Jake Howie is a New Zealand writer living in Sydney.
NOTICE: Kia ora, my fellow Kiwis. I come to you from the other side of Tasmania, where – according to most New Zealand media – everything is better, cheaper, faster, easier and did I mention cheaper?
My husband’s job brought us to Sydney three years ago, and I love living in such a beautiful city. The sun! The beaches! The bridge! What I’m about to divulge is by no means outdated anti-Australian sentiment – I love Australia.
I also like Aotearoa. It’s just a different perspective of a Kiwi who isn’t a moaning, ‘informationally selective’ New Zealander complaining enthusiastically about Auckland, or New Zealand, or the weather in Wellington. , or wages, or how Australia is better, or New Zealand is worse, or NZ is better AND worse and cheaper and expensive. Did I mention cheaper?
* Do you always need cash when traveling abroad?
* Most expensive cities in the world: Auckland and Wellington fall in the ranking
* The Truth About Life in Australia vs New Zealand
This is just my experience living in Australia and a sobering reminder that New Zealand has an unhealthy obsession with painting Australia as that perfect place. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. The. I said it. Watch the Kiwis obsessed with using Australia as an example of the ‘dream’ get their feathers in a shuttlecock. “But…..cheaper! Cheaper! Silver! Wages! Sun!”
Yeah, yeah – we get it. But I live it, so here are some things a Kiwi living in Australia learned.
Houses are more expensive
Ok, I live in Sydney, so maybe I’m a little more traumatized than some. But, as an Aucklander, I know an expensive property market when I see one. And Sydney is expensive. Not only is it wild and unpredictable (which Kiwis will be used to), Australians have stamp duty (a government tax) on any property you buy. The tax depends on the price of the property, but the average home in Australia means you’re looking at an extra $40,000+ when buying a home. They remove that in some cases, but keep the inheritance with a property tax which means you pay roughly the same amount over time rather than a lump sum. Ouch!
While parts of Australia may vary, Domain’s property experts say the average property in Australia exceeds $1 million, peaking at over $1.6 million in Sydney. On our side of the Tasman, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand says the average house price is around $840,000, with Barfoot & Thompson suggesting the figure climbs to $1.2 million in Auckland.
Too expensive? Damn, yes. More expensive? Sorry, Kiwis – Australia beat us. And let’s not forget to add those pesky taxes to the average home price.
Shopping is not necessarily cheaper
This brings me to the grocery store. Kiwis are obsessed with it. On a recent trip home, three people asked me how much a cauliflower cost in Australia. My answer? It’s not in season, darling. So why are you even buying them at a time when feijoas are essentially free?
Going to Pak’n’Save I was surprised how much cheaper some things were and how much more expensive other things were. Potatoes, po-taaa-toes. It all kind of evened out. According to the global cost of living database Numbeo, grocery prices in Australia are 7.29% higher than in New Zealand. Milk and eggs are cheaper in Australia, but bread and apples cheaper in New Zealand.
In short, everything is overpriced. There is no raw deal that New Zealand gets that Australia is somehow magically freed from. The New Zealand duopoly is handled by the government, which should help. But, quite frankly, they’re just as ridiculous as each other with data suggesting it might be a little more ridiculous in Australia, overall.
Are the salaries really better?
‘But the wages are more?!’ I can hear the choir of Kiwis asking for that. This one is slightly true. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian earns AU$36 per hour. At home, research from Stats NZ indicates that Kiwis earn NZ$36.18 per hour. Boom. Facts. Aren’t they brilliant?
Australians earn around NZ$3.50 more per hour when you factor in the exchange rate, but you’ll need that for bread, apples and those damn house prices, right? ? You’ll also need it for flights home when you realize how much you love your friends, family and our beautiful whenua. And with the global situation, it will take more than $3.50 per hour to pay for flights.
If I had to send a message to New Zealanders, it would be this: it’s not so bad. I’m not trivializing the global crises we all face and the very real impact they have on families, but looking outward for a reason won’t make things any better.
The truth is that New Zealand and Australia are suffering like you. Prices are rising sharply, wages are not rising, crime is on the rise, homelessness is increasing markedly.
These issues are issues we face as a global community, and the once odd comparisons between two sister nations are now unnecessary, whiny and – quite frankly – hugely privileged. We’re lucky we haven’t had to be as resilient as so many other nations have been forced to be. We are lucky to have come through a global pandemic and international conflict as unscathed as possible. We are lucky to discuss two wonderful countries that offer so much hope for the future. We are so, so lucky.
So rather than looking across the ditch for bitter Kiwis who claim things are so much better, look closer to home for all the beauty that comes with being born in such a wonderful land. Whether you want to admit it or not, New Zealand isn’t so bad.