Anyone care to explain why Aussies are such a nomadic lot?
June 15, 2005 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Anyone care to explain why Aussies are such a nomadic lot?

Yes they travel alot, but a certain percentage of them tend never to go home again. And conversely, I know at least four people that went travelling to Australia, and brought back wives/husbands. Why does no one chose to stay, they always leave. I've never known a single Canadian to permantly emigrate/take out citizenship downunder, but half of Sydney seemingly lives here. Why? I kinda thought Australia would be a great place to live. Why leave?
posted by Keith Talent to Travel & Transportation around Australia (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have always ben told that because Australia is so damn far away from anywhere else if they are to go travelling its only worth doing so for a decent amount of time...
by the by Mr Sean Finter of Barmetrix Australia is a Canadian who lives down under and is blooming because of it...(
posted by angusw at 2:23 PM on June 15, 2005

The family of my best friend at primary school emigrated from Canada.... but to answer your question, in Australia it is referred to as the "brain drain" where highly-trained people are "forced" to move overseas to find a job*.

*..that pays as much as they think they're worth. There are plenty of jobs here, people!
posted by coriolisdave at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2005

I left because I was bored. I had a great job and so did my then-boyfriend, and we were both bored. We moved to San Francisco and got much better jobs. I miss my friends, but most of them have moved to London, except for Garfield (who worked in a supermarket in Sydney and is now the Moscow correspondent for Bloomberg) and Jamie (who used to be my editorial assistant and is now the AP correspondent for Baghdad).

Australia and especially Sydney, my home town, is astonishingly beautiful and the weather is great. Seeing a performance at the Opera House is fantastic, and the average standard of the food is far higher than in the US.

That said, there are only 20m people in the entire country: that's about the population of Texas, spread out across a land mass the size of the continental US. Texas and Australia are similar in many other ways as well. Sydney and Melbourne can be socially and politically liberal, but the rural areas can be actively dangerous for non-whites, non-straights and non-men. (Sweeping generalizations of course, and the reverse can also hold. As a straight white girl with a buzzcut, though, I felt unsafe in certain country towns.)

The biggest stumbling block for me was that opportunities for advancement are extremely limited: you want to make it to the top of the legal profession, for example, you'd better have a father who got there first. Australia wastes an indescribable amount of its talent - Garfield's and Jamie's careers being shining examples. Every few years there's a big kerfuffle about creating the clever country and adequately funding research of various kinds, but it's all about as deep as lipstick on a pig. The brain drain is a big motivator for permanent expatriates, especially in the hard sciences.

I used to think we'd move back when we had kids, but it turns out San Francisco is a great place to raise kids :-)
posted by rdc at 2:57 PM on June 15, 2005

As an Australian, I think i can say part of the reason why aussies go so easily expat (not just to Canada, but also US, Asia, UK, Europe) is due to the fundamental problem of our lack of a national and/or cultural identity.

This might be a bit of a big leap, so bear with me.

Being such a young country, with a shameful past, born of convicts and war with the natives, we don't have the glory of history behind us. We never had an "Independence Day", or a "Boston Tea Party". We are still stuck under the thumb of monarchy 200+ years, but we feel disconnected from history due to our isolation and our youth. Our capital city is in the middle of nowhere, reknowned for it's mundanity. White australia doesn't have any unique traditions, except for ANZAC day. We are supposed to like sport, and have a rich pantheon of Rugby demigods, but their stories are not very substantial culturally in the myth stakes. Our unique cuisine consists of vegemite and weet-bix. Our concept of community is pragmatic, but we have lost the true love of the village paradigm, being so used to working or farming in isolation.

Australia is a young culture that just has not yet taken a stance. We are too afraid as a country to split from what little history we do have with the UK monarchy, and unlike New Zealand, we are too afraid to think independently, to not be the USA's little mate.

We cannot bridge the history gap by adopting Koori (Aboriginal) culture, because we still haven't apologised for the sins of our fathers, and made amends for the sins of now. This is probably the single worst thing australia has done, not *really* attempting to reconcile or reunify with it's original owners, unlike the legislation in New Zealand or Canada, which appear to have healthier relationships now with The Land.

