Sydney, Australia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia 05/02/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have previously served in Brazil, Mexico, and lived in other cities in South America before joining the Foreign Service.

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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?

Midwest. Unless you live in a city that has a direct flight to Sydney, plan on 20-28 hours travel time, as well as an awful readjustment to US time. Currently, Sydney has direct flights to LA, San Francisco, Dallas, and Houston.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years. For prices, note that the exchange rate while we were here was on average 1.3 AUD to 1.0 USD.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Sydney doesn't have a fixed housing pool, though Management tries to hold on to housing that we already have, as well as family size/position grade work out. Given who is leaving or arriving at post at any given time, you may be able to express some opinions on housing, or you may already have a housing assignment ready for you.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Pretty much the same as the US, with maybe a better international foods selection. Prices were reasonable- most meat, chicken, seafood, etc. was comparable in price to US, or even a bit cheaper maybe. Fruits and vegetables obviously vary with the seasons. You should not struggle to find things here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Unless you have really particular brands/flavors you like, you will not starve here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything you can imagine. Tax is included in the price, and there's no tipping, so you pay the price listed. Depending on the place you go to and the size of your family, eating out can sometimes even be comparable in price to cooking a meal from scratch at home.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We lived in an apartment, so no issues, but people in houses may deal with insects/spiders.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Normal DPO. No experience with local postal facilities.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

$$$$.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Comparable to US.

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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?

Credit cards are about all Australians use, at least in large cities. Tap cards are super common here; you should get a debit card that is tap-friendly when you set up your bank account. American cards are fine, but people just may be confused sometimes that you have to sign the card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Just know that whenever you pronounce a place name, you're probably saying it wrong.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There may be a few more accessibility issues than in the US (for example, when we first arrived here, the train station near our place had no elevator from street level to the train platform) but it appears that every effort is being made to make sure that Sydney is accessible. Sydney is very hilly- this may cause issues for some people.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe? Yes. Comprehensive? Yes. Expensive? Yes. Plan on spending anywhere from USD 2.50-6.00 per trip (via train, bus, or ferry).

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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?

We lived downtown, and relied exclusively on public transportation; we did not take a car. There's no parking at the consulate, so everyone takes public transit to work. You'll have to both buy and sell the car locally, so if you think you'll use it, go for it.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We had unlimited broadband plus cable for about USD 75-80/month. Australia is in the process of constructing a national broadband network, so your house or building may or may not have access; the internet providers can let you know if you have broadband capacity or not. No problems with speed or streaming. You have to have an Australian bank account to get internet, but the consulate will give you a letter to help set you up with a bank account. We had internet within 10 days of arriving in Sydney. Note that the company will send you the router for you to connect yourself; you can have it installed, but be prepared to shell out some $$.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We had unlimited data and calls with Optus for about US$55/month. No issues with phone service or customer service.

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Pets:

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?

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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?

There are jobs available at the consulate, and spouses have worked both at the consulate and in the local economy. It obviously can take a while to find employment either way.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Standard State Department.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Sydney is by far the safest city I've lived in.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care comparable to US. In our limited experience, medical costs (whether covered by insurance or out-of-pocket) were FAR cheaper than comparable care in the US.

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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?

No concerns about air quality.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Nope.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Doesn't get much colder than 40s in winter, may hit 100 (and humid) in summer. Still better than DC.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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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?

Hang out with people at work; try and make friends locally- it's all up to you

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Nightlife for single people, great communities for families- it's Sydney.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No problems.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No problems.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Tasmania, the Outback, Queensland, Melbourne. Take a road trip if you can. If you don't have kids and/or money is less of an issue, take advantage and travel to New Zealand, the South Pacific, or Southeast/East Asia.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

You will not run out of things to do in this city. Your entertainment options will only vary based on where you live and how far you're willing to travel to take in the tourist sites/beaches/etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Get your Australia souvenirs- everything else can be ordered from the US for cheaper.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You're living in one of the most beautiful and safe cities in the world. Enjoy.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Not sure what the exchange rate was when previous reviews were written about Sydney, but we found the prices in Australia to be far more reasonable than what we were expecting. Your decisions will obviously depend on your family size and budget, but make the effort to travel as much as possible.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I'll go ahead and say "yes."

