11 Unexpected Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving To Sydney

I can’t express how much good can come to anyone thinking of moving to Sydney – the healthy lifestyle, the weather… the list goes on.

There are a few things however you won’t know about Sydney until you actually live here. Some are good, some are bad, and some just make you wish you appreciated home a bit more. Here’s my list of 11 unexpected things I wish I knew before moving to Sydney.


#1 Drinking Laws

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I think British people assume Australia is a laid back tropical island where people just sit around drinking Fosters (I’ve not actually ever seen it served here!) and surf all day long but the reality is Sydney and its state of NSW is pretty strict when it comes to the drinking laws. You’ll have to do an RSA Course to work in a bar and there’s a lock out law that after 1am you can’t get into any bar/club so choose wisely on where to settle in for the night. Doormen also aren’t very nice at all and won’t let you into a bar if you look like you’ve had a couple of drinks (the irony!!).

When I’ve walked through the city on a Saturday night, it’s dead. Don’t expect a banging nightlife in Sydney CBD. I think people are more inclined to hold house parties as drinking out is expensive. Also don’t expect it’s OK to drink outside a pub on the street like it’s the norm in London because you’ll never see it happen in Sydney.


#2 Fashion

things i didn't know before moving to sydney

It’s true what they say, fashion is behind in Sydney. At the moment it’s 2 years behind what I’m seeing in the shops in Sydney but the biggest surprise I’ve found is that it’s pretty much either really dressed up (like going to the races kinda way) or everyone is in active wear. I thought everyone just worked out but you’ll notice a lot of women have a full face of make up on so I think it’s more of a trend here. Don’t expect any high fashion or trends like in London, it’s all about monochrome. I’ve found my style has adopted this to a certain extent and a bit more tailored as time goes on which is not a bad thing but I do miss seeing real individual style.

Hilariously this reminds me of the Eastern Suburbs in Sydney


#3 Closing Hours for Shops & Cafes

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Don’t expect the shops in Sydney to stay open late like they do in London although there is late night shopping on a Thursday til 9pm, otherwise it’s 5:30pm during the week and 5pm on weekends. Cafes on the other hand close by 4pm on weekends which is a bit gutting but you get used to it.


#4 Transport

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Transport is pretty bad in Sydney and traffic isn’t much better. You’ll usually have one form of transport to get anywhere and a lot of people drive to work but you’ll get used to it in the end. All expats moan about how bad the system is but the transport is cleaner and you’ll more than likely be able to get a seat rather than being pushed up against the tube doors in London.

People also don’t know how to drive in Sydney. You don’t need to have lessons to get a licence so anyone can teach you as long as you have enough hours clocked up you’ll get a licence driving with your eyes closed!! The use of the slow, middle and fast lane also isn’t a big deal so everyone under takes all the time. This is something that freaked me out initially! Police are also hot on doing RBT’s (random breathalyser Tests) so be careful with drinking. You can drink 1 drink every hour if you are driving – nuts hey!


#5 TV

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Nothing will prepare you for how bad TV is in Australia. Think cooking, singing, dating and interior shows and that’s what you’ll be getting on repeat all the time. It’s all about reality TV and that’s about it otherwise its very American focused drama TV. News is very Australian focused so we never really know what’s going on around the world. Luckily the weather is pretty good so you won’t have to stay in and depend on TV to entertain you.


#6 Getting A Job

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Most expats I’ve spoken to have all had trouble getting a job in Sydney at first. Just be prepared that it might not come along as quickly as you’d like. I think this is purely down to more skilled people to job ratio.

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#7 It does get cold

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Most people think Australia is hot all year round. Wrong, it can get really cold in winter and with no central heating or double glazing, I’ve found it to be colder than in London. A friend of mine moved to Sydney from London in August, the time it’s at the height of the British Summer and Australian Winter. She brought over 1 jumper and couldn’t believe how cold it was. Make sure you pack a winter coat if visiting or moving over but the beauty of a Sydney winter is it’s pretty much blue skies everyday. Usually there’s a few weeks of solid rain but otherwise winter is gorgeous!

11 things to do in Sydney winter


#8 It’s incredibly expensive to buy a house

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Australia is expensive for most things but buying a house in Sydney is near to impossible. Housing can cost anything from $700K +  for a 1 bed in a decent area. The further out West of Sydney you go, the cheaper it is but for those wanting to live in the nicer suburbs, this is what you’ll be expected to pay. Most people I know who still own at least 1 home in UK have to rent in Sydney.


 #9  Spiders

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I was absolutely petrified about spiders before moving to Australia. In the last 5 years I can honestly say I’ve seen just 2 huntsmans in my home and they aren’t even dangerous. Just two, that’s it. I thought there would be spiders EVERYWHERE but no, it’s actually all OK.

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#10 Holidays

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Being from Europe, I wish I appreciated how many countries I could have visited on my doorstep. It’s expensive to leave Australia which is why many have never left. I’ve noticed most Australian’s holiday in either Bali or Europe. I can see why as Bali is probably the cheapest holiday destination for Australians and Europe because they want to see their heritage and/or a bit of culture. I’ve noticed how much I miss the architecture in London but I have to remind myself Australia is only 200 years old. The good thing is that it’s not looked upon if you want to take 3, 4 or even 5 weeks off to go on a long holiday in the work place in Aus.


#11 Health

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Most people are health conscious in Sydney and it makes you want to join the club too. Something I very much never expected was I’d be jumping on the health wagon finding myself working out before work and in my lunch hour with everyone else in Sydney.

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See the interview with a British Expat Jennie who changed her diet when she moved to Sydney here

#11 People are really friendly

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I remember a friend moved out to Sydney from London and she couldn’t believe how people would walk past and smile at her let alone say hello and even strike up a conversation with her in a shop. This was totally alien to her, something she had never experienced in London before. Having nice people around you sets off good vibes and leaves everyone feeling great. You know Sydney has been named the world’s friendliest city?

For me, Sydney has a much better, friendlier vibe than back in London and although all these things were unexpected when I moved over, I got used to them pretty quickly because non of them mattered in the end as my new way of life was completely priceless 🙂

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Have you moved to Sydney and found anything you weren’t expecting? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading

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11 Unexpected Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving To Sydney
4.5 (90.48%) 21 votes
  • Steven

    We moved over from Switzerland almost a year ago, so our experiences are compared to life to there. Agree 100% with conclusion about friendliness & way of life. Perhaps adding to the list of ‘adjustments’, we had to get used to having less cash left over at the end of the month even with high salaries, due to high taxes, very high rent & all other ridiculous costs. Travelling from here is indeed very expensive and one feels quite isolated. Services (incl medical, Communications, etc) are far from first world. And finally: the Aussie laid back attitude translates in the real world into a disturbing lack of quality, reliability, accountability & honesty, although we love the flexible attitude towards finding solutions and willingness to provide opportunities.

  • Mel

    I’m considering moving from San Francisco, CA to Sydney. Your blog is a huge help!

  • Kristy @ The Life She Made

    Your bit about getting a driver’s license is completely false. It’s incredibly difficult to get one. You must complete 250 hours of documented supervised driving before you can set your practical test. You are then on red P’s for 1 year before sitting another written exam to get your green p’s for 2 years. Only then are you a fully licensed driver without restrictions.

    • Hi Kristy, everyday I’m faced with a near accident on Sydney roads! It’s very cut throat over here!