This is why multicultural australia is thriving ... we explore other cultures and feed on the magic of hundreds of years worth of ritual, adapting and making our own new rituals e.g. Melbourne could be a european city due to it's adoption of many rituals of that continent, cafe, fashion and art culture etc

Those of us here are still making our identity from what we can, and those of us who have gone overseas are looking for something more.

Being loud, sun loving materialist sports fans in the suburbs is just not enough for many of us which is why we have become the cultural vampires we are :)

ps There's a thriving canadian community in sydney, eh.

It's early here now so i hope i made at least some sense :)
posted by elphTeq at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2005

... or it could be just the "Brain Drain" phenomenon :)

forgot about that one!
posted by elphTeq at 3:15 PM on June 15, 2005

I heard that it was, partly, a result of the travel market. It's often cheaper for Aussies to travel on round the world (RTW) tickets than it is on round trip tickets. This means that the tickets go out through Asia to the US and then return through Europe. And they include stop-overs, often at no extra charge. So what's a week in Singapore or a month in Paris on the way to and from home?

This story was told to me by an Aussie roommate a few years ago. I have not checked it out, but I figured I'd throw it out there.
posted by zpousman at 4:20 PM on June 15, 2005

These anecdotal stories are all very nice, but there are actual statistics on this sort of thing, you know? In the second half of 2004 Australia had a net permanent population gain of over 30,000. Of the 30,000 who left permanently, only half of those were actually Australians. (The rest were people from elsewhere in the world who'd presumably decided to live in Oz for a while.) As for not a single Canadian ever moving here, apparently 350 of them would disagree with you.

Sorry if I seem a little annoyed by this topic. It just ties back in to a discussion I was having with some fellow American-Australians in a Sydney pub last weekend about how most Australians just don't seem to realize how damn good they have it here. We love it. We don't plan on ever leaving. Of course, I grew up in a small town in Indiana, and I can definitely see where the impulse to see the world comes from. I have a lot of Australian friends that spent time working on their career overseas (including my husband, which is how I met him)... but all but one have come back. Pouring pints in London and climbing mountains in Nepal is fun, but it doesn't beat walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a sunny day, in my book. Sure, we made four times as much money in London, but we don't need that here. Our lives are better and happier in Sydney.

So anyway, given that the previous evidence has all been anecdotal, I might as well throw in some contrary experience. My husband went overseas... and then moved back to Australia with an American wife. I'll be getting citizenship here next here. During my visa application process I sat in waiting rooms with more fellow immigrant hopefuls than I can count. I'm good friends with an American couple who've been here for six years and just recently got their citizenship. I attended their naturalization ceremony and was delighted with how many people had decided (along with us) that Australia is one of the best places to live. I work in a shop that caters to international tourists, a large number of which always seem to be here visiting their sons and daughters who now call Australia home. Sure, the Germaine Greers of the world have turned their back on Oz, but we've still got Nicole and Kylie.

(Oh, and the round-the-world ticket thing is true. The second-to-last time I visited home in Indiana, it was only marginally more expensive to get the RTW ticket than it was to get a return. So instead of a quick trip there and back, we spent three weeks visiting friends in Chicago, Boston, London, and Italy. Which, you know, was more fun anyway.)
posted by web-goddess at 5:11 PM on June 15, 2005

I have never lived abroad, but have seen more of the world than of Australia * sigh*. Reason being is that I love learning about other cultures. In my brief experiences and possibly due to Australias geographical location, travelling abroad on the Aussie dollar is expensive.

Many of the Aussies I know, that have opted for an expat lifestyle have done so for various reasons. Some have based themselves in the UK earning pounds and travelling to Europe this way, rather than a quick holiday, they have given themselves the chance to really explore Europes grand art gallerys, musuems, architecture and scenary that is so vastly different to Australias.....good on them.

A few others, mainly with children have left to advance their careers, and earn ex-pat dollars through tax breaks. The cost of living in Sydney is dear, some have been away for 5 years. Their children are picking up all sorts of wonderful new concepts through culture and travel.

I don't have a desire to work overseas but one day I would love to live abroad.

There is a large South African community in the surburb I live in.
posted by Chimp at 7:36 PM on June 15, 2005

I'm an Australian who left for 5 years and worked in Sweden and then the US and I've now returned. Australians travel because they have always known there is a bigger cultural world out there and because Australia is a long way away from other places.

