All Posts Australia Oceania

Differences Between Living In Perth and London As Observed By A Brit Abroad

sunset over perth cbd with title text overlay

As you may well be aware, I’m currently living in Perth, Australia! While being Down Under is not the most groundbreaking move for a Brit, I thought it might be fun to reflect on the first few months of being here with a little comparison between my current city in Western Australia, and my home in the UK. Here are all the differences between Perth and London that I’ve noticed since arriving! 

Weather Differences Between Perth and London

Let’s kick off with every Brit’s favourite topic: the weather.

Perth winter feels like London summer.

Do they even have winter? I’m exaggerating, of course. I did actually find winter in Perth a bit chilly at times! That’s probably me being acclimatised to WA conditions, and I’ll admit “chilly” usually meant mid-teens in degrees. Having said that, our flat is FREEZING and is clearly designed to keep heat out during summer. Something I’m sure we’ll be grateful for, but when the temperature is reaching 5 degrees at night it’s a bit testing.

When I planned to move to Australia I was a itsy bit bummed out to be missing summer. A European summer is unlike anywhere else. The days stretch on forever, it’s still light AND warm at 10pm, there are beer gardens, picnics, ice cream vans… So much nostalgia and joy wrapped up in a few months that I would be missing out on!

Sunset and moon in Perth CBD

Confused comments from people who forget that Australia has winter too would tell me I could just visit the beach. While that’s true (we braved it a couple of times!), it’s just not quite the same. The wind is cooler and the chilly waters we wouldn’t dare enter.

For me, the worst part about missing summer is losing the long days. When the sun sets by 5.30pm you can’t help but feel wintery! Thankfully, the confusing weather of winter in Perth doesn’t last too long and within a few weeks of arriving the evenings already gained a few extra minutes. And, I know when my time does come to enjoy the summer, all my European-based friends will be thinking the exact same as I did when the roles were reversed!

Perth CBD and wildflowers

If there’s no wind, get ready to sweat.

Somehow even if the temperature isn’t that high, when it’s a windless day you’ll feel the heat of the sun. Maybe it’s down to the drier climate or maybe the sun is stronger, but in any case you’ll be grateful to have a bottle of water with you to tackle Perth’s inner city hills!

It’s a far cry from the biting cold of winter in London, that’s for sure. But one thing remains the same for both: when the sun’s out everything looks and feels so much better!

The weather can change quickly and dramatically during winter in Perth.

If people say New Zealand has 4 seasons in a day, then they clearly haven’t been to Perth in winter. When we first arrived at the start of June we were greeted with mid-2os and sunny skies all week. Cut to a few days later when torrential downpours and gale-force winds were charging through the city! 

While the wind and rain is enough to make anyone hibernate for a few months, there were gaps of saving grace that we welcomed at random intervals. We could be in thick cloud coverage and hearing the wind howl one minute, only for a rainbow to make a sudden appearance and the blue skies to show themselves for the rest of the day, only for an onslaught of showers later… You can’t predict it!

Rainbow over Perth CBD

I’m glad to have been in Perth during winter.

It makes me appreciate the comparatively consistent drizzle in London at least! I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the relative warmth of Perth, and even the rain I could put up with to enjoy the gorgeous rainbows.

It’s safe to say that the short but sweet winter months (June – August) in Perth are a rollercoaster of changeable conditions. If you’re planning a trip to the WA capital over winter, be sure to pack a variety of weather-proof clothes to suit any and every occasion!

Nowhere has a better sunset than Western Australia.

Perth has some insanely gorgeous sunsets.

One benefit of turbulent weather conditions in winter is that you get an array of vivid hues and pastel-coloured clouds in the early evening.

Maybe it’s being by the coast, maybe it’s facing the west (duh, name’s in the state!) but somehow the sunsets in Perth just POP. That’s not to say that London lacks a good sunset. Heading to Primrose Hill to see the golden light over the city was one of my favourite activities while I lived in London. But a really magical sunset occurs less frequently than here in Perth.

