Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Stereotypes /

If you follow me on twitter (, you know that I have decided to stay in Sydney a little bit longer to enjoy the Aussie way of life. I had come to a point where I couldn’t take one more British winter, and a change was long overdue after close to 15 years in Blighty. Not to mention that I am a nomad at heart. In short, here I am, and loving it. So, what did I learn? Well, so far, so good. The running is amazing and it’s incredibly warm compared to Europe. But let’s not wait, here are my main findings after a few weeks:

  1. 1. People TALK. I know, it’s amazing, right? Over here, you say ‘Hello!’ to the bus driver, to fellow runners, to the concierge or the cashier. You might even strike a conversation. For the record, I haven’t heard anyone say ‘G’day, mate!’ just yet. It must be urban legend. That said, you might strike a conversation with somebody you don’t know. Come on, it’s shocking! In London, you shut up. It’s considered rude to talk to others, and most of the time nobody will reply if you do. Not to mention that I always took the automatic check-out anyway.
  2. 2. I am a control freak. I totally need to relax. That’s probably what London does for you. Things are very chilled over here, and slower than in England. Simply put, it freaks me out. When, for instance, the food is slow to come, the light remains red for too long or the shop doesn’t open bang on time, I feel like the world is coming to an end. I. Need. To. Relax.

3. Being French, I was worried about all the administrative stuff that I needed to do. Needless to say, I had brought with me a ton of papers, including my parents and grandparents birth certificates because in France, you NEVER know which paper you will be asked to produce, and it’s not uncommon to wait a whole day only to find out that a paper that was never ever mentioned is missing. Well, I shouldn’t have worried. Getting an Australian driving licence didn’t take more than ten minutes, and registering for Medicare took only two hours (it would have been at least a day in my home country). However, some (French) things don’t change: I needed to renew my daughter’s French passport and there was a problem with her birth certificate. She was born in London -an exotic city in a foreign country obviously-, and as the birth certificate said ‘Lambeth, London’ and not simply ‘London’, the application was suspended. I kid you not. I was told that they had had to make some checks -give me a break!- and I should get the passport in a few weeks. Me being me, I am a bit worried. It’s a French thing. Bureaucracy can crush you. You never win against French bureaucracy. And in the UK, I had to send my French driving licence to the DVLA, and had no licence for a week. My take on it? Things are much better organised down under.

4. Nobody has commented on my French accent or my style. It is refreshing. In fact, I love it. Everybody comes from somewhere and nobody cares. I haven’t had any patronising comment so far, or unwanted advice. Pure bliss!

5. Let’s talk about the Tube. OK, I’ll say it fast: the London Tube is amazing. I miss it. I know, I know. In Sydney, they have trains every 10 minutes or so. In London, I start to complain after a couple of minutes of wait. Simply put, I was lucky and didn’t fully appreciate it.

6. Going to the beach is incredibly common. That said, it can be a risky business. I am not talking about sharks here, I am talking about rip currents. I must admit that I didn’t even know what they were before living here. And I grew up on the Mediterranean, but we don’t seem to have rip currents there. I guess you have to learn at all ages.

7. The national sport seems to go and fetch your morning coffee in your boat. What’s not to like ?

8. I am learning lots of new words. In no particular order: dunny (toilet), ripper (great, needs to be used at every possible opportunity), barbie (barbecue. Very important. Part of the Aussie DNA), Maccas (MacDonalds), Thongs (flip flops)…Let me know if I forgot anything.

9. Love for sports and easy availability of good sporting infrastructure make such a difference! I am amazed to see water fountains everywhere when I jog. In London, most of them are broken. At 5 am, people are already running en masse.

10. As we are still waiting for my daughter’s French passport, we might be here a while. I intend to make the most of it. In fact, it’s good to have a bit of a quiet time away from home in London. Obviously we’ll be back there at some point. Having said this, I am still dreaming of ultra marathons in the US. I would love to move there, and it seems a real possibility in the future. East Coast or West Coast? We’ll see. Canyon de Chelly, here I come again!