Australia is a place that has always been plugged into the rest of the world. A lot of the media we get, whether on commercial media or government is from the rest of the world. We get so much British, American and Canadian media it isn't funny. So we get an inbuilt sense of life being over there.

Also, Australia is part of the Anglo-sphere - just look at MeFi. There is no cultural or language block to us moving to other English speaking countries. And hey, the long and the short of it is that Australia is a suburb of the US and Brtain.

Australians tend to travel for a while because there is a tradition of it and because it is so far away as people have pointed out. There were no Australian passports until the 1960s - there were only British ones - so Australians could always easily move to Britain. Now we have 2 year working visas there as well as the new E3 visa for the US which is very generous.

People have also pointed out how the brain drain affects Australia but it does go both ways and in fact it has been argued that Australia has a net gain of trained and talented people.

Does anyone remember that Onion story about Australia going on a bender and winding up in the Middle of the Atlantic? That's what I want. I want to be able to have an Australian life style but still be able to get to NYC,DC and London for the weekend.
posted by sien at 8:06 PM on June 15, 2005

sien writes "I want to be able to have an Australian life style but still be able to get to NYC,DC and London for the weekend." Heh - well pegged!

Actually, it would be interesting to see net stats for most of the western countries. I've always thought that NZers were the greater travellers followed by Canadians.

But as for "why leave?", I wonder if it is just your realm of experience. Everyone here that's young wants to travel for the various reasons outlined above, but I would have thought that it's more likely the spin of the dice as to whether or not they make their home elsewhere - the force of circumstances for the most part rather than premeditative "get the hell out and stay out of Oz!" mentality.

I've spent a few years overseas and in fact it was during my first trip that I really learned why Oz is such a fantastic place. We are jealous, particularly of Europeans who can travel for an hour and pass through a couple of different countries. So I fall in with those mentioning the distance thing - we've got to go further and longer generally or it's a big waste of money -- this of course throws up that many more opportunities for settling somewhere. And I'd also second that lack of cultural identity notion as having a bearing on the ease by which we may make the choice to stay elsewhere.

But I came back and am glad for it (although I must say that I'm not enjoying winter so much!).
posted by peacay at 12:57 AM on June 16, 2005

If I ever get the chance to live overseas it would be for the short term, Australia is a top place to live.
posted by Chimp at 1:40 AM on June 16, 2005

Many of the Aussies I know, that have opted for an expat lifestyle have done so for various reasons. Some have based themselves in the UK earning pounds and travelling to Europe this way, rather than a quick holiday, they have given themselves the chance to really explore Europes grand art gallerys, musuems, architecture and scenary that is so vastly different to Australias.....good on them

Oddly enough, it sounds like a modified version of the Grand Tour aristocrats used to make in the past (circa 17th to 19th centuries I think). The modifications are obviously the need to build up cash for the travelling, as well as taking shorter trips to the continent (but more often).
posted by smcniven at 6:36 AM on June 16, 2005

"Sure, the Germaine Greers of the world have turned their back on Oz, but we've still got Nicole and Kylie."

Totally. It's not like Nicole spends most of her time in LA, or Kylie in London. Oh, wait...
posted by rdc at 8:43 AM on June 16, 2005

I'd agree with the theory that it's because we're so far away, you feel like you have to get a lot of your travelling in at once. It's not like, as someone said, we can jump on a 5-hour flight and be in NYC for the long weekend. Because of the distance, most of us wouldn't even jump on a plane for a 2-hour flight to Sydney for the long weekend.

Plenty of my (professional) friends have had mid-20 crises and headed overseas. It should be anecdotally noted that nearly all of these people are in the IT industry, went to university straight out of high school and hadn't had too many "life experiences" during that time. So it's no wonder there is a small part of a generation of Australians that reach their mid-20s and wonder what the hell they are doing. Working for 2-odd years in the UK is a great way to cover all mid-20 existential crises, as far as I know.

(I am not in that sample group; I got my travel bug out of the way by going on a 3-month US bender the moment I graduated university).
posted by chronic sublime at 3:45 AM on June 17, 2005

Yeah, but rdc, Nicole and Kylie still have family here and return enough that I think we can safely assume they still consider Australia "home." They certainly never badmouth the country in the media the way some other expats do.
posted by web-goddess at 3:58 AM on June 17, 2005

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