Given the thousands of miles between them, the differences between Australia and the United States may not come as a surprise.

You’d expect different cultural norms, slang, food, customs, weather, accents, and more. (By the way, that rumor about the toilet flushing in a different direction is a myth!)

However, there are also a surprising number of similarities between the two locations. If you’re moving between Australia and the US, you may find some of these similarities comforting. After all, even the worldliest traveler can feel homesick after a big international move.

If you’re headed down under to Australia—or up over to the US—we’ll offer you some tips to make your transition easier. In addition to moving pointers, we’ll also include some cultural notes to help you make a simple and easy Australia–US relocation.

#1: Australia Is Serious About Invasive Pests and Diseases

Animals crossing sign in australia


of Australia’s mammals are endemic

In fact, 80% of the country’s mammals are endemic (meaning you won’t find them naturally occurring anywhere else). We’re talking about creatures like the Tasmanian devil, the pink cockatoo, the common wombat, and many species of kangaroo.

To protect the country’s unique ecosystem, Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry is constantly on the lookout for any biological material within your household goods shipments, such as:

  • Soil/dirt on shoes, patio furniture, golf clubs, tires, camping gear, etc.
  • Sand or seaweed on surfboards, boogie boards, beach chairs, and other beach equipment.
  • Animal hair on dog or cat beds, in animal cages, or on grooming tools (among other places).
  • Beads or jewelry made of plant/animal material—coconut-shell jewelry or shell necklaces, for example.
  • Art pieces made out of natural materials, like hand-carved wooden masks or a wreath made out of pinecones.
  • Spider webs (and spiders!) on furniture or other household items.
  • And more—just consider this a taste of what officials might spot in your shipment.

Here’s what this means if you’re moving to Australia:

Your Goods Will Go Through a Quarantine Inspection

Every shipment to Australia has to go through a quarantine inspection, which comes with fees. To avoid surprise charges, make sure any quotes you receive for your Australia move include this cost.

It Will Take a Few Weeks for Your Shipment to Clear

Once your household goods arrive at the port, expect a wait of about 3-4 weeks for the inspection to be completed. Keep this timeline in mind as you decide what to ship and what to take with you.

You’ll Have a Decision to Make If There’s a Problem

If the inspection officers do find something during their inspection, you’ll have two options: treatment or disposal. And here’s the bad news: There’s a cost associated with both.

At the end of the day, it’s in your best interest to avoid accidentally bringing in plant or animal materials that will require treatment or disposal.

Your moving company can assist you with this. As you interview potential providers, ask them how familiar they are with Australian regulations. Experienced crews will know what to look for when they pack your home. (And if you’re considering packing your own boxes, keep reading!)

Our team goes the extra mile to ensure our Australia moves go smoothly. We ask our customers moving to Australia to complete form B534 in advance, which includes a packing list of all the items you plan to bring. We then share this list with our partner in Australia to see if they spot any red flags or areas of concern the team should pay special attention to on Moving Day.

As with import procedures in many other countries, a little preparation up front can eliminate a whole host of problems when moving to Australia.

Does the US Have Similar Plant and Animal Restrictions?
If you’re moving from Australia to the US, you might wonder whether the US is as concerned with the import of pests and diseases. By and large, the answer is no—except if you’re moving to Hawaii.

Like Australia, Hawaii also has a unique ecosystem that the state is eager to protect. If you’re bringing live plants or animals into Hawaii, you’ll need to declare them. Additionally, if you’ve got outdoor furniture with dirt, snails, or insects attached, your shipment may need to be fumigated.

If you’re moving from Australia to Hawaii, talk to your moving company up front to uncover any potential issues before they become an expensive problem.

#2: You’ll Enjoy Diverse Climates in Both Countries

Both the United States and Australia are large countries with millions of square miles to explore:

Australian Flag


2.968 million mi²

American Flag

United States

3.797 million mi²

As a result, you’ll enjoy a full range of climates in both countries. If you love the heat and prefer a milder winter, a northern spot like Brisbane, Australia will do the trick, as would a spot in south Florida like Miami. If you prefer something a bit cooler and a bit less humid, a city like Melbourne, Australia might be perfect, as would Seattle, Washington. Or, if you’re an adventurer who loves to explore, both countries have wide swaths of desert land that offer plenty of solitude and stunning landscapes.

In other words, both Australia and the US offer a full roster of options so you can find the climate that fits your fancy.

Most Popular Destinations for Australia–US Moves
Curious where the majority of people move to? Below, you’ll find our lists of the most popular destinations in both Australia and the US:


  • Melbourne, Victoria
  • Sydney, New South Wales
  • Brisbane, Queensland
  • Perth, Western Australia
  • Adelaide, South Australia

United States

  • New York, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Phoenix, AZ

#3: Two Words: Road Trip!

