Getting to Know Sydney

Dec 8, 2007 / By Babette Turner-Underwood

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Rain, rain, go away! It has been raining pretty well every day since I arrived in Sydney. It is putting a real damper (pun intended) on my sightseeing.

Going stir-crazy from sitting in with all the rain, I was looking for something to do. Paul (from the Pythian Group Australia office) suggested either shopping in Chatswood or going to Crows Nest. It cleared up a little and I managed to walk to Crows Nest from where I am staying. I wasn’t sure I would recognize it, but when I saw the Crows Nest Hotel right on the corner of Pacific Highway, I knew I was in the right place.

Crows Nest is a lovely area of town with lots and lots of shops and restaurants. They have a natural food store that serves organic coffee. Have I mentioned how big coffee is in Australia? You have to go to McDonald’s to get regular drip coffee like I am used to from Tim Horton’s. I have heard that Sydney has a very large Greek and Italian population and I suspect that contributes to the excellent coffee shops here. I am still learning how to order among terms such as “long”, “flat”, “short”, “cappuccino” (okay, that one I have seen before), and the list goes on.

A few other things I have noticed since arriving here:

  • Stores have “trading hours” instead of “hours of operation”
  • The automatic doors all open sideways.This makes a lot of sense. In Canada they tend to open towards or away from you and you have to move out of the way if you are right in front of them.
  • Toilets have a choice of two settings, half-flush or full-flush. I find it interesting concept. I was always deciding which to use when I got here, but now it is simpler to just always go with half-flush.
  • “Plastic Money” — what would normally be a paper bill in Canada, has some sort of plastic coating or is made of plastic. The money has a little translucent window that you can see through. I am sure the material lasts much longer than Canadian Bills do, but, it is really hard to fold flat and stick in your pocket.
  • Coins, coins, coins! There are no pennies here. Or at least none that I have seen. The prices are rounded to the nearest five cents. So you are charged $1.70, regardless if your price is $1.68 or $1.72. The coins are a strange combination of sizes. The smallest coin is the five-cent piece and the largest is the fifty-cent piece. The $2 is smaller than the $1, but the twenty-cents is bigger than the ten-cent piece. I do whatever I can to avoid the fifty-cent pieces as they are huge and weigh so much.
  • Pedestrian crossings at intersections almost always have an associated sound to indicate when it is time to cross. In Ottawa, there are a few that do this, but most pedestrian crossing lights are just lights without any sounds involved.
  • Taking trains. In most places I have been, you validate your ticket on the way in or on to the train or bus. In Sydney, you validate your ticket on the way out. You must purchase your ticket before you ride and then use the ticket to exit the train station (on the larger train stations, on some stations there are no validation machines). So, what if you decide that you changed your mind and want to keep going or go some place else? You would have to get off the train, purchase an extension ticket, then get back on the train, so you would be able to exit at your final destination. I supposed it is because the prices vary and you pay based on where you start from and are going to. It is a different price for everything.

One Response to “Getting to Know Sydney”

  • Gary says:

    The ‘paper’ money is pure plastic. I think the main benefit is that it can go through the washing machine, or for a swim, without a problem.
    The trains is an odd situation. It’s not that the ticket is validated on the way ‘in’ or ‘out’, just that only the big stations have ticket machines. So travelling from (for example) Circular Quay to Central, you’ll put your ticket through a machine at both stations. But I can travel from Pennant Hills to Meadowbank without going through any machine. Both Chatswood and North Sydney stations are being renovated, so they don’t have ticket machines either.
    And you’re right. There are no pennies any more.

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