There are many things I don’t know about Australia and many things I expected to be completely clueless about. Pre-arrival I had fond fantasies about late night beach barbies surrounded by flaxen haired men with torsos you could play the bongos on. I visualized balmy summer nights set to a Summer Bay soundtrack, and a city full of frivolous fun loving people who were scantily clad.
Well, half of that’s true, but there’s a lot more to Sydney than Neighbours would have you believe. For starters, just because they’re a 24 hour plane ride away doesn’t mean the life here isn’t as complex and prevaricated as it is on our shores, the weathers just better, that’s all. Their economy has been hit, they’re experiencing forest fires- the mere fact of balmy sunshine in March does not mean automatic serotonin boosters for every citizen.
Every city has a distinct personality, so I can’t even qualify the title in all fairness, as since you can’t bunch LA and New York together, likewise it’s unfair to assume Sydney speaks for all of Oz. My experience has been slightly coloured by hanging out 24/7 with my gay friend (how else would I have realized North Bondi beach was the gay part?), but there are some major differences/ cultural experiences that stood out for me.
1. A hotel is not a hotel, unless it has a lobby.
Seriously, they have the Exchange Hotel, the Art Hotel, the Kings Cross Hotel- and they’re all bars and clubs. And don’t let a sign that says ‘beds available’ fool you, as that may be just a kinky invitation. Look for a lobby if you want a room, or stay and drink. In a strange reverse fashion, somewhere labelled ‘bar’ is not a hotel, but is normally a really terrible bar, so go to a hotel. You get the idea.
They say that a lot. Not being up to date on Neighbours I’m not sure if I should have expected this. The word ‘Pash’ is also used.
3. Cherry Ripe
A chocolate bar we don’t have in London, yet is advertised everywhere here. Made by Cadbury’s it’s meant to be a mix of cherries and coconut with melted chocolate- established waay back in 1924!. I think it’s vile- you may disagree. It’s also very expensive- the cheapest chocolate bar here seems to be UK 75p, even in supermarkets. I’d advise you to stick to Tim Tams- a local delicacy of chocolate and biscuit fused together in a mouth watering way.
4. You have to pay for Koalas, but the bats are free
The Koalas only roam free in the bush, not hugging every tree as I’d (naively) hoped for, meaning a one on one session costs bucks at the zoo. Cockroaches however do seem to flourish here- recklessly roaming the street, with their nasty feelers ahead of them. You do get a LOT of fruit bats though, and every evening they do the sunset dance in the sky, caterwauling their way home by making arrow shapes in the clouds.
5. The Olympic Park is built on shit
OK, waste matter. Pre-parktime it was a dumping site, and when they got awarded the Olympics, rather than clear it all up they sealed loads of it in cement and built rolling hills over it and landscaped it green. Ingenious huh?
6. That it would be so familiar
Yes, obviously any English speaking country you holiday too isn’t going to have the same aura of foreignness you might expect from Asia, but you also don’t expect streets named ‘Liverpool, Sussex or Kings Cross.’ And they have a train station called CROYDON. Cadbury’s is plentiful here (unlike America), they have Subway, Pret a Manger and FCuk. And a Westfield!!
7. That they’d be so stylish
Sure I expected them to be tanned and trim, but I imagined them taking after the equally sunshine-y Angelenos and being very relaxed in dress. Yes, they may well wear flip flops, but gladiator sandals, shirt dresses and bubble skirts feature a lot as well.
8. That Straight men use gay bars to hit on girls
When you think about it, it actually makes a strange kind of sense. As one rather ripped boy told me, ‘there’s less competition’. Every woman in a gay bar is DYING for the tiniest bit of attention, so a girl who wouldn’t look at you twice is suddenly bowled over by the merest hint of admiration. Add to that the fact that you semi-automatically assume they’re gay and the girls will let them be a lot more touchy-feely than usual, assuming that their flesh isn’t seen as provocative when grinding with a gay guy.
9. Despite the hype, Bondi beach is not all that
Bondi beach is world famous. You expect hot surfers (tick), sandy dunes (tick), and bluer than blue waves (tick), but I’d also expected a medley of beachside cafes and bars. They do exist, but they’re not exactly the Venice Beach promenade (Lo Angeles), as you have to go up the stairs, climb the hill and THEN you’re at the bars, hardly a hop and a drink away. It’s a lovely beach, but after the huge expectations I had I was frankly disappointed.
10. Partying hard means 21 hour stints rather than ten hours!
I went out at eleven, and tottered home at nine, completely exhausted. Passing out fully dressed I woke at six pm to three missed calls from my friends. They wanted to meet me at the bars at seven pm, where they’d been ALL NIGHT. Yes, when the first club closed, they went to a ‘breakfast club’ and then onto a day bar when that closed at 4pm. OMG. Yes, if I lived here I’d probably be due a full body breakdown within two weeks- but I can’t deny that it’s fun.
11. That I’d be sprayed on the plane
‘Cover your mouths’, they warned us before spritzing us with insecticide. What a charming welcome to the country!
12. That they’d know (of) me
On two separate occasions people evinced knowledge of lil ol me. Once was a recruitment agent who’d heard of my company, and the second was an 18 year old college girl who read Kiss and Makeup regularly and recognized me from my videos! Ah, fame!
FINAL VERDICT: I’ll be back!