In addition to offering diverse climates, both countries’ sprawling landscapes come with another perk: road trips.

Australia features plenty of breathtaking landscapes to explore by car. We’re partial to driving up to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane, ourselves. To get some inspiration, check out a couple of excellent itineraries from the Tourism Australia website.

Americans’ love of their cars has been well documented, and you’ll find that most of the country is easy to travel by road. (As opposed to Australia’s stunning and forbidding Outback, whose remote areas must be navigated with extreme care!) You’ll find gas stations, rest stops, and smooth highways throughout the country for a convenient and comfortable journey. Check out some of the more popular routes on the Road Trip U.S.A. website.

Driving Tip: Don't Be Afraid to Go Old School
In more remote areas of the US and Australia, you may encounter some cellular dead zones. Wherever you’re headed, it’s a good idea to have a paper map for backup. That way, if you lose cell coverage, you’ll have the tools you need to continue your journey without a hitch.

#4: You’ll Need to Switch Sides

While we’re on the topic of driving, it’s important to note that drivers may initially find themselves disoriented after their move. After all, Australians drive on the left side of the road, and Americans drive on the right.

If you’re a driver making the switch, we guarantee that you’ll accidentally try to get into the passenger side at least once after you move to your new country. You’ll also probably hit the windshield wipers when you’re reaching for the turn signal/indicator. (They’re reversed in left-drive and right-drive cars.)

Additionally, turns will be tricky. In America, left turns will take a little bit of extra concentration until Aussie drivers get the knack of things. In Australia, American drivers will likely struggle with their first few right turns.

With a little practice, though, driving on the other side of the road will start to feel natural. Just take it slow—especially in parking lots, where it’s easy to revert back to the side of the road you’re used to.

Be Especially Careful When Crossing the Street
Even pedestrians need to take care! The lanes will be reversed from what you’re used to, so you may accidentally look the wrong way before crossing a street. US residents are used to looking left first. However, in Australia, you’ll need to look right first.

You’ll see reminders of which way to look in many spots in Australia. However, you won’t see many of those reminders in the US, so take extra care.

If you’re ever confused, there’s no harm in looking both ways before you step out!

One more note: Jaywalking is a serious no-no in Australia. In many parts of the US—New York especially—it’s pretty much a sport. However, jaywalking in Australia comes with significant fines. Make sure you only cross at designated areas, which come in zebra, pelican, and toucan varieties in Australia.

#5: Duty-Free Entry Is Possible for Both Countries

Both the US and Australia offer duty-free entry pathways for household goods. This can save you a lot of money, so you’ll want to get the paperwork and procedures right.

If You’re Moving to the United States:

Household items—including furniture, carpets, paintings, tableware, books, libraries, artwork, and other usual household furnishings and effects—can clear duty-free, as long as they:

  • Were used abroad for not less than one year.
  • Are not intended for any other person or for sale.

For more information, see the US Customs & Border Patrol website.

If You’re Moving to Australia:

Unaccompanied personal effects (UPE) may be imported exempt from customs duties and GST for those who meet a certain set of criteria. The Australian Border Force calls this a UPE concession, and it’s available to those who:

  • Arrive as a passenger or crew member of a ship or aircraft.
  • Arrive from a place outside Australia.
  • Meet permanent residency requirements—i.e., are an Australian citizen, hold a permanent visa, or hold a special category visa that allows for the UPE concession.

The household items you’re importing must be personal property intended for your use in Australia. For some items, they must have been owned and used by you before arrival. Note that certain items—like motor vehicles, alcohol, and tobacco—are not eligible for the UPE concession.

For more information, see the Australian Border Force website.

If you’re using a professional moving company for your relocation, they’ll assist you with preparing the paperwork and documentation you need for clearance.

#6: Be Prepared for Opposite Seasons

Australian Winter

For many US residents, the December holiday season is inextricably linked with winter—cooler temperatures and, in some places, even snow. However, if you move to Australia, you’ll be in for something completely different in December.

Because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, December brings the start of summer. Rather than bundling up in blankets in front of a fire on Christmas Day, you might instead head to the beach to catch some sun.

If the holiday season is one of your anchors, this might take some getting used to. However, if you approach the upside-down season with playfulness (snowmen made out of sand, anyone?), you may be able to embrace the differences, rather than resenting them.

#7: You’ll Need to Learn Some New Words

Some international moves require you to learn a new language. For Australia–US moves, that’s not quite the case, since English is the dominant language in both countries.

