There was an article in my feed the other night which sparked my memory and a few big points about a city in which I used to love going out… and in a way, still do.
The theme is… thanks to some crazy changes, the city lost its soul. Its spark. Its reason to be. The reason so many Aussies could talk about Sydney proudly and happily and why it was number one city in the whole world.
The article came from the Sydney Morning Herald, a good friend made a valid comment and I had just one thought on reading the title: it was only a matter of time before someone said something.
Read the back story: Criticism of dreary Sydney hits home
So I felt triggered. Then a friend asked, how did I find the city back in my early 20s, how I see it now and what I see for it in the future.
Eheh. I shall answer 2 of those!
“IN MY YOUTH “
Once upon a time I could walk into the city in my outfit with my friends and have a ball. The harbour was safe, fun and relaxing. Drinks and going out was affordable. The music was awesome. My crowd was great. Transport to and from the city was good. I would go out every weekend when I was working retail. The clubs were made for my friends, the harbour was a delight. It was ours.
The bars were buzzing, the clubs were full. There was a point to living. Leaving the city at 1am meant it had been a boring, slow night. These days leaving just after 12am is pretty pragmatic if you’re on your own without a car. Adults were thrilled to head out, excitement was in the air and the moment was HERE and NOW, glamour was key and friendliness was the element.
Convicts? Psshh get outta here, we’re now the most desirable harbour city in the world!
It was no exaggeration.
Back in the day Sydney wasn’t overpopulated, with three times the Asian and British migrants. It didn’t have hungry property developers, loads of sound – and SO MANY homeless and psycho people on the streets.
It was cleaner, the properties were reasonable, heritages were not being turned down. Getting a drink in the middle of the city was pure fun – dressing up, drinks, the music, the harbour, the flavour was home and in a good way.
There was plenty of stimulation because of all the parties, festivals and events.
Now because Sydney closed so much business, Melbourne got the casual café culture going and what do ya know – Sydney hurries to keep up. Irony after irony.
And I just read about a suggestion for a ‘Minister for Music’… what a–holes are commanding our beautiful city?
Like the article mentioned, and a huge key aspect which hit me: sense of play is at stake. For those who want to take evening walks, perform their music and their craft, who don’t do the 9-5 – I agree, it is dismal to not have a safe and awesome space to play around and contribute to a more ‘vibrant’ culture.
Where the heck do you even get it between the big concrete buildings, huge stampede of international people that don’t speak Aussie and high prices on essentials like a beer?
I tell you what I do – go to nice cafes on Cockle Bay Wharf, QVB and Circular Quay. I post about those because the service, food and surroundings are unmatched. It’s my joy. In fact recently I was at Dymocks Café.
No, I’m not being classist. I’m going … maybe even escaping, to the nice places that remind me of the city I knew.
My family has like, 4 favourite places we go to – Sushi, Vietnamese, Thai and pizza. They’re all 5 stars, recommended by friends and the food has never disappointed us.
One fine day we went for Thai on Oxford street, it being a special occasion and I notice something quite obvious.
THERE IS NO NOISE AND NO PEOPLE.
What the. For what was once the busiest and most dangerous road in the inner city, we’re freely walking by the traffic lights not even hitting the stop button. It is dead.
And like in any horror movie, the minute you walk in things get way more ominous.
The majority of customers sitting, laughing, having a drink inside an awesome Thai restaurant are not my crowd. They’re middle aged, seniors and potentially thirty year olds in good company positions…. Or inheritance positions. The menus are priced at at least 25 bucks per head.
The demographics in good places are incredibly telling. And I felt sorry for my friends – why can’t we enjoy this life too? It’s also our city, we are hardworking tax paying adults. What’s the go?
FEEDBACK AT A JOB INTERVIEW IN CARINGBAH:
Aussie for Pokermachines: the pokies. Driving a wedge between communities, socializing and ethical spending practices.
That’s a point I understood in the article. It’s where brain dead middle aged and senior people (and perhaps bored young people) go to switch off. It’s also one of the main streams of income for the hotel and club businesses. SO sad.
How do I know? It was in the feedback I had with this lady who rang me up for an interview with a small, long running hotel group one fine January day in the middle of Caringbah.
Before getting my RSA and getting one helluva education on how city or state policy heavily screwed up hospitality and other outdoor business – I had no idea that English people couldn’t handle their drink and couldn’t take their issues out on something non-alcoholic.
These policies had elements of draconian law – not my word but a family friend’s usage, and now that I’ve done my RSA, I see the CRAZY past five year history of policy change in regards to crazy anglo saxon aussies taking out their issues on drink.
It’s like kindergarten. You tighten the noose every time someone does something stupid. Except… they tie the noose on virtually everything else as well.
Not going to lie, I was in semi shock at the way Australia deals with its ‘pissheads’. And I’m not the only one. Slavs, Greeks, Irish all don’t get the strict laws on drinking. I’ve worked with them and spoke with them. I also have no comment because after 4 years in Switzerland, getting used to the Germanic approach to alcohol, I didn’t miss the crazy restrictions on alcohol. Or the love for authority.
Absurdly, it was like being back in Dickinson times except we had amazing tropical weather.
And the sweetest part – some of my recollections sitting in the back seat of my parents rental holiday car in December 2017, driving out of the airport.
Why is the sun so hot and piercing? It says 9am but like… is it afternoon?
No, this is just Aussie summer.
Why are the trees so weird looking? And lol at the Churches – people trying to be ‘English’ here.
Why am I seeing so many huge Chinese advertisements near the airport IN CHINESE?
Yeah, my parents tell me, there’s a big conflict over that – the Aussies really don’t like it.
I can’t say I like it either. China isn’t my home, not where I was raised – I don’t know Chinese and I know several Aussie Chinese friends who don’t know it either.
Back to my picture of present day city life:
I had no idea that the transport would be saturated with tons of shouting staff telling you to get into the next carriage or that it was full.
I had no idea coming in after 4 years, that my primary mates would now be either international friends OR the bogans. Now I know there’s also a few classes of bogan as well.
The actual vibe of Sydney is not just the crazy meal deals or the noise pollution – it’s the people themselves. The good ones – with dreams, money and common sense – sensed a turn in government and fled the place.
Not necessarily to New York or London, but even to Melbourne or Brisbane.
I really can’t say I blame the ex-Sydneysiders. Since coming to Sydney and going out, I have slowly gone into mourning of how cool my city used to be and started accepting what it’s become now.
And I see why.
Since the skyrocketing properties, prices and overpopulation – noise, decline in education, affordable housing and health – standards have also loosened up.
Who do you see going out now? A bunch of young professional Arabs, Indians and Aussie bogans (with no life vision – just look at their talk, body language and desperation to get into clubs).
You don’t have to go out into the harbour to see that – just cruise past Central Station and you’ll see crowds of them exiting between 9 and 10pm.
How do I know? I would take the train home from work on weekends and had that sight to behold.
It’s not my city. It’s not my crowd. Like in my post regarding nightclubbing, my group of friends don’t see value in clubbing like crazy, in the conventional sense.
Do you know what is the worst of it all? Re-enacting the amazing reputation of Australia for the international crowd.
Czech friend comes to visit in October with crazy rain, wind and 15 degrees:
‘it’s like Denmark with the weather and like Singapore in the city.’
*I cringe* (ergh, Singapore, really?) ‘Yeah I know’.
*We hit happy hour at Blackbird*
— END —
Thank you so much for reading!
And massive thanks to Sydney Morning Herald, my friends and the academics and wider community of responders.