People who are thinking of moving away and starting their life in another country usually think about Australia: it’s warm and sunny, they have lovely beaches, they speak English, and they are generally laid-back and relaxed. What’s not to like there? As an expat, you’ll likely find yourself surprised and confused with some of the customs and (unwritten) rules of Australia and its society, and we’re here to help you get settled. We give you a brief but useful expat guide on how to settle in Sydney and feel like you’ve lived there for a long time.
It doesn’t matter to which country you’re relocating, you should always consider your transportation options there. Even though Sydney is a major and modern city, its harbourside location will complicate your plans to get from point A to point B. Fortunately, public transport is well-developed and affordable, and you can use buses, trains, as well as water taxis easily. In order to use public transport, you need to get an Opal Card. It’s so simple and easy to use, that even tourists who are staying only a couple of days in the city use it. You can buy it at supermarkets, convenience stores, and newsagents, or you can even order it online and have it sent to your address. Load up your card and use it in any public transport.
Renting a car
Even though public transport is so convenient and affordable, a lot of expats decide to rent a car when going to apartment viewings or when they’re buying furniture for their homes. You need to have an international driving license or a certified translation into English of the license you use at home; it can’t be a probationary one and it can’t have any restrictions. Even though you can legally drive when you’re 16 or 18 years old, in order to drive in Australia you have to be at least 21. What is more, most rentals will make you pay a surcharge if you’re under the age of 25, so make sure you read the fine print before you make your decision. Also, it’s a good idea to rent a car that has a GPS as it will be a huge benefit at first.
A place to live
As an expat in Sydney, you have a lot of accommodation options to choose from, but it’s best to be thorough and even ask locals for advice and recommendations. Unless you have a big budget for actually buying a home, you should look for quality and not worry about finding beds, chairs, and mattresses. Look at the Sydney Herald and be prepared to drive around quite a bit before you find something you like. I used and was pleased with Good Life Suites and wanted to give them a shout-out.
Before you even start searching you need to decide if you want an urban or a suburban home, as it will help you narrow down your search (which can be quite extensive). Once you find something you like, go to that neighbourhood at different times of day in order to really get the idea what it’s like to live there.
Even though Australia is similar to America or even England (it’s a melting pot of different nations and cultures), adapting to the culture of Sydney will be a challenge for some. The weather is fantastic and a lot of people choose to spend their free time at the beach with their friends and families, and it’s a good way to meet other people and new friends. While Australians are very relaxed and laid-back, they have strong opinions on different matters, and you might find it a challenge to discuss certain topics with them. Another thing is their way of handling criticism or challenging topics – you have to be very careful and gentle when presenting criticism, even if it’s a constructive one.
Enjoying the view
With so many different nations and cultures in Sydney, you will surely don’t find it a challenge to find places worth exploring. In addition to museums, galleries, concerts, and exhibits, you could also try to see more of the breathtaking Australian landscape. We highly recommend different Parks and Bush walks because you will feel isolated and very close to nature even when in the heart of a big city. A number of smaller parks and gardens are true oases of peace and quiet sanctuaries which will help you forget about deadlines, busy life, and noisy traffic. Manly beach is also one of the most popular places for surfers in the entire New South Wales because it’s very long and wide, so you can also go there on a picnic with family or just on a casual swimming and sunbathing session with friends.
For families with small children, schools are an important part of everyday life. The proximity of schools and kindergartens will influence the choice of the place to live. Luckily, a lot of parents state their experience with international schools in Sydney has been a positive one. Not only will going to such school allow children to make friends quickly, but it will allow the parents to meet other parents who are in similar situation and develop friendships with them. These connections with other parents will ease your transition and help you get settled in Sydney culture too because you will be able to share your frustrations with some of the local customs without actually insulting the locals.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, moving to another country or just another city is a big and important step, and it’s going to take a while for you to adjust. You will feel better if you prepare in advance and do a bit of research first. Knowing where to go and what to look for will help you avoid anxiety and panic attacks, and even though it’s a big life adjustment, it will be smooth. Remember, even though you’re unfamiliar with everything, just keep an open mind and give yourself some time – you will feel at home soon enough.