10 Differences Living in Australia vs New Zealand

After being in New Zealand for almost three months now, I’ve gotten to know it pretty well. After 15 months in Australia, my visa ended, so I decided to come to Wellington next. People had told me Melbourne and Wellington are very similar, and I do see what they mean by that. But straight away, I definitely noticed some differences between the two countries as well. I hate to be biased but for the most part, the differences I’ve noticed are positive for Australia, but not as great for New Zealand. Of course there are some similarities as well. Both countries are full of amazing people and tons of beautiful natural landmarks and outdoorsy activities. But as with most things in life, you tend to pick up more on things that are different than similar. The differences tend to determine your impression of a place, whether positive or negative.

Overall, I would say that my experience in New Zealand has been about halfway between the two. I enjoy my job at a hotel, the hostel I stay at is really nice, and I’ve met great people. But after loving Australia so much, I can’t help but compare every experience to ones I’ve had there. Coming from the US, a lot of people tend to think of Australia and New Zealand as being so similar that they’re basically the same country, which I can assure you is not the case! Here are ten differences between the two that I’ve noticed in the past three months I’ve spent in NZ, particularly when it comes to living in the two countries as an expat.

The obvious size difference.

The population of Australia is about 24 million. The population of New Zealand is about 4.5 million. The Greater Melbourne area has a population of 4.6 million, so more than the entire population of NZ. Going from a city that size to one of about 400,000 was a bit of a shock to my system. The positive is that you can walk everywhere, but it also means there is less to do. There are fewer events on, and while there are some great restaurants, cafes, and bars, there are a lot less of them to choose from.

Wages in New Zealand are lower than in Australia.

In Australia, if you’re working full time you can definitely afford rent and food, plus have plenty of disposable income to do fun things. In New Zealand, you can work full time and only seem to make just enough money to get by. Related to this, I have noticed there are a lot more homeless people in Wellington than in Melbourne, and there is definitely a much bigger separation of wealth.

The cost of living is higher in New Zealand.

I would have expected it to be the other way around, but I’ve noticed the cost of living is higher in NZ than Australia. Rent is on par or higher if you are in a city, grocery stores are more expensive, public transport is more expensive (and also less reliable), and if you’re thinking of planning a trip anywhere outside of New Zealand, prepare to spend a lot as there are less international flights from NZ than Australia.

It’s harder to find work in NZ.

Before I arrived in Wellington, I read blog posts about how easily people were able to find work here. Those must have been some old articles though, because I found it much more difficult than in Australia. Since it’s smaller, there are less jobs available in the first place. It’s popular to use a recruiter to find work in New Zealand, but I had no luck with them. And from what I’ve heard, they tend to screw you over when it comes to putting you forward for jobs and taking a huge chunk of your pay.

It’s harder to find somewhere to live in NZ.

It’s almost impossible to find an apartment in Wellington without spending a fortune or being far outside the city. I’m in a hostel long-term and almost every other backpacker I have met has tried and failed to find an apartment to rent. And since it’s so competitive, prices are high. So unless you’re planning to share a room with a partner or friend, you can expect to pay a lot.

Weather.

When I was in Melbourne, all people talked about was how bi-polar the weather there can be. People like to say the city can experience 4 seasons in one day, and that can be true sometimes. But I’ve realised the weather in Wellington is much more bi-polar and extreme. The temperatures are lower, it gets a lot more rain, and as the windiest city in the world, that makes the cold and rain feel much worse. And if you’re coming from a warmer city in Australia like Brisbane or Perth, be prepared for a real shock!

The Indigenous culture is a lot more prominent in NZ than Australia.

I feel like this list has been full of negatives about New Zealand so far, but here’s a positive one! Maori culture is much more prominent than Aboriginal culture. The only time I ever really saw Aboriginal people or cultural influences in Australia was in the Northern Territory. But in New Zealand, Maori culture is very prominent in the cities as well. Maori is an official language in NZ, and you’ll often see signs in both English and Maori.

There’s heaps of Aussie pop culture, but not much from New Zealand.