In general, I find the colours of Perth are way more vivid than London. As mentioned, even when it’s pouring with rain there’s a rainbow to brighten up the skies! I’ve put this down to differences in air pollution. The population of London is a whopping 4 times more than Perth, so it only makes sense that there’s a lot more pollution to dull the colours around us!

Orange sunset over beach

Food Differences Between Perth and London

I don’t know about you, but I love trying new foods abroad. Whether that’s the local delicacies or the quirky supermarket produce, there’s always something fun to discover!

Pop goes the Brit: where are the sweet popcorn options?

Popcorn is a popular snack across the globe. In the UK, we’re used to a pretty simple choice of sweet or salty. Sometimes, if you’re feeling fancy, you’ll treat yo’ self to toffee popcorn. As someone who is firmly in the sweet category, imagine my dismay when I discovered that they DON’T DO SWEET POPCORN HERE! A tragedy. Crack out the tiny violins, and join me in my sorrow.

Not only that, but some of their kernelled snacks are really weird. Savoury flavours inlclude BBQ, cheese, chicken… Who comes up with this stuff?! Admittedly, they do the sweet and salty mix, but it’s just not the same I tells ya!

While I’m not some popcorn-obsessed fanatic (yet), I do love a bit of Butterkist cinema sweet while bingeing Netflix. Strangely, this was also one of the first Perth and London differences I noticed since arriving. Maybe I am a popcorn fiend after all…

The variety of chocolate bars would put Wonka to shame.

If you’re heading down the confectionary aisle in the supermarket, I hope you’ve got your sweet tooth at the ready. I could spend hours pouring over the many chocolate bar flavours, there seems to be a much wider variety than in the UK! 

From Gold KitKats (our favourite) to caramel M&Ms, they seem to have all the good stuff here.

Packets of Tim Tam biscuits

And it doesn’t just stop at the chocolate. The new Red Velvet Oreos were sold out across Perth when I DESPERATELY wanted to try them (can confirm, they’re amazing). Could it be that an addiction to sweet treats is the cause for Australia’s obesity problem, which puts them at a higher ranking in the table than the UK? Maybe, but I’m sure there are other factors involved!

We haven’t even touched on Tim Tams! Those chocolatey biscuity delights are so moreish, but SO unhealthy. Tim Tams are a known Aussie treat, made by the nation’s favourite biscuit producer, Arnott’s. For those unfamiliar, they remind me of Penguin biscuits in the UK, but so much better and in a variety of flavours! If you’re ever planning to visit the land Down Under, add “try Tim Tams” to your must-do list. It’s an Australian imperative.

They love a toastie in Perth.

Firstly, who doesn’t love a toastie sandwich? Secondly, I haven’t seen so many available for purchase anywhere else. The toastie might as well be up there with a BBQ as Australia’s national dish at this rate. Unless, is it just a Perth thing? I don’t remember seeing so many toastie options in Melbourne or along the East Coast. Maybe WA has nailed the easy but satisfying toasted snack!

Food labels are a whole new language in Australia.

A minor but annoying food difference between Australia and the UK, is that the energy value of foods is measured in kilojoules (kj), making the familiar calories irrelevant.

While some products display both, wanting to know how fat that cookie will make me is like a maths riddle. Talk about killing your appetite! 

To work out the difference, you need to know that 1 calories is 4.186 kj. So when you see your supposedly healthy dinner has thousands of kilojoules, just divide by 4 and you’ll realise it’s not so bad after all (or so I tell myself).

