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Talk to me about Sydney

(36 Posts)
FrozenYogurt Tue 16-Jul-13 11:07:49


We have made the exciting decision to move to Sydney for roughly two years (before both kids are in school). We are tremendously excited and nervous and frantically researching everything we need to do before and after we get there.

I have read a lot of the threads on Sydney, so I'll try not to duplicate questions. The main thing people seem to comment on is the extortionate cost of living. We are (sort of) prepared for this, DH's work are providing a cost of living allowance, but most of this will go on rent. We want to live quite central so DH can have a home life with the kids. Is 750/800pw a realistic budget for a 3 bed? I've searched on the Domain site, but thought a local could advise, since you can't really tell over the net! We're thinking possibly Balmain or Manly. I like the sound of the Inner West, or Northern Beaches, but we'd like DH's commute to come in under an hour..

Also how easy is it to live frugally: I think I'm a pretty good 'from scratch' cook, making big pots of chilli, etc, last a few meals. Are basic staples such as rice and pulses expensive? Or is it just meats and jars, processed stuff that's more expensive? What about nappies, sun cream, etc?

Anyone have a good shipper recommendation? We want to set up a new home, so will be scouring Gumtree, EBay when we get there, but will want to bring the kids stuff, kitchen bits. Not thinking a whole containers worth but certainly more than a suitcase can hold.

Lastly, having two DCs under 3 I am hoping that the playgroup network will provide me with ample opportunity to meet other mums. Have others found this to be the case?

Think that's all my questions for now, really grateful to anyone who can impart some insider knowledge.

Thumbwitch Tue 16-Jul-13 18:28:08

Hi, since I'm up in the middle of the night I'll answer the bits I can and leave the rest for others who are more local!

Can't answer about the rent or places to live, as I live outside and don't rent.

But cost of living - nappies are very expensive in comparison with the UK; sunscreen is quite expensive but depends on what brand you're after; food in general is more expensive, including staples, fresh fruit and veg (I never buy jars of processed stuff), fish, meat. Fish can be exorbitant, unless you're happy to buy fish caught in the sewage streams of Vietnam. You can shop around to some extent - Aldi is over here and can be much cheaper than Coles and Woolworths (our main 2 supermarkets) but of course they're all Aldi brands.

Things I bring back with me whenever I visit the UK:
Bisto powder (I don't use the granules) because every single gravy powder over here contains wheat, apart from the Orgran one, which is a bit on the pale side.
Green and Black's drinking chocolate - can't find it here.
Antihistamine cream - unavailable in Australia, they have other things that are supposed to work against the numerous mozzie bites but I haven't the patience to try them
Nappies when required - I use cloth ones mostly, but Naty for overnight, and this is the price comparison: one pack of 32 in Boots = ~£6 (I managed to get 2 for £10 in Waitrose while I was there in April); here one pack of 32 = AU$19+, which is around £13. More than double. It's not much different for other brands, although Naty is of course more expensive.
Dry stick deodorant - there is one brand here but it doesn't have the level of protection that Sure does (Rexel in Australia) so I always stock up.
Books/DVDs - if there's something I want, I tend to get it from Amazon and have it delivered to my Dad's house, then bring it back with me. I also usually manage to get a few from Tesco in the £3-£5 range. There is no Australian Amazon, and delivery from US or UK can be too much to make it worth it. Book Depository has free shipping but can be more expensive.
Children's/babies' clothes - they are, in general, much more expensive here and inferior quality. For e.g. I would pay £5 for a 5-pack of baby vests in Tesco, but would have to pay the same amount for only 2 vests here, and they would be more likely to be damaged before they were outgrown here.
Underwear - stock up from M&S before you come! I've only bought knickers here once (emergency) and they were terrible.
(I also bring a large supply of G&B milk and almond chocolate, since that is almost impossible to find here now as well, but that's a very personal choice, I realise! grin)

Playgroup - well where I am it's been a lifesaver, and has introduced me to the friends I have here - but I don't know that other people have had such a great experience with it in the city (I'm 1.5h north of Sydney). Hopefully they'll come on and tell you themselves!

