What a year since we fully moved down under in November 2016. To best describe what we experienced, I picked some interesting points with a mix of country, nature, city, work, leisure, gastronomy, culture – and happiness.
Let’s start with a short re-cap why and how it all happened. Two years ago, we decided for a career sabbatical given my corporate situation at that time. Following our dreams, we travelled for three months across New Zealand in the first quarter of 2016. Inspired by the South Pacific life style, we started to consider working in that area. Soon I learnt that most ICT related positions are based in Australia as many companies handle both countries together out of Sydney or Melbourne.
A cruise from Auckland to Sydney opened my eyes for this oldest Australian metropolis although we stayed there only one week. Back in Switzerland, I decided to add a management course to advance my career and found a suitable program at the Australian Institute of Management at their Sydney campus. During two months in Sydney I started to build my local network and eventually found my current position as Sales Manager at CloudRecover – selling cloud hosting solutions and software-as-a-service through the ICT channel. After a rapid visa process, we moved early November from Zürich to Sydney – and then the adventure really began.
Here is what we experienced so far, noted by alphabet.
Sydney is the oldest city on the continent and includes many heritage buildings like the famous Harbour Bridge. The Government House in the Royal Botanic Garden and the bank buildings on Martin Place proof the importance of the former colony. Shopping in The Strand reminds at London’s Burlington Arcade, and the elegant Queen Victoria Building is a landmark on its own. The countless Art Déco buildings all over Sydney from the good old 1930s capture my passion. Not to forget the modern architecture like the timeless Australia Square building with its revolving restaurant and the Sydney Opera House. What a variety in architecture!
While city life doesn’t include the melodies of sparrows, there is no need for an alarm clock as the variety of bird sounds help us waking up on a natural way. Looking through the bedroom window, we see colourful parrots welcoming us for the day. The most frequently visible birds are not well known in Europe: cockatoos, noisy miner, magpie and ibis. Especially in North Sydney some of those birds held daily meetings in the afternoon to discuss what happened during their day – they seem to be good in telling others their experience, but all talk at the same time.
Australia and New Zealand serve as an ideal test market given its combined size and English language. If a technology introduction fails, nothing happens for the rest of the world. If it works well, then it can be spread across other countries. This is also valid for the cloud adoption (despite the great weather with more sun than clouds). My professional role is connected to selling online backup and disaster recovery services for small and medium companies. It is important for our customer base that their data is stored in local Australian data centres. A great mix of international technologies delivered with local flavour and human touch.
Sydney is known as a multi-cultural metropolis with a rich history of immigrants from all over the world. The actively lived diversity is widely recognised in the cultural influences from British over Greek, Italian, Lebanese and Persian to Chinese, Indian and Japanese. I’m surprised how many languages are heard beyond English. Chinese New Year in February is a large event in the whole city, and Swiss expats living in Sydney also celebrate our national bank holiday on 1 August. Great to see nations united proud in the heritage and curious towards others.
Australia is well known for education, apparently it represents the third most important economic sector. The Australian Qualification Framework from the Certificate I to IV via Diploma and Advanced Diploma, Bachelor and Master up to PhD enables compatible education modules from registered providers. Enjoying her language classes, Alexandra recognised the importance of the education sector for the city when thousands of students from all over the world flood the coffee places and restaurants in the CBD. The “lifelong learning” mentality which I obtained in the Australian Institute of Management is also a priority importance for everybody.
Compared with our European experience, the friendliness of most people in Australia is quite contagious. Here it is rather normal to offer help to colleagues or neighbours. And when something doesn’t work out as expected, a short “no worries” calms down any situation. Most Aussies are very kind to bus drivers and thank for their service in a friendly way. When we moved into our current apartment on 23 December, our neighbours invited us immediately for their Christmas family brunch – as total strangers! Living in Australia somehow helps us to become a better person (at least we try).
The offering in the two big super markets Woolworths and Coles is slightly different than in Europe with local vegetables like sweet potatoes and other fruits. Some products we were used to buy like curd (“Quark”) are hard to find or quite expensive. On the other hand, many items such as Kipfler potatoes are more energetic because the soil has not been exploited for centuries. It is very convenient to get our organic grocery delivered from Harris Farms even for free. Following the bird nest theory, we’re happy to consume regional produce wherever possible like bread from Bronte, cheese from Tasmania and awesome jam from Adelaide Hills.