Australian food star rating

Another aspect of food labels which is a notable difference is the health star rating of foods. It’s similar to the traffic light rating system UK products have, but more general for the whole product. This simple formula is a quick way to know if the product you’re about to buy is nutritionally valuable, or basically poisonous diabetes. They have this system in New Zealand too, so it wasn’t an unfamiliar label on food packaging when I arrived. I actually quite like it too. I try to stick to items that are 4 or above, which is optimistic given the above obsession with chocs and biccies…

A third food label difference is the Australian ingredients sticker. On some products, you’ll see a small label that says what percentage of the product’s ingredients are Australian sourced. How neat is that?! I thought this was a great idea, and not only contributes to a sense that the item you buy is helping a national economy, but also has a lower environmental impact by avoiding international shipping. Win win, right? Most of the products that display this label showed 60%+, I imagine anything below 50% wouldn’t be worth having the label!

Is the water more chlorinated in Perth?

For some reason the tap water in Perth tastes more chlorinated than in London. Maybe it means I’m drinking cleaner, better quality water (those London pipes have been around a while after all…) but either way, I know I don’t enjoy it! When you’re craving a refreshing cold drink to rehydrate in the Aussie sun, the last thing you want is a mouthful of swimming pool chemicals. I don’t remember water tasting this way elsewhere in Australia, so I’ll have to assume it’s a WA thing until I can go back East and confirm otherwise. Considering how isolated the city is, and the desert climate of the entire state, I suppose it’s not a huge surprise if the water is imported and thus more heavily treated.

Despite the strange taste of Perth’s water, there are way more refills available than in London. Access to fresh, cold water is abundant, and rightly so given the height of temperatures in the summer months. Not only is it vital to keep the city’s residents hydrated, it’s also a good incentive to bring your own reusable water bottles and fill up on the go, rather than rely on single use plastic bottles. Yay!

Woman holds glass of water

What People Wear In Perth and London

I often find you can get a good feel for a city by the way the locals are dressed. So how does Perth’s style compare to London’s?

The first obvious difference is there are far fewer hats, coats, gloves, and scarves throughout winter. In fact, on more than one occasion I spotted shorts and flip flops in the middle of July. You could never get away with that kind of attire during winter in London! Or if you did, you might lose a toe to frostbite.

Overall though, there doesn’t seem to be a standard of dress throughout the cooler months. People dress so differently for the climate you can walk through the city on a fine 20 degrees day and see some people in hats and coats right alongside others in shorts and t shirts. Initially I wondered if it’s just personal preference as to who feels the cold and who doesn’t, but then I thought this might be the way to spot a backpacker!

It’s no secret that backpackers from around the world explore Australia in all seasons, and many will have packed for warm temperatures. Maybe then it’s not a surprise to see tanned legs strutting the streets if they’ve spent the last few months in the sweltering tropics and deserts up north!

Despite the mild winter, I have massively struggled with predicting what to wear. If the forecast says it’ll be cool I’ll wear a jacket, and then an hour later be melting for no reason at all. Clearly I still have a way to go before mastering the WA climate.

Are shoes optional in Australia?

Another clothing difference I’ve noticed between Perth and London is the way that people dress for work vs casual wear. Office workers are almost all in business attire, including a neat suit for most men in the CBD (central business district). This is completely the opposite to folk out by the coast at the weekends, where wearing no shoes to do a food shop is completely normal.

What’s that about?!

Maybe locals compensate for the more formal weekday look by going to the opposite end of the scale…

Black flip flops

I found this contrasting to London, where businesswear can cover an incredibly diverse range of styles. Unless you’re working in the City with a legal or finance job, most offices accept a loose definition of “business-casual” attire. I swear I’ve seen more employees wearing activewear to the office in London than I have at the gym!

It might not be reflective of all businesses in Perth or London, but it is something I noticed from walking through the skyscraper-lined streets in the CBD feeling decidedly out of place in jeans and trainers.

Lifestyle Variations Between Perth and London

Lastly, there are a few other observations I’ve made during my time in Perth about how different the lifestyle is compared to London.

  • Everyone is really active and loves to do outdoor activities in Perth. Whereas London activities usually involve drinking and eating, albeit outdoors when possible. I guess that’s what comes from a warmer climate and gorgeous beaches!
  • The quality of life and work/life balance is more important here. You are not defined by or value assigned to your job. This means you’ll see more high vis than high brow clothing. More people work in physical labour jobs, construction, or mining than in office roles and it’s really refreshing. 

