Country living vs city living – how do you know which is right for you? Australia is famous for the sheer scale of its landmass, made even more obvious when we consider where the majority of Australians reside, which is around the coastline and within its major cities. In fact, Australia is one of the world’s most urbanised countries, with approximately 70% of Australians in 2011 living within capital cities.
This was not always the case. 100 years ago, only 40% of Australians lived in a capital city, and the concept of ‘two Australias’, the regional and the urban, had not yet entered anyone’s consciousness. Regional life has always been self-sustaining, but it was historically different to what it is now. Thanks to communication technology, regional areas are simultaneously connected to the world and the main urban centres of Australia while at the same time acting as self-sustaining hubs of production.
While there is constant discussion about the perceived ‘plight’ of regional areas of Australia, it is indisputable that the country’s population is continuing to grow and that country living offers incredible opportunities for those who decide to make the move. So, which is right for you?
Living in the country
Feel the serenity. Unless you live next to someone with a ride on lawnmower, country living is most appealing to those who want to reap the luxury of a little more space and quiet compared to city living. In 2018, the average home size in Australia fell to a 22 year low of 186.3 square metres, much of this fuelled by the growth in high density living within urban areas. Country living benefits from the fact that larger dwelling sizes remain affordable, with only 16.3% of dwellings considered medium to high density in regional Australia in 2016.
Never feel lonely. If you’ve watched an episode of the ABC classic, Seachange, then you will have some idea of how ‘connected’ smaller country towns can be. What underpinned the success of that show was that, despite the comedic element of having the minutiae of your life known by every member of town, it was the feeling of belonging and community that kept viewers watching. One of the greatest advantages to living in the country is having support from the community, which is harder to find in urban areas.
Better living standards. In many ways, living in the country affords you luxuries that those in urban areas just don’t get. This includes the above benefits of community engagement and larger living spaces, but the advantages go beyond these. Consider your access to natural environments for camping, hiking etc., cleaner air, less noise pollution, smaller schooling class sizes, etc. The physical and mental benefits to living in the country are a key reason why so many people make the decision to bring up their children in such an environment.
Access to local produce. This advantage can fly under the radar when considering a move to the country, but regional areas have increasingly sophisticated farm-to-plate restaurants and cafes, while markets provide you access to local produce from farms that you can literally point to and find out what chemicals and processes are involved in growing what you eat.
Less jobs and infrastructure. This is commonly seen as a deterrent to living in the country, and for some industries, there is just no getting around the fact that you may need to diversify what you do or completely rethink your career if you want to reap the rewards of living in the country. Historically, wages are somewhat lower in country regions compared to urban centres, simply because of the concentration of jobs in cities. However, it is a misconception that regional areas suffer from slower wage growth compared to urban areas. Fewer people are living in regional areas, but despite how this impacts economies, wage growth in regional areas has kept up with that in urban centres.
Greater distance from friends and family. The potentially hardest aspect to living in the country is being a long drive or even a flight away from friends and family. This is something to consider and weigh up compared to the advantages that come from living in the country.
Living in the city
Just as there is a great difference between living in the country versus living in the city, there is even a split within urban centres between those who choose to live within inner-city areas and suburban areas. Here are some clear advantages to living within an urban area compared to the country.
Entertainment options. Urban centres typically attract younger demographics for their ability to offer a diversity of entertainment options and amenities, such as gyms, cafes, restaurants, music and sports venues etc. Where are you are in life and/or your personality type will dictate how important this is to you.
Greater career prospects. There is no avoiding the fact that urban centres in Australia have grown to be magnets for greater career prospects, simply for the greater diversity of jobs on offer. However, don’t take this for a given in the future, as further developments in communications technology liberate individuals from bricks-and-mortar workplaces, and as businesses find greater incentives to move away from high-rent locations for cheaper regional options.
Save on transport. Living within a capital city or urban centre often means easy access to key amenities and jobs without needing a car or even having to use public transport. It is worthwhile to write down your budget to see whether the savings you can make on transport costs (the purchase of a car, fuel, maintenance) outweigh higher living costs (rental or mortgage costs) and your income in the city vs the country.
Lack of affordability. The core reason why Australians choose to move to the country is due to the lack of affordability within urban centres, especially Melbourne and Sydney. This has fuelled the growth of Tasmania’s real estate market, bucking downturns in the market. If you want to enter the real estate market and are savvy enough to use technology to enhance your income within regional areas, country living may be the answer.