Port Jackson, also known as Sydney Harbour, covers a shoreline of 240 km and includes 500 giga litres of water (the unit of measurement is officially called “Sydharb”). Cruise ships enter the harbour between the North Head extension of Manly beach and Watsons Bay on the southern side before slowly moving along Taronga Zoo and Rose Bay to Circular Quay just before the Harbour Bridge. Smaller ships pass below this 80-year-old masterpiece and stop at the White Bay terminal. On his first excursion in this area, James Cook once arrived at the even larger water area south of the harbour called Botany Bay, now the home port for container ships. Sydney without water is impossible.
Institute of Managers and Leaders
As my first professional home I declared the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) where I started a formal management training in May 2016. I felt so welcomed that I treated their employees as my colleagues. As a member I can use the facilities even beyond trainings, so it became my remote office in the CBD. Turning the learning into practice, I obtained my “Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management” in August 2017. The membership arm recently rebranded as “Institute of Managers and Leaders” and now provides the Chartered Manager accreditation, the gold standard in leadership. I am honoured to be awarded this title in November 2017 along with the fellowship of the institute!
We arrived in Sydney during the blooming Spring time early November. While most trees show an evergreen behaviour without falling leaves as in the European four seasons, the Jacarandas represent an enormous difference. Their violet colour gave us such a welcoming feeling upon our move to Australia that we tried to find the suburbs with the highest density. Lavender Bay, North Sydney and Kirribilli belong to those areas where we returned one year later to remember the fresh energy received during our starting period. The vibrant trees turn Sydneysiders into tourists looking for the best shoots for their Instagram profile.
We really love all kinds from wallabies to the large grey kangaroo! According to some statistics, there are up to four times more than humans in Australia. Let’s face it: it is their country, we are guests. Of course, we don’t see them in the city nor to have them as pets at home. But already in the outer areas of Sydney like Frenchs Forest they live wild in the nature. Featherdale is a popular wildlife park on the way to the Blue Mountains with plenty of marsupials. A very cute kind are the Potoroos in the size of a rat having also a small joey in her pouch.
The biggest professional social network in the world is very popular in Australia: I’m tempted to say those not in LinkedIn are not in business – at least it seems to be the case for various ICT and business roles. I already enjoyed useful events in their office directly on Martin Place. Treating this platform as my “daily newspaper”, I love to see what’s going on in my growing local network and in the world. In my opinion, this engagement tool can bring people together when used actively. Just wrote an article about “How to Improve LinkedIn Engagement Behaviour to Avoid the Deadly Sin” with an info graphic how to make best use of it.
The word for “friend” is used towards fellows like waiters or cab drivers as a “thanks, mate” even without knowing the person well. It is meant typically towards one person only, but also to talk about somebody as in “one of my mates does this or that”. The pronunciation of “mate” from locals sounds like a slang word. Another actively used salutation towards at least two people is the rather American word “guys”, especially in restaurants when it even includes ladies. I’m glad that my great mate Brent helped me to understand Australia’s ICT market and to receive practical introduction into Aussie life style.
The Australian GDP is built on the back of Small Medium Enterprises instead of large corporations. Many of their employees from sales reps to owners understand the power of referral-based business. No wonder that Sydney is full of networking events. From organisations such as BNI or Business Builders Group over Meetup groups to industry conferences like the NSW Business Chamber events, there are plenty of possibilities to meet with other fellows. Despite the mandatory business card exchange, it is not about selling to others in the first place – rather providing value for the network. Givers gain!
The most famous landmark in Sydney captures the stunning location on Bennelong Point sitting on 580 pales in the water. Danish architect Jørn Utzon had the great idea to use a stacked sail roof built from one million of ceramic tiles. It took quite some time to find out how to create those rounded shapes which seem to be cut out of an orange. Only the second biggest hall shows opera for 1547 spectators, the concert hall hosts even 2700. Since my first days in Sydney, I regularly publish reviews for the opera magazine “Der neue Merker” in Vienna. Most Sydneysiders love the Opera Bar outside with its magnificent atmosphere.
People to People
Many people differentiate between the terms B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) although a blended experience in both sectors can be quite fruitful. In Australia we have rather H2H (Human to Human) which I also call P2P (People to People). It is important to build trustful relationships with the right people, maybe even more than elsewhere. It’s even more likely to reach desired contacts via phone with a smaller email response rate than in Europe or in the US. One of the most important assets to be a successful relationship builder is a genuine curiosity into another person paired with active listening.
Some say the happiest animals in the world are this cute small kangaroo with their friendly faces. Quokkas used to live in the whole Western Australia, but the only remaining population is living on Rottnest Island opposite of Fremantle near Perth. The Dutch named the island in the belief they found a larger rat. These small marsupials love carrots although most tourists feed them with bread. They show us how to enjoy life slowly with dignity. On a visit in July/August travellers can see their joeys in the pouch. Preparing the upcoming tennis season playing the Hopman Cup in Perth, Roger Federer recently went to Rottnest Island and showed a selfie with a Quokka to the world news.