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Complaints about the difficulty of life in the Foreign Service.

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4. But don't forget your:

Ability to enjoy every moment- your posting will go by much faster than you expect.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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Sydney, Australia 03/17/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No - Morocco, France, Spain.

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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?

FL - insanely long - you lose track of time and it takes a week to recover from jetlag.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

No USG owned housing so it all depends where you end up. Commute times vary - if you live on the North Shore, you have to contend with the bridge traffic and occasional shut downs due to accidents. In the Eastern suburbs, it's the tunnels. Overall, for a city this large, we can't complain. I use buses and couldn't be happier (well I could be if it was cheaper).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

All very expensive - we buy on Amazon and patiently wait one to two weeks to get our stuff just to save money! Make-up is just ridiculous and forget about good quality clothes at an affordable price!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We shipped cleaning supplies and beauty products.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Anything your heart desires but - have I said this before - it's expensive!!! We only go out about once a month and we're usually disappointed. Asian food is the best here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

That's a sore subject for those of us who are afraid of bugs, spiders and snakes. They're everywhere and they're huge. Some of the most poisonous spiders are around here and you'll see them. The locals don't mind but I'm always scared. Even birds will come after you around nesting season! This is a wild land!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO, slow.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I didn't even bother to check but I think it's around US$20-$25 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Plenty, around US$40 every 2 weeks (or fortnight as they say here).

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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?

All safe everywhere - Westpac has an agreement with Bank of American so you don't pay any fees when you use them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You have all you need.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Accomodations are made but it's a European style city where you need to be able to walk from place to place, at least in the CBD.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All great and convenient. Not cheap - I pay around US$45 per week.

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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?

You can't bring your car from the states, you can buy one here but it'll cost you, along with the rego (registration) and insurance!! Parking it also outrageous and you have to pay anywhere you park!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, not great, around US$75/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Plans are OK - as with everything else, not enough competition translates into poor and expensive service. Looking back, we should have gone with pay-as-you-go because their plans stink.

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Pets:

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?

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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?

Yes, you can get paid the prevailing local wage and will do well but it's not easy to get a full-time job.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Aussies dress up - women almost exclusively wear dresses/skirts and heels.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's one of the safest cities I've lived in - our kids feel comfortable getting on buses and trains to meet their friends and go out on the town.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No concerns, good health care.

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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?

Excellent - some allergies.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Yes, typical pollen and other allergies.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry winter and wet summer but very stable and pleasant temperatures year-round. It can get very hot January-March.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No true international school here and no American school - plus they're on the southern hemisphere schedule so your kids will be pushed up or back when they arrive and that really messes them up. We're not thrilled with the educational system, it's really based on the old-style British system - stiff and unresponsive.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

No personal knowledge but they don't seem to be very advanced - no special ed kids integrated into the regular schools that I could notice.

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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?

Not sure but I hear it's expensive and there are waiting lists.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, mostly cricket, netball and rugby.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and all spread out - people do their own thing on the weekend and there's very little organized by the CLO - when they have one.

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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?

Since movies run about US$20/person, we look for free things like hiking, the beach etc.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, good for all IF you are willing to spend a fortune on just about everything and know you won't be able to save anything. What's more, your local staff will be earning a hell of a lot more than you because of the high local wages!

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Aussies are friendly, open and very egalitarian in their approach - perhaps a bit too naive also!

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Certainly anything having to do with the great outdoors, the beaches and parks. Problem is there's not a lot of culture or history and everything is SO far and SO expensive that you tend to just stick around your area and after a while, it gets boring.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Too many to list, get a good guide book and bring your savings!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not much that's tempting - aborignal art if that's what you're into.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Beautiful nature, very little culture shock, very safe, enjoyable weather most of the year, friendly people.

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10. Can you save money?

