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Things they didn't tell you about Sydney


Paul1
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Everybody is at a different stage when the immigrate, families will go the suburbs route, students will go the university, I myself am 30 years old and when I moved to Sydney I wanted to stay in the young trendy suburb close to all the action and hustle and bustle of a big city. I come from staying in the suburbs in Bryanston.

I had lived in America for 6 months so I had an idea what culture shock I might be in for. Even though Australia is supposed to be similar to South Africa it’s still very different. Everyone is told about the usual stuff, like it’s a very regulated country, there are signs everywhere that tell you what to do and where to park. I recently saw a sign in the hardware store that said “Spray paint is not for sale to person under 18, ID is requiredâ€. I’ve been kicked out of more clubs in the last year than in my previous life in Joburg (looking drunk, looking tired, having friends who look drunk and tired).

So let me tell you about some of the things they don’t tell you about Sydney:

A lot of business happens in the CBD, if you are working in the city you will have to catch public transport because there is no parking in the city. Actually there is parking, its R300 per day. I once parked at Bondi beach in the premium parking and the ticket was R560 for 6 hours (but I think that’s as expensive as it gets).

I liked driving my personal car in Joburg, friends of mine in Sydney that are 30 years old still don’t own a car. Public transport is very efficient, when you get on the subway(train) or bus you will be sitting next to the business executive, the high school student, the stripper, the beggar and the pregnant mom.

You will get out at Wynyard station and there will be 800 people rushing to get to work in all manner of direction. If you are from Joburg you have no idea what a crazy circus this feels like. If you have worked in London you have an idea. Its seriously overwhelming having so many people in the city and on public transport.

30% of the people will be Asian! That was a shock, nobody told me about all the Asians. I thought I would be surrounded by Aussies, instead I work with 2 guys from china, 3 guys from India, 1 guy from the Philippines, 1 guy from Iran. Ooh and 1 Aussie, how novel! I do work in a big bank so its pretty multicultural.

Public transport Pros: You don’t have to worry about driving. You can go out drinking and get home safely. You will see a single 10 year old girl getting on the train by herself late at night without any safety issues.

Cons: You will be around people all the time on public transport, South Africans are used to their personal space and car. It’s a bit of a mindset change. Trains stop at 12:30 at night, your friends have to leave your party early to ‘catch the last train’

Buildings are old (at least 80%), most people love the old style English buildings with mouldy exterior walls. Well everybody except apparently South Africans. “We†are known for buying new developments and flashy buildings. Im kind of getting into the old style, although ive got rental properties in Hillbrow that are better quality than the properties ive seen here. The cheapest 1 bedroom close to the city will cost R2.5mil, people spent 50% of their salary on their bond repayments. There are certain suburbs that attract certain nationalities, you don’t want to make the mistake of renting in Ashfield only to realise you are the only non-Korean!

I loved the idea of catching the train with all ‘like minded’ young people, the first month I would start up conversations with random people. It was so much fun having come from Joburg where everyone isolates themselves in cars and high walled houses. Talking to people on the train encountered some strange results… enter ‘the bogan’. ‘Bogan’ is the term given to low class white people in Australia (ok everybody is white, so its basically low class people). Bogans are a new breed of human being that I didn’t realise were capable of being produced, they make people from the rough end of Brakpan look classy (apologies if you are from BrakpanïŠ). Bogans are the riff raff that never made it out of the Bronx. The problem is that you will encounter Bogans every day, on the train, in the shops, driving a car. If they aren’t swearing about how their drunk mother is abusing them, then they are spitting on the train or coughing phlegm. You soon realise that just because somebody is white and looks decent you can’t (or don’t want to) start up a conversation with them. I’ve stopped speaking to most people on the train.

Shopping:

Shopping centres are not common near the city, most people shop by visiting small shops on the side of the road, you need to walk around a few blocks to do all your shopping. Or you can catch the train into the city and do shopping at one of the big high rise apartment stores. I have no idea how people get large items back to their property!? You get used to doing a lot more walking when you live around the inner city. I have friends that walk to and from work everyday, and they live 5 km away.

Language:

You are constantly reminded about your language ‘quirks’. But these are a minor issue. People look at you confused when you ask “Where are you staying†instead of “Where are you livingâ€. You will hear all manner of abbreviations, like lippy for lipgloss, swimmers, sunnies. I like all the abbreviations and use them now. I even call the Service Stations “Servosâ€.

People get paid well

That sounds great you say! I’d be happy to get paid a lot! The problem is it only works if you are getting paid a lot and nobody else is. Since everyone gets paid well, if you want to call out a plumber to change your washers on your dripping tap it will cost $350 (R2300). The garbage collectors will be dressed in Levis jeans on the weekend and you will meet people at the upmarket clubs who work in the post office. To get someone to dry clean your shirt it will cost you $10 (R70 per shirt).

