After being in Sydney for a few days, my dad asked what I thought of the city, I told him, “Sydney is really great and I could definitely see myself living here.”
He replied, “Yea. When I visited Sydney, I said the same thing. In fact, everyone who visits Sydney wants to live there.”
At first, I was a little put off by that statement. No, I thought, this is my original assessment based on the things I value in life compared with what this city has to offer.
But who am I kidding? My dad was right (and I hate that!) This city just has a way of instantly drawing in its visitors and making them feel welcome, comfortable, and happy right away. While the constantly sunny weather, the dozens of great surf breaks, and the beautiful tan people certainly help, I think the culture is what really draws in American visitors. And you can learn a lot about the culture knowing a couple tidbits of history.
The British founded New South Wales (the state of Australia that contains Sydney) in 1788 as a penal colony. Meaning, the Brits just shipped all their unwanted convicts off to Australia so they wouldn’t have to deal with them. According to my dad, everyone already knows this (Dad knowing everything AGAIN!). But on our first night in Sydney, I heard this all for the first time from our I’m Free tour guide. Should I have guessed it based on the name “New South Wales” alone? Probably. But I digress.
According to our guide, Lisa, the British would hang their worst criminals (think murderers and bank robbers) which means the criminals they shipped off to New South Wales (NSW) were typically poor people who committed the more minor crimes like stealing bread to feed their families. Or at least, that is the anecdote that locals like to tell. Rumor has it the youngest prisoner shipped to Sydney was a nine-year-old girl who stole a dress. Darn, those Brits were harsh.
At some point, the British stopped sending criminals here and the state eventually developed into the modern, friendly metropolitan area that it is today. But because the area was largely settled by poor, rejected English folks, it retains many of the good characteristics of the U.K. (beautiful architecture, fish and chips, those fun accents, driving on the left, etc.) minus the stereotypical upper-class British snobbery—I’m looking at you, Lady Mary Crawley. Coming from the US, it is the perfect mix of traditional western style but with a more relaxed and casual edge.
After spending four days there and chatting with other tourists and foreign locals, I guess I now agree, everyone who visits Sydney wants to live there. Just don’t tell my dad.