It’s been a month since I last posted, and what a month it’s been! I packed up my house and moved continents! I’d call that pretty eventful.
Today is a week since I landed in Sydney.
Sydney is a beautiful city and pretty awesome too (I’m sure the fact that I'm currently staying a stone's throw from the Harbour Bridge in a service apartment with a Bay view, and that the walk to work includes includes a 5 minute stretch with breath-taking views of the Harbour Bridge with ships & ferries floating about, has got nothing to do with my perception of the city :P). But like any big city in the world, including Bombay, Sydney is fun only if you have friends . Else it can get pretty lonely.
Here are my first impressions of Sydney, Australia and Australians in general:
1. There are 2 parts to Sydney - Sydney & North Sydney. The area to the north of the Harbour Bridge is called North Sydney and that to the south is Sydney. Both have their own CBDs (Central Business Districts) and are both self-sufficient, but are very different in terms of ambience.
2. The part of Sydney you live in is directly proportional to your state of happiness. I work in North Sydney and am currently staying in the same area. And let me tell you something - this area can get pretty deserted & lonely after 6pm on weekdays and on weekends. Safety isn't an issue but if you're a city person like me, the kind of person that likes to have people and activity around, there's a good chance you'll find North Sydney depressing. In that case I'd recommend living in the City area. It's more expensive than other parts of Sydney - obviously - but it's alive and kicking till 10-10.30pm on week nights and pretty buzzing over weekends as well. Not to mention that everything from supermarkets to pharmacies to pubs/restaurants/cafes to shopping to healthcare centers will be within 5 minutes walking.
3. That's the other thing about Sydney, you've got to be prepared to walk. ALOT. But then that's true of most big cities, isn't it? You'll need to walk to the station, walk from the station to your office/home, walk from parking to office, walk to the supermarket, walk if you want to shop.
4. Sydney is an EXPENSIVE city!!! Phew!!!!! Be prepared to shell out big bucks for everything from rent to eating out to entertainment. Even public transport, though excellent, is fairly expensive. Sample this - a tube of 100gm toothpaste costs $5, eating out at a decent (not fancy) restaurant will set you back by $20-25 per person, on average, (I'm talking one dish and a non-alcoholic beverage to go with it), a regular cup of mocha will cost you approx. $4, movie tickets are $20 (!!!), the minimum fare for a one-way train ride is $3.20. You get the picture. I'd say the cost of living in Sydney is approx. 1.5 times that of an American city. You'll get used to how much everything costs here but it will take a while.
5. Sydney has excellent public transport - trains, buses & ferries. Public transport is the way to go if you want to avoid getting stuck in traffic snarls. Trains & buses are clean, run on schedule, and though crowded during peak hours, it's never an unpleasant experience as people are civilized and courteous towards each other. A word of warning though - public transport in Sydney isn't as cheap as one may think. But there are weekly passes available at 7 Elevens and news agencies, which allow unlimited travel and therefore work out to be slightly more economical. You can get Weeklies made for trains, buses & ferries separately, or you can get a Multi-zone pass that will allow unlimited travel by any mode of public transport.
5. The food here is mind blowing. Name any cuisine under the sun and it's available here. You need not go to a fancy place if you feel like having Thai or Lebanese or Turkish food. There are moderately priced restaurants/take away joints all over the city (when I say moderately priced in mean $7-10 per dish) where you can get authentic global cuisine, cooked by natives (part of the reason it's so good?). And they don't skimp on portions. The flip side - you need to really watch your weight.
6. Most shops and shopping complexes here close at 5pm on weekdays & Saturday and are shut on Sunday. If you're living in North Sydney the thing to bear in mind is that all shops, including restaurants & cafes, close by 5pm, are open only half-day on Saturday & are shut on Sunday.7. Bank accounts are the easiest thing to get in this country. Everything else is a bitch. The only document you need for a bank account is a valid photo ID and an address (can be your employer's address). However, God help you when it comes to looking for a house to rent, a post-paid phone connection, cable or internet. You'll need more documents for this than you did for your visa! You'll be asked for your passport, health insurance card, bank statement (showing a fair amount of money in the bank), credit card, employer letter (in some cases), driver's license (if you have one), lease agreement etc.
8. People in Sydney are always dressed up. Quite like Europeans. The normal dress code for women in winters is jeans tucked inside boots, or short skirts with stockings & boots. The color code is black, grey & off-white. Everyone wears make up all the time. It's rare to find people dressed in jeans, sweatshirt and walking shoes.
9. Work starts early. Like reallllllly early. Working hours are usually 9-5pm. 9-4 if you're lucky. Most people are at work by 8.30-8.45am, so if you're not a morning person, think twice before moving to Australia.
10. Aussies are friendly people, very willing to help. Contrary to perception, they're not arrogant and snooty. I'd say they're mid-way between Americans & Europeans in terms of their culture and disposition.
11. They're very proud of their country and their nationality. This is very evident in TV shows and advertisements. They take pride in and support everything that's Australian grown/made.
12. Unfortunately, people in most parts of the world - including India - are not exposed to any part of Australian culture be it TV shows or news. Aussie culture is very different from the rest of the World, so be prepared to feel a little lost in group situations at the beginning. The best way to get up to speed would be to watch TV, including commercials, read Aussie magazines and visit Australian websites.
These are my first impressions of Sydney. It's a wonderful city even though a little bit lacking in history (there's a reason Australia is part of "The New World"). I miss the history that cities like Bombay, Calcutta, London & Paris have and that's reflected in their architecture. But I visited the City area today and fell in love with it. It's everything that one looks for in a city and more. You have to be a city person to appreciate it, of course. I'll do more posts on Sydney as & when I experience things. For now I need to go do my laundry. Ooh, what a fun way to spend to Saturday night!