Six months ago, I woke up one day and decided to move from Melbourne to Sydney. A month later, I’d quit my job and was boxing up my belongings. Needless to say, I’m definitely a doer not a dreamer.
In the whirlwind that’s been the past six months, things have moved quicker than a Shinkansen, and there are definitely a few things I wish I knew in advance before moving to Sydney. Here they are:
1. Finding a rental is a tough game
You probably don’t need an engineering degree to realise that finding a rental in Sydney is going to be hard. We’ve all heard the stories, and I just want to confirm that the stories are 100% true.
When you find yourself lining up with a good 100-other renters to be able to squeeze into an apartment that wants to plunder $650 from your bank account each week, isn’t big enough to swing a bat in and has a family of cockroaches residing in the kitchen, you have to wonder what’s wrong with the world. And why you possibly thought moving to Sydney was a good idea.
I’m still trying to forget the Saturday that I spent running between 23 different opens, needing to record my name with various agents*, doing the dance with hundreds of other renters, all after having flown in from Melbourne at 6am that morning. Boarding the plane home at the end of the day I was super deflated. I’d spent the day looking at places that had mould problems, the lighting resemblant of a cave, communal laundries (I didn’t even know this was a thing in Australia!) and one that could have been on Crime Investigation, who can be sure. Realising that I couldn’t picture myself living in any of these over-priced Weetbix boxes, I was embracing the prospect of either living in Centennial Park or repeating the nightmare again the following weekend.
The lesson I learnt from this ordeal is that you need to spend more on rent than you want and the sooner you realise this, the sooner the pain is over. The following weekend my husband and I upped our weekly budget to $750 and in desperation offered an extra $30 on top of the asking price. As a result, we easily landed a two-bedroom place in Bronte that won’t make us sick, has ocean views and not a cockroach family in sight, but alas a red and purple bathroom.
Also be aware that not a lot of places have fly screens, air conditioning or heating, and most likely, because you inspected the place so quickly on open day, you won’t realise this until you move in.
* You have fat chances of being able to secure anything that you haven’t physically sighted, which is super practical when you don’t live in the state and that all the good opens are conveniently scheduled for 10am.
2. There is a Sydney dress code
Most days I stare at my wardrobe with a face that’s a cross between an angry cat and someone who’s part-way through labour. Everything that was so right for Melbourne, is so not right here. Black, leather, scarves and North Face puffer vests all make me feel like a foreigner because NO-ONE wears these. Instead Sydney has a very clear dress code of lace playsuits, floaty maxi dresses, white shirts, white shorts, strappy flats and brightly-coloured bodycon dresses, which are apparently completely appropriate to wear in the middle of the day.
3. Sydney weather is 50 shades of weird
Unless you’re from South East Asia, the weather is weird. It’s humid, it rains in summer and the winter isn’t anywhere near reminiscent of the South Pole. It absolutely blows my mind that it rains and you don’t need a kevlar coat. WTF! Once you get past these quirks – and invest in a compact umbrella, lightweight rain coat and a handbag-sized hair straighter – you will arms-wide-open embrace the fact that Sydney’s weather is blimen magical.
4. Invest in some good quality deodorant
The downside of this magical Sydney weather is that you’re sweaty ALL THE TIME. I feel like I have a permanent sweat moustache, and I didn’t even know I was prone to a sweat moustache.
5. Huntsman spiders will become your new friends
In Melbourne, I went three years without laying eyes on a dirty, hairy spider. Within two weeks of living in Sydney, I’d come face-to-face with two Huntsmans, all 16 legs. One was delightfully on the other side of the front door as I went to leave the house, eagerly waiting to say hello. Fark that was a horrible day. I now feel their ever-lurking presence everywhere I go and often choose to forgo glasses just in case they drop in uninvited. Spiders aside, also be prepared to become great friends with mosquitoes, leeches, cockroaches and weird-looking flying bugs that you’ve never seen before in your life. They are bloody everywhere.
6. Choose where you live in Sydney carefully
Deciding where to live in Sydney is on par with deciding a life partner. It’s a BIG decision.
Each pocket of Sydney has its own character and it’s super hard to get out of your pocket, and your friends definitely won’t come visit you if you live in a different pocket to them. So do your research.
Also within 10 seconds of meeting anyone new, expect them to ask where you live – apparently suburb membership is a big deal in Sydney.
