Impressions of Sydney

I can’t believe that it’s April already. I’d add that I can’t believe that I haven’t written a blog post since December, but that wouldn’t be honest – it’s dogged me that I haven’t, but this blog has never been about my publicly journaling in some narcissistic frenzy, rather, its purpose has always been two-fold:1)to keep family and friends up to date with our goings on and;
2)to provide information on topics about which I can provide a personal experience which may be useful to others (like being a corporate expat wife in Japan)
and I just haven’t been able to come up with anything appropriate. Nevertheless, family and friends deserve some sort of update and it is about time I gave some impressions about Sydney (you’ll see why I was waiting and hoping to be able to say something else), so I thought I’d put it all together in a kind of quarterly report.

As to purpose 1)
Life has been pretty much the same here since the moving in finished. Superman is working his *** off, late home more often than not and only just recovered by Monday morning, after plenty of blog reading & and computer games over the weekends. I am hoping that at the end of it all he will at least be proud of what is produced – that’s the point of having one of those ‘career’ things, right?

I spend my time writing, reading for research, reading about how others write, talking about that on #Storycraft and reading fiction in between. In the evenings we keep up with the TV series the screenwriting bloggers we read recommend and occasionally having dinner with our next door neighbours (who remain the only people we’ve met socially.)

As to purpose 2)
I was really hoping that we’d ‘do Sydney’ properly this time (being practiced expats, now) but we have had the same, isolated, slightly depressed time, again, so I really don’t have any advice to give on how to enjoy living here. Obviously, we haven’t had any of the support and resources we’d have had if we were from another country and perhaps that would have made a difference. Also, Michael will point out that I rarely leave the house and that’s basically true, but that in itself is because, without children or an interest in sports, there is no reason for me to do so. Any show or exhibition that is on is on in the CBD and it has to be really special to be worth the trouble of getting into the CBD. If I do find out about something it’s usually too late to book because everything gets sold out months in advance, I assume because it is such a rigmarole to organise being in Sydney for an evening (even the smallest events seem to be sold with hotel packages because people from the suburbs will make a night of it, as though they have travelled interstate!)

I suppose, then, it’s not true that I have no advice and here it is: you will probably have a better time of it if your work location (and income) allows you to live in the ‘east’ of Sydney, as close to the CBD, preferably north of it, as possible. Sydneysiders make a huge distinction between what they call ‘the West’ and ‘the East’, and it is those in the ‘East’ who are considered the ‘real’ Sydneysiders – you won’t be, until you’ve been here for a generation or two, but if you at least have the money to live there, they might pretend. I put marks around the ‘East’ because it’s not the whole of eastern Sydney but comprises only the tiny sliver along the coastline East of the CBD (marked A on the map below), where only the richest* people can live decently. (Superman’s work is located right at the bottom of the map, so living just above the lower river on the map was the furthest north that traffic allows.)

Sydney Map

As much as their harbour and the Opera House allows them to continue to be seen as the face of tourism Australia, Sydney is just not set up for people who aren’t from here and/or can’t afford to stay or live in or close to the CBD:

  • Events/shows are only in the CBD and you have to book months in advance, spontaneity is impossible. Outside of the CBD your entertainment is “shopping” at the large, plastic shopping centres, some of which have decent movie theatres;
  • Public transport is appalling, buses don’t stop unless you jump out in front of them and train lines often don’t run on weekends “for track work”; after one nightmare 4hr attempt to get home, one weekend,I was giggled at by the neighbour kids for not checking online to see if my train line was running before I set out (the standards we live with when we’ve had no better!);
  • Traffic is insane and road signs seem to have been placed by people who have seen them on TV but have no idea of their purpose, in some places, little cement bollards prevent you from changing lane before the signs telling you which lane you need to be in are visible and;
  • The general xenophobia of its citizens is apparent everywhere, whether it’s the unwillingness to give directions (“Are you stupid?” was one charming response I got from a bus driver when I asked if he could let me know when we got to the stop for the subway entrance) to the popular talkback radio which is hateful – literally. One radio host was found guilty of vilifying the Lebanese community as he proudly promoted a race riot in 2005 and he’s not only still on the air but one of the most popular radio hosts and social commentators in the city. I suggest you particularly avoid Australia Day when t-shirts with “Australia, if you don’t love it – leave!” are popular.

Exchange ‘Australia’ for ‘Sydney’ on that t-shirt and I’ll be gladly taking its advice in September (or possibly a little earlier.) If Bangkok is anything like as friendly as Nagoya (and I’m told it’s more so) then we should settle in and be happy almost as quickly (about 6 weeks, the time it took for the furniture to arrive.)  Until the moving process begins and provides me with useful expat wife fodder, posts will likely be few and far between – just assume we’re working and writing (and I’ll be on #Storycraft every week.)


*And when I say rich, I mean it – we are living 30mins, by train, to the south west of the city, in a duplex, on a subdivision behind an original house (we are not visible from the road) and have a 4 metre deep sliver of land behind us and this house would cost us about $700k to buy. Now, it is a lovely design from the inside, 3 bedrooms up and lots of space down, but that price, considering how far it is from the anything but shopping centres, is utterly unwarranted.

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