When my friend “M” came to Sydney, she didn’t know a soul. She was lucky enough to secure a flat before she landed, thought she was so clever and organised doing all her research online; she thought she could start her exciting new life in Sydney straightaway without wasting money on temporary accommodation. “I looked on a map and listed up a few different suburbs. Then I checked rental properties on realestate.com.au. Ashfield was not that expensive and only 15 min from the city by train. And I happened to find this flat that looked very modern and clean, thought it was a great value.”
Cut a long story short; she ended up moving to Neutral Bay after a few months, paying more in rent and cost for removal service. But what really upset her was wasting her precious time. After all, she was only going to be in Sydney for one year and the first two months she felt unhappy. Firstly she was disappointed that her choice of suburb wasn’t quite what she pictured in her mind and secondly, having to move was emotionally and physically draining.
Why did you move? I asked. She told me she didn’t quite feel like she was in Australia. People at her local shops spoke to her in Chinese. Some shop signs were in Chinese without any translation. Every time she went out, her new Sydney friends told her she should not be going home on a train alone so late which made her feel unsafe and paranoid.
She has no problems with Chinese people. In fact, her husband is Chinese. Her point was that if she were to live in Sydney for only a short time, she would rather choose a place that represents Australia in a more balanced way. She did not want a concentration of a particular culture, even if she likes it, which I thought was fair enough.
I also need to point out that if you break your rental contract, meaning if you left earlier than what you signed up for, you will either have to pay a penalty or find someone to take on your lease yourself. So getting the suburb selection right the first time is important. And it is difficult.
Unlike my friend “M,” some people do prefer to live in a suburb like that. They might find it interesting or like being surrounded by people of similar cultural or religious background. So you need to ask yourself “what do I want?” before you start a suburb selection. Sometimes being close to work is not the answer.
If you want to find out about suburb characteristics, there are many ways. You could go by reports published by Australian Bureau of Statistics on diversity or median age. Sydney Morning Herald has a variety of articles such as “Sydney’s most liveable suburbs” or Domain’s “Sydney’s best suburbs for families.” Domain.com.au also has a comprehensive suburb profile on each suburb including median property price, lifestyle and who lives there plus commute times to the city.
However, you need to be aware that most such sources are politically correct and it is hard to get anything real, let alone negative. We understand that this is one of the reasons why our clients use our relocation services; to get information that only locals can tell you. You also need to be careful reading those newspaper articles as their target audience is local Australians. Suburb selection is a little different process for locals buying a house that intend to live there for the next 20 years as opposed to foreign expats finding a place to enjoy sunny, coastal Aussie lifestyle for the next two years.
In choosing where to live, one important factor is safety. Sydney is a safe place if you use common sense. According to NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, most major crimes are on the decrease. Robberies and property-related crimes, such as break and enter dwelling, have recorded the lowest in 25 years. However, it is true that statistically speaking, some areas are safer than others. I picked up relevant criminal categories of the suburbs that may be of our clients’ interests and put together a graph to give a glance at safety of Sydney suburbs. With NSW median crime rate being 1, you can see that most crime rates of Sydney suburbs recorded below the State’s average with a few exceptions which means wherever you choose, it is not likely to be the most dangerous part of Sydney. In fact, from my experience as a relocation agent, most of our clients choose either North Shore or Eastern Suburbs and if not, within a 10km radius of the Sydney CBD.
City living has become quite popular in the recent years, particularly with our Asian population. However, I would like to draw your attention, if you are thinking about living close to the CBD, to the fact that crime rates in the CBD and North Sydney are noticeably higher. Personally, I was surprised to see North Sydney recorded so high, considering it is one of the most desired areas to live for many Australians, as well as expats and North Shore, is known to be a safe area. But I suspect this may be the case with any metropolitan city in the world where its population includes unspecific mass of general public and short stayers, not just local residents.
Sydney is divided into several areas. Like any other big city, each has different characteristics and is described by stereotypes. You might find that it is hard to do online research on these characteristics because you can imagine publishing such articles take a bit of guts. You can often be politically incorrect, and generalization can be offensive. For those reasons, I admire Kirsten Craze for writing this piece “The Seven Tribes of Sydney” for Daily Telegraph. Please be warned it is four years old, so the figures and some references such as our Prime Minister are obviously not current. While it is a wild generalization on every area, it is funny. I tend to agree the East is “posh and pouty” and the North Shore Mosman dads do look like the “Tommy Hilfiger” type. The Inner West “Yipsters” (the yuppie and the hipster) do look like they might be in “communications or advertising,” accompanied by “telltale accessories such as “retro bicycles, heavy-rimmed glasses, and recycled satchels.”
In any case, if you are relatively new to Sydney, this article will give you some ideas of how different Sydney can be. If you want to get the suburb selection right and find out what suburb suits you without doing all that time-consuming research yourself, you can always talk to us at Kathryn Hall Agency.
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