, saved up to travel during University breaks, went to Bali for their end of school celebrations, or had their families take them abroad on holiday.
And those who did go overseas, mostly had just travelled to cheap destinations in Asia or New Zealand.
European friends on the other hand, who flit through countries and languages on the regular, are surprised by this. But whilst you can travel from say, London to Rome for £9 return trip, you’re not going to see the same for Sydney to Bangkok.
Plus, an eight hour flight to a destination from Australia is considered to be on the short side. Unlike Europe, it’s not like you can just jet off to Singapore for the weekend (well, you could but it would be a waste of time and money).
Travelling within the country is also quite expensive
So, why not stick to travelling within the country, then? This is what many Australians tend to do, however the price of doing so can be alarming.
In the 90’s, Australia was considered a budget destination for backpackers and people who were my age now (30’s) could actually afford housing in the city.
Times have changed and travel within the country is now as or more expensive than travel overseas. I’ve seen flights to Auckland from Sydney that have been cheaper than flights to Perth. Truth.
And if you’re wondering about costs for visitors, here is a breakdown of the cost of a month’s travel in Australia.
Our public transport infrastructure badly needs work
Another oft-discussed government dream is the placement of a high-speed train up Australia’s East Coast, linking Melbourne to Brisbane, with Sydney and Canberra in between – much like the Shinkansen in Japan.
A high-speed rail could be a wonderful solution, enabling population to spread out beyond the big cities, revitalising communities up and down the coast.
For now, it’s a very expensive pipe-dream, that doesn’t look to happen within this generation.
In the bigger cities, governments are throwing money at large-scale infrastructure programs… but they’re throwing it at our roads, rather than public transport.
Melbourne too has invested billions in recent road transport projects – the city still has no train line out the airport (scheduled to change in time, but come on).
Australia is one of the most car-reliant nations in the world and it seems like nothing will be done to combat this anytime soon.
The cost of living has risen considerably
Australia’s booming economy has had its drawbacks, with the cost of living rising considerably over the last couple of decades.
The median house price in Sydney has been AUD $1 million for years, finally dipping this year.
Young adults find themselves having to live at home well beyond a length of time that both they and their parents find tolerable, in order to survive.
There’s a very real chance we are heading into recession, which we were lucky enough to avoid during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
There are interesting and unnerving times ahead, for sure – enough to perhaps make you regret moving to Australia.
Racism… Well, it’s here
Hello, elephant in the room. Is Australia racist? It’s a bit of a tough question to answer.
I can only really use my own experience as an example. I’m a dinky di Aussie – born and bred, going back generations on my Dad’s side. I’m 100% fluent in “Strine” and am sitting here, typing this out in my trakie-daks and ugg boots.
I’m also not white. My skin is a lovely honey-brown colour. My ethnic background? Why, it’s none of your business, but I do regularly get asked “where” I come from and sometimes get told to “go back” to wherever that is. Confusing, much?
There are racist people in Australia. Sure. They’re everywhere and probably enjoying their time in the light at the moment.
I think a lot of it has to do with the aforementioned isolation, a fear of the unknown and rapid change. Australia has changed a lot recently. The world has, really.
But, just a tip in general – if you start a sentence with “I’m not racist but…” – you’ve probably already lost the argument.
Australian politics kinda suck
If you’re even slightly into politics, you’ll either find Australian politics the most interesting thing ever, or a cause to cry into your pillow every night.
Twelve years ago, with the election of Kevin Rudd and his Labor Government, it certainly felt like Good Things ahead. We survived the Global Financial Crisis. We were going to get super fast internet. We were enjoying an age of affluence. Life in Australia was pretty sweet.
Then, things fell apart. Rudd’s popularity drastically fell and he was replaced by our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Say what you want about Gillard (without resorting to misogyny, thanks), but she pushed through more legislation than any other PM in Australian history.
From 2013, the opposition Coalition Government played musical chairs with the Prime Minister’s seat, giving us three more PM’s in five years. They shockingly won the most recent election, despite having a pretty piss weak climate action plan, wasting money on a plebiscite to legalise same sex marriage, committing constant human rights violations in offshore detention centres and approving a coal mine in Queensland that would cause severe damage to the local biodiversity and harm the already endangered Great Barrier Reef. I could go on, but it wouldn’t be good for my blood pressure levels.
Oh, but they pulled the budget back into surplus, apparently. Yep, that would be great, if we were talking about running a business, not a country.
In general, we seem to be moving backwards as a country, rather than forwards. Ironic, when you consider our national emblem, which features an emu and kangaroo on it, animals chosen for their inability to walk backwards.
The treatment of the First Nations population could be a lot better
It is or should be well-known knowledge that the treatment of the Indigenous population by the British was horrendous. Families were ripped apart, through attempts of assimilation, which led to the Stolen Generations, where children were forcibly taken from their families, some never to see each other again. Culture was decimated. There were massacres of First Peoples and the spread of European disease within communities. It’s awful history.
Much of this is living memory, with many Aboriginal Australians living today still having memories of life on missions operating as recently as the late sixties.
Today, there are many misconceptions about life as an Aboriginal person in Australia. Some mistakenly believe that the First Nations peoples receive government handouts – sorry, not true. In fact, the Federal Government spends more money per head on non-Aboriginal people.
Even now, there is a taboo in being an Indigenous Australian. Our First Peoples are often victims of typecasting. Although there are many Australians who identify as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, they may not have the skin colour, or facial features expected of someone of this ethnicity. Asking them how Aboriginal they are or why they don’t “look” Aboriginal is sadly common, but extremely offensive. If someone says they’re Aboriginal, they’re Aboriginal. End of story.
Take also the argument about Australia Day (January 26th). It’s referred to as “Invasion Day” by the First Nations population, as it’s currently commemorating the day that the British flag was raised on Sydney Cove. The 26th has only been a public holiday since 1994, not even the length of my lifetime, but people cling to it like it’s going to be torn away from them forever – when all that’s being proposed is the movement of a day that is inclusive for all Australians. Not a particularly big ask.
And for Australians of other backgrounds, interaction with Aboriginal cultures can be limited, which is sad. It’s a fascinating and ancient culture that should be preserved and cherished.
The weather can be really quite upsetting
Australia is a land of extremes.
In some parts of the country, the seasons can be described as such: hot, really hot, bloody boiling, really hot.
The summer of 2017 for example, was one of the worst I have ever experienced. Extreme humidity, with the temperatures going over 40°C every third day or so. My bedroom had no air conditioning, which made the nights really fun.
Yet, it does get properly cold in the winter, especially down south and particularly in Tasmania, where the climate is more European. Or, more like New Zealand’s.
In the northern parts of the country, they have just two seasons – the wet and the dry. The dry is during wintertime, when the temperatures are manageable (think mid-late twenties, early thirties).
Australia too is a country liable for natural disasters. Cyclones, floods, bushfires, drought – all things that Australians have to contend with.
These events are scary. They kill people. With a changing climate, it’s a bit worrisome to think about the future, where extreme weather events are concerned.
You may not want to leave
Look, this is the worst point on this list. Because, for all its faults, Australia is also a pretty darn fabulous place.
It’s undeniably beautiful. It feels safe. The food is fresh. The air is less polluted than in other parts of the world (Tassie has the cleanest air of ANYWHERE). It’s relatively clean.
The people are among the friendliest that I’ve at least met anywhere in the world.
There’s something about Oz. It grips your heart and it will never let you go.
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