NOOOOO

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How British it really is in many ways. How expensive it is.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not for extended periods of time but it's a lovely and pleasant place for vacation.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, expectation to save money.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure.

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Sydney, Australia 11/04/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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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?

U.S. - takes about 23 hours (door to door).

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartments, single houses - communte 15-30 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find a lot of varieties but keep in mind that it is a very expensive city. We order a lot from U.S.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A lot of disposables, medicine for kids, shoes, clothes.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

A lot of options but insanely expensive.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Flies (they love to have a go at your face).

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO, pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Pretty expenvise (US$20/hour).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes plenty but very expensive. I pay around US$35 a fortnight.

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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?

No problem whatsoever.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Plenty, you choose.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, safe and affordable.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Plenty but expensive service fees.

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Pets:

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?

Yes.

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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?

Yes, good to work on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business, people dress very smart over here.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None.

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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?

Good.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Pollen.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Since we have been here, the weather has been moderate.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

None. Kids can go to local schools. My kids love the school they are enrolled in. I love the program, the teachers and the fact the school is a block from my house.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

They have very good programs. Just have to inquire with each different schools.

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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?

Yes but very expensive. (US$100/day or more).

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, plenty.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Size - small; morale - small -- not much getting together.

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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?

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes. Good for everyone.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that we have encountered.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

People, travelling to many locations within Asutralia.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Sydney opera house, harbour bridge, taronga zoo, featherdale zoo, blue mountains, sydney olympic park, plenty of muesums, aquariums and beaches.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Plenty of options.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Culture, great food, people, weather, beaches. This is not a post where you can save money. Things are 3-4 times moe than what they would cost in the States.

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10. Can you save money?

NOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How expensive this city is and how broke one can become.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Heck Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Car - buy one here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Cosmetics.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Just your usual tour guide books.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you are here for a few years enjoy it all you can because coming back on your own dime will be very expensive.

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Sydney, Australia 09/01/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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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?

Los Angeles and an additional five hours from D.C. Australia seems to be nearly 8 hours minimum from everywhere, with the exception of New Zealand and Papua, New Guinea.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

(The contributor is posted at the U.S. Consulate General and has been living in Sydney for two years.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing opportunities with short-term leases are spread across the city. Usually families live in the northern (north of the harbour) or eastern suburbs. Single and couples live near North Sydney or in the central business district (CBD). Commute time from CBD apartments is 10 to 20 minutes walkling. North Sydney is 30 to 40 minutes by bus or train. Outer suburbs ... not sure. Where you live will dictate to a large extent the character of your tour. Choose wisely!

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything costs nearly twice as much as in Washington D.C. The selection is wide at Wollies, Coles, and Aldi. Specialty stores such a Thomas Dux, Norton St. Grocers and David Jones are among the many independent stores, and they should help keep you stocked. With the strong Aussie dollar, many American products are starting to appear on shelves. Asian products are many and widely available.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Just about everything is available in Sydney for a price. We shipped a load of items from Costco to save money. If you do ship items, check the quarantine rules. HHE and UAB will be checked. Costco opened in Auburn after we arrived, but it is not close to any consulate housing. If you love a particular item and it is commercially processed and not on the quarantine list, you won't have a problem.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything is available. Everything costs about twice you would imagine.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We didn't encounter any problems, however suburban folk mentioned wearing gloves when cleaning shrubs and gardening due to poisonous spiders. Lots of poisonous critters.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Most things can be shipped to the DPO, which is a luxury! The few items that cannot can be routed to the personal pouch address.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Ha! Ha! They might make more than you do and will be unaffordable for most people. A couple families brought their help from previous assignments.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many people join Fitness First, which is as overpriced as it is inevitable. For $80 a month you will experience somewhat overcrowded and under-cleaned facilities. But they have many locations and are convenient. Virgin Gyms have recently opened, and although they are awesome, at around $110 they are significantly more expensive.

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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?

We didn't even need to open a bank account in Australia. We were able to get by with credit cards and ATMs. The ATMs are safe and accessible.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Uh, Yes!