Here’s my quick and dirty guide on where to live in Sydney:
- For hipsters, arty types and trendies… Newtown, Surry Hills and Redfern.
- For beach bunnies who are super tanned, fit and drink green juices and soy… Bondi, Coogee and Manly.
- For casino-lovers and anyone without a soul… Sydney’s CBD.
- For those with money to burn… Point Piper, Cremorne Point, Tamarama and Double Bay.
- For those after a more relaxed, beach life and don’t mind living OTB (over the bridge)… Neutral Bay, Kirribilli, Fairlight and Dee Why.
7. Commuting in Sydney is the pits
What complicates the weighty decision of choosing where to live is trying to reside as close as practically possible to where you’ll be working because commuting in Sydney absolutely sucks penis straws.
I learnt this the hard way when, still in the stage of suburb consideration, I chose to check how long it would take to drive to work during the middle of the day, not during the times of peak hour that I would realistically be doing the drive. Therefore, I convinced myself that a 45-minute commute from Bronte to Bella Vista was within the boundaries of manageable. Too bad it’s closer to 1 hour and 45 minutes, and nearly $40 a day in tolls.
Key life lesson: the more you limit the amount of time you’re in peak hour traffic, on a slow donkey bus, trapped in your car in the tunnel or just smelling the armpit of a fellow train passenger, the more you’ll enjoy life.
8. You don’t need a car in Sydney
Part of leaving Melbourne saw us having to give back our two company cars, which consequently meant we had to grapple with the decision of buying a car or, even worse, buying two cars.
A couple friend of ours, who live in Surry Hills and had moved to Sydney a month earlier than us, were adamant that we didn’t need a car. They’d sold theirs and hadn’t looked back.
“How do you do your grocery shopping?” I asked, baffled. “How do you buy furniture? How do you take your dog to the vet? How do you just do life things?”
The answer is you walk, get it delivered or if you’re in desperate need you get a Go Get. I didn’t believe them at the time but I now understand that sometimes it’s just too hard to drive, so you don’t, you catch public transport, you get an Uber, you get it delivered or, God forbid, you walk. If I wasn’t working out in the boon docks of Sydney then I wouldn’t need a car either, and we DEFINITELY don’t need two cars.
9. Parking in Sydney is impossible
I once heard a story of a guy who didn’t want to catch up with his mates because he had a great park out the front of his house and he wasn’t ready to give it up. It absurdly makes sense.
Part of the reason why Go Get is so appealing is that you’re guaranteed a park, which are less likely to come by than a rainstorm of gold bullions. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spent 30 minutes+ lapping the house trying to find a car park, now choosing to do the 50-point turn and park in our ‘garage’ that’s more appropriate to house a Bugaboo than a Volkswagen EOS.
10. Sydney is a nanny state
Where Melbourne has a vibrant nightlife and is moving towards being a 24-hour city, having a good night out in Sydney is sadly actually quite hard to do. This is courtesy of the lock-out laws, which came into effect in 2014 in an attempt to curb drunken violence and means that you can’t enter a bar, pub or club within the greater CBD area* after 1:30am, with last drinks by 3am. You also can’t buy take-away alcohol anywhere in New South Wales after 10pm. WTF!
Not to mention, the majority of Sydney security guards love wielding their new-found powers, behaving more like your mother asking you how many drinks you’ve had when you can clearly still put one foot in front of the other.
Bars aside, I’ve also discovered that speeding tickets are handed out as freely as voting instructions on Election Day.
* The lock-out laws apply to Sydney’s ‘entertainment’ precinct, which includes the CBD and extends to Darlinghurst, The Rocks, Kings Cross, Darling Harbour and parts of Surry Hills.
11. Sydneysiders love their gelato
This makes sense given it’s hot all the fricken time, but be warned that Gelato Messina is an institution in Sydney and to be a true Sydneysider you need to be fluent in gelato flavours.
12. Invest in the Sydney transport planner app TripView
Sydney’s public transport system is a maze of ferries, buses, trains and light rail, and can be complicated to navigate. So, at $4.99, purchasing the TripView app is a small investment. A Sydneysider’s bible, it offers timetables and routes for all modes of transport, and provides real-time information on how full your bus/train/ferry is and whether it’s running late or early.
On a side note: every Sunday, public transport in Sydney is $2.50 for unlimited travel, including ferries, giving you the perfect opportunity to get out and explore this heartbreakingly beautiful city.