I guess this is how a society should be run, I’m just not used to paying so much for all these ‘basic’ expenses.

There is so much other stuff to write about you only realise how much there is to tell when you start typing it all.

I miss driving my car home from work instead of sharing public transport with dozens of people. I miss the large grassy suburbs of Bryanston with lots of space between properties instead of congested concrete apartments. I miss driving to big shopping centres where you can spend the morning shopping.

I was recently back in South Africa for a visit and to see the world cup, I was concerned that I would be very nostalgic and want to come back. I decided to organise friends to meet at the local pub, something that has a lot of young people and an activity like pub trivia…ooh wait there is not really that option in Joburg, I’ll need to drive my car 3 suburbs to the O’hagans. A friend wants me to pick her up because she is to scared to drive at night. I guess I’ll just have to gauge how much alcohol I can drink because there is no public transport to take me home. But before that maybe I’ll just walk around the block to the convenience store to pick up some milk, ooh wait I need to drive my car to the shopping centre…and people don’t walk around outside in SA.

I think South Africa is still one of the best countries, most of my friends are happy there… you always like what you are familiar with. The longer you stay in a place the more familiar you become. I won’t move back to SA.

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Yeah,things are different down under...but different in a good way!

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LOVE SYDNEY!!!

Which area are you living in? PM Jannie if you fancy coming to the Sydney dinner club, once a month to meet some other young RSA's living in Sydney.

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Paul- You are a great writer and I loved this.

It has so much information, and your description of the Bogan was spot on.

Who ARE these people?

Do write more!

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The cost factor when converting the Aus Dollar to Rands is quiet scary.

Not sure if any of you in Oz have looked at the prices of stuff in SA since you've been here. But I looked at the menu cost of stuff at a Spur in South Africa and was shocked to see the cost of a Cheese burger & CHIPS which is now around R50. (last year when we left it was around R30) The 400g ribs are now nearly R100.00.(Last year R69) A schnitzel is around the R60 mark.(Last year R45). Tea from Wimpy is around R10 (Last year R5.60) . The Wimpy Early Bird Breakfast last year was around R12 now its R24. Its frightning how cost have gone up in a year.

Paul, thanks for the insight into Sydney. My wife and I are coming for a couple of days in July to Sydney for a holiday and am looking forward to exploring Sydney. Be a big change from Brisbane.

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Paul, I really enjoyed your take on things! Yes, Australia is not little South Africa - it is a very different experience and the only thing the Saffers have in common with the Aussies is their nature (friendly, helpful, mateship, welcoming...) For the rest of it, it is pretty much a cultural shock and adjustment. It is like parenthood - there's no manual for it and nobody tells you the gory bits... the nice thing about that is that you'll never have a dull moment! :ilikeit:

Maybe you should move to the burbs : lots of green grass, flashy new buildings, huge shopping malls and you can spend all the time you want in your car, driving yourself to work in the city... (Well, more like sitting... waiting... with your foot on the clutch completley numb!) At least no bogan on the seat next to you - unless offcourse, you've given one a ride... :ilikeit:

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Hey Paul,

Good post! Know what you have been through. Life in Sydney surely is different. We have a dinner club going for the young (late 20's, 30's and early 40's ... but anyone really) South African's in Sydney. We dine at a new restaurant once a month and 'praat 'n bietjie stront'. Let me know if you want to join.

Cheers

J

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Paul

Great article... waiting patiently for chapter2... well written...

If you are looking for Jhb experience... I strongly suggest you look at Melbourne... Yep, Melbourne. This is Jhb with a river and a Bay area... lovely green suburbs, many areas that look something between Salt River (Cape Town) and Doornfontein in Jhb.

The one thing I cannot come to terms with, well maybe in a year or two, is the cost of a car license = $640.00 pa....

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The one thing I cannot come to terms with, well maybe in a year or two, is the cost of a car license = $640.00 pa....

It is expensive, but if it makes you feel any better, the money does go somewhere - part of this goes to the TAC for insurance, which has helps many people with compensation payouts if they've been in serious car accidents. At least you get something for your money if the poo hits the fan. I like to look at it that way.

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Loved this :(

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!! Please do contact Jannie - my daughter claims they are a nice bunch of people! By the way Jannie - my daughter and her husband are moving to Newcastle next week!!!!!

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Great post, great to read about different places and things esp when you havent made it to Auz yet, really interesting!! Thanks cant wait to hear more.

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