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

News stands are plentiful. Mostly American and British television programing. Foxtel and Optus are the major players. Many over-the-air channels. If you like Big Bang Theory and Two-and-a-Half Men, you'll be in heaven.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Just avoid saying "root" and get used to the phrase, "How you going?" You will score points with the locals using the following pronunciation guide: Canberra = Can-bra, Cairns = Cans, and Melbourne = Mel-bun.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The sames as any large American city. Google Sydney transport.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe, absolutely! Taxi drivers are mostly honest, and buses and trains are almost on schedule and relatively inexpensive (for Sydney). Expect to pay $3.50 AUD for a one-way train ticket. A train ticket to the airport will set you back $15-AUD.

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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 locally or not at all. Australia does not allow you to import left-hand drive vehicles, so you have no choice but to buy on the local market at exorbitant prices. If you can manage, live in the CBD and take public transportation.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Shopping for internet can be an exercise in frustration, as the industry has the transparency of mattress companies in the U.S. There is no such thing as unlimited data, so most companies have plans with different speeds, data caps, and accessories thrown in. Telstra is the the biggest player, but they have binding two-year contracts, which can be difficult to negotiate for people on two-year assignments. Some of the smaller companies might be more flexible: Optus or iiNET, for example.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

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?

Do they ever! Rabies does not exist in Australia, so they have incredibly strict quarantine requirements for your pet. If you can start the process early, then you can reduce your pet's stay in quarantine to the 30-day minimum. At the time of this writing, the cost for a dog in quarantine was $40/per dog per day, not including the charges for mandatory vet visits. Intrepid are the souls who bring their pets to Australia.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, in the suburbs. If you live in the CBD, you will rarely see dogs, and then only small ones.

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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?

Management is great about providing plenty of opportunities for EFMs at the consulate. The private sector proved tougher than expected for many of the EFMs. An EFM nurse worked at a hospital and a couple of teens were working at local restaurants. Even barista jobs (at Starbuck's for example) are difficult to get, as they require an expensive TAFE certification.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suits and business-casual at work. In public anything goes. It's not unusual to see bare feet in the beach suburbs or on the bus. You won't look out of place wearing an NBA or MLB cap with running shoes.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

If you are out late, beware of drunks. We would often hear of large drunken brawls in the Rocks, Darling Harbour, and Kings Cross. Australians even use the term 'glassing' for hitting someone over the head with a bottle. Although we were never harassed, we did encounter Asians being harassed on trains and in the CBD.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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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?

Usually fine. Controlled burns occasionally cause problems in Sydney.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

An earlier poster sums it up nicely: Rainy winters with sunny days, and sunny summers with rainy days. Sydneysiders swear it's been unusually wet the last two summers.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Available and expensive from what we hear.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Sports programs are compulsory for kids. Aussies take their athletics very seriously.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge!

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2. Morale among expats:

Mostly great! Though in our experience, Sydney wasn't for everyone. Many people missed the close-knit communities of hardship assignments, and some young families found the prices so high as to be nearly untenable.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for all. Singles and couples living outside the CBD often complain about being lonely. Consider living in the CBD. Families seem to make local friends with many kids' activities available.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Sydney is a very tolerant city. The Sydney Mardi Gras parade should be on your bucket list whether you're straight or gay.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Be prepared to be lectured on civil rights, immigration, indigenous peoples, and religious tolerance even though Australian face the same issues.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Uluru, Kangaroo Island, Western Australia, proximity to New Zealand, and interesting wildlife you will not see anyplace else.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Take a train to the Blue Mountains, hike along the coast, enjoy water sports --- including but not limited to paddle boarding, dragon boating, and kayaking. Sydney is your oyster!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not as much as you might think. Aside from Aboriginal arts and crafts, there aren't many uniquely local products. Tim-tams and Vegemite come to mind.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Beaches, bush walking, water sports, wine, excellent food, concerts, theater, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

Not even close!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations that Sydney will be perfect, and the notion that you can drive to the Great Barrier Reef. Most things in Australia are further than you might imagine.

