First impressions of Sydney

View of the City

Apologies for the picture quality, and for the pause, everyone, but moving is chaotic (as all of you probably know), and we have yet to buy rechargeable camera batteries. We’ve been in Sydney for a little over two days, and so far, life hasn’t been too bad. But moving countries is nothing like going on a holiday, even if you do have a nice view from the balcony of the place you plan to call home for maybe a week or two. I figured I’d record a few random thoughts about my new surroundings, more for my own amusement than anything else.

  • Clothing-wise, the shiny : non-shiny ratio is much higher here than in the states. Also, hot pants seem to be in? Either that or people just wear them because they can. Excessive temperatures seem to lead to bravery in terms of the amount of skin people are willing to show, but anyone who has been to LA knows that already.
  • You can buy sunscreen in bulk. Correction: I will be buying sunscreen in bulk.
  • Who gives a guy a lap dance in the front window of a fast food place? I mean, seriously – at least find somewhere a little further from the checkout counter if you have the sudden urge to simulate sex in public.
  • Government bureaucracies are a pain in the ass everywhere, particularly if you don’t easily fit into the boxes said bureaucracy must check in order to help you do whatever it is you need to do.
  • Being on a temporary visa means you have two governments to deal with, both of whom will take full advantage of the fact that it’s rather difficult for you to complain when they make you jump through hoops and still tell you it’s impossible to actually give you what you need.
  • Being a citizen doesn’t guarantee that things are any better, at least at first. On that note, how is a 6 month lease and a utility bill more of a guarantee that you’ll stay in your country than the fact that you can no longer legally work anywhere else in the world?
  • Finding peanut butter without Emulsifier #417 (whatever that is) is virtually impossible. We finally discovered that health food stores are the place to look, though you shouldn’t expect that it’ll taste the same as the stuff back in the States. Maybe they grow a different variety of peanut here?
  • Live on a train line in Sydney, and for the sake of your own sanity, pick one that gets frequent train service. I cannot tell you how long I have waited for trains collectively here, mostly because the suburb I’m staying in is at the end of the line. And that’s only in the last two days!
  • I want to live close to the city, but not in it. This may partially be due to the fact that I haven’t yet internalized walking on the left side of the street, and constantly feel like I’m playing chicken with oncoming pedestrian traffic.
  • Malls often involve a wide variety of food stores, including a grocery store that competes with butchers, fruit stores, and bakeries positions just outside of its entrance. Usually, the grocery store stuff is nowhere near as pretty as the stuff in the specialty shops, so prepare to browse.
  • EVERYTHING is expensive here. For some things, the prices are a factor of 3 or 4 times what I’m used to paying. And everyone seems to pay cash or uses debit cards. It’s going to take a little while and some planning before we figure out how to live cheaply here, and discover all the best places to buy whatever food we normally buy.
  • American != Australian.
  • Newspaper-wise, The Australian is like Fox News in print. The Sydney Morning Herald is more my style – it seems like they actually take themselves (and the ethics of journalism) seriously, though that last point will take a little more research.
  • Sports make the front page. Top fold.
  • I cannot wait to have our own apartment. These corporate apartments are nice, but they aren’t home. Of course, I may revisit this when we sign a lease and find ourselves sleeping on camping mats on the floor until we find a bed we can actually afford.
  • Cricket IS sort of like baseball. Though they run back and forth instead of around in circles, bat underhand, and can take anywhere from 4 hours to something like 15 days to finish a game, depending on which game you’re watching. Maybe I’m oversimplifying?
  • People are genuinely nice here. I’m going to have to get used to people actually being friendly, because all this greeting and looking people in the eye for no other reason than to smile and be neighborly is shocking to someone who has been living in the North East for a decade.
  • Nothing is particularly modern or efficient here. It’s like a 1950’s movie version of the US, except with accents and costumes designed by Britney Spears (ok, maybe only in Cronulla).
  • As James said, Australians don’t seem to require the same attention to detail as Americans require. Mostly because we are trained from birth to pull out legalese to get our way, I suppose.
  • I find myself suddenly caring about how my toenails look.  And when did I get so pale? Not that I could ever be considered “tan”… Maybe lobster-like.
  • The artisan bread movement has not yet made serious in-roads in Australia. I can tell we’re going to be doing a lot of baking once we get settled.
  • Customs and immigration were a lot nicer than I expected them to be. I think they’re more suspicious if you’re coming in for a quick visit than if you’re moving to Australia for a while.
  • Why, oh why, do referee reports always come in just after they would have been convenient?

That’s all I have for now. I promise pictures and more once I get a little more settled.


Filed under Australia, challenges, stories

6 responses to “First impressions of Sydney

  1. pshazz

    hey, take that back!! we do NOT wear hot pants here! probably some do, but it is far from majority. we are much too fashionable for that! (says probably one of the least fashionable people living in la)

  2. liz

    hehehe… I was talking about skimpy clothing in LA, not hot pants in particular. And it’s probably a minority here, too, but I’ve seen two examples in two days, which I hope is an anomaly?

  3. Having moved here from the states almost 7 years ago, here are a few tips:
    1. saving money on groceries – use Aldi for things like laundry soap, cereal, potato chips (their store “gourmet” brand is decent). Use the big markets (Coles/Woolies) for other staples, buy everything else from fresh fruit market/butchers. Learn to buy in season. Some things are called by different names here, (eg: rocket – arugula). Other things (like cheap turkey) you’ll never find!
    2. Don’t expect to find things you are used to buying in the US here, that way you won’t be disappointed. Cuts of meat are different, etc.
    3. USA Foods for that desperate time when you absolutely have to have fritos.
    You didn’t say which suburb you are in, most (not all) will have local groceries/butchers etc which you will find to be absolute gems. Don’t be afraid of ethnic shops.
    Most of all, enjoy yourself!

  4. liz

    Thanks, Esmerelda — I think it’ll get easier once we pick a place to live. That’ll give us a chance to explore a particular neighborhood. Right now we’re staying in Cronulla, but don’t plan on looking for an apartment here.

    So are you glad you moved here?

  5. Arielle

    Yay for the update! I hope things get smoother for you guys soon. How do your impressions differ from James’?

    Perhaps the lack of artisan bread there is a good opening for you guys. Open a shop!

    Good luck starting work! (Or !!! in local parlance, I gather?)

    Btw, I made your wattleseed-laden Neiman Marcus cookies last week. The people in my office are convinced they’re laced with crack. (In a good way.)

  6. liz

    Mmm, wattleseed Neiman Marcus cookies… 🙂 Hope the spices are a good addition to your kitchen.

    Work starts tomorrow (!!!) — today’s a holiday. So I have one more day to stroll along the beach and hope it all goes ok. I feel like I should have started with a disclaimer on this post — we’re encountering all the stressful stuff right now, and I know things will get smoother once we get settled and have an address of our own. James is also going through some re-entry shock; things are more different than you think when you try to arrange phones, etc, and figure out public transport (which is the most complicated, inflexible system I have ever come across, by the way). But we’ll learn how to navigate everything over time, and it will be fine. You may be right, though — we might have to open up our own bakery. 🙂 Anyway… more via email!

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