Kangaroo on Heirisson Island with Perth city behind at sunset

  • Many shops and cafes are closed on Sundays. Shopping hours vary between cities but this difference was a hard adjustment. I can’t pop out for a coffee at a new place at the weekends in Perth, when in London it’s a 24/7 city.
  • People don’t jaywalk in Perth. They will patiently wait for the little clicky green man. And it’s both tedious and admirable.
  • Sales-people like to talk. When signing up for anything, the gym, the bank, the massage therapist – they’ll all ask to schedule  a call or meeting. As a proper awkward introvert, I HATE that. Just email me, ok?!
  • There are more bike lanes in Perth. But when those end, the cyclists will swerve up on the pavement which I find highly irritating. Don’t they learn to ride on the road? Despite that, I do commend the active efforts from locals. Ugh so healthy.
  • Inner city transport is free. The CAT bus runs regularly throughout the city all days of the week. It definitely beats extortionate tube fares in London!
  • There is no stand on the right system for escalators. As a Londoner, this pains me. On more than one occasion I’ve seen people queue on the left. *shudder*
  • People are much friendlier in Perth. I saw 2 arguments on the Tube within 5 days of commuting, and I’m horrified that it also turns me into a raging fireball. In Perth, you can mind your own business, or get chatting to a stranger on the street (but they’re probably getting you to donate to charity). The choice is yours!

Hand holds small daisy in green field

Aussie Terminology I’ve Learned From Living In Perth

We all know the Aussie’s love their slang words and adding ”-O” to everything. But there are a few terms that I hadn’t encountered before living in Perth! Does anyone know if these apply to the rest of the country?

  • Hot chips are just normal chips, maybe an Americanism confusing crisps with chips?
  • Charity shops are called op shops, short for opportunity shop.
  • Toasties are occasionally called jaffles. This is a 50s slang term for the toaster used to make them, a bit like Brits referring to a vacuum cleaner as a Hoover I suppose!
  • Pikelets are pancakes. This is also a Welsh term for a thin crumpet-like bread. They’re delicious.
  • Schooner is a 3/4 pint glass size for beers and ciders. The Aussies are a complicated bunch and measure their beverages not just in pints, but middys, jugs, and more depending on the state you’re in.

Differences I’ve noticed between living in Perth and London – Which City is Better?

It’s a tough call. Both cities have so much to offer and in very different ways. You have the unrivalled culture and bustling urban life of London or the outdoorsy, comforting bubble of Perth. They’re almost impossible to properly compare because of their differences!

My heart will always take me back to London. It’s my first home, and will always show me something special on every visit. But the lifestyle there isn’t for me now I’ve sampled Perth. I love the improved quality and ease of daily life in Perth. I love visiting the beach and seeing waters clearer than glass only 20 minutes from the city, and I love that you aren’t pushing past hoards of tourists on every corner just to get through town!

Your preferences in a city will always come down to what you value most. I’m not exactly a country girl, but I value being close to expanses of nature. And I value a good work/life balance, which I think Perth champions more than London.

Sunset over Perth CBD

I realise this has turned into a massive post exclusively about the weather… You can take the girl out of Britain, but you can’t take the Brit out of the girl, right?!

 

Noticed any differences between Perth and London? How about another Aussie and British city? Share your thoughts!

 

Pin it for later!

You Might Also Like

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    11/01/2019 at 12:14 am

    Perth looks really lovely! Everyone was so active in Brisbane too, and there was definitely a better work/life balance there too. In fact they do seem kinda similar. Ugh and I do miss Tim Tams!!

    • Reply
      suzystories
      11/01/2019 at 5:24 am

      Oh that’s interesting! I am curious how much about Perth is specific to this city, good to know things like work/life balance and active lifestyles are across the country!

Share your story or add your thoughts!

%d bloggers like this: