I’m here! After 9 months of planning, excitement, and anticipation, Ali is finally in OZ! It’s almost surreal–there are moments that feel like a dream. There is much to learn, see and do in my new home of Australia but, for now, I will share my initial impressions of Sydney. We all know first impressions are important and, after a week in Sydney, I’ve found a few notes worth sharing.
1. There is a curious balance between innovation and a lack of technology infrastructure.
Upon arrival into the Sydney International Airport, I was impressed by the updated technology as I passed through customs. I barely had to speak to another human being while entering the country; technology did it all for me. Is this the safest way to check in visitors and migrants? Perhaps not, but I did later learn the Border Patrol agents were on strike that week. This fact may have had something to do with the expedited process as well. However, in direct contrast to the updated customs technology, internet access, specifically wireless connections, is hard to come by. There have been multiple AirBnB places I’ve looked into that did not offer wifi in their apartments. My current AirBnB apartment’s wifi is down and the owners have waited over a week for a technician to come out and check it. This is an interesting problem for a first-world country like Australia. Although, not being constantly connected isn’t always such a bad thing…
2. Keep to the left!
Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road, placing the driver in the right-hand side of the car. Twice now I have stepped over to the right side of a car to get in only to be met with confused eyes by the driver. My confusion, however, goes beyond being a passenger in a car as pedestrians are also expected to keep left when walking. Crossing the street is another adjustment as I am used to looking in one direction for oncoming traffic. In Australia that traffic is coming from the opposite side! This will take some adjustment for me and, for now, is a reminder to be extra slow and cautious when walking the streets.
3. Chemists vs. Pharmacists.
One day, while in search of contact solution, I asked a shop owner where I could purchase a bottle. He told me I had to go to a chemist and I immediately felt as if I had been transported back to the 16th century. “Oh, you mean a pharmacist?” “Yes,” he replied. Simple enough, I thought, but since then I have found both chemists and pharmacists. What exactly is the difference? I’m still not sure but I did manage to find the contact solution I desperately needed.
4. Sydney is an international city.
“Have you met many Australians? What do you think of their accent? Can you understand them?” my parents questioned. To be honest, I haven’t meet too many people yet who are actually from Australia. My life in a hostel has allowed me to meet more people from other countries than from Australia itself. The city itself is quite an international mix though with expats from all over the world and a 17% Asian population.
5. There aren’t many Americans on the Working Holiday Visa.
Similarly, most of the international travelers I’ve met are also here on the same visa as I. It’s exciting to hear all the different pathways people are taking while here; some working right away while others are spending time traveling first. The single characteristic that most of the work and holiday makers share is the majority of them are European. I have yet to meet an American on the visa. The only American I’ve met so far was here on holiday, jetting off to Melbourne next.
6. I haven’t had a bad meal yet!
From every type of Asian cuisine, to pizza, burgers, Mexican food, bakeries, and cafes, I have yet to taste something I didn’t like. I mean, I had red velvet pancakes for breakfast one day! After living in New York City and New Orleans, quality food is important to me. I am loving this!
7. The city of Sydney is actually quite small.
When looking at a map, I assumed Sydney was a large area of the Australian state, New South Wales. However, in reality, the city itself is a small section of the area I originally thought of as Sydney. Bondi beach is actually an eastern suburb and not part of the city at all! I was shocked to learn this but am enjoying exploring all the neighborhoods and suburbs, each with its own personality and character.
8. Sydneysiders are very welcoming.
I’ve found the people of Sydney to be incredibly kind and generous. The weather has been freezing and I arrived with mostly sundresses and bikinis, expecting warmer temperatures. One of my new friends brought a coat for me to use the first night we met! Another new Sydney friend offered me free tickets to an event at the Opera House! I’ve been in town for less than a week and have already seen a show in the iconic concert hall! #blessed
9. The city offers highly functioning public transportation.
As most major international cities should, Sydney offers trains, ferries and buses to get you around town. You could easily live here without a car, and many people do. Again, after coming from New Orleans and its lack of reliable public transportation, I am especially impressed by this.
10. The strength of the US dollar.
It seems as though every day the US dollar becomes slightly stronger than the Australian dollar. I may not have much of an understanding of how it all works but when I withdraw $100 AUD from the ATM, I am only spending $73 USD! Maybe I will stay here for a while after all! 🙂