Why aren’t people honest about the cost of expat living?

Maybe it’s just because I was raised in the UK, but I personally am fairly uncomfortable with a great deal of money chat. I’ll talk directionally, but coming out with an actual figure is something I’m really not used to doing. And I don’t hear many others around me doing it, either. I mean, I get it. Boasting about money is vulgar; it comes under the same category as talking about religion or politics over the dinner table, right?

It's generally considered rude to talk about money in polite society. However, affordability is a key consideration to factor in to expat life. I personally think we should talk about personal finance more, so I'm being very honest about the cost of living in Australia (and Sydney in particular) at www.anestingnomad.com

However, I think that we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater by avoiding money talk altogether – what about discussing money normally, in a non-boastful way? Talking about budgets and realistic levels of spending? As a self declared member of the expat* blogging community, I was forced to take a hard look at myself today. I did an interview with Josh from Expats Everywhere, which I have to say I really enjoyed. Josh was great and put me at ease throughout, so this isn’t a comment against him whatsoever.

But during the interview, Josh asked me about typical daily expenses in Sydney and start up costs that newcomers might expect. Obviously, this is useful for those who are considering a move to Australia. And I actually found it a little bit difficult to answer (and not just because I’m bad at mental arithmetic). I had to check myself; why can’t I share with you all how much I pay in rent each week? How much I spend in Coles?

It got me to thinking. As expats, I don’t think we talk enough about our expenses in an upfront and honest way. Knowledge is power. How realistic would it be for others to embark on our journeys, given their particular circumstances and lifestyles? And how will they know, unless we share these things with them?

I think that we do a real disservice to fellow expats - and especially potential expats - when we avoid money talk or hedge our numbers. Click To Tweet

So with all that said, if you want to know how much rent I pay (and plenty more besides), you can watch my interview here.

Thanks for the interview Josh, and to Kalie for getting in touch initially.

-Rachel

*I know there are well-founded issues with this term, but I think that is what most people know the community as, so for the sake of ease that’s what go with.

Pin me and help a fellow expat-to-be:

It's generally considered rude to talk about money in polite society. However, affordability is a key consideration to factor in to expat life. I personally think we should talk about personal finance more, so I'm being very honest about the cost of living in Australia (and Sydney in particular) at www.anestingnomad.com

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15 Comments

  1. 2nd May 2018 / 21:47

    I just shared our monthly budget in my post last week because I know how helpful it was when my friends here were so open and honest about theirs. I have had some really positive feedback from it so far but I did feel a little uncomfortable sharing the figures (I didn’t include our salaries though!)

  2. 2nd May 2018 / 22:33

    I’m the same way, it seems odd to talk about dollar figures for things. I think most Australians don’t have an issue with it though. I know the only reason we don’t discuss money in my workplace is that we aren’t allowed to talk about salary, but in previous jobs who was earning what and ways to pick up more money or higher paid shifts was a frequent topic for discussion! I have been doing my budget round up each year, but the month by month figures I keep to myself as I would feel a bit uncomfortable sharing. It’s definitely something people have a lot of emotions around!

    Hope you are having a lovely week so far 🙂 We have got some autumn weather here at last so I’m excited I’ve gotten to layer up a little!

    Away From The Blue Blog

  3. 2nd May 2018 / 22:54

    I think sharing budgets can be incredibly insightful and useful. We’re hoping to move to Canada in the next few years and the little bit of research we’ve done so far about trying to figure out accurate budgets is hard – especially when looking at expensive places like Vancouver. There’s a lot of sites that are quite broad and seem a little unrealistic, so I think being able to hear from someone who is living somewhere about their own weekly budget is much better than seeing a range on a website.

  4. 2nd May 2018 / 23:23

    Holy crap! 700$ a week?? Wow. Yep like you said it’s very expensive! I love that you brought this up, I’ve had a post in my draft for about a year now about budgeting/saving money as an expat that I should finalise and publish! I’m all for discussing these things!

