Some may find that the fact that Sydney, Australia is the largest city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales but not the capital of Australia, a little bizarre. The city itself has a population of around 4.5 million people and covers an area of around 12,000 km². It is renowned as being one of the more multicultural cities of Australia and is for many immigrants the focal point and their first stopping off point. But what does Sydney have to offer and what can you expect if you're planning on living in Sydney?
The history of Sydney
Research shows that the Sydney region has been inhabited for over 30,000 years and has a history, culture and presence in Australia which no other city can match. While unfortunately many of the early history of Sydney and evidence of early settlements has been destroyed during the urbanisation of the area there are still a number of historic elements to the city such as rock engravings, carvings and rock art which still attract a significant number of tourist.
Capt Lieutenant James Cook led one of the first encroachments into Sydney under instruction from the UK government which led to the creation of the infamous convict settlement at Botany Bay. Here begins the very strong ties with the UK which is one of the main reasons why expats from Britain appear so interested in resettling in Australia.
The weather in Sydney
If you are looking at living in Sydney you should expect a "temperate climate" with warm summers, cool winters and regular rainfall throughout the year. Unlike many other areas of Australia, where the temperature can be unbearable for the vast majority of the year, the fact that Sydney is a coastal city ensures that the temperature and the weather is moderated by the ocean winds and ocean climate. In many ways when you compare the UK and Australia, the temperature and weather are the exact opposite as they are effectively at opposite ends of the earth.
The warmest month in Sydney is January with a maximum temperature of 45.3°C registered on 14 January 1939 with the coldest month that of July although even then the temperature barely drops any lower than 8°C. The coldest recorded temperature in the region was 2.1°C which when you compare it to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the midst of winter there is little or no resemblance.
It is easy to see why cities such as Sydney, and countries such as Australia, continue to attract the attention of those living in cooler climes such as the UK!
The economy of Sydney
As with so many developing and growing cities around the world the 1980s saw a significant shift from manufacturing to services and information technology. As a consequence the main employment sectors in Sydney are now property, business services, retail, manufacturing and health and community services. When you also consider that the city and the area provide around 25% of the total gross domestic product of Australia you will then begin to realise the influence and power this area of Australia has.
To all intents and purposes Sydney is the financial heartbeat of Australia with over 90 banking headquarters, more than half of Australia's top companies and in excess of 500 multinational corporations all having a highly visible presence in the area. This ongoing growth in the financial sector of Sydney has not only attracted new companies to the region but also proved to be something of a magnet for the best financial minds around the world. In a very similar vein to the UK, where London is the financial heartbeat of the country, Sydney seems to have taken on this mantle for Australia.
Unemployment in Sydney is relatively low at 4.9% and the city, now one of the most expensive in which to live in the world, has a median household income in excess of US$42,000 which is the highest in Australia. While there is no doubt that the cost of living is increasing in Sydney there is also no doubt that the prosperity and prospects for those living in and around the city have also improved dramatically in recent times.
Property in Sydney
While location, location, location cannot be underestimated when looking to acquire property around the world, Sydney is a city about which you need to do your homework. Sydney has by far and away the highest median house price of any Australian capital city standing at around US$550,000 with a median unit price in excess of $400,000. The average rent in Sydney is around $450 a week making the cost of living a massive issue which will be the deciding factor for many expats and immigrants looking at the city of Sydney. Property in Sydney is not cheap!
Yet again there are many comparisons to the London property market where the close proximity to substantial employment opportunities continues to attract more people pushing prices higher and higher. There is some concern that the ongoing influx of immigrants and expats to the region, in search of highly paid jobs, is effectively pricing many Sydney inhabitants out of the property market and could well turn the area into an overseas conurbation in the future. While there are a number of government initiatives to assist with house purchases in the area these are in place to help local Australian nationals climb aboard the Sydney property ladder.
The transport network in Sydney
While the vast majority of those living in and around Sydney will travel by car, making use of the modern road and motorway system, the city and the surrounding areas are well served by trains, taxis, buses, ferries and airlines. Initially the city's rail network was significantly improved prior to the 2000 Olympics but there were reports of a decline in reliability and service standards after the Olympics which led to a significant injection of investment in 2005. As a consequence, the city's rail network has improved and an ongoing expansion of the project is expected to finish in 2010.
