Swapping Canberra for California

Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra Australia

A year ago my boyfriend and I made the decision to move from Canberra (the capital city of Australia) to San Diego, California. He got a job offer, I have dual citizenship (US and Australia), and quite frankly it was time for a change. Both of us had been in Canberra for over 20 years and although it is a lovely place to live we were in need of some adventure.

It has been quite a culture shock. Canberra is a planned city, and considering it only has a population of 360,000+ it has incredible infrastructure and amenities. There are world-class museums and art galleries (most of which have free entry), wonderful restaurants, theatre and live music, a really active arts scene, fantastic shopping, and a huge variety of outdoor activities. And what's more, you can drive anywhere in town in under 20 minutes.

Enter San Diego. Southern California is probably as close as you can get to Australia. What do I mean by that? Well, the climate, the beaches, and the culture are fairly similar, and there are even loads of native Australian plants that have been introduced here.

But there are some pretty major differences, the most noticeable is that California is all about cars. You have to drive long distances to get almost everywhere, and while in Canberra you'd never see more than three lanes on a road, in California it's nothing to have a freeway that has 10 lanes on each side, traveling at speeds well over anything allowable in Australia.

i15 freeway, San Diego California

Also the food is very different. While there are some great, independent, restaurants and cafes they are few and far between compared with most places in Australia. I'd say overall Australian restaurants cook with fresher, local ingredients, and have a more modern and cosmopolitan take on dishes. I can also count the major fast food chains in Australia on one hand, to get an idea of just how many exist in the US check out this Wikipedia entry (hint: there are over 220).

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining too much though, we moved here for a reason. The US, purely due to its size, has significantly more business opportunities than Australia. In the past year I've met inspiring entrepreneurs, been to conferences and events bigger than I could have imagined, and have ended up working in a job that two years ago didn't exist, but which is perfect for me!

As I travel around, and explore this new place I wanted to share my experiences in the hopes of inspiring others to get out there and have an adventure! Feel free to leave me a comment, say hi, and let me know about any great destinations, experiences, or food that you've found.


  1. Love it! How are you finding anything related to healthcare? ie, have you needed to go to the doctors yet for cold/flu/bug whatever? Does your Aus insurance cover you if anything major happens? I would love to go to the US for 12 months, but that's one of the main things that makes me hesitate.

    1. Well I'm working over here now and most employers have some sort of health benefits included as part of your package, so it hasn't been an issue. That being said, I had to go to the doctor one time on a visit here and didn't have any health insurance, and I just had to pay slightly more than I would have paid in Australia anyway! I can't speak to hospital stays or emergencies though!

  2. Glad to hear your stories - this gives us a chance to keep up with everything you are doing. We miss you - Jo

    1. Thanks Jo! I thought it would be a good way to share my adventures. Miss you too!