Mum is here. The skies are grey and it has been raining for two days. I am not sure that it is what she expected from her Sydney visit, but at least I told her to pack a lightweight raincoat. We’ve all had a walk in the rain and the kids had a great time jumping in puddles.
Here are nine things that visitors might not expect about Sydney, or at least nine things it’s worth being prepared for.
(1) It’s hot.
I said that before, didn’t I? When we first stepped out of Sydney airport in January 2011 the moist, hot air hit me as if we were going into a sauna. Admittedly, it was summer, but we have been here for 4 years and it still feels hot to me. Sydney has a ‘temperate’ climate (just like Britain) with hot summers and cold winters, but bear in mind that the lowest temperature EVER recorded in Sydney was about 3 C, and you will understand that the definition of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ is relative. Last year, my kids wanted hot water bottles and hot chocolate when the temperature got down to 19 C. Really. I am not kidding.
(2) It is also damp.
I regularly forget how moist the air is and have to throw away whole loaves of bread because they are mouldy. My husband is wiser than me and usually keeps them in the fridge. My eldest son just eats them before they go mouldy. (Think a loaf a day and you have close to his bread consumption.)
(3) It rains a lot, even if it is sunny.
In the UK we equate spring and summer with days and days of cold wet drizzle, and the occasional heavy storm. Sydney gets more rainfall than London, but think more tropical and you have it right.
(4) We have pests.
Oh yes. Cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, spiders, snakes, bats and possums. We were all shocked when we saw our first cockroach, fascinated by our first huntsman and more than a little worried by our first white-tail (spider). That first year, the seagulls ate all our germinating seeds our balcony. Even the kookaburras can get annoying because they are pretty noisy. But it kind of goes along with the amazing bits about this country. The landscape, flora and fauna is so different to whatever I grew up with that I am prepared to put up with a few annoyances along the way.
(5) There are no pubs.
Not in the same way that there are in England. You can go to a restaurant, or a ‘hotel’ which is about the closest you can get to a pub, but (to me) doesn’t feel the same. Or you could try one of the many ‘clubs’ – not clubs for dancing in, but RSLs etc. In my experience so far, they feel like something my grandad would have gone to in the 1970’s (sorry, but it’s true). Or you could try a really trendy bar where cocktails cost as much as a meal. I can’t see my mum hanging out with a half-pint of beer or a shot of whisky in any of these, to be honest.
(Just a quick aside, you don’t ask for a ‘half pint’ in NSW. Ask for a middy. It’s the same as a half pint but you won’t get a lecture from the barman.)
(6) People socialise outside, to a large extent.
I think this might be why pubs are so rare/non-existent. There are sausage sizzles at school, at Nippers, at Little Athletics. Kids’ birthday parties are often in a public park with a council-run BBQ (really a hot plate) or at the beach. Or you will invite your friends round to your place for a BBQ and some beers.
(7) Most of the swimming pools are outdoors.
There are far more outdoor swimming pools than indoor ones, although one of the indoor ones is near to where we currently live.
(8) Outdoor activities happen in the early morning or in the late afternoon.
I told my mum that parkrun starts at 7 am and she was a little shocked. It makes sense really. You don’t really want to be congregating around lunchtime when the sun is high in the sky and you are more at risk of being sunburnt or collapsing of heat exhaustion.
(9) Conversely, people will duck out of an activity if there is even a hint of rain.
If you organise an activity and it looks like it might rain, at least half of the attendees won’t turn up. That’s apart from the MBRC, where coach Joe (Ex Essex lad) says, “If it’s raining, we’re still training.”
What have I missed? Any other expats want to add to this list?