Adjusting to life as a New Zealand expat in Australia


Are you making the move from New Zealand to Australia? You’re treading a familiar path: there are well over half a million New Zealand citizens in Australia, with especially large numbers in Queensland and New South Wales. While the two countries have plenty of similarities, there are differences too. Here’s a look at a few points where the cultures diverge, and some tips on how to cope with the change.


Feign an interest in rugby league

New Zealand and Australia are united in their passion for sport. But in Australia you’ll probably end up hearing about various sports that are pretty niche in New Zealand. Rugby league? Seriously? Against the odds, in Australia it’s actually every bit as popular as rugby union, or even more so.

And then there’s Aussie rules football, of course, which draws even bigger crowds than the rugby each week. I guess, when you don’t have the All Blacks, you need to find something else to get excited about.


Don’t expect to depend on the state

As far as government policy goes, Australia treats Kiwi expats a bit like “friends without benefits”. Kiwis are generally entitled to a Special Category Visa, a temporary visa which lets them stay in Australia indefinitely. Which sounds pretty friendly.

But there’s a big catch. Since 2001 New Zealanders have been entitled to significantly fewer state benefits than Australian citizens: you won’t be entitled to full unemployment, sickness or disability benefits, for instance. And it’s tough to get citizenship, too. A lot of New Zealanders are pretty unhappy about this, and it’s easy to see why. The key thing to remember is that, should your financial situation take a hit, you might not have as many backup options as you’d expect. It could be a good idea to get serious about saving.


Wash your mouth out with soap

When a respectable media outlet runs a story asking “Is the C-bomb really that bad anymore?”, you can be pretty sure you’re going to hear your fair share of four-letter words. Australians are famously relaxed when it comes to swearing, and a real judge has genuinely ruled that the C-word is “not necessarily offensive, even when used in a public place”.

So if you want to fit in, then dropping a few strategic C- or F-bombs might well help to endear you to the people of your adoptive, ahem, country.


Remember what cash is? It could come in handy

In recent times, New Zealanders have been genuine world leaders in (at least) one area: paying for stuff without cash. Kiwis have been particularly keen to embrace the move to card payments (EFTPOS) and other cashless methods.

Australia has lagged behind a little, but in truth it’s catching up pretty fast, so you might not notice a huge difference. You might feel it in people’s attitudes, though: if you’re just buying a coffee, for instance, Aussies may expect you to pay with actual money - coins, notes, that sort of thing. Weird, eh. So consider getting some money out at one of those ATM things you used to use.

flip flops

Brush up on your Strine: You’re going to need a second thong

You’ll probably be able to understand what the Australians are saying, obviously. You’re all speaking English, after all. But you might have to adjust your vocabulary a little bit. Inexplicably, the Australians use “thong” - which is obviously a type of underwear - to mean jandals. And watch out for big-noters showing off their driza-bones. Or, to translate, skiters showing off their swannies.

Oh, and you know how a chilly bin is basically a bin that is chilly? Well, in Australia they call it an esky, for some reason.


Watch out for random price differences

The cost of living in Australia is, overall, a little higher than it is in New Zealand. Property prices tend to be higher, and a night out will likely cost you more as well, according to data compiled by Expatistan. But one silver lining is transportation costs: you might find that car and petrol prices are lower in Australia.

As for food, it’s anyone’s guess. Overall the costs work out about the same, but the prices of different items vary quite weirdly. Expatistan currently has milk 33% cheaper in Australia, for instance… while cheese is 20% more expensive. Go figure…


Let go of Russell Crowe

Look, this one might be a bit of a sore spot. The actor Russell Crowe, as you probably know, was born in New Zealand and still has New Zealand citizenship. But he’s lived most of his life in Australia, and claims he has even applied for citizenship there - twice. True, he’s failed to get it - twice. But he still tried.

So let’s face facts. The man’s face has been on an Australian stamp. He owns an Aussie rugby league team. He was literally on Neighbours. And Australians are understandably keen to consider him an Aussie born and bred. If you want to make friends in your new home country, you might have to pretend you’re OK with the idea that Russell Crowe is one of theirs.

And then there’s the Pavlova… let’s not go there.


There are plenty of sheep in both countries… so don’t let the banks fleece you

So far, we’ve steered clear of that perennial thorn in the side of Aussie-Kiwi relations: no jokes about sheep here. However, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing out there that it’s only fair to warn you about. They’re commonly known as banks, and they really show their teeth when it comes to transferring money internationally.

Banks will probably charge you a hefty fee for the privilege of moving your money between international accounts, and - even worse - they’ll almost certainly charge you a bad exchange rate, far removed from the mid-market rate that you’ll find on Google or XE.

That’s where Wise comes in. With Wise, you can send money overseas at the real mid-market rate every time, and only face a single, low fee, always stated upfront before you make the transfer. You can also hold money internationally in multiple currencies with a borderless multi currency account, making it even easier to operate across borders.

Don’t be a sheep. Don’t get a baa-d deal. And don’t feel you have to accept the ‘shear’ cheek of the banks. Break free from the flock, and transfer your money in a way that works for you.

Good luck with settling in to your new home. Australia is a wonderful and welcoming country. And when the banks try to pull the wool over your eyes, make sure you know what to do.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location