It’s so different here. And it’s also not. Here are some examples…

1. Words. Yes, we all speak English. But there is a sort of  “language barrier.”   I google many items on menus. There is a sign at our grocery store that I have no idea what it means. I need to take a photo and Google it all. Sometimes we have trouble understanding the accent, but mostly we just don’t know what some words mean. It seems like we have all the same things…We just call it something different.   The list is long. Here are a few: 

Take/out or To-go is called Takeaway; Flip Flops are called Thongs; Ketchup is called Tomato Sauce and Swimsuits are called Bathers/Cossies/Swimmers
2. School. The school year begins around February 1st. The year is broken into 4 terms that are about 10 weeks each. There are school holidays (breaks) between terms. It seems like most schools require uniforms including hats. (The girls’ dresses are adorable in Coogee and I wish Mae would wear one for homeschooling.) We see heaps ( that’s a new AUS expression) of kids around town and on the bus. I can recognize what school the kids in our area go to based on their uniforms. Many kids use the public bus for transport to school. There is primary school which is typically Kindy- Year 6 and then high school which begins at Year 7 through Year 12. 

3. Food. It’s all the same and yet, so different. First off, the grocery stores are similar, but much smaller and have less variety. At home we have aisles devoted to ice cream and breakfast cereal. There just isn’t that many choices here. US grocery stores or even Super Target are one-stop shopping. Here there are bakeries and butchers and pharmacies and stationary stores. You may need to go to a few different stores instead of just one. 

4. Coffee. Again, this will probably get its own blog post one day. It’s so good. So good. But so different. Everything is different. The portions are so small and mostly espresso drinks. I haven’t seen just plain coffee anywhere. Every drink is made to order. No big carafes of coffee anywhere. No refills. I’ve switched to caffeine while I am here. Many places charge extra for decaf. It is so delicious. Flat whites are hands down my favorite. Back at home, my drink from Starbucks was an Americano. (I have seen Starbucks when we pass them on the bus. I think there are a couple in Sydney, but I feel no desire to go.) Here, an Americano is called a short black or long black. I haven’t had one yet. All coffee drinks are typically  the same price. I’m used to a latte being more expensive than an americano. There are not extensive coffee menus or  many places that serve just coffee. Instead, everyone serves takeaway coffee. Restaurants, cafes, jucies bars, the gelato place…All serve coffee.  There is a boutique down by the beach that has takeaway coffee out the window. I once saw a dry cleaner that sells coffee too! I am in flat white heaven.

5. Money. This was hard to get used to. Many differences. When we first arrived, we didn’t have any AUD dollars so I had to use my credit card. Some places charge  a surcharge if you use a credit card. Especially if it’s for just a small amount. Some places don’t take AmEx. The credit card machines are tap and go…But not for my overseas card. I actually have to sign a receipt  every time I charge. That is annoying. We can take money out of our ATM without having an ATM card. Also,  Wes can send me money when he’s at work and it texts me a code to go to the ATM and get the money. Dollar bills are called notes. The notes are made of plastic and can’t be torn (and allegedly more hygienic.) $1 and $2 are gold coins. It’s very strange to carry coins around and use them. Finally, taxes are included in prices so you pay what it says and nothing more. I love this! And typically it’s nice round and even numbers. No $3.99 here!  Especially since the smallest coin is 5¢.

6. Shopping. Malls are kind of different. I’ve only been to a couple and this could be because we live in a big city. But there are grocery stores inside the malls. And other things I’ve never seen inside a shopping mall ..Like a gym, post office and library. Target is also inside a shopping mall, but it just isn’t the same. It mostly sells clothes, house stuff and toys. It’s just not the same. I have gone a couple of times and leave feeling sad  I guess these shopping malls are better than strip malls. But I miss Amazon the most. 

7. Driving/Transportation. This will definitely be another blog post some day. Living without a car is very interesting. But we drive on the left side of the road. Steering wheels are on the opposite side of the car. Wes drove once. I’ll try someday. Wes bikes to work. The kids have scooters. I’m good to walk. When crossing the roads, I finally know which way to look (right then left) and I now understand where cars may be coming from and such. Again, living in the city means traffic and parking woes. It’s good to be without a car. Sydney has many options to get around. We primarily use the bus because of our location, but there is a train and light rail and my personal favorite, ferries. 

8. Beaches: I haven’t seen as many as I plan to. The weather isn’t cooperating. I still have time. Again….A future blog post. The beaches I HAVE been to are big! Big waves. Ocean pools. Kiosks with food and coffee. Big life guard stations. We have to swim between the flags which the life guards set up as the safest place to swim. Water is cold. We live in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and all our beaches are connected by a costal walk. Many of my Instagram posts are from the walk because it takes my breath away. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I can’t wait to see more. 

9. Restaurants. No tipping! Sometimes you pay for things like ketchup (tomato sauce.) When it’s time to pay, they bring the credit card machine to you at the table. Eating out is soooooo expensive!!! I have sticker shock everytime. It is THAT expensive compared to back home. It’s hard to even admit to some of the prices we’ve paid to eat out because it is just not our style. Since our kitchen isn’t very condusive to cooking big meals, we are finding some affordable ways to get food out occasionally. We’ve found a kids eat free taco place and sushi is much cheaper here. We tried Uber Eats. My strategy is to just order the cheapest thing on the menu 🙂 But we pack our lunches when we head off for the day. And the food is all good!!!

10. Animals. The birds are so freaking loud.  I’d like to murder them. Sorry. It’s true.  We all loved the first time we heard a kookaburra. Now, I’m woken up starting around 4am. There are birds are the beach that aggressively want people’sfood.  Other birds swoop down when you’re walking along the sidewalk. Birds come right into restaurants. At the zoo, pigeons and turkeys are fighting over your food..INSIDE the food court!! Lizards! They are all around which I love. We see tiny little ones on our street, but even seen some big guys around too. There is a cat on our street that we see everyday and one day he was trying to catch one of the tiny lizards. It was hilarious. Once we get out of the city, we will be able to see more Australian wildlife…Stay tuned. Currently we mostly see birds and dogs. (Dogs usually aren’t on leashes around here. I’m amazed how they stop at the corner and wait for the walk signal 🙂  

After 5 weeks… This is what we have noticed and observed as some differences between life in Denver and life in Sydney. 


(The whole family contributed to this blog post)