G’Day from Sydney! It’s been nearly a week since we hopped aboard a one-way flight to Australia and after 5 fantastic days exploring our new city, it feels about time to start documenting our adventures. Niraj and I are currently staying downtown, in what the locals call the ” CBD” or Central Business District, but we’ve managed to get out and about and have seen a fair bit of Paddington and Woollahra (the “Eastern Suburbs”) as well as Bondi Beach and Bondi Junction. To kick off the Australia section of this blog, here’s what I’ve found interesting so far:
1. The people of Sydney refer to themselves as “Sydneysiders”. I’ve never heard of any other “-sider” but I suppose Sydney-er, Sydney-an or Sydney-ite just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
2. Sydneysiders love their coffee. Independent coffee shops and pop-up stands litter the bustling sidewalks of the CBD, boutique cafés adorn the cobbled streets of Paddington and artisanal roasters peek out from among the sunscreen- and flipflop-touting bodegas at the beach. Australian coffee is delicious and warrants a language of its own. Asking for a “coffee” won’t get you very far in Sydney. Drip coffee is something of a rarity here with locals preferring instead to sip espresso machine concoctions with mysterious names like flat white, short black and piccolo. You’ll also be hard pressed to spot a Starbucks in Sydney — no complaints here but I did come across this interesting case study by the University of NSW on the topic.
3. Another trend I can get on board with is Sydney’s love affair with muesli. The supermarkets are laden with muesli of all kinds and in a variety of preparations – boxes of organic muesli fill the cereal aisles, stacks of chocolate muesli bars form pyramid displays and rows of muesli yoghurt pots and smoothies occupy the refrigerated shelves. Another ubiquitous preparation is Bircher muesli, which, as anyone who knows me well can attest, has been a long-time favorite breakfast and snack food. Who’d have thought that soaking muesli overnight in apple juice and yoghurt would taste so good? Seeing it at every coffee shop and on every restaurant menu warms my Bircher muesli loving heart but it doesn’t come cheap – prices seem to range from $6 for a grab and go snack to $15 for a brunch-sized portion.
4. Sydneysiders love their acronyms. The first time I heard the term “GFC” was when the Commonwealth Bank of Australia employee opening our new accounts began explaining how it had made Australian workers reluctant to invest their supers in American equities. The GF what? Seeing my blank expression, he stopped what he was doing, looked up and said, rather matter-of-factly, “the global financial crisis, you know, in 2008?” Ohh. Besides “NSW” (New South Wales) and of course “CBD”, I’ve since encountered “EFTPOS” (Electronic Funds Transfer Point Of Service) meaning something that will let you pay by credit card. Oh and did you know that QANTAS stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services? Quite a mouthful. The Aussies also seem to enjoy abbreviating words and phrases they consider unnecessarily long to make cuter, undoubtedly more efficient words — “Paddo” is Paddington, “Goodo” is good on you and “How ya goin’?” is the Aussie way of asking “How are you doing” AND “How is it going?” Clever, eh?
5. Sydneysiders’ reaction to their city’s weather is also something to be marveled at. The Sydney winter is mild by most standards, probably most comparable to the New York fall. So far (in early July), we’ve seen temperatures vary quite a bit, peaking at around 20C (68F) during the day and dropping to 5C (41F) in the nights and mornings. For a city that is used to much warmer climes (summer average daily high of 25C or 77F), I was expecting Sydneysiders to approach their winter wardrobes with the gusto that Miami and California folk do – seizing any opportunity to don their boots, jackets and scarves. Instead, we’ve seen people surfing in the 14C degree water sans wet suits, walking the boardwalks in shorts and heading to corporate offices in shirts and dresses (no jackets, no tights and definitely no coats). We’ve even seen women brave the evening chill in mere cocktail dresses. I suppose when it comes to facing the elements, the Aussies are more akin to the Brits than the Californians and Miamians and, for anyone who’s had a night out in Northern England or really at any British college, you’ll remember the superhuman strength that’s on display when venturing into the freezing cold in skimpy outfits.
6. Spice. Whether it’s Malaysian sambal, Singaporean laksa or simply a spicy sushi roll, Sydneysiders don’t hold back when it comes to their spice! We haven’t yet ventured into Chinatown, we’re eating at mainstream, if anything nicer, restaurants, frequented by mainstream guests, and everyone seems to be savoring the spice. The Indian in me is rejoicing. Respect.
7. Sydneysiders are an international bunch. In our short time here we’ve encountered Brits, Kiwis, Americans, Indians, South Africans and Sri Lankans as well as people from Hong Kong, China and France. Of the local Aussies we’ve met, many have lived abroad, whether they’re a customer service guy at Vodaphone or a lawyer at an elite firm. Manhattanites like to think of themselves as a “diverse” group…whether they’ve lived outside the New York area (let alone the US!) or not. Sydney’s international diversity is refreshing by comparison.
I could write more about Sydney and Sydneysiders but I’m not sure I know either well enough yet. What I do know is that the people here seem a helpful and welcoming bunch. Many of the people we’ve interacted with over the last week have offered up tips on navigating the city, shared favorite restaurant and bar lists and invited us over for dinner. We’ve received a boatload of useful opinions on Sydney neighbourhoods along with ample thoughts on where to live. I’ve lived in four countries and 12 cities now, but the level of warmth we’re encountering in Sydney is truly unique.