Living In Sydney

Introducing Sydney

Sydney is the largest and oldest city in Australia and capital of New South Wales. Situated on what is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbours, Sydney is a vibrant, multifaceted, cosmopolitan city that offers more entertainment, shopping and sightseeing than any other place in Australia. The harbour waterfront, with its famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House, is a place to go to meet people, eat good food, be entertained and simply enjoy watching all kinds of sailing craft pass by.

Adjusting to Life in Australia

While living and studying abroad may be an exciting adventure, it can also present a range of challenges. Having decided to study and live in Australia you will be undertaking adjustments in many areas of your life including cultural, social and academic. It is also important to remember that while these changes are occurring you will be embarking upon a new term of study (for many of you in a different language) and be away from your usual supports, networks and resources.

Adjustment to a new country and culture is a process that occurs gradually and takes time. The values, beliefs, traditions and customs of your home country may vary greatly from those in Australia and adapting to the Australian way of life may take some time. This advice may help:

  1. Listen, observe and ask questions. Adjustment to a new culture and way of life takes time. Allow yourself time to observe those around you and patterns of both verbal and non-verbal communication. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there are things you do not understand because this will reduce the chance of confusion or misunderstandings.
  2. Become involved, make an effort to meet people and become involved in groups both on campus and in the wider community. Maintain an attitude of openness to new situations and experiences. Establishing friendships and joining groups is the best way to experience and learn about Australian culture and will certainly mean you have a richer and more enjoyable time here.
  3. Try to maintain a sense of perspective. When confronted with difficulties remind yourself that living and studying abroad is a challenge and it is normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed and out of your depth at times. Try to recall or make a list of the reasons you initially wanted to study abroad in the first place. Listing positive events or changes within yourself that have occurred since you arrived may also assist with getting things in perspective.
  4. Maintain some of the routines and rituals you may have had in your home country. This can include small things such as continuing to drink a certain type of coffee or tea or eating specific foods. It may also include maintaining involvement in bigger events such as celebrating a national day in your country of origin with a group of friends or finding a cultural group related to your home country for support.
  5. Keep lines of communication open with those at home. Communicating with those at home regularly about your experiences of study and life in Australia, through emails, telephones and letters, is vital. Not only does it help to keep you connected with important social supports, it also assists your friends and family to understand your experiences which will smooth the transition when you return home.
  6. Sense of humour:  Importantly, remember that living in a different culture means you will inevitably find yourself in a range of unusual and often confusing situations. Being able to laugh in these situations will remind you that it takes time to understand different cultures and that it is ok to make mistakes.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance or support if you need it.
  8. Finally, relax and enjoy the journey!



Clothing Customs

The types of clothing that people wear reflect the diversity in our society just as much as the variation in climate. There are no laws or rules on clothing, but you must wear certain clothing for work situations. Most schools or workplaces have dress standards.

Outside of the work situation, clothing is an individual choice; many people dress for comfort, for the social situation or the weather. Clubs, movie theatres and other places require patrons to be in neat, clean clothes and appropriate footwear.

Many Australians live close to the beach and the sea. On hot days, they may wear little clothing on the beach and surrounds. This does not mean that people who dress to go to the beach or swimming have low moral standards. It means that this is what we accept on and near our beaches.  People from other countries can choose to wear their national dress. They may be religious or customary items and include monks’ robe, a burqa, a hijab or a turban. As a tolerant society with people from many different cultures, clothing is a part of cultural beliefs and practices that is encouraged.

Polite Behaviour

‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are words that are very helpful when communicating with other people, and buying goods or services. Australians tend to think that people who do not say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ are being rude. Using these words will help in building a good relationship.

Sometimes a sensitive issue may come up in conversation. Not to talk may seem rude. It is more polite to say ‘sorry, it is too hard to explain’ than to ignore a question.

Australians often say, ‘Excuse me’ to get a person’s attention and ‘sorry’ if we bump into them. We also say, ‘Excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’ if we burp or belch in public or a person’s home.

You should always try to be on time for meetings and other visits. If you realise you are going to be late, try to contact the person to let them know. This is very important for visits to professionals as you may be charged money for being late or if you miss the appointment without notifying them before the appointment time.

Most Australians blow their noses into a handkerchief or tissue, not onto the footpath. This is also true for spitting. Some people will also say, ‘Bless you’ when you sneeze. This phrase has no religious intent.



