I’ve been in Sydney for nearly 5 months now so I feel as though I’ve experienced quite a lot that this beautiful part of the world has to offer. After reflecting on my time here, it got me thinking, what major differences are there from home and what have I learned about Australia? Although my experience is limited as I’ve spent a majority of my time in Sydney, here at 12 things I’ve learned whilst in Australia – so far!
1) The Weather
No, its not always hot here which was a shock to my traveller wardrobe. It gets genuinely cold in winter in Sydney and feels colder because of the lack of central heating in houses. It took me a good few weeks before I finally gave in a bought a coat, scarf, hat (slightly melodramatic but I feel the cold more after getting used to the heat of Asia and the end of spring in Sydney) and a little heater for our room. So between the months of June-September, expect the cold. The storms are very real here, rain absolutely chucks it down, there’s no such thing as just ‘spitting’. Be prepared for all eventualities if you’re hitting up Sydney in Autumn and Winter, one day you can get away with wearing a tee, the next you may need your puffer and umbrella.
2) The things you actually miss from home
Before I get onto the random ‘things’ I miss from home, missing your family or friends is the biggest. I suppose it is very dependent how close you are to your family or it may be a case that you feel this way for your friends or whoever you’ve left behind. For me personally I knew I would miss my family a lot, surely that’s a given isn’t it. It’s the weirdest feeling literally being on the other side of the world from everyone you care about the most – apart from George and my best friend Soph who I luckily have by my side and I couldn’t imagine being here without them. It’s the biggest downside to travelling or choosing to live somewhere so far away but it goes without saying that Facetime and messaging makes it easier and I’m still in touch with my family pretty much every day – Technology really does make the distance seem a lot smaller.
Its very odd the things you miss from home the most, apart from your friends and family ofcourse. For me it was the smallest everyday things like the radio, shopping in supermarkets and even the noises the birds make (yup that random!). Its funny how you realise the differences country to country – even in english speaking countries. We all grow up listening and watching different programs, subconsciously hearing the same presenters, adverts, shopping – granted lots of these things are the same but the way in which they are displayed to us are totally different. Take one international brand but every country has a different voice over and different ad all together.
As an example, watching the Royal Wedding out here, I was expecting to hear British presenters and tune into the BBC to see familiar faces presenting the big day but it was being shown Australian perspective so caught me off guard and I was weirdly thrown off by that – something so small! Genuinely the smallest and weirdest things end up being the things I have missed, like simply listening to my usual radio station on the way to work or popping into the supermarket. Yes, I know there are supermarkets here but this will be discussed in my next point. The supermarket choice is a BIG one for me, there’s no such thing as a Dine in for 2 at M&S, Tesco Specialty meals or a meal deal, which I did’nt often buy but the option was always nice incase I was low on time… which brings me to my next point.
Could I really write this and not mention food!? So on the note of missing Supermarkets from back home, you have 3 main supermarkets here in Australia – Coles, Woolworths (Woolies) and the newest addition Aldi (thanking my lucky traveller stars!). Compare this to the UK where we have Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose, M&S… and they’re just the main ones! So we have a good mix of ‘budget’ up to the quality ‘expensive’ supermarket… you can see the comparison here and that’s even with me living in one of the biggest cities in Australia.
I honestly had no idea how spoilt for choice we are at home. I’ve really struggled in Sydney with the lack of choice when it comes to the food shopping, even preparing a simple BBQ or grabbing some nice side dishes, back home I could find almost everything I needed and more from almost any supermarket. However finding something here like a flavoured burger or sausage, ‘specialty’ coleslaw, cous cous, nice deli bread and nibbles (like beloved salmon parcels) are so hard to find, if not impossible unless you suss out a nice Deli. I’m still on the hunt for a salmon parcel… and you have to go to a bakery if you want a nice birthday cake or dessert – we once had to scour 3 supermarkets before finding a measly selection of a chocolate pudding, roulade or apple pie in a big supermarket- where are the profiteroles at!?
Goodbye Meal Deals
‘Meal Deals’ just aren’t a thing here like ready made sandwiches/salads, making lunch also a tad annoying as you can’t get anything below $10 – apart from Sushi which is amazing and super accessible here. Perhaps I need to spend more time here to see if I can find alternatives to my food loves back home but its kind of hilarious that the times I feel most ‘home sick’ are when I’m doing the food shopping.
And ofcourse as many of us know, it is so expensive here so food shopping even in Aldi is generally just more expensive for every item you can imagine so going to a nice Deli on the regs just isn’t an option unless I wanted to sell an organ.