I’ve watched so many great Aussie shows and movies, including Kath and Kim and anything by Chris Lilley. There are also some great Australian reality shows, my favourites being My Kitchen Rules and Master Chef. When it comes to music, there are tons of Aussie bands and singers. In NZ though, I’ve heard of a couple soap opera-style shows and I’ve been watching the (not very good) NZ version of The Bachelor. The only Kiwi musician that’s really made it big outside of NZ is Lorde, who’s like the country’s unofficial mascot. Surprisingly though, NZ does have a big film industry. The Weta Workshop has been involved in so many huge movies, including Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and the Chronicles of Narnia. NZ doesn’t really get the credit though, so until recently I didn’t even know Weta was involved in any big franchises apart from LOTR!

Stereotypically Aussie sayings are much more common in New Zealand.

I can count on one hand the number of times someone said “G’day” to me in Australia, but it’s an almost daily occurrence in New Zealand. Kiwis also love the phrase “sweet as”, which I heard a fair bit in Australia, but much more in NZ. I know that these stereotypically Aussie phrases are much more common outside of the big cities, but in New Zealand I haven’t even left the city yet and have heard them more in a few months than in over a year in Australia!

The accents are noticeably different as well. New Zealanders pronounce their soft vowels as if they are a completely different letter. The letter a sounds like e, e sounds like i, and i sounds like u. For example, bag becomes beg and check becomes chick. Aussies especially love mocking the way Kiwis pronounce i’s by saying fush and chups. I’ve gotten used to the Kiwi accent, but it was a lot harder to understand at first than the Aussie accent!

Phone data and wifi are pretty much non-existent in NZ.

After having a great phone plan in Australia with 6gb of data per month, unlimited texting, and unlimited calls both within Australia and to the US, I expected to find a similar plan in New Zealand. Ha that was funny! For about the same price as I paid in Australia, my original NZ phone plan included a limited amount of talk and text and a shocking 1.5gb of data. I edited my plan for the next month to include less texts and more data instead, but I still ran out about halfway through the month. Wifi is hard to come by and unreliable as well, so it’s basically like being back 10 years ago before smart phones and wifi really existed.

I’m enjoying my time in Wellington, and there are great people staying at my hostel. But after falling so in love with Australia, I feel like to me, New Zealand can’t even compare. People constantly ask if I like Australia or NZ better. I usually say something like “I haven’t seen enough of NZ to have an opinion on that yet” to avoid offending the New Zealanders who ask me. But the answer to that question is without a doubt Australia. I really appreciate the time I’m able to spend in NZ, and it’s a beautiful country full of great people. But I’ll definitely be ready to leave in July when I go home to visit my family. So that’s the main difference between the two countries I guess. I was completely heartbroken to leave Australia, but I’m actually looking forward to the next adventure after leaving New Zealand.

 

Have you experienced living in both Australia and New Zealand? If you have, do you agree with these points and what are some other differences you have noticed? Let me know in a comment.

By Girl Sees The World on May 7, 2017 · Posted in Australia, Expat Life, Living Abroad, New Zealand, Oceania

48 Comments | Post Comment

Emily says:

I think it’s a great testament to your love for Australia that you don’t love NZ as much. It’s really hard to enjoy a place, no matter how awesome it is, when you’re still reveling in the greatness that was the place before it.
Emily recently posted…Hello May: Life UpdateMy Profile

Posted on May 8th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

That’s a good point. Very true that even though New Zealand is amazing, I can’t really appreciate it fully because I’m still dreaming of Australia.
Girl Sees The World recently posted…10 Differences Between Living in Australia vs New ZealandMy Profile

Posted on May 9th, 2017

rolan says:

Interesting – most of the replies are from girls. Why? So here is mine. A man I knew who lived in NZ described me the life there this way: “If you’re not a sheep, it’s not a place for you.”
Sorry – it’s what I heard.

