Despite Australia's reputation for having the world's most venomous critters, it's actually a very safe place to live — it consistently ranks amongst the safest countries in the world, thanks to low crime rates and terrorism risk, as well as strict road safety and gun laws.
For US visitors, Australia's sense of safety is often more apparent — as evidenced in a recent Reddit conversation by American user u/Tacos-and-Wine, who wrote: "My husband and I just visited Australia for the first time in our lives. There’s so much I want to say about it all, but overall, damn I love your country and your people. There is such a theme of environmentalism and conscientiousness. I felt so safe. When we were there, we couldn't believe that a convenience store holdup with a kitchen knife made the national news. I envy that."
In the comments, other Americans came forward with their experiences of visiting Australia — and the sense of safety they got to enjoy. While in some further Reddit threads I stumbled upon, both Aussies and Americans discussed what makes a country truly "free", as well as the unfair stereotypes of each nation's "dangerous" wildlife.
Here are some of the most insightful responses:
1. "I'm American and when I was in Australia, locals would do things I haven’t imagined doing for decades. Women would leave drinks unattended, people would leave money, phones and wallets on the bar unattended — people just seemed to understand that you don’t fuck with someone else’s shit and you look out for each other. It was pretty fucking great."
2. "As an Australian, going to LA and New York made me realise how I’ve taken feeling safe for granted my whole life."
3. "I've been everywhere and I prefer to live in Australia than the USA. More holiday time, better healthcare system, much more dog-friendly culture and much less of a chance of random gun violence."
4. "America is an amazing place, with a huge variety of topography and climates that results in spectacular scenery and wildlife. But the pure capitalist greed and ignorant exceptionalism of the society they've created guarantees it's the last place I'd want to actually live. That and the gun obsession. I'll trade half of Australia being an uninhabitable desert for the peace of mind that my kids can go to school for an education, not to be victims of another mass shooting."
5. "I'm an Australian who was living in New York for a few months when the Sandy Hook massacre happened. It absolutely paralysed me. I found myself second guessing every person I walked past on the street, terrified that they might have a gun on them. I had about four weeks left of my trip and I basically avoided going out after that point. I couldn't wait to get back home to Australia."
6. "Americans are too scared to live in Australia because of spiders — yet they regularly have kids shooting up kids in schools."
7. "I've lived in Sydney and Los Angeles, encountered wildlife in both areas. The scariest encounter in Sydney was getting unexpectedly swooped by a magpie. In LA, I've — on two separate occasions — walked home alone late at night only to find myself face to face with a pack of coyotes, and would've encountered a hungry bear while walking my dog if a bloke at the entrance of the street I was about to walk down didn't warn me."
8. "I am an American that moved to Australia looking for a better life. When President Bush Jr won his second term and after we had a school shooting in Las Vegas, we moved to Australia. That was 15 years ago. Since then, my kids have grown up in Australia. We have received excellent medical care. Our health has improved. Our lifestyle has improved and we would never move back to America."
9. "I moved to Australia from the US in 2015. Let me tell you how much safer it is here for me. I'm not afraid of a lot. I grew up in the piney woods of deep East Texas. But I've been charged down by bears, wild hogs, cougars, bulls and heifers protecting their calves. I've had water moccasins steal my fish. I've nearly stepped on resting alligators and been shot at by civilians and police alike. Not hearing gunshots, not getting chased by animals that actively want to kill you, or having to deal with overt racism has brought me so much actual peace. I love Australia. Thanks for having me."
10. "The fact that everyday American people fear the police as much as they do — tells you everything you need to know about the state of 'freedom' in the USA."
11. "I’ve genuinely come across many Americans who claim to want to come to Australia, but are too afraid of the deadly animals. I’ve told them you’re far more likely to be killed by a stray gunman in the US than by all the animals combined in Australia."
12. "When I was in the States, someone I was with scoffed at how ridiculous it was that Australians couldn't walk around armed, since it leaves us vulnerable to attack. All I was thinking was what kind of shit hole country do you live in that you feel you have to be prepared to kill anyone on the street at a moment's notice?"
13. "Americans be like 'I'm never travelling to Australia, not just because I can't find it on a map, but because everything there wants to kill you. Anyway little Johnny, get your school bag that converts into a bulletproof vest, don't forget you need to be at school early today to run through school shooter drills'."
14. "I saw a video a few weeks ago of a bear in the States literally kicking someone's front door down and walking into their house. Kicked the door clean out of the frame. I don't ever want to hear anyone telling me we have terrifying wildlife in Australia again. There is NOTHING here that would do that."
15. "I think there's a fundamental disconnect between how Americans and Australians think about freedom. Americans want the freedom to own a gun, but I — as an Aussie — want the freedom to live in a safe country. Americans want the freedom to not pay for someone else's medical expenses, I want the freedom to have taxpayer-paid medical treatment. Americans want the freedom to pay and treat their workers poorly, I want the freedom to have my rights protected as a worker. So in summary, I do feel very free, much more so than I would in America, but we probably look at it in a different way."
16. "I moved from Melbourne to LA for three years and the amount of violence I witnessed during road rage incidents made me petrified to drive my car. In Australia, I'm used to aggressive/asshole drivers, but I never feared a genuine road rage incident. In the States, I'd see people pull guns on each other, get into brawls in the middle of traffic and absolutely unleash on one another. I've never felt more unsafe than on American roads."
17. "I am currently living in the US and will be here for a few years due to work. I have children, but I don't feel safe here. I like the country and all the nature, I love trying out a different kind of life and meeting new people. But I want to go home because I'm afraid. Afraid of your guns. I cannot send my children to preschool without being afraid. How do you all live like this? I never expected this feeling, coming to this so called 'free country' and land of opportunities. It's kind of a shock."
18. "Increasingly, to Australians, the USA looks like a society of barbarians who tolerate children being gunned down, young people having to pass through metal detectors to get into school each day and whose citizens can't even shop or go to church peacefully. Every week we read about your nation butchering its own people. To us, that isn't freedom."
"This is what freedom is: NO MASS SHOOTINGS in the decades since gun control laws were first passed in Australia (after the Port Arthur massacre). Our shopping centres are safe. Our streets are safe. Our schools are safe — it is literally inconceivable that any school would have to do a gun safety drill here. Our beaches are safe (and beautiful). Our places of worship are safe. I think it's the USA that's enslaved, sadly."
19. "America focuses more on the freedom of individuals to basically do or say whatever they want. Australia 'restricts' certain individual freedoms to a small extent to ensure much greater and safer outcomes (or freedom, if you like) for the community as a whole."
20. "I have American friends tell me; 'Oh, I could never live in Australia — it's too hot and there are so many bushfires!' But so many states in the US are routinely ravaged by wildfires — California and Oregon particularly! But they just refuse to see that as a big problem."
21. "A family friend of ours went to live in America for a couple of years and took their kids with them — they ended up getting their kids homeschooled over there because it was so unsafe."
22. "Putting a few restrictions on gun ownership in Australia means most of us have the option of having a gun if we wanted, but all of us are pretty safe from gun violence. It’s just not a major concern in our minds at all."
23. And finally: "Guns are used as tools on farms here in Australia, just like a shovel or a wheelbarrow. They're not an extension of a person's ego."
Now, I want to hear from you — if you're living in Australia or the USA, how safe do you feel? And if you've visited or lived abroad, did you notice a big difference from your home? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Reddit responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.