Sydney, Australia Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Sydney, Australia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in a variety of other cities in Africa and Latin America.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
It's about 24 hours of travel back to Washington, DC, following a 12ish hour flight to the US West Coast and then a transfer to get to DC. It's easy, with lots of flight availability (when it's not a pandemic), but a long journey and a big time difference.
3. What years did you live here?
2019 - present.
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is provided by my employer, as a stand-alone house or apartment in regular Sydney neighborhoods. Housing is quite expensive to be close to the Consulate, and it's about the same size as what we could afford in the DC area. Storage space is generally very limited, and not all houses have garages; many have carports. Yards are smaller due to city living, but parks are plentiful. Pets are generally allowed by landlord.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get everything here, including many US brands. Prices are similar to DC prices or slightly lower.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing - it's all available!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Sydney is a foodie dream - you can get everything here except good Mexican.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Spiders are a regular challenge, especially in spring and summer, but most aren't venomous or aggressive.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO at post, and local AUSPOST is also reliable to the US.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help would be very expensive, and most expats don't have it - or might just have a regular cleaning service.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Sydney is great for sports lovers and outdoor activities, with surfing, swimming, gyms, and every other type of group or individual sport you could want for kids and adults. Prices are similar to US.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
It's easy to be cash-less in Australia, with credit card tapping available everywhere. ATMs are around for cash and safe to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Every faith seems to be well represented in Sydney.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
No language issues, just have to learn the local slang!
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Sydney seems to be very accessible at every level.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Many Consulate employees don't own cars because public transport is so widely available and well run. Uber, Didi, and other ride share services are also here.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Buy a car here (since it's right hand drive) or just don't buy a car as noted above, any kind you like.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed internet is surprisingly only just getting widespread here, on the NBN network. Avoid Telstra (bad customer service and less reliable service) and use Aussie Broadband or another provider.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use pre paid sims and recharge them. Data is cheap, and Telstra pre-paid gives you free unlimited calls to the US.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Pets are common here, and vet care is good. There are strict import rules for pets, so contact GSO to make sure you get the latest guidelines.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Most spouses seem to be employed in the Consulate. It would be easy to telecommute to the US or elsewhere. Local salaries are similar to the US.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Similar to the US - every kind of volunteer cause can be found here.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work dress code is similar to Washington, DC. Formal dress only rarely for special occasions - there are no Marines at the Consulate, so no annual Marine Ball.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. Sydney is an extremely safe city, better than DC.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is excellent, no medevac needed.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Fire season (November - March) can be very smoky in the city depending on fire location. Post provides air purifiers for Consulate housing. No concerns during the rest of the year.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Food is well labeled for allergens, and restaurants can accommodate special requests as needed.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
None, as Sydney is generally pretty healthy. And local mental health is good if needed.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Generally dry, with hot summers and mild winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are no international schools and no schools on the northern hemisphere calendar. All children at post are in local private schools or local public schools (especially at the elementary level) or are homeschooled.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
No experience with this, but I imagine that there is a lot of support provided in school.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
No experience, but preschools and day cares are definitely available.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, every kind of sport and activity is available here. It's a family paradise.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat population in this large cosmopolitan city. Morale is generally good and people love Sydney (and rightly so!).
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There's generally not a lot of socializing among Consulate staff like in other posts. Aussies are generally friendly and open, and people have found local friends via sports clubs, book clubs, neighborhood associations, and other interests.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, yes, and yes: Sydney has something for every demographic!
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Aussies are very friendly - you might have to make a little effort to get past the initial stage to true friendship, but no concerns that I'm aware of.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. There are no particular LGBT concerns here. Australia has marriage equality, and the LGBT staff (locals and US hires) and family members have not had any concerns that I'm aware of. There are good mental and physical health care providers for LGBT-specific issues.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Sydney has similar concerns around race and gender that a large US city might have.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Would love to have something to offer here, but most of my time here has been during the pandemic.... Can't wait to get out more and travel!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not particularly, although if you look for it, you can find great Aboriginal artists to support.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's safe here, and Sydney offers something for everyone. My family really, truly loves it and will be sad to leave.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat, bars on your windows, and car.
3. But don't forget your:
Sunblock, openness to lots of spiders, bird book, and sense of adventure for outdoor activities.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Secret City (Netflix), Hannah Gadsby comedy specials, Top End Wedding (Netflix), books by Tara June Winch and Stan Grant