Posted on October 20th, 2018

Karen says:

Melbourne is a very exciting place, so I see why you would miss it. I’m a kiwi but have lived in Melbourne, so I see your hesitation about loving NZ. New Zealand is a sleepy place in comparison. I would suggest seeing the south island, or try living in Queenstown…

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

Yeah I’m definitely a city girl having lived in Melbourne before NZ and New York before that, so it’s really different for me being in a small city! I can’t wait to explore more of NZ outside of Wellington, especially the South Island! It looks incredible!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

sam says:

WOW these photos are amazing! I have been wanting to move to that side of the world! So inspiring. Thanks for the differences <3

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

Thank you!! I would definitely recommend it. It’s beautiful over here and I love the laid back style of living 😊

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Jessica says:

Interesting post. I am yet to visit NZ but it is on the cards for some time in the next few years. As for Oz, I live in the capital (Canberra) so I’m pleased to hear how much you love us 🙂

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

NZ is beautiful to visit 🙂 I haven’t been able to see much of the country outside of Wellington yet, but I would love to plan a big road trip around the country when it gets warmer!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Jean says:

We’re Australians with Kiwi family so head back every year. I so agree with you on the differences. I love visiting but always love coming home. Have you considered moving down south?

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

Everyone I’ve talked to who has been to the south island absolutely loves it but I haven’t visited yet. I would love to and would definitely consider a move down there. I do like my job in Wellington though, so I’ll probably stay here a bit longer and plan to travel down south when it gets warmer!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Julie Patts says:

I’m part Aust, part kiwi. Lived and worked in Brisbane and Melbourne over 8 years. Did a couple of outback round trips around the whole country, and through the middle. Loved the outback, and the aboriginals.
Do love Aust, and always visit regularly, but have never regretted moving back to the Sth Island NZ. Just a different space. And you can get a bit over the crowds, and traffic in the bigger cities. I don’t mind the weather, as I can’t stand the 30-40 degree days…
I guess it is just what you enjoy at the time. Why compare the two countries. They are quite different. NZ so small, but has a lot of things going on if you look. Our cost of living is higher in some things and lower in others. Have a son in Perth, and he is earning the $ in a Gold mine, but long hours. Other jobs are similar to here, and I didn’t find the food prices all that much different. Depended what you like to buy, and where from.
cheers 🙂 🙂

Posted on October 15th, 2020

Kareemah says:

Really interesting read! I have always wanted to visit New Zealand more for the nature and mountains. Your post made me skeptical and NZ lol I didn’t think it would be that bad.

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

Haha I didn’t mean for the post to turn anyone off NZ! It is an amazing country, but compared to Australia it’s just a bit harder to get established as an expat. The cities aren’t as exciting in NZ as some other places, but the nature has to be some of the most incredible in the world!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Sadie Jones says:

If you’re into the outdoors New Zealand is a fantastic place to visit. As a Brit who’s lived in cities and spent time in both, I prefer New Zealand (hiking, varied scenario, seasons, cheaper, no poisonous nasties and honestly, it’s similarities to where I’m from) but it is totally personal preference. It’s got a small town vibe which isn’t for everyone, and the cities are really not it’s strongest point. Both are fantastic places.

Posted on February 4th, 2018

Jill at Reading the Book says:

I enjoyed reading these differences and it’s clear how much affection you have for both countries even if Australia has your heart! Living in a smaller town after a big city is always a shock, but then again for some people it’s probably less overwhelming and impersonal, so I’m sure it depends on the person. Enjoy the rest of your time in NZ and thanks for sharing!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Abbi @ Spin the Windrose says:

It’s a shame you aren’t enjoying your time in New Zealand! I personally found my experience of moving there very different and fell head over heels for the country, but understandably not everyone will feel the same. Have you tried looking for a room in Facebook groups? That’s how I found my place. I did find it an expensive place to live but it can be done on a budget. I think it was the kindness of kiwis and the beauty of the landscapes that won me over. Hope your experience improves!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Harmony, Momma To Go says:

Wow I had no idea but makes sense- more remote, smaller population equals less amenities but yet more expensive. The pics are gorgeous although I didn’t know if the pics were of AU or NZ

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Kristina@thelordandthelady.com says:

That was cool. I don’t know about living it either place for too long but i would love to visit! i loved your pictures.