And, just so you know, there are quite a few of us who attempt to have meet ups in Sydney on a semi-regular basis - so keep an eye out for Sydney meet-up threads in this topic. smile

frissonpink Tue 16-Jul-13 18:30:02

You'll need a lot of money to rent in Manly, that's all I know!

Food is tremendously expensive too.

Apanicaday Tue 16-Jul-13 20:56:44

Manly is very expensive - when we looked there it was getting on for $1000pw for a fairly small, grotty 3 bed (we saw one for $900 that had no kitchen - very bizarre!). We ended up in Lane Cove North - fairly central, with direct buses to the city, but a fair distance from facilities, and our 3 bed there was $760pw - that was 3 years ago. We loved living there, but it wasn't the best in terms of public transport, and looking back, I wish we had lived within easy reach of a train line. Not sure how expensive the inner west is. Be prepared for the crazy amount of competition for rentals too - id been warned, but didn't really believe it until we got there - one place we went to look at had about 25 couples at the open house for it - be prepared to impressed letting agents, as it's very much a landlords market.

General cost of living is steep (or at least it was a year and a bit ago when we left). Meals out can be reasonable, and fuel is brilliantly low cost, but that's about it. Nappies/wipes/formula are all eye wateringly expensive, as are books. Clothes, like thumb said, are also expensive for what they are.

We shipped with Interdean, who were very good, but it was all organised by DH's work, so I don't know how reasonable they were cost-wise.

I didn't go to any of the "official" playgroups, but found quite a few different activities to go to around where we lived - and would have found more if I was able to drive.

And meet ups with the Sydney mumsnetters are fab (waves to thumb - am Eralc under a name change!) smile.

We lived out there for two years before our eldest started school, and it was a brilliant adventure, and something I will never ever regret doing - am very jealous of you at the start of your adventure - good luck smile

chloeb2002 Tue 16-Jul-13 21:27:54

Chuckling at people leaving Australia before kids start school.... Really.... We moved here for the kids education.... Amongst other things grin

Apanicaday Tue 16-Jul-13 21:33:12

We knew we were only going to be going short term, so wanted to do it before ds1 was of school age - rather than as any reflection on the education system in aus (which I would have been very happy for him to go through).

exexpat Tue 16-Jul-13 21:44:38

Balmain is a great place to live - I spent a year or so there (actually the Birchgrove side of Balmain) back in the 90s, and have visited regularly since then. It certainly is not cheap, but cheaper than many of the other equally central areas. Have you tried looking on It looks like you might be able to find a few things within your budget, e.g. this one, though most houses seem to be $1,000 or more a week.

The great thing about Balmain/Birchgrove, depending on where your DH is working, is that you can commute into the CBD by ferry, which must be the best commute in the world (under the harbour bridge, past the opera house...). The buses into town are also pretty frequent and fast.

It's a very small-child-friendly area - several very good small parks and playgrounds, lots of child-friendly cafes and shops on Darling St, and I'm sure there would be tons of toddler groups. The downside is that the houses are mainly smallish, often terraced, old by Sydney standards (100 years or more) and with small gardens, so you won't get as much space as you would in more outer suburban areas. But I'd say that if you are only planning to be in Australia for a couple of years, you might as well live somewhere central and make the most of it.

Manly has the attraction of the beach, of course, and possibly feels more Australian, but it is further from the centre.

yetanotherworry Tue 16-Jul-13 21:50:56

thumbwitch, Wasp-eze is good. I've been using it this week in the UK - it's an aerosol that contains benzocaine (local anaesthetic) and Mepyramine Maleate (anti-histamine). I'm allergic to mozzie bites and if I get this on quick enough, it stops the swelling considerably.

FrozenYogurt Tue 16-Jul-13 23:37:12

Thank you everyone. Lots to consider taking in the container (a tonne of nappies then!!).

