Aussies renting their rooms out while they travel is blowing tourists’ minds

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The world may laugh at us for our rent prices, flip-flops and paying $12 for sourdough bread, but when it comes to a cultural quirk, Australians have the last laugh.

That special thing? The ability to rent out your room or apartment when you travel. And before you roll your eyes and say, “You can do that in London too,” wait a minute. I don’t mean while you’re traveling for six months.

I mean, if you want to take a week’s vacation to sip Bintangs in Bali (or have three weeks off to live life to the fullest in Europe).

While most people in most countries wouldn’t consider the constant harassment on Facebook Marketplace worth the $410 a week (or wouldn’t find such demand), in Australia it’s common to see people subletting their room on social media “while I travel”.

A typical example? With Euro summer just around the corner, a five-minute visit to the Facebook group “Bondi Local Loop” by Escape dug up dozens of short-term rental ads, all from the last 24 hours.

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Although we have seen posts like this one being mocked in recent years (a French expat said last year Escape he was shocked at the outrageous prices being charged by subtenants who were basically camping in someone’s room for a few weeks) but this year we seem to have reached a point where we accept it. Given the current state of the rental market, it’s now considered fair enough: you’ve secured a room in one of the most expensive places in the world; now it’s time to reap a little reward.

Spanish expat living in Australia @martaregistradaa, whose brilliant TikTok and Instagram videos often highlight the cultural differences between Australia and Spain, pointed this out in a recent video titled “Things I do in Australia that I never do in Spain.”

“In Spain… rent is something that stays with you for your whole life. In Australia it’s not. In Australia you go away for a week and leave a note: ‘I’m renting out my room.’ You leave your things behind and give someone else your room.”

“You sit in Bali and drink your beer, relaxed in the knowledge that someone else is paying your rent. It’s completely normal here.”

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This is not the only cultural quirk the content writer has noticed. In addition to subletting the room while on vacation, she also says she would never greet strangers, thank the bus driver, look for free furniture on the street or kill insects until she comes to Australia.

The same goes for buying a car with more than 300,000 kilometers on the clock, using Facebook, making plans with friends that don’t involve eating or drinking (“If I go for a walk with someone in Spain, I go to a bar”) and using public toilets.

It’s not just about money

Also, remember that renting out your room while you travel isn’t just about the money. It’s also about making sure you have a place to return to when you return, rather than having to re-enter a highly competitive market. That’s another reason why people rent out their accommodations when they go away for a few months: they don’t want to lose their space in a home they’re comfortable in.

Are Australians lucky to be able to do this?

Yes: in the sense that it’s great to sit in Bali and enjoy your holiday, knowing that someone else is paying the rent. No: in the sense that the rent we pay is unusually high.

Is it a reflection of our travel culture?

Yes, Australians renting out their rooms when they travel is an expression of our travel culture. It’s something we’re lucky to be able to afford. As numerous expats have pointed out on TikTok, for many non-Australians, the amount you can earn here on minimum wage is shockingly high, allowing Australians with no commitments to travel at one of the highest rates in the world. As one French expat asked last year after earning $15,000 in three months, “How can you be poor in Australia?”

“I work on a farm and use my cherry picker to cut down trees, but I make more money than I did with my master’s degree in France. It’s crazy.”

There are also a number of Reddit threads that ask the question: “How can Australians afford so many holidays?”

Do we value being able to travel enough?

Do we need to check our privileges? Probably. But most of us are too busy checking our luggage to care. While modern philosophers like Agnes Collards suggest that travel is “transport through and through” and a vain exercise in ticking boxes that makes neither you nor the world a better place, others point out that it promotes understanding between cultures and makes you more humble. Whether or not that’s really just a humblebrag is up to you…

This article originally appeared on Escape and has been republished with permission

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