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson

A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Dish, Muriel's Wedding, Gallipoli
(for the scenery and a bit of history)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

New Year's Eve in Sydney is the event of a lifetime. Shell out the money for a nice view instead of waiting for 12-hours in the hot sun.

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Sydney, Australia 06/01/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, several other ex-pat experiences in Africa and Asia.

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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?

Travel to Sydney from the United States is usually via LAX (12-13 hours) or San Francisco (14-15 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government---U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Great housing, easy commutes on public transport (usually 35 minutes or less door-to-door).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available, but prices are much higher than the average U.S. price.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Since most things are generally more expensive in Australia, I would bring extra clothing, shoes, DVDs, etc. Kids' stuff is also very expensive, so it makes more sense to bring it from the States.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Great food options, all more expensive than U.S. prices.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Heaps of spiders.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

At the Consulate, we used the excellent APO. Otherwise the Australia Post system is reliable.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available? Yes. Incredibly expensive? Also yes.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots of gyms with many membership options.

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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?

Lots of reliable ATMs everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything available, all in English (and other languages too!)

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, plenty of options with a range of costs.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, but it's much more fun to pick up a few Aussie slang words.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sydney is somewhat accessible, but certainly not as much as you might find in the States.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The public transport network is extensive, generally safe, and somewhat affordable. Taxis are plentiful, but somewhat expensive.

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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?

U.S. cars cannot be imported, but there are lots of new and used car options in Australia. People generally just buy a car after arriving in Australia.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, easily available. High speed internet can be part of a phone/TV cable/internet package, which is a much better value.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Lots of good cell phone options in Australia.

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Pets:

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?

Yes, usually a minimum of 30 days.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Great pet care options, from what I understand.

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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?

Jobs won't be handed to you on a silver platter, but they are available. You have to go out there and pound the pavement just like everyone else.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress is a must. And it better be with style too. This is Sydney.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Using common sense is the best advice.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Excellent medical care is available to everyone under the Australian health care system. It certainly helps, though, if you have health insurance.

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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?

Great air quality, lots of fresh and salty ocean air.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mild climate. Rainy winters with sunny days, and sunny summers with rainy days.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No experience with international schools. Our children attend the local public school, which was excellent. We didn't see the need to send them to a private school, although there are plenty of private school options.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The Australian school system has accommodations for all types of special needs.

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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?

Lots of pre-schools, but with long waiting lists and jaw-dropping fees.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, heaps. Rugby, cricket, footy, soccer, netball, basketball, swimming, tennis---just to name a few.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Although the size of the Consulate is somewhat small, there are people from all over the world living in Sydney.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mostly high. If you've never lived outside the United States before, then you may have a difficult time adjusting to the Aussie lifestyle. But if you're coming from Africa, which we were, then Sydney is the Emerald City of Boundless Joy and Eternal Happiness.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Anything under the sun, especially when it comes to "barbies", which are the quintessential Aussie informal social gatherings.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Excellent city for everyone.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This is one of the top cities in the world for gays and lesbians.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Nothing that we haven't seen or heard of in the United States.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Bush walking in the Blue Mountains, surfing at one of Sydney's many beaches, boating on Sydney Harbour, music and theatre events at the Sydney Opera House, and spectacular New Years Eve parties.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, the Great Ocean Road, the outback, and don't forget the Sydney Opera House. Also, New Zealand is just across the ditch.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Traveling around Australia is money well-spent.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Sydney is an ideal city for both visiting and living. There are endless activities within a 3-hour radius of Sydney, not to mention the rest of Australia.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. Sydney is expensive, and there are so many great things on which to spend your money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Without any hesitation. We loved Sydney more than we have loved living in any other city. It is one of the best places to live and work in the world. We would go again, no questions asked.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

need for Taco Bell and other Mexican food.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, sunblock, surf board, and speedos.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"30 Days in Sydney" by Peter Carey. "In a Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Muriel's Wedding", "Mission Impossible 2", "The Matrix", and many others.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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