I have now lived in Sydney almost 17 months (a year and a half) and have developed some rather strong opinions about Sydney as a city. I suppose living in any (big) city comes with its own share of pros and cons. Today, I’d like to share some of my thoughts simply because I often get asked by close friends and family, “What is it like living in Sydney?” Some have no reaction whilst others then start comparing life in Sydney to life in Auckland. I agree, it is world’s apart and Auckland is a smaller city compared to Sydney and whilst these cities do have certain things in common there are a lot of things that are different.
- One of the biggest things I love about Sydney is how multi-cultural it is. Every second person you see has a story to tell about where they are from. There is a mix of accents that you hear whether you’re in tourist area or not. The people that you come across in your day-to-day life whether it’s when you’re walking to work or walking back home or heading to the station. I can honestly say that in my time here, I’ve met very few Aussies and many more foreigners. It’s not so much that this isn’t true for Auckland, however a lot of the foreigners who are in Auckland have become so well settled that sometimes it seems that their story is embedded in Auckland rather than where they originally come from. It’s true I have met a lot of people in Auckland who prefer saying they are kiwis, despite having a different ethnic background that they belong from. I personally think there’s no shame in owning up to and talking about which country you belong to as that makes you unique.
- Sydney is livelier than Auckland, in more ways than just one. For example, you see people wear clothes that have different colours and patterns. Sounds odd talking about something like this, no? Well it’s true. Auckland (well New Zealand) isn’t exactly a shopping destination and even the choices of clothes are very limited in both patterns and colours. The colours that stand out the most are grey and black and the patterns that stand out the most are stripes. There will be very few variations that you see. Majority of my clothing is bought overseas (hello America!) or online as I don’t get to go out much here and I haven’t acquainted myself to the stores that are available here. But regardless when you do go shopping here in Sydney you’ll find a variety of stores and each mall is different, a variety in clothing and styles.
- The choice of food available at restaurants here. Let’s say for example you go to an Italian restaurant everyday of the week, though I would recommend against it, each restaurant is unique and has its own ‘flavour’. The menus will never be the same, there may possibly be some overlap, which I guess is expected, but the menus will be so different. Where as the same I cannot say the same about Auckland. Yes, there are a select few restaurants in Auckland that are genuinely good, but mostly depending on the cuisine it’s just the name of the restaurant that changes, the food available is the same and additionally there’s very little difference in taste.
- The weather in Sydney is better than Auckland’s. Actually, this is a very ying yang sub-topic. I suppose I’ll talk about the good aspect of the weather here and the bad when I talk about things that I hate. Sydney generally offers warmer weather during summer and winter. The winter months hardly last 2-months and the warm weather is back again. In Auckland we hope and pray for one warm, forget warm, one sunny day. There are very few warm and sunny days that Auckland offers and I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you can experience all four seasons in just one day in Auckland.
- I like that Sydney offers various accommodation types if you’re looking to move here whether it be long or short term. Each suburb has apartments, houses, town houses – you name it, you got it. In Auckland however if you prefer living by yourself you don’t really have a lot of choice. Apartments are only available in the city (fringe) areas, though this is slowly changing. Otherwise you’re mostly confined to a house. This is also tricky in the sense that if you prefer living by yourself you have to be okay with renting a house and usually houses come with a minimum of 2 or more bedrooms.
This is a summary of all things I love about living in Sydney. Below is a list of all that I hate.
- Sydney is expensive. You pay a ton in rent and the price that you pay doesn’t necessarily reflect the type of accommodation you live in. You can most definitely forget about making any substantial savings, unless you have a job that pays you really well and you can keep your expenses to a minimum there’s just no way you can make much savings. There was an article in the news recently, wherein a nurse from New Zealand had relocated to Sydney to work in the medical profession given they’re a nurse, and they’d been here for a good 6 years. In this article the nurse described Sydney as being – expensive, polluted and overcrowded and I do agree with this view. I’ll discuss the expensive aspect here and the other to in their respective sections. Sydney offers a lot more opportunities in the professional industry and hence the starting salary package in Sydney is lower. Where as in Auckland I find that the starting package seems a bit higher than what Sydney has to offer. In regards to your cost of living excluding rent but more so in things like buying groceries and your day-to-day bills, some say that Sydney is cheaper but I disagree. This may also be a biased view. When you’re a single person living in Sydney it is very difficult to do any substantial grocery shopping. You’ll end up spending a minimum of $50 if not more but you won’t necessarily get much. Things change when you’re feeding a family and you can buy lose fruits and veges because you know they’ll get consumed before it goes off rather than when one person has to finish them all. If at times you prefer buying lunch possibly including a drink during a work day, you’re easily looking at a spend of $15.