The Old Town district in Sydney spans from Circular Quay to the Harbour Bridge. The idyllic view doesn’t proof the former rough harbour working character, this is rather described in the small Susannah Place Museum capturing the atmosphere of the 18th century. Further notable buildings include the magnificent Museum of Contemporary Arts and the A.S.N. Warehouses made from red brick stones. Many old pubs and lively markets on the weekends provide a touristic atmosphere especially for cruise travellers. The locals like to stroll through The Rocks regularly to meet with friends or to find some bargains at tiny specialty shops.
One major business advantage in Sydney are the numerous business events. Due to already established local connections I found the Sales Masterminds Australasia, a group of thought leaders and book authors in the sales profession. Every second month their sales leadership seminar covered different topics like prospecting, selling to C level executives or about the future of selling by leading experts such as Tony J Hughes and Graham Hawkins who are well approachable. A perfect occasion for my further business education to network with like-minded professionals. I bet it’s difficult to talk to this level of experts in other countries.
The behaviour towards nature can be seen how nations treat their trees. Australia has amazing trees like the nearly 900 Eucalyptus species in the Blue Mountains. Some of the trees in the Royal Botanic Garden are witnesses of Sydney’s development since the gardens were founded in 1816. Some trees such as the Native Laburnum can grow up to 20 m high, but they are nearly extinct with few trees left in the wild. Amazing old trees can also be found in the Hyde Park and in the Centennial Park south of the centre. Living in the second floor in a green suburb, we enjoy our life in the crown of trees.
The sharing economy presents itself well advanced in Australia. During my first two months I experienced different housing styles and suburbs using Airbnb and made friends with two hosts until now. The convenience in using Uber by mobile app is amazing and well organised, especially at the crowded Sydney Airport. In the meantime, there is also Uber Food available. Using Uber results of course in a decrease towards classic cabs with their professional drivers. Recently another stylish alternative to the traditional taxi service with their classic Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon cars started in Sydney: black cabs like in London.
The last half of May sees Sydney in a completely different light when the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and other buildings in the city are colourful illuminated. Video sequences are running over the sails of the famous opera, special lightning guide the tracks in the Botanical Garden and dedicated fireworks ignite the entertainment district Darling Harbour. Famous pop bands like New Order played sold out concerts in the Opera House. Despite the larger audiences in the streets, it has been a peaceful atmosphere. Along with the outdoor lightning, a series of public talks and debates covers enlightening thoughts by creative thinkers.
For me, lifestyle is not the number of electrical Tesla cars in the garage. Driving my own car since being 18, I decided not to operate one car in Sydney. While I’m experienced to drive on the left side, we both prefer using public transport. Commuting to work is possible as well on foot, therefore I created a brave New Year resolution of walking 800 km in 2017. What a wrong goal setting, by 31 December I finished with 1634 km. Beyond city walks and the way to work as pictured above, there are so many great areas to explore in and around Sydney on beaches, in forests and in the bush. Spending a lot of time outside is lifestyle!
We travelled on the German built cruise ship Celebrity Solstice within two weeks from Auckland to Sydney. This 315 m long mega liner is based in Sydney during six months in our summer season. A large X is marked on the sides of the hull representing the Greek letter xi given the historical roots of the cruise line. As the world is small, we kept in contact with our cabin steward Marlon (called Brando), and I met him again with his wife when they both started a new contract term aboard that same 122,000 gross ton vessel housing 2852 passengers served by 1500 staff.
A seasoned local journalist told me that Sydney is not a melting pot – as many would believe given the different inhabitants from so many different nations. Instead he sees Sydney as a salad bowl: not everything tastes the same, rather it is possible to capture the cucumber, tomato etc. individually while the overall mix drives the taste. That is valid for the gastronomic experience in Sydney: we love the variety of Lebanese cuisine with their Mezze, enjoy the occasions for traditional afternoon tea and like the Asian fusion influence. Or what about a brunch at the award winning Turkish restaurant Efendy in Balmain (see photo)? And we can still have dishes from our European heritage in the Austrian Schnitzelhaus or a Slovak restaurant.
Where can tourists shoot selfies with large animals, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the background? Taronga Zoo on the Lower North Shore is only a short ferry trip away and we can luckily hear some of their animals from our kitchen window. Beyond typical Australian marsupials like kangaroos, wallabies, possums, wombats and koalas, the zoo also provides a home to giraffes and meercats. Arriving by cable car, travellers can watch elephants from above after their arrival at the ferry station. It is also possible to spot kangaroos outside the city in free nature, that’s even better!