Why Christmas In Sydney Won’t Ever Be The Same For Expats

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Are you spending your first Christmas in Sydney and unsure what to expect? Maybe you’ve been living in Sydney for a while and missing a good white Christmas? Find out what it’s like as an expat living in Sydney and why Christmas in Sydney just won’t ever be the same.

I’ve spent a good few years now in Sydney during the Christmas period and I think it’s time we talk about how to deal with your first Christmas in Sydney.

I ask Steve the same question every year about whether this honestly feels like Christmas for him. Obviously the answer is yes, but I can’t get my head around how Christmas is always known to be in a winter setting, not when it’s boiling hot outside. He’s always says, this is Christmas in Sydney.

Here’s what you’ll notice about how it couldn’t be any less Christmassy if you tried in Sydney.


1. The Weather In Sydney

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Christmas in UK

We will get this one over with straight away. Even though the thought of spending Christmas in the sun sounds appealing, most (actually all) of the Brits I know in Sydney would love nothing more than a Winter Christmas.

It’s really hard watching those Christmas movies we all grew up with, you know, with the snow falling in every scene, yet in Sydney we are watching them in our shorts and t-shirt with the sound of a fan blowing in the background to keep us cool. It just doesn’t seem right.


2. Christmas Lights In The City

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This year’s lights on the main shopping street in Sydney, Pitt Street Mall

One thing I really miss is the Christmas lights in London because I don’t think anywhere in the world compares to the Regent Street & Oxford Street Christmas lights.

Sydney is getting better with it’s Christmas lights attempt though. Go to the turning on the Christmas lights in Martin Place. The section between Martin Place and Pitt Street Mall turns into a Christmas parade. It’s actually really fun watching small groups of carol singers singing on the street whilst you buy some food off the Christmas stalls.

Also make sure you check out the St Mary’s Cathedral light show. It goes on for about a whole month in December where you’ll find food stands, carol singers and a brilliant light display on the Cathedral. It’s like Vivid Festival but at Christmas.

Regent Street Christmas Lights 2016

Regent St, London Christmas Lights 2016 sees a magical display of angel sculptures 

But one thing I do really love in Sydney is the Christmas bus. There are a good few normal public buses which are completely dressed up, head to toe inside and out in Christmas decs! The bus driver evens wears a Santa costume!

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3. Christmas Advertising

I’ve especially noticed this year that there are rarely any Christmas movies being shown on TV in Sydney. I have my good few I love but instead, the programming schedule sees movies like Lara Croft and Shawshank Redemption – I mean the list goes on. Also, ads stay pretty much the same with one or two Christmas one’s thrown in.

I saw the Marks and Spencer ad for the UK this year (above) and couldn’t believe the production and how amazing it is.

Another thing I’ve noticed is you don’t hear Christmas music anywhere – so nothing in the shops (unless you’re in Target, Kmart or Woolies), or radio… nothing at all!


4. Christmas Lunch In Sydney

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One thing to get your head around especially if your other half is Australian, is the fact that Christmas lunch tends to be cold meats, seafood, salad and a pav for dessert. That’s it. I remember Christmas lunch being the whole hog – that’s a big turkey, loads and loads of veggies and about a million desserts.

And what about the drinks? Don’t expect to be ordering a mulled wine at the pub in Sydney! No one wants to drink a hot drink when it’s 30C! So that’s no mulled wine and no big lunch, the reasoning is that it’s too hot to spend the day cooking and it’s just not on their agenda. It’s about spending time with the family and going down to the beach.

I remember one of my first Christmases I actually left my parents house to pick someone up and I always remember thinking that I was the only driver on the road. It was like an apocalypse had happened. Here in Sydney, you’ll see lots of people around having BBQ’s at the beach which is actually quite nice.

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Christmas Day on Coogee Beach, Sydney


5. Father Christmas In Sydney

AP Australian Santa Run

The Annual Santa run

Santa Claus, Father Christmas… what ever you call him, is usually dressed up in shorts over here. It’s something I found hilarious when I first saw it but obviously the poor guy would be too hot here in Sydney when it’s around 30C!

Christmas Jumpers are also out of the question and it’s always a bit weird seeing people wearing them for their Christmas in July parties. Yes, Christmas In July is actually a thing, people celebrate it in the coldest month of the year!


The Good Side to Christmas in Sydney

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Sydney Festival takes over the whole of January

Christmas is a MASSIVE deal in UK whereas it’s not here in Sydney. You couldn’t walk into a shop in UK from November (I’m guessing it’s probably now from October) onwards without Christmas songs being played over and over again. I’ve not heard anything here yet. It’s just not a massive deal over in Sydney.

One of the best parts about Christmas in Sydney is because summer is in full swing, we are lucky that we can go on our summer holidays straight after Christmas. People take a good 2-3 weeks off for Christmas and tend to go back to work around the middle of January which is amazing.

Long gone is the awful, depressing month of January. This is the month where everything is going on in Sydney. From festivals, to live music, the list goes on.

People don’t just stop partying once New Year’s is over, it continues on throughout the whole summer. You see, that’s why Dry July exists, it’s when people give up alcohol for the month in the middle of winter. Makes sense right?

So we might not have Christmas music everywhere (thank god really), or that Christmas vibe going on, but at least we know that there is still a lot going on for the months after Christmas. That’s surely a good thing!? And let’s not forget the public holiday Australia Day on January 26 to look forward to as well!

What’s your experience of Christmas in Sydney?

  1. You know the decorations are much better than say a decade ago. There was a time when all council offered for Christmas decorations were ‘Season greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ street lamp banners, the Martin Place tree and some vague geometric shapes dotted around the place. They claimed they didn’t want to be exclusionary but TBH it was probably an excuse to minimalise the decorations and save money, unfortunately much like most Australian retailers these days. If more tourists visited Sydney specifically for Christmas, possibly both would lift their game?

  2. I’ll be spending my first Christmas in Sydney this year, thanks for all the advice. A bit worried Christmas Day itself will make me feel very homesick but I’m sure New Year’s will make up for it!
    jentopaper.com

    1. It will be such a novelty, I’m sure you’ll love being in the sunshine for your first Christmas in Aus! It’s also a great time of year in Sydney as NYE is amazing here and then the festival season starts!

  3. Moving to Sydney with my Aussie husband in January and “hot” Christmas is a big concern! Will miss so much White Christmas! Totally feel you!! You summarized exactly what I feel..

  4. Your experience of Christmas in Sydney is entirely different to mine. I was born and raised here and our Christmas lunch is always hot turkey, geese, ham and roast vegetables, followed by plum pudding. On Boxing Day we do have cold meats and salads followed by pavlova. I have never eaten a cold Christmas lunch, most of the people I know follow the same (hot) tradition. Some friends may have a seafood (oysters, prawns, crab and lobster) lunch but these are in the minority. I suppose it depends on how you were raised as a child but most of the people you see on the beaches on Christmas Day are tourists, they are always interviewed on the evening news, much as I love our beaches that is not where I would want to spend Christmas Day.

    I do agree with you about the city lights, I too long for displays like London does but all the department stores play Christmas carols, they have done for years. I hope you to get to experience a traditional Australian Christmas one day, certainly we don’t have the snow but we have all the other goodies including mulled wine and eggnog 🙂

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