For those who do not own a car or are unable to drive it is very easy to travel around the Sydney area using the expanding bus network, with many routes based upon the old pre-1961 tram system. As with the UK, a number of the local bus networks have been privatised and there is significant competition between bus companies ensuring that consumers receive good value for money and an ever improving service.
Thankfully for those looking to move to Australia, Sydney and surrounding region is well supported by the Sydney airport which is one of the oldest airports in the world. Indeed such is the popularity of air travel in and out of Australia that the prospect of a second Sydney airport has been on the political agenda for some years now and attracted much controversy. The truth is that as Sydney continues to grow and attracts more and more immigrants and expats to the region it is likely to need a new airport, or at least a new runway, within the next 20 years.
Education in Sydney
While the traditional school-age education system in Sydney is as good, if not better, than many others around the country it is in the area of university education where Sydney continues to lead. Sydney is home to the University of Sydney, University of Technology, University of New South Wales, University of Western Sydney, Australian Catholic University, University of Notre Dame Australia, University of Wollongong and the Macquarie University.
The traditional school sector consists of public, denominational and independent schools with a vast array of pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools and special schools in the region. In total there are 919 schools in and around Sydney with 25 of the 30 selective high schools situated within Sydney itself. So for those looking to start a new life in Sydney with a young family there are no issues regarding education and indeed many people have chosen to move to Australia because of the superior education system.
The culture of Sydney
Living in Sydney will open you up to new cultures, new arts and new styles of entertainment which have literally put the city on the worldwide map. Sydney regularly plays host to a vast array of festivals as well as social and cultural events with the famous Sydney Opera House regularly mentioned around the world. Australia, and in particular Sydney, has also become something of a magnet for the fashion industry with Sydney itself considered to be one of the top 10 fashion cities in the world.
As well as the Sydney Opera House we also have the Sydney Symphony, Sydney Town Hall, City Recital Hall, State Theatre, Theatre Royal, Sydney Theatre and the Wharf Theatre for those looking for culture and entertainment. The city also has a significant artistic presence, large and growing movie industry as well as a number of Australia's more popular and more prominent nightspots.
When you take in the culture and entertainment available throughout the Sydney area it will be no surprise to learn that approaching 3 million international travellers visit the region on an annual basis. Aside from the enormous financial sector in and around Sydney there is no doubt that tourism also plays a prominent part in the prosperity of the region and continues to attract more and more international travellers and expats looking for a new life.
The cost of living in Sydney
Living in Sydney is not cheap as any Australian publication or any Australian website will demonstrate to you. Many people believe that the 2000 Olympics was the catalyst for a massive growth in Sydney which has also resulted in a significant increase in the cost of living. A number of worldwide surveys indicate that Sydney is now one of the most expensive cities in which to live around the world, but on the flipside of the coin, it also offers significant employment opportunities for both Australian nationals and those looking to move from overseas.
As we touched on above, there is growing resentment that the ever growing influx of expats and immigrants to the region, often attracted by high paid jobs, has pushed property prices in an around Sydney to the highest levels in Australia. This has prevented many Australian locals from climbing aboard the property ladder with many properties now valued in excess of $500,000. The problem is that the financial sector, which dominates the Sydney economy, is attracting the best financial brains in the world, the best financial companies and more and more business.
As the cost of living in central Sydney continues to rise it is inevitable that more people will look to relocate to the outskirts which will in due course increase the cost of living for those outside of the main city. This is an issue which the Austrian authorities are well aware but unfortunately in many ways it is a reflection of the success of Sydney and the surrounding region.
There is no doubt that living in Sydney is a dream that many people around the world are looking to fulfil with expat numbers continuing to grow on a yearly basis. For many people Sydney is effectively the centre of Australia accounting for around 25% of total Australian gross domestic product although the city is not the capital of the country. When you take into account the property market, culture, employment opportunities, weather, prospects and the significant investment from the local authorities over the years there is no doubt that Sydney is one of Australia's great successes.
Situated on the coast, Sydney offers a mixture of everything from beach life to the arts, from music to sport and everything else in between. Shopping malls are a plenty, the infrastructure is well developed and growing and there is no doubt that the future prospects for Sydney are still very good. While the standard of living and the cost of living in Sydney and the surrounding region will obviously depend upon your exact location this is a city which literally has everything whatever your tastes, whatever your budget and whatever your hopes for the future.