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Kate says:

This is a neat idea to compare two areas that those of us on the other side of the world might not understand the difference. Makes me want to travel to both! Great post!

Posted on May 13th, 2017

Dee says:

This article was so interesting! I have never been to Australia or New Zealand but want to visit both. This is some great information to keep in mind, as I bet all of the above really makes a difference as a tourist as well.

-Dee
http://www.everybodygirl.com

Posted on May 16th, 2017

Suzie Kelsey says:

I feel like in terms of cities, Australia is definitely better simply because of the size of the population. However, I would like to argue that New Zealand is much more amazing outside of the cities, especially with the stunning landscapes in the South Island! Hopefully you get to explore a bit outside of Wellington before you leave in July and enjoy the rest of your time here in NZ. 🙂

Posted on May 28th, 2017

Ten Things You Learn as an Expat in Australia - Girl Sees The World says:

[…] Zealand as my visa in Australia has come to an end. While NZ is great, there’s no denying it doesn’t quite compare to Australia for me! Of everywhere I’ve ever lived—Massachusetts, North Carolina, France, New York, […]

Posted on June 2nd, 2017

Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad says:

I’m actually thinking of hopping over to New Zealand for a few months, and I spent over a year in Australia too, so this post is really interesting! I knew the wages and weather would be on the list lol. But I didn’t know living costs were higher as well as wages being lower, and I didn’t know jobs were harder to find. I spent 3 weeks in NZ and did notice a few things like food was more expensive but obviously never had to think about rent. I also noticed much more prominence in Maori culture which is awesome! Melbourne having a bigger population than NZ is insane too! I loved Wellington and I think if I do go, that’s where I’d want to base myself, it definitely reminded me of Melbourne. Anyway this is all definitely food for thought. Not sure what I’ll end up doing!
Clazz – An Orcadian Abroad recently posted…Clazz’s 2017 Challenges: May UpdateMy Profile

Posted on June 11th, 2017

Alyse - The Invisible Tourist says:

I agree with most of your points here! As I’ve lived in both countries, I find the language between the two countries to be interesting. We are surprisingly quite different! NZ have way more “Britishy” phrases and words (lots of veggies have different names which makes for awkward self-service checkout experiences at the supermarket) whereas Australia has been more influenced by American subculture. Although, cheeky sayings such as “yeah, nah” which us Aussies claim originated here, Kiwis also claim them as originating there… I guess we’ll never know 😉

Posted on June 24th, 2017

Girl Sees The World says:

Yes the language does seem more British here! Haha i have had the exact experience at the self check-out at grocery stores trying and failing to find things like zucchini and sweet potato!

Posted on June 24th, 2017

Derek says:

I’m an American living in Miami and I’m looking into applying for a work holiday visa. I’m between Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney. Have you visited Auckland yer? I visited for a few weeks and it’s much bigger than Wellington. Much more to do.

Posted on September 4th, 2017

Francis says:

Great insight. Thanks for the article
I’ll apply for both and see where future takes me.

Posted on December 28th, 2017

Wes Cusworth says:

Great read, really interesting.
Born and bred Aussie about to leave NZ after a 10-day stay, but we have loved our time here. Things did seem a bit pricier than home.

Posted on January 5th, 2018

Slobodan says:

Like your living style so much, traveling around the world, but how you manage to survive without permanent Jobs?

Posted on January 18th, 2018

Mick says:

Hi Christie. Thank you for your very detailed and informative review. It pretty much mirrors my opinion of wellington too. Also glad to hear that you enjoyed our fine country and lifestyle. Hopefully one day you can return. Kind regards and all the best with your future travels.

Posted on February 9th, 2018

Angela says:

Thank you so much for this post! I was deciding whether I should choose to do a gap year in OZ or NZ, now I know OZ!

Posted on May 14th, 2018

Liana says:

I think it is funny how you sit here and slander my good countries name, this article is biased and unfair as i would have to disagree with all your points. As a country we are more unified and work as one big family, not to mention it is more safe and enjoyable. We are also a lot more accepting of people, legalising the women’s vote first and gay marriage far before australia. Also the aboriginals are shunned from the australian community unlike us New Zealanders that are accepting and everyone is equal. To add i don’t appreciate them stealing our Pavlova, our Kiwis, our flag and Phar Lap. Also they are crap at rugby! Thank you for your time.