  5. Jen
    3rd May 2018 / 10:30

    It’s definitely odd for me to talk about money, however the older I’ve gotten, the easier it is. Especially when it comes to a budget.

  6. 3rd May 2018 / 13:06

    Sydney is definitely known for being an expensive city, but Singapore is not much different. Though I do think A$150 for 2 is pretty darn good for food, even if that’s eating out. I end up spending that for ONE bloody night out at a restaurant. ACK. So my weekly food expenditures (mind you, I rarely cook but even buying groceries is expensive AF) is probably $400 a week. GAAAH. I”m definitely working on bringing that amount down even more, I used to be really bad and easily spend $500 a weekend. That’s pretty much the norm for expats in Sing… Cripes!!

  7. 3rd May 2018 / 13:15

    This reminds me of how people in the US don’t talk about student loan debt or house debt or vehicle debt in productive ways. People live off of loans but spend like they don’t. I don’t know how universities work overseas, but here it’s not uncommon to graduate with over $50.000 in debt.

  8. kelly
    4th May 2018 / 05:14

    Ouch that rent is huge! I know in New Zealand it’s pretty ridiculous at the moment as well – most folks can’t afford to rent or buy.
    I remember we had a chat before you departed and I said, moving abroad is expensive and be prepared to be in the red for at least a year while you get yourself settled. Moving country isn’t whimsical or easy in terms of money or emotions; I do think people get caught up in the excitement and don’t really look into the big picture.
    I cringed how expensive food was in NZ, eating out and buying at the supermarket…our grocery bill is around £200 a month in the UK which I think is really good and maybe our dining out would be another £100- 200 a month tops, depending on how frugal we am.
    In Bedfordshire at the moment, you have to budget for wheel alignments and new tyres due to all the pot holes thanks to the cold winter…£180 last week…ouch!
    I remember moving to London and the biggest shock was the rent and council tax!
    xx

  9. 4th May 2018 / 08:11

    I thought your budget was modest – Sydney is such an expensive city, hey?! I think it’s important to have these honest conversations about the cost of living and budgets. It’s better to know what you’re in for before you move rather than after you arrive. Loved the interview – you’re a natural in front of the camera!

  10. 4th May 2018 / 18:51

    Yes it’s truly expensive in Australia! Then you have the added costs of shipping your belongings, visas, obligatory tourist trips out…haha. I’m sure it’s worth it though!

  11. 4th May 2018 / 23:24

    Ugh Australia is so expensive. We spend at least $150 on groceries every week and then still eat out a few times over the weekend, other than rent that’s where all our money seems to go. It is such an awkward topic and I remember trying to find info on cost of living before hand wasn’t easy. Loved your little interview ☺️.

    • 4th May 2018 / 23:26

      Oh and I still remember looking up apartments before we decided to move and not realizing the were priced weekly. We thought they were by month like in the US and we were like “this is so cheap! I thought Australia was expensive!”

  12. 7th May 2018 / 19:53

    I feel like it’s everywhere where money talk is awkward – and it shouldn’t be because I think it’s that awkwardness that facilitates a lot of inequality in wages etc.

    Living in Sydney is definitely expensive! I did a little more inside every time we’re in the US and I see amazing houses for sale for $250,000 or hear people talking about how expensive their rent is at $600 a month!!

  13. 17th May 2018 / 02:50

    Holly, wow! I knew Australia was expensive but this is more than I thought. There’s no way I could have a relaxed life over there with so many financial pressures.

  14. 24th May 2018 / 09:09

    I think it’s good to get some number out there sometimes when it comes to living the lifestyle of an expat!
    I think money is a sensitive subject because it can easily devolve into complaining…and I certainly don’t want to complain, but I want people to have reasonable expectations! Most of what people hear about Malaysia is that you can go out for a delicious breakfast for $1!!! and then they build this whole idea of it being a really cheap place to live on that. But healthy veggies and fruits are, in many cases, more expensive than they were in midwest USA, and one cannot live on breakfasts from local street stalls alone! 🙂

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