Since I’ve already made it quite clear that I didn’t fall in love with Australia, I thought today I’d share some of the things that I did love about the place. The iconic landmarks of Sydney are obviously pretty high on the list, with the Sydney Opera House and the view from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair being well worth the trip around the planet.
But here’s 5 more things that I adored about Australia…
The Aussie Attitude
We Brits have a reputation for being cold and overly polite, but I’d thought that was hyperbole until I arrived in Australia. I love how laid back and casual everyone is when talking to each other, even in relatively ‘formal’ settings. Working in the call centre, I found it really hard at first to adapt to saying things like “Hey, how’s it going, Bruce?” “No worries, mate” or “Too easy”. I spent seven months working in customer service for a UK bank, and I’d have been shot for saying anything less formal than ‘Hi’.
I loved how willing everyone was to talk to each other! Almost constantly I’d be bumping into people I’d barely spoken to before, and they’d stop to chat to me for ages, asking me about why I was in Australia and giving me tips and advice. In England, we’d likely have pretended not to see each other, or simply exchanged a smile or wave. It might sound like nothing to some people, but I found it so lovely.
While sometimes I found the irreverent sense of humour a little eyebrow-raising (see the photo of the rubbish/garbage truck below), it never failed to make me smile. The stereotype of the laid-back “she’ll be right”, “no worries” Australian is real and I loved it!
One of my favourite things in Australia was definitely seeing how varied the buildings were.
In the UK, land is at such a premium that most suburban homes occupy as little land as possible. Secretly, whenever I see the average Australian suburban home, they remind me of The Sims. The amount of land per plot seems incredible. For some perspective on what I mean, the average floorspace in a new UK home is 77 square metres, compared to 201 in the US and a whopping 214 in Australia (Source).
As well as having so much more land to build on, Australia also has the advantage of being such a young country in terms of construction. Like a younger sister who learns from her siblings’ cringe-worthy fashion choices, Australia has been able to cherry-pick which architecture styles it likes. This makes it fascinating to explore the cities, as different neighbourhoods can have completely different styles. Sometimes there’s even a huge variety within the same street. I adored walking near Brighton Beach in Victoria, seeing the completely contrasting architectural styles below, all right next door to each other.
Blue Skies and Beaches!
I confess that I don’t cope well with the heat in general. Now that my travel will be limited to July and August- ooh, mystery, am I hinting at future plans?- I’ve been researching places that aren’t a sweltering sauna when I’d be able to visit. Essentially, the Southern Hemisphere is my oyster. But surprisingly, I actually loved the Australian weather!
Several times the weather reports claimed over 35C – which is a scorcher to me with my Factor 50 habit – but the heat was much drier than Asia or the Caribbean. It was incredibly hot when walking directly in the sun, but in the shade it was cool and refreshing. Such a change from Asia where even out of the sun you’re still strangled by the oppressive humidity.
I was there in the Spring (October, November), which probably made a huge difference. I’d really recommend this time of year for anyone who wants glorious sunshine and a tan, without suffering. Especially if you plan to spend time on Australia’s gorgeous beaches. Bondi is a classic, but I was a fan of Brighton Beach, just outside Melbourne.
Although I had issues with Sydney’s urban sprawl, I have to admit that I lived in a lovely suburb. Strathfield is about 20-30 minutes from the city centre by train, about the same as my tube journey to Central when I lived in London. Yet the difference between 20 minutes out of the CBD and 20 minutes out of Oxford Street is astounding.
As far as I could tell, Strathfield is a particularly affluent suburb with multimillion dollar mansions and expensive cars on the roads. There are tree- and flower-lined streets, pleasant and shady parks and squares for people-watching, and amenities close to hand. It had the peace and feeling of safety of American suburbia, with good public transport links to the main city and beyond. I also liked Strathfield’s diversity, which I’ve heard described as ‘Little Korea’. I love Korean food, and had some of the best I’ve ever tried in Strathfield.
I’d be much happier to leave my house in the morning if this was the view that waved me off…
Oh God, I totally fell in love with these crazy purple trees. I know they grow in many places around the world, but Sydney was the first place I’d met them. Since I’d never heard the word said with an English accent, I found myself saying it with an awful Australian twang. Major cringe, when the rest of the sentence is in my very British accent. Disappointingly, they aren’t suited to the British climate so I’ll never have one of my own if ever I buy a house, but I can dream. Seeing that dash of colour around the city always made me grin, and walking in the sunshine along pavements carpeted in petals was one of my favourite things to do in Sydney.
There’s a town in New South Wales called Grafton, which holds an annual Jacaranda Festival. I was really tempted to go along, but then I did a quick google search and found out that it would take over eight hours to get there. Yet another case of Australia being surprisingly huge.
So there you have it- I managed to find 5 things I could tolerate about Australia. Just kidding- there were actually plenty of things I found perfectly pleasant about the place, these were just my 5 favourites. Have you ever been to Australia, and did you love it?