For the last 10 years, Terry Smith has lived in Ryde, in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs and Annandale, in Inner West Sydney. He shares his thoughts here on living in Sydney, particularly for people relocating from the UK.
WORKING IN SYDNEY AND LIFE IN GENERAL
Many people in the United Kingdom dream of moving to a warm climate with friendly people, good salaries and a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Sydney realises the dream to some extent, but it is rapidly falling victim to the political complacency and declining infrastructure associated with some cities in Europe and the UK. There are also some issues connected with finding a home and living a life in a city where costs keep going up.
Despite these negatives, the beaches, national parks, picturesque harbour and warm weather make life a pleasure and every weekend a new adventure.
In the middle of it all is the central business district (CBD), alive with cultural pursuits, interesting jobs, and exciting business opportunities. Sydney Harbour and its ferry service to many destinations are a stroll from the CBD.
Sydney is one of the best working locations in the world. The prevalence of skilled, educated and hardworking people has kept Australia’s economy viable when others have faltered due to global economic conditions.
There are certain skills that are almost constantly in demand in Sydney. Included in this list are teachers, health care specialists, engineers, architects, child care workers, accountants, office administrators and HR managers.
The list of trades with jobs to be filled includes bakers, bricklayers, electricians, chefs, and boilermakers. For the most part, people engaged in these trades and professions are earning more than their counterparts in Britain.
Before you make your move to Sydney, check the Australian government website to find the skills that are most in demand at the moment. If your profession is listed, you may be able to apply for a job with an employer who is prepared to sponsor your visa.
WHERE IN SYDNEY?
If you work in the city, you have a wide choice of places to live. You should probably rent for a while before you decide on a permanent place to live. This will give you a chance to get the feel of the region.
If you need to be close to the CBD, the lower north shore suburbs like Waverton and Chatswood are only minutes by train across the Bridge, and are close to the recreational opportunities in the city and around the harbour. The breathtaking scenery of the Blue Mountains is an hour’s scenic drive, or one to two hours by train.
Where to live for Beach Life
If you want to be close to the beaches, you can choose North Sydney, Bondi or the Northern Beaches.
Where to live for Families
The top areas for families to live in the inner west of Sydney are: Annandale, Rozelle, Balmain, Leichhardt or Haberfield.
In the inner west, there is a large portion of harbour frontage that has been reclaimed for activities like barbecues and dog-walking. Two of the little-known waterside parks near the city are Yaralla, a nineteenth-century estate with many of the old buildings still standing, and Newington, the site of the 2000 Olympic Village. There is an ongoing campaign supported by local councils to reclaim harbour and river foreshore areas for the enjoyment of residents and to provide walking tours for visitors.You can cool off on hot days while the children play in one of the parks on the harbour such as Jubilee Park, near the suburb of Glebe.
Sutherland Shire to the south is one of the places to consider. Even though it is not close to the city, it has a good rail service which will get you to the city in about forty-five minutes.
On the north shore, you could consider Lane Cove, North Ryde, Chatswood, Frenchs Forest or St Ives. All of these suburbs are close to parks, beaches, the harbour and the Lane Cove River. They offer plenty of recreational opportunities for kids without the need for travelling or spending money. Lane Cove National Park is located only ten kilometres across the Harbour Bridge
Also on the the north shore, but much closer to the city than Lane Cove, is Putney Park on the Parramatta River, which is a great place for family picnics. There are playgrounds, a water play area, playing fields, electric barbeques and toilets.
In the eastern suburbs, Clovelly, Randwick, Bronte, Maroubra all offer great environments for families but are quite expensive unless you are on a very large salary.
Where to live for Nightlife
If you enjoy nightlife, the inner city suburbs like Annandale, Newtown or Glebe would be your choice. The inner city suburbs are quiet and leafy with plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and bookstores. Glebe and Newtown have more of an “alternative” atmosphere due to their proximity to two universities.
THE HOUSING REALITY FOR MANY
The costs associated with owning or renting a home are rising rapidly, with many people in Sydney giving up hope of ever owning their own house. Other ambitious home owners have doubled their estimates of how long they will need to save for a deposit before being able to afford a house.
Buying a house is so expensive that renting is becoming the only option for many families, and the new demand is causing rental accommodation shortages and rent increases. Every weekend there is a procession of desperate tenants submitting applications for rental dwellings that are smaller and less central than they would like, just to have SOME kind of roof over their heads. Most real estate agents report a substantial number of prospective tenants offering a much higher rent in an attempt to secure tenancy.
When you apply to rent a property, you will be told that you need a bond of four weeks rent for an unfurnished house or flat. If the property is furnished, expect to pay a lot more. The high rent expected for residential properties does not necessarily indicate good quality. Many rental properties are older buildings, and unless they are exceptionally well-ventilated, they will have a mould problem, at least in some areas. If you don’t check your clothes cupboard during the summer you could find your winter clothing covered in mould.
LIFE ON THE STREETS
There is a general impression in Europe that Australia is a sunny place full of open and friendly people. The truth is that Sydney has a long and glorious history of organized crime. On top of this, various criminal gangs are beginning to use guns on each other as well as on their innocent victims. The importing of drugs is a growth industry, and binge drinking amongst young men and women is of increasing concern. Many young professional families have been forced to live in inner city suburbs like Surry Hills and Redfern where poverty, drugs and alcohol problems are part of the landscape in spite of the gentrification of the area.
THE CLIMATE AND MORE BEACHES
Sydney’s climate is quite humid, with sunshine all year round. The weather encourages people to spend time outside after work, and at weekends you can go to the beach, discover the joys of bushwalking, or stay at home and relax in your pool.
On hot days finding a parking spot near a beach is a futile quest, and the beaches are often overcrowded. For a family travelling by car, a summer’s day at the beach begins with getting up early to secure a parking spot.
Going to the beach by public transport means up to an hour’s travelling by bus, train, ferry or a combination of all three, depending on where you live and which form of transport you dislike the least.
The alternatives to the classic Sydney beaches are the Northern beaches like Mona Vale or Whale Beach. The traffic and parking are still serious issues, but they are not quite as bad as the spots close to the city.
An hour’s drive south will take you to the swimming and picnic places in the Royal National Park and the Wollongong area. Driving north along the Pacific Highway for an hour will take you through little townships like Avoca Beach, Erina and Kincumber where the crowds will be less fearsome.
It’s just as well that many people are too busy working to go to the beach anyway, toiling for over 60 hours a week. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as 8 degrees Celsius, so buy blankets because electricity is very expensive.
The harbour makes living in Sydney pleasant in many ways – the quiet harbour beaches, the bustle of Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, and a variety of places to cool off on hot days.
Terry shares his thoughts on transport, everyday shopping and education here.
Sydney is changing rapidly, reflecting the fluctuations in the global economy and the challenges of competition from other countries in the Asian region. In spite of the world not being the place our parents thought we’d grow up in, Sydney is still one of the best places in the world to raise a family.
The growing number of negative aspects to living in Sydney doesn’t change the fact that if you can afford to live in the right places, Sydney is a fascinating place to live. In a recent survey conducted by one of the television news services, people who were asked to comment on the downside of living in Sydney emphasised that it takes a certain kind of attitude to cope with the difficulties and enjoy the benefits.
Maybe you only get out of it what you are prepared to put in!
Overall, I still love it