Goodbye Indians and Chinese Takeaways
Like a true Brit, I love a good takeaway. The fateful words on a weekend ‘shall we have Chinese or Indian?’ – its the hangover dream. But dream no more, say goodbye to Peshwari Naans, Chicken Tikka Masalla, Crispy Chilli beef and Sweet and Sour Balls. Still on the search for a take away that’s a patch on any back home.
They don’t sell Alcohol in Supermarkets…
Yah I’ll let you get your head around that one. Again for that small BBQ you basically need a whole days shopping trip around 5 different shops.
Hello Eating out
Despite all of my above negativity, eating out in cafes and restaurants you’re spoiled for choice and you can find good deals too. We personally probably eat out around 2-3 times a week and love treating ourselves for brunches or a sneaky deliveroo. In the week loads of pubs do happy hour deals which are super reasonable and good quality – you can get a steak and chips for $12 dollars (around 7 quid) so ya’know not too shabby.
On another positive note, the quality of food here in Aus is amazing as standard. There’s a great cafe culture here with an array of cool coffee shops and cafes so in that aspect its great and we love that part – eating out is a big part of our lives so I’ve been coping with the the trade off of supermarkets for nice cafes.
4) Digital is behind here
This is purely work related for me working within Ecommerce and my personal experience/what I’ve been told. Australia may be 12 hours in front, however they are very much behind when we’re talking digital and Ecommerce – which is a plus for me as I haven’t had any issues getting good work experience here in contract roles. In one of my first recruitment meetings I was told that Ecommerce is generally around 5 years behind that of the UK in terms of technology and software used. However it is very much picking up in areas like Sydney and now is a good time to be around. So if you have UK digital/ecom experience and fancy working elsewhere for a bit, you probably have a good chance here in Sydney.
5) The Visa Stress is very real
Its so much more stressful than I ever thought – not necessarily when you’re actually travelling around but when you stop and need to figure out short term what you want to do. We landed in Sydney thinking we’d only stick around for 6 weeks then find farm work then travel. WRONG. We came back from USA and couldn’t find farm work but luckily both of our old contract jobs wanted us back so 2 weeks turned into 4 weeks, 4 weeks turned into 2 months. Although we were only 3 months into our visa at the time, we were already stressing about when we need to do our regional work to get our 2nd year visa and do we want sponsorship to stay for longer? The only thought that scares us, is the thought of our visa running out and being forced to go home pre-maturely when we want to stay so although to some it may seem silly to be stressing about it so soon, its actually kinda warranted so we don’t find ourselves in that situation.
Don’t even get me started on the minefield of visas but all I know is that sponsorship changed in March this year meaning I would find it a lot more difficult to be sponsored for my position. Its pretty funny that everytime you see your friends all you talk about is Visa’s and what everyones ‘plan’ is and how it can change week to week. The amount of times George and I have put off the dreaded farm work is stacking up – I think everyone has lost count…
6) Australia really is a beautiful place to live
I’ve been doing the general 9-5 grind for most of my time in Sydney and especially now its winter its easy I forget where I am and take for granted that you are on the other side of the world. Every weekend, even when the weather is a bit chilly, I step outside our front door, walk a few steps and I’m literally on the beach – can it get any better than that? Despite a few home comforts which I’m sure most travellers/expats miss, Sydney really is an amazing place to live and I don’t think I’ve been anywhere like it before.
On one hand you have this bustling city life, full of career opportunities, the beautiful harbour and skyline that dreams are made of – I still always think of that scene in Finding Nemo whenever I see the Opera House, it never gets old! Then on the other hand, take a short 20 minute journey in almost any direction and you’ll find the most beautiful beaches, coastal walks and laid back beach culture the world has to offer. How many cities can offer that!? I’m still yet to experience Sydney in Summer which is at its best and I cannot wait to spend endless weekends on the beach living the Aussie dream.
And just a few more…
7) The language barrier is real
Aussies shorten EVERYTHING, but yet am I to hear ‘throw a shrimp on the barbie’ disappointingly.
8) Sharks and spiders are scary
An obvious one but we’ve seen a few spiders that you wouldn’t want snuggling next to you and recently a swimmer got bitten by a Great White at our local beach.
9) Suburb names sound made up
Wooloomooloo and Wollongong are actually real place names.
10) People actually get to commute to work on a ferry
Overlooking the opera house and bridge on a daily basis – It really is the commuter dream.
11) It feels like one of the safest places on earth
Walking around the city I’ve never felt safer or heard of anyone getting mugged here.
12) I now understand the Aussie hype around Chicken Salt.
I’m sure I’ll find out a lot more about Australia when I start to travel around a bit more and despite the lows, the highs do outweigh them – why else would we still be here?