The sun always shines in Sydney, but integrating isn’t easy
Life is so good that nobody leaves their homeplace, and social groups are often impenetrable for immigrants
Jonathan Drennan: ‘The priorities are often brunch, the beach and beers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but even the most delicious ice cream in the world can become repetitive if you eat it every week.’
In life you often want what you can’t have. I wanted sunshine, calmness and the sea. A one way flight to Sydney was the answer, and I arrived in the world’s most beautiful city. I had few friends and no job to speak of. Since I arrived here last year, I have managed to build a career and friends that I will have for the rest of my life, I hope.
Sitting in the grey drizzle of London, I would often become mesmerised by the shining sea of Sydney that friends posted on social media. I would happily all trade in the cultural offerings I had in England and the proximity to Europe, for a life that excelled on promoting health in body and mind.
Unfortunately the reality is slightly different. I find myself in a country that has some cultural parallels with what I’m used to from home, but geographically is completely isolated. It is a simple fact that you know before you depart, but often fail to engage with until you are there.
Life is incredibly good in Australia, the sun shines and the coffee is always good. Does the country really need to interact with the world outside it? Unfortunately not, and conversations rarely touch beyond state boundaries. The priorities are often brunch, the beach and beers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but even the most delicious ice cream in the world can become repetitive if you eat it every week.
I am from a migratory nation. The majority of the boys I grew up with left home at 18 for a new country for university, and built a new life for themselves outside of their narrow social groups of high school. We were forced to examine the positives and negatives of what we had grown up with, as we engaged with people from every conceivable country and cultural background in our new cities.
In Sydney, there is little need or impetus for people to move beyond childhood neighbourhood groups. Life is often extremely good in the area you grew up in, and the social group has known you since primary school, so why move beyond it? This is understandable for the Australian, but largely impenetrable for the immigrant looking to integrate into a new country.
Conversely, there is a kindness and a decency in so many Australians that I have found incredibly refreshing. Community spirit abounds on most Sydney streets. Voluntary soup runs, voluntary surf lifesaving, helping to run a children’s rugby team; they are all part of the fabric of life here. I have found at first hand when I needed people most, Australians who barely knew me put their hands up to help. This is something I will remember for a long time.
Life is ultimately always dependent on where you generate your happiness and energy. You can never know this until you put yourself under a stringent litmus test. For some, that comes from a relatively simple, carefree life, built on lifelong friendships and the natural landscape. Similarly, for others, they feel a need to integrate themselves into different cultures and gain energy by seeking difference when they can. There is nothing wrong with either road, whether it is in the lucky country or not.
In Australia, they have an expression: if you don’t love it, leave. Time will tell.