Australia vs. New Zealand: What are the differences?

Australia vs. New Zealand: What are the differences?

by Laura Jones

Updated May 27, 2022

Are there any major differences between Australia and New Zealand? They’re both English-speaking countries tucked way down at the bottom of the earth, where friendly people play rugby and wander around saying ‘G’day mate’ in Australia or ‘Kia ora’ in New Zealand. The flags are almost identical, and they eat similar foods. But they are decidedly not the same, and there’s a brotherly rivalry between the two countries. So let’s learn more about the differences between Australia and New Zealand. 

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The flags

Is there a difference between the Australian and New Zealand flags? Yes, but honestly, most outsiders don’t know which is which as the flags are incredibly similar. Both have the Union Jack in the top left corner and a dark blue background with stars in the shape of the Southern Cross. The difference? The Australian flag has six white stars while the New Zealand flag has just four red stars with white outlines.

The accents

Want some fush and chups? Yis? You must be in New Zealand. A lot of Brits and Americans can’t tell the difference between a New Zealand vs. an Australian accent, but one distinctive feature is New Zealanders’ vowel pronunciations. With a New Zealand accent, ‘I’ becomes more like a ‘u’ sound, so fish becomes fush, and ‘e’ becomes more like an ‘i’ sound, so yes becomes yis

The slang

If you’re heading to either country, you might want to brush up on their unique slang. Aussies love to shorten words, so an afternoon barbecue becomes an arvo barbie. And what do you wear to this barbie? In Australia, you might put on your thongs, while in New Zealand you’d arrive in your jandals (flip flops – both countries are pretty casual on dress codes). And while Australians would keep their snags (sausages) cool in an esky (portable cooler), New Zealanders would rock up with their chilly bin. The Māori language is also quite widespread in New Zealand and definitely worth learning at least a few words of.

The food

Speaking of snags, what’s the food like in Australia and New Zealand? Food is actually one of the similarities between Australia and New Zealand. The aforementioned fish and chips are common, and meat pies are a firm favorite. The two countries have some good-natured fighting over the origins of certain foods. Both claim to have invented the pavlova, lamingtons and the popular style of coffee, the flat white. We’re not going to weigh in on this argument, but you can get all of these delicious foods and drinks in both countries. 

The landscape

New Zealand has higher mountains. Australia has a whole lot of red dirt. So New Zealand wins on this front. Just kidding! Both countries have incredibly diverse landscapes and are stunning places to spend time outdoors. New Zealand is more about mountains, lush rolling hills, forests, lakes and waterfalls, while over in Australia you have bushland, tropical rainforest, ancient stone escarpments and red desert. Both countries have gorgeous coastlines with remote beaches and are wonderful places to work and travel

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The weather

If you like hot, sunny weather, Australia should be your pick. If you want to be in a place with four defined seasons, New Zealand is a better bet. The climate in New Zealand is generally cooler and wetter than in Australia, but there’s a lot of regional variation; Auckland in the north is much warmer than Queenstown in the south. Australia is huge, so though it does tend to be drier and hotter, there’s a lot of variety. Darwin, in the Northern Territory, has a steamy wet season and a hot, sunny dry season. Meanwhile, down in Tasmania, the weather is much more similar to New Zealand.

The wildlife

Australia’s wildlife is a killer. Literally. There are a lot of very dangerous animals in Australia, including the redback spider, the taipan snake (the world’s most venomous!) and the saltwater crocodile. Over in New Zealand, however, there are no venomous snakes or poisonous spiders. Point to New Zealand. Both countries have a lot of diversity in their wildlife, but Australia’s animals are definitely more recognizable. Kangaroos, wombats and koalas are world-famous; New Zealand’s most famous animal is actually a bird: the kiwi. Point to Australia.


Where should you go? Australia or New Zealand?

Why choose? The two countries are relatively close to each other so you could try to combine your trip. When you arrive, you’ll be able to hear the different slang and accents for yourself, see the distinct wildlife, trek up New Zealand’s mountains and sun yourself on Australia’s golden beaches. The best of both worlds. 

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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