Posted on May 21st, 2018

Girl Sees The World says:

I’m not slandering your country at all. I love New Zealand! I just based this list off my personal experience living in both countries as I stated in the post. I know different people have different opinions, but these are differences that stood out to me after moving from Australia to New Zealand.

Posted on May 22nd, 2018

liana says:

You make it sound like we live in huts in the wild when in fact we live in an amazing country that is up to date and becoming more popular to live in as the years go on. Everyone has data and wifi and it is good you likely couldn’t afford good wifi and I find it offending that you make us sound like cave men. Maybe you should think before you make offensive accusations towards our country.

Posted on May 22nd, 2018

Girl Sees The World says:

When did I say anything like that?! LOL. Yes, I know everyone has data but what I said is that it’s much more expensive in NZ, which it is. Like I said in my last response, I love NZ and wasn’t making offensive accusations. I was pointing out things I experienced after living in both countries (differences in prices and finding work, pop culture, size, etc). If anyone is making accusations, I think it’s you accusing me of saying things about NZ that I never said 😉

Posted on May 22nd, 2018

Homesick kiwi says:

Haha you are very brave comparing the two.
That in itself is a way to highlight bias ..I have lived in the country in Australia for 18 years. I spend my days wishing I could take our children back to sleepy NZ. The city wears off and this I love Melbourne I only ever visit a few times a year. We may return but are trapped here for now by our attachment to the financial benifits…IE higher wages for jobs like nursing….
Enjoy your travels

Posted on August 19th, 2018

Louise W says:

This is outlandish Liana, you need to go and take a chill pill…she did not say one thing offensive about beautiful New Zealand ! omg LOL.

Posted on January 19th, 2019

Lloyd Judd says:

If you are an outdoorsy type and love nature -NZ is definitely better(except for the sea temp which makes swimming a bit chilly). If you like city life and culture then naturally Big Australian cities are better, but then if come from Europe or the US I cant imagine Oz is any better in that regard.
Many people emigrate from NZ to Australia, few go the other way. I guess that says something, either about the countries , or what it is that people value most.

Posted on June 11th, 2018

Desser says:

I lived in Sydney and Auckland. I have to say I loved Sydney, moving from Ireland, except I foudn the people pretty racist. It was the 90s and maybe things have improved. When I went to NZ I was blown away by the wilderness and the people are so down to earth and genuine. They lack the Aussie arrogance and racism is much more in check.

Of course a big city like Melbourne or Sydney will have much more to do so city folk will love it. But how do they compare to other big global cities?

NZ only has one city, Auckland. Everywhere else are just small towns. Auckland has its charms, awesome beaches, much better weather than Wellington and it is very cosmpolitan.

Comparing Aus and NZ on the basis of Melbourne and Wellington is not really appropriate. Wellington is not NZ, Melbourne is not Oz. Both are great in their own ways and both countries have got big pluses and quite a few negatives.

My summary for people:
There are four cities in Oz/NZ worth considering: Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. All have great beaches, cafe culture and nightlife. For me, the much more low key and straightforward Kiwi approach is best. But I am sure for others the Aussie brashness might be appreciated.

BOTH countries are expensive, especially anything involving service. Poverty rates in rural areas are high and NZ has a shocking issue with property prices leading to homelessness and difficulty to find housing. It is getting addressed, allegedly, but it is a huge issue.

Food in both is great, and if you buy seasonal local produce it can be really inexpensive to cook great food at home!

There are lots of jobs in both – one of the biggest issues in NZ is finding someone to come and do something! But pay in NZ is low relative to property prices.

Both have great outdoors, but NZ wins for lack of scary things that bite and the variety all so close together. Seeing a pod of orcas within 50m of the northshore beaches of Auckland is quite something! Auckland is kind of Californian in that way. Great surf beaches, a few hours drive to the ski slopes! If you like sailing or fishing, NZ is the place to be.