- Here comes the negative aspect of the weather. Yes the warmer weather is preferred but summer in Sydney is a killer. It’s uncomfortable due to the soaring temperatures, there’s no place cool enough to spend time. On top of that the bursts of heat waves that go through Sydney. I experienced one of the worst heat waves this year. In fact on the news when the weather reporter showed the climate map of Australia, Sydney was purple. That is not a colour I’ve ever seen associated with the weather before. Needless to say, I had 5 showers per day whilst that heat wave lasted. If you’re moving to Sydney or are travelling through during the summer months, make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Yes it’s one of those things that need to reiterate. Despite being well hydrated during summer, I still experienced heat strokes, which is not good. It wears you out and you’re left with this drowsy feeling sometimes well most times followed by a headache or maybe even a migraine. In this sense I don’t mind the cooler temperatures in Auckland. Honorary mention the heat makes the creepy crawlies come out and if you’re like me and freak out at the smallest thing that can move, well then we have a problem.
- Sydney is a very dirty city. Yes, it’s polluted and in general there is a lack of cleanliness here. I have seen fat rats running around, a lot of the times in popular eatery areas. Maybe I’m being naïve because every big city will have this problem, but I can say with assurance that I have not seen this issue in Auckland. The food safety officers in New Zealand periodically conduct their inspections at takeaways and restaurants and yes there have been cases of cockroach infestations and more where the food safety officer has shut down this food joint till the owner has resolved the situation. After which another inspection is conducted and if the safety officer feels the place is clean enough to serve food. In Sydney I’ve not even seen the food safety grades at restaurants. I try and avoid eating food from outside where and when I can. I also don’t feel like if I had a family I would be able to take them to a park and be comfortable finding a spot to sit down and enjoy a picnic. I’m way too paranoid about who or what may pop by. I could go on and on about this point.
- You have to be prepared to travel in Sydney. Nothing is at arms length, everything is far. If you can find yourself a place close to a train station great, that will save you a lot of time. But to get anything or to go anywhere you have to open to the idea of travelling at least an hour. There are a lot of people here in Sydney who choose to live in places such as the Blue Mountains so they are far away from the city. It takes roughly 2 hours to travel to the city from the Blue Mountains, that’s a 4-hour journey to and from work. That’s four hours I could be using to do something else. I can appreciate that ultimately it’s an individual’s choice where they choose to live and if that means they want to travel a significant amount it’s their choice. However I’m just using this as an example to give you an idea about how long travel time takes.
- One of the biggest things I hate about Sydney, is this notion that people have to ‘show off’ what they have. Sure people in Sydney have a great sense of fashion but most of the times people are just dressed that way to show what they’ve got to another person. The number of ladies that I have seen who struggle to walk because of the size of their heels or are feeling uncomfortable given their outfit in the middle of winter, is too damn high. I have seen kids who don’t have their full licenses yet, drive BMWs, Mercs, Audi and other high-end cars. How is that a good decision? You’ve only just started to learn how to drive and you’re driving such high end cars?! I can’t imagine what the premium being paid on that insurance would be.
- Last but not the least, Sydney is just too overcrowded. I get that I have mostly grown up in small towns but I do find that Sydney’s population is just too much to handle. There are times when you feel like you’re going to blackout because of all the people around you. I suppose this also adds to the cleanliness factor. The more people, the dirtier the city.
There is a lot more I’d like to say, but I can’t necessarily delve into all that. However I’d like to keep this discussion going – whether it’s via the comments below or in confidence feel free to reach out to me.
I, often have people tell me that I should be more positive about living in Sydney and that it’s a great opportunity etc. I just want to say that it’s not that I don’t appreciate all that I have here and all that I’ve got in the last year and a half, however for me right now the negatives outweigh the positives hence why I can sometimes be a bit negative about Sydney.
Until next time,