Australians hold certain days each year as special days of national meaning. We may recognise the day with a holiday for everyone or we can celebrate the day as a nation with special events. Most States and Territories observe some of the public holidays on the same date. They have others on different dates or have some days that only their State or Territory celebrates. In larger cities, most shops, restaurants and public transport continue to operate on public holidays. In smaller towns, most shops and restaurants close.


New Year

Australians love to celebrate New Year. There are festivals, celebrations and parties all over the country to welcome in the New Year. Sydney Harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge have become synonymous with New Year celebrations in Australia the fireworks display is considered to be one of the best in the world. January 1 is a public holiday.

Australia Day

Australia Day, January 26, is the day we as a people and place celebrate our nationhood. The day is a public holiday. The day marks the founding of the first settlement in our nation by European people.


In addition to its religious significance, Easter in Australia is enjoyed as a four-day holiday weekend starting on Good Friday and ending on Easter Monday. This extra-long weekend is an opportunity for Australians to take a mini-holiday, or get together with family and friends. Easter often coincides with school holidays, so many people with school aged children incorporate Easter into a longer family holiday.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day is on April 25, the day the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli, in Turkey in 1915 during World War 1.  This day is set apart to hold dear the memory of those who fought for our nation and those who lost their life to war. The day is a public holiday. We remember with ceremonies, wreath laying and military parades. You will find that many towns have an ANZAC Day parade and ceremony culminating in the laying of memorial wreaths at a monument or war memorial. These services can be very moving and a wonderful way of experiencing some Australian National pride, as the memories of our fallen soldiers are commemorated. Many Australians attend the National War Memorial in Canberra, or a War Memorial in one of the Capital Cities around Australia for either the traditional “Dawn Service”, which commemorates the landing of the ANZACS at Gallipoli in the dark and dawning of that day, or another service usually commencing around mid-morning with a parade of returned armed forces representing all Australians who have fought in war. As Australia is such a multi-cultural country, these days it is common to see many other countries also represented in these parades.


Christmas is celebrated in Australia on 25 December. Christmas, for some, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus is ‘the son of God’, the Messiah sent from Heaven to save the world.  The heat of early summer in Australia has an impact on the way that Australians celebrate Christmas and our English heritage also has an impact on some northern hemisphere Christmas traditions which are followed.

Australians are as likely to eat freshly caught seafood outdoors at a barbeque, as to have a traditional roast dinner around a dining table. Many Australians spend Christmas outdoors, going to the beach for the day, or heading to camping grounds for a longer break over the Christmas holiday period. There are often places which have developed an international reputation for overseas visitors to spend Christmas Day in Australia. One such example is for visitors who are in Sydney at Christmas time to go to Bondi Beach where tens of thousands of people visit on Christmas Day.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year has a history dating back thousands of years and is one of the oldest and most important traditions in Asian culture. It is celebrated widely by Asian communities all over the world. Lunar New Year is the celebration of the beginning of spring (in the northern hemisphere) as well as the New Year.

Festivities mark the beginning of the 15 days of observing ancient traditions, customs and honouring our rich community culture. The Vietnamese name for New Year is ‘Tet’ and is the festival that epitomises the identity of Vietnamese culture. Despite a number of differences, there’s one common theme that takes centre stage for all Asian New Year celebrations – family.

No matter what the country, religion or race, New Year’s Day is a time for family reunions, gatherings and reflection and for reaffirming bonds.  Lunar New Year celebrations take place in Cabramatta during February each year, organised by the Fairfield City Council.  The event is usually an action-packed weekend filled with entertainment, traditional rituals and, if you’re feeling a little peckish, you’ll find some of the most authentic Asian dishes in Sydney.  From the exciting lion dancers, to beautiful traditional dancers complete with costumes and vibrant live performances, the event offers a weekend that will not be forgotten and even more exciting it’s free to take part in.

Moon Festival

The Moon Festival is an annual celebration on the Chinese calendar, which falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. Every year the Fairfield City Council holds a major festival in Cabramatta to mark the occasion. The event has become one of the biggest Asian celebrations in Sydney, attracting over 80,000 people from the local area and throughout the rest of the city.

Included in the event are decorated shop fronts, lion dancing, a lantern parade led by the ‘Moon Goddess’, and food stalls where you can taste Asian treats like moon cakes. There are noodle eating, prawn peeling and moon cake eating competitions.

The festival takes place from 11.00 am until 8.00 pm. It is centred around the shopping and restaurant precinct of John St and Freedom Plaza, with road closures in effect on John Street, Park Road, Railway Parade and Arthur Street.

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