However, you’ll have to navigate a new set of accents—and, maybe more importantly, you’ll also need to learn some new vocabulary. The Aussies are famous for their slang. In fact, you might even feel like you’re learning a whole new language in Australia.

To ease your transition, we’ve put some examples below to get you started! (We also included some American-isms to help Aussies moving to the US!)

American English Australian English
Gas Petrol
Trashcan Rubbish bin
Sidewalk Footpath
Sunglasses Sunnies
McDonald’s Maccas
Afternoon Arvo
Liquor store Bottle-o
Breakfast Brekkie
Arugula  Rocket
Tylenol or acetaminophen  Panadol
Diaper Nappy
Bangs Fringe
Beat (Tired) Knackered
Flip Flops Thongs
Y’all You (plural)
Zoned out No paying attention
Dummy Drongo
Pacifier Dummy
Vacation Holiday
“Thank you.” “Ta. or “Cheers.”
“Sure thing.” / “You’re welcome.” “No worries.”
“Great job.” “Good on you.”
“And there you have it.” “Bob’s your uncle.”
“How are you?” “How ya going?”

Of course, you’ll learn more slang as you get acclimated, and you’ll probably have a few funny mix-ups before you get fully acclimated. Either way, reveling in language differences can be a fun way to explore the culture of your new home.

#8: Your Coffee Order Will Need Some Adjustment, Too

If you’re an American moving to Australia, and you’re looking forward to your beloved Starbucks, prepare to be disappointed.


of underperforming Starbucks closed in Australia in 2008

The American coffee giant closed more than 70% of its underperforming locations in the country in 2008. It turned out that the Australian population preferred their local cafés. Today, Australians take their coffee quite seriously, so even if you can’t have your morning Starbucks, you may be pleasantly surprised by the offerings you find in your new home.

If you’re really ready to branch out, you need to be aware of a few drinks you’ll find in Australia that you might not be familiar with:

  • Flat White: A combination of espresso and milk that’s neither a cappuccino nor a latte. Instead, the flat white uses microfoamed milk, and less milk overall, so the taste is stronger than a latte. (Be careful with this one! Some people end up liking the flat white so much, they vow never to go back to a latte.)
  • Short Macchiato: A single shot of espresso with a teaspoon of hot steamed milk and a little microfoam.
  • Long Macchiato: A double espresso with a teaspoon of hot steamed milk and a little microfoam.
  • Short Black: A shot of espresso.

In Australia, you might be tempted to belly up to the nearest café and order your usual. But take it from us, most coffee experimentation you’ll do down under will be richly rewarded.

#9: Don’t Pack Your Own Boxes

If you’re on a strict budget—or you’re paying for your Australia–US move out of your pocket—you might be looking for tips for saving money.

We’re all for helping our customers create affordable moves. However, packing yourself isn’t something we recommend, whether you’re moving to Australia or the US. Here’s why:

Higher Potential for Customs Inspections

When customers pack their own boxes, they get labeled PBO (packed by owner). PBO boxes can be a red flag for customs, since there’s no real verification of what’s in them. Shipments with a lot of PBO boxes tend to be subject to more frequent customs inspections. This can mean delays—and charges, which will be up to you, the shipper, to pay.

Limited Valuation Coverage

To protect your household goods during an international move—especially one as significant as an Australia–US move—we recommend Full Value Replacement coverage. (Some people think of this as “moving insurance.”) However, Full Value Replacement coverage doesn’t extend to PBO items. If anything happens to these items during their journey, coverage won’t apply.

Exposure to Potential Damage

The crews who pack international moves are professionals who know how to wrap and pack items right for their long journey. They’re also experts at using the available space to get the density of your boxes just right. It pays to let these professionals do what they do best.

Extra Material Costs

When you choose packing services, your crew will show up with all the packing materials they need to ensure your items are protected from door to door. When you pack yourself, you’re on the hook to provide all the boxes, packing material, and tape. Those costs can really start to add up, and you’ll eat into your “savings” significantly.

To sum it up, we’re happy to talk to you about ways to save on your move, but we wouldn’t recommend doing it by packing your own boxes.

Making Your Australia-US Move Easier

Despite the common language, you’ll encounter significant differences when relocating between Australia and the US. The more you can prepare for what’s waiting for you on the other side, the easier your transition will be. If you do find yourself homesick for your old home, give yourself some grace. Feeling disoriented after a long-distance move is only natural. With a little time—and a chance to integrate with your new community—you’ll soon start to feel at home in your new home.

Looking for an experienced moving company to handle your relocation? Our international experts have handled plenty of Australia–US moves, and we’d love to help make your relocation safe, easy, and stress-free. Just reach out for a complimentary quote to get started.

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