I owe a lot to the great country of Australia. Full disclosure: I'm a little biased, as my amazing husband is an Aussie.
We moved from New York City to Sydney, where we were lucky enough to live and work for almost 4 years. While the culture shock wasn't immediate, I've noticed a lot of big differences over the past few years — especially upon returning to the U.S.
Australians are friendly, outgoing and vibrant people. By example, they taught me a lot about health and living well, and becoming a local was a major catalyst for my own wellness journey.
Here's what I learned about living a healthier life from Australians.
1. They value their vacation time.
One of the biggest differences I noticed, is not only the amount of paid vacation given (about 4 to 6 weeks a year), but how much employees are encouraged to actually take that time — and do.
Most of my co-workers in Australia would take off more than a week at a time and take multiple breaks throughout the year. Everyone came back feeling refreshed and restored, making them able to maintain a strong work ethic.
Students often take a gap year in between high school and university to travel and get a break from academia.
2. They start their days early.
A lot of Australians I know wake up with the sun, often exercising in the early morning and getting into the office before 8:30. I ended up loving this lifestyle and embraced my inner morning person.
There's nothing better than starting the day with something that makes you feel great.
3. Exercise is a priority.
Living at Bondi Beach was eye-opening in the fact that so many locals were incredibly fit and active. 6a.m. on the beach in Sydney is a high traffic time for runners, walkers, swimmers, surfers and boot campers.
4. They get outside regularly.
The weather in Australia is wonderful. The lack of harsh winters (in comparison to the North Eastern U.S.) make it possible to enjoy the outdoors all year long and get some much-needed vitamin D.
Beautiful beaches, rainforests and bushland encourage people to get outside and soak up the natural beauty.
5. They're sun smart.
While Australian's love a beach holiday and the outdoors (see above), they also face some seriously dangerous UV rays.
As a result, there are widespread campaigns encouraging people to protect themselves from the sun and get regular skin checks. They've also banned tanning salons and all SPFs are 30 and above.
6. Breakfast is a regular habit.
Australians were perfecting the avocado toast before it was cool.
One of the things I miss most about Sydney is the breakfast culture. Cafes and bakeries open early and weekend breakfast outings are a regular event.
We New Yorkers may know how to brunch (complete with bottomless booze), but Australians know how to breakfast the healthy way with lots of fresh fruit, eggs, pumpkin and avocados. They make a mean cappuccino too.
7. They have great produce that's widely available.
You haven't lived until you've had a mango from Queensland.
The climate lends itself to growing great (and tropical) produce all year long. They have seasons for sure, but the in-season fruit and veg is abundant and beautiful.
8. They're better drinkers.
In Australia, standard-sized pours are mandatory in bars and pubs and alcohol content is clearly labeled on all drinks. This way, people know exactly how much they're consuming and not just guessing.
It's also pretty common to take a month off drinking for organized charity events like "Dry July" and "OctSober". Taking this time to detox and examine your habits is beneficial for your body and mind.
9. They have publicly funded universal healthcare.
Australia's had universal healthcare since the 80's. It works and people get the proper care they need. They even have a smartphone app to make your claims as easy as possible.
10. They care about mental health.
They take psychological treatment seriously and encourage people to use government-funded services to get help for depression, anxiety and substance abuse issues.
Campaigns like Beyond Blue make it easy to access information about mental health conditions and treatment.
11. The minimum wage is way higher.
Currently, the national minimum wage in Australia is $17.29. (That's in Australian dollars, and it's still about double what minimum wage workers earn in the US.) The idea of everyone getting "a fair go" makes it possible for most people to make a decent living — even when working for minimum wage.
While not directly related to health, it's an important aspect of a high quality of life.
12. They're happier.
Statistically, Australians are happier than Americans. Practically, there's a lot to be said about their notoriously laid-back, "no worries" attitude.
Australians take most things in their stride and are able to laugh at themselves, which is a wonderfully healthy quality.