Expat Diaries: I Still Have Much To Learn About Living In Sydney

A friend in Melbourne has just had a bonny new baby so on Monday I took a little stroll to the post office. (Or Post Shop as it says on the sign, in a way that still amuses me.)

“I’d like a first class stamp for domestic post please,” says I, in a plummy English accent with a faint hint of an Aussie rise at the end of the sentence. (A habit I’ve no doubt developed from mimicking my husband.)

The Post Shop man contemplates me from above his spectacles.

“There’s one thing you need to learn darl.” (He probably didn’t say darl but I thought it would be nice to add it in for this reenactment. Adds colour, you know?) “In Australia we are a classless society.”

He stares at me very seriously, long enough for it to be awkward.

“Good joke, bro,” I’m thinking, “But where’s my stamp?”

Still he says nothing and still I have no stamp. Eventually he breaks away from my expectant gaze.

“Where’s it going?” he asks.

“Victoria,” I say. And then he flings me a stamp and sends me on my way.

Outside the Post Shop I stare at what I now know is a standard Aussie stamp. Boring story Jayne, you might be thinking, but the thing is I must have bought at least 20 ‘first class’ stamps since moving to Oz. It’s been 2 years and this is the first time someone bothered to tell me they do not exist.

This enlightening experience has been playing on my mind ever since.

For a Brit living in Oz the culture shock/adjustments are pretty minimal. Sure, the back-to-front seasons still trip me up. (The other day I was in the supermarket, wrapped in my winter layers, feeling a bit miserable about the cold, so I told myself, ‘cheer up it’s nearly Christmas.’ Then I remembered it was July. I got really sad and homesick for trifle.)

But I am slowly learning that cafes close at 3pm, a hotel is sometimes just a pub and even though I crave sandwiches from Pret and anything from M&S on a daily basis at least I can get avo and sea salt on sourdough on every corner.

10 Things I love About Living In Sydney (And A Couple Of Things That Bug Me)

Basically, for first time in a long while I was reminded that this isn’t my home country. It was reminder that I still have lots to learn about living in Sydney and the culture, quirks and customs of Aussies. But most of all I was reminded that being an expat still excites me. I got a little thrill out of learning something new about life in this sunburned country, and all it took was a visit to the post office!

5 Comments

  • rebecca says:

    As much as I think this is true.. and great! I do think Australia has an underlying class system, based on the suburb you live. I was born in Sydney and when I moved to the UK I was slightly proud of the fact that we didn’t have a class system; when I moved back to Sydney, I noticed we do judge people based on their suburbs though

    • Jayne Gorman says:

      This is so interesting Rebecca because one of the things I always say to Justin is I have no concept of suburbs. In London I can pretty much picture most areas and know a little of how to get there but when I meet people in Sydney who say they live in Petersham, Paramatta or Cronulla, for example, they could be listing places on the moon for all I know. I never considered that people might be making assumptions about others based on where they live but I know it happens in the UK.

  • Catherine says:

    I completely agree with Rebecca above ^ we used to judge people based on what suburb they lived in and what side of the river they were from. In Perth it’s a terrible thing to live ‘south’ of the river, and those of us who live north of the river joke that you need a passport to get down there. When we were at school those of us who went to the ‘golden triangle’ schools in the Western suburbs north of the river were given preferential places for ‘Leavers’ (schoolies over East) on Rottnest Island over those who went to schools outside of the golden triangle. Crazy stuff!

    C x | Lux Life

  • Ben says:

    Ironically Aus. Post recently introduced a 2 tier delivery service for letters. But it’s called Regular and Priority, basically 2nd and 1st class.

    • Jayne Gorman says:

      Whaaaat? The man looked at me like I was mad but all I wanted was a fast delivery and it seems it does exist! Now I know the right terminology hopefully I’ll get the right service next time 🙂

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