Three months in – Six things I love about Sydney (and four that could be better)

When we were moving here, it seems that everyone we met knew someone who lived in Sydney, and loved it. But, despite all the positive feelings, no one was really able to put a finger on what was so amazing about the city. We’ve only been here three months, and we haven’t really ranged that far from the downtown core, but I think we can safely start a top N list of awesome things about our new home.

Awesomeness

  1. The coffee is oustanding! Any random coffee shop is top of the list of best coffee I’ve ever had, only trailing behind a little cafe I once visited in Venice, and a handful of boutique coffee shops in the lower mainland.
  2. The weather is usually sunny. It’s safe to say that for every day of rain in Vancouver, we had a day of sunshiney beach weather in Sydney. Huzzah for sunshine and warm weather!
  3. People default to happy. In Paris, people defaulted to depressed and/or cynical. In Vancouver, people defaulted to unfriendly and grumpy (Don’t complain! You know it’s true!). In Sydney, people default to happy. If you meet someone new, you can bet they have a smile on their face. It’s really easy to underestimate the effect that global happiness has on your day-to-day.
  4. International Food Culture. It’s got the same pan-pacific melting pot menu that you’d find in Vancouver, but with better thai, and worse indian. Also, easy access to tropical fruit doesn’t hurt.
  5. The water/beach is everywhere. The city of sydney is built around a bunch of tiny peninsulas. The downside is it makes it difficult to travel to other places by land; but the upside is that you are almost always close to water, and usually near a beach.
  6. The Uniqueness. In terms of what’s trendy/fashionable/etc most places I’ve lived seem fairly similar. Even after moving across the world from Vancouver to France, I still recognized much of the clothing, and most of the music. Walking through a mall in Germany, France, England, the US, or Canada gave a pretty similar experience. There were differences, to be sure, but they weren’t as large as I would have thought. The city of Sydney (and perhaps all of Australia) has a style that’s quite unique. Probably because it’s so far removed from the Western Europe / Eastern US fashion-feedback-loop. It’s cool to go shopping and see things that are actually different.

Less than awesome things…

  1. Groceries feel very limited. For over 16 years, I’ve bought a large part of my groceries from farmers markets; prior to that, we used to buy direct from growers. There are farmers markets available in the city of Sydney, but they aren’t common, and focus more boutique processed foods than produce. Nowadays, most of my food is bought at Coles or Woolies (think Safeway), and that’s a bit of a downer.
  2. It’s $$$. No doubt about it, there is a high cost of living in the city. Food, beer, rent, utilities, baby booties, whatever, there’s a higher price in Sydney than anywhere else I’ve lived. Once you get over the sticker shock though, you realize that its still really expensive.
  3. The bugs. Seriously. But, if you complain, Australians will inevitably say either “Oh, it’s not that bad” or “It’s worse in Queensland” (based upon how often I receive this response, I’m surprised anyone still lives in Queensland). But as much as they brush it off, it would be unacceptable in any other first world nation to watch a slug walk up the wall at a restaurant, or a cockroach search for food in a pub, or to have 20 giant (6 cm wide) spiders guard the entrance to an apartment complex. This is par for the course here, and just something that is taken as normal. 
  4. Transit is horrible. All transit in Sydney is built around a small number of central points – all of which are walking distance from each other. Consequently, transit congestion is high, and effectiveness low, because to get from point A to B you always have to travel through the same station as everyone else in the city, no matter where they are going. 

A few other things I miss about France

And then there’s a few things that I can’t fit into a complaint about the city/country, but I still miss about France.

  • I miss the social programs. They aren’t bad here, but they were better in France.
  • I miss being able to negotiate. Yeah, it was a hassle that you couldn’t get a straight answer, but when you really needed an exception, one could always be made.
  • I miss that shopkeepers really went out of their way to help you… if they liked you. If you needed something, people would work for you to make it happen.
  • I miss being able to go to the opera for 8$ (or, generally, cheap and abundant culture).
  • I miss being able to drink wine in the park.
Overall, this move has gone a lot smoother than any other move that we’ve done. There are some things that I miss, and some things that are difficult to adjust to, but I think that all-in-all it’s been a nice transition for us. Australia and Sydney are great places to be. The people are warm, and the weather is hot. It’s a big change from Paris, and overall things are good. 
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One thought on “Three months in – Six things I love about Sydney (and four that could be better)

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