Culturally I agree Aussies are more American and Kiwis more British. With that more reserved, but also Kiwis are able to laugh at themselves in a way Aussies find it hard.

I have lots of great friends from both countries and they are both great, which one you prefer, best to go and discover yourselves!

Posted on December 17th, 2019

Maja says:

great resource here – I found that having US$5k saved up also helped my arrival be a lot more comfortable – NZ was VERY expensive for me, and I don’t have expensive taste. I found https://www.moneyhub.co.nz/moving-to-new-zealand.html was useful for money saving tips and adjusting to Kiwi life. I swear my Meetup.com for events and making friends there too.

Posted on July 23rd, 2018

Joe says:

As a fellow traveller who is well versed in Melbourne living and working, I’m slightly sceptical about comparing two countries based on Melbourne vs Wellington? I know you didn’t set out to put NZ down but there’s got to be at lot more to the country than Wellington and some poor public transport…Melbourne is a world beater on that front with the biggest tram network linking to trains and buses beyond. It may well be you’re a city girl at heart but as I’m from Scotland and used to escaping to the great outdoors I’m keen to get out and see all of New Zealand’s sights and back of beyond places not merely just Wellington.

Posted on October 24th, 2018

Fiif says:

Thanks for posting this, Christie. I really appreciate having people like you out there to make such comparisons. Now I know I’m not the only one that sees these things. I’m from NZ but spent a lot of my life abroad. I’m living back here though at the moment and sometimes really struggle mentally – it can be a bit of a mind fuck when your whole family is from here and couldn’t imagine actually living anywhere else. Totally agree with costs and trying to find work. I think Wellington is particularly incestuous – it’s who you know. That said, the nature in NZ is something I love. I haven’t lived in Australia but am glad you did this comparison. So thanks again, it’s been really helpful, has opened up my mind to the bigger cousin across the ditch…and made my day! Blessings to you x

Posted on May 7th, 2019

Bob Roberts says:

Great summary. Very accurate. I’ve lived in New Zealand mostly (was born there), but lived in Brisbane for a short time and have visited other parts of Australia a lot.

New Zealand just doesn’t compare to Australia. Glad you were direct about it. High cost of living, low wage economy, small ‘cities’, and the weather is mostly atrocious, as you would have found in Wellington.

I think the worst thing though is the New Zealand attitude; they have a real chip on their shoulder about Australians, and think because they win at a minority sport (for Australians) like rugby union, that that symbolises they’re better in every other way – economically, lifestyle etc.

If you read New Zealand’s Productivity Commission reports you’ll see they produce less value per hour than the Australian economy, and work longer!! The NZ health system is not as well funded as Australia’s and they have fewer advanced medicines compared to Australia.

Mention all of these things though and the average New Zealander will say ‘yes but we beat ya at rugby’. Who cares?

Like you said, the mobile/wifi infrastructure is a decade behind Australia.

Posted on August 17th, 2019

Robert says:

Wellington is small and doesnt have near as much to do as auckland. So the comparison should be melbourne and wellington. Anyone whos been to auckland knows you have everything in one city..high mountains to beaches..citylife and country life. The relaxed and the extreme. Tons of places to stay and things to do. Wellington….its a place noone moves to, u move away from there…..to auckland.

Posted on June 20th, 2020

Rick Jones says:

Christie,
It seems you haven’t been to Sydney. I think it’s a fantastic city. You might love Oz even more if you had been there.

Posted on May 22nd, 2021

Girl Sees The World says:

I visited Sydney several times and loved it! I’m definitely more of a Melbourne girl though 🙂

Posted on January 31st, 2022

Geoff says:

I’m a Kiwi/Aussie dual citizen, currently living in Oz. If, as you say, you are a city person, I can definitely see why you would prefer Australia to New Zealand. When it comes to nightlife, restuarants and the like, Oz will always be more cosmopolitan. But if you like the idea of being able to walk out of a rainforest and onto a glacier, of being able to surf and ski and scuba on the same day, and being able to hunt, fish and hike to your hearts content, NZ has it by a mile.

Posted on May 31st, 2021