We don't know if we'll love it and want to stay...hence wanting to leave before DD gets settled into the school system. We will be renting out our house back home, so will have a life to get back to. I've heard great things about the schools, chloeb, so if we do decide to commit to a longer stay then that's fine with me!

I am flip-flopping between the proximity and easy commute of Balmain and the beach life of the North Shore. We live in a small Victorian house here, so are used to not much space, small garden, etc. I'm not expecting a mansion. I wonder if we lower our expectations on a place in Manly then we might strike lucky? I'm not looking forward to the competition for places, sounds stressful!

I've been reading back on all the older Sydney threads, lots of info to take in. Will definitely be up for a Sydney meet up. Is there a Sydney local page?

FrozenYogurt Tue 16-Jul-13 23:39:20

exexpat that link is great, just what we're looking for really!

exexpat Tue 16-Jul-13 23:44:52

Have you been over to get the feel of the various possible areas to live? I think it's very hard to decide something like that from a distance.

When we arrived in Sydney I'd only been there once before, for a 2-day flying visit, so we started out in a serviced apartment and I went to wander round various areas while DH was at work. I looked round various bits of the north shore (Mosman, Cremorne etc) plus a few eastern suburbs - Double Bay, Paddington and so on - but it was only when I got off the ferry in Balmain and strolled up Darling St that I suddenly got the feeling that this was somewhere I would be happy to live. Luckily DH agreed.

exexpat Tue 16-Jul-13 23:49:19

Yes, I rather fancy that Birchgrove Rd house - close to a great park (and the Dawn Fraser outdoor pool, if it's still going), plus one of my favourite Balmain pubs, the Riverview. And handy for Darling St.

Not a huge house, but big enough, by the look of it. I think the lack of an ensuite/second bathroom tends to mark down prices quite a lot in the Sydney property market.

Feeling envious now - I'd love to move back, but sadly just not possible for the foreseeable future.

Thumbwitch Wed 17-Jul-13 00:14:36

(Hi apanic, I guessed it was you! <<waves>> grin)

Thanks for the tip re Wasp-eze, yetanother - I have a couple of tubes of anti-histamine cream that I brought back last time but will look out for that whenever I run out.

I have suggested, in the latest census/poll for MN, that we could have local pages for big cities in forrin places (e.g. Sydney) but I guess it would be a bit complicated! So the answer is no at the moment.

Re. the rental - although I've never had to do it, I have heard the stories about trying to compete for them - you have to pretty much write a begging letter explaining how brilliant you'll be as tenants, what you can offer, why they should pick you instead of anyone else, and probably offer over the odds on price.

chloeb2002 Wed 17-Jul-13 06:04:17

I just did a nappies price check. Intrigued.. As I buy pampers here... Go toddler.. Pampers active fit size 4 ..3 boxes of 78 nappies.. $98. Compared to tesco that's quite good. It seems Aussie bubs must use more nappies as the packs are much smaller in tescos! 30 in a pack not 80/100 like Huggies :0)

FrozenYogurt Wed 17-Jul-13 08:32:26

If the cost of living is so high for everyone what do people on lower incomes/welfare do?

We have tight months when I buy from supermarket 'value' ranges, and Tesco do a value bulk package of nappies for about half the price of Pampers. I guess what I'n trying to say is that there are provisions for people who are living on a smaller income, it's relatively easy to do a budget shop here. Is there absolutely nothing like that in Oz? What are the budget options for people on lower incomes?

slapdashsusie Wed 17-Jul-13 13:17:00

Hi Frozen Yoghurt,
as a Northern Beaches local I can tell you I snorted when you wrote that you hope for a (liveable, decent) three bedder in Manly for less than $1500 a week! Manly is absolutely beautiful but ridiculously expensive- I wouldn't attempt it without a family income of around $250,000. Few flats in Manly (forget about a house for under a couple of grand) have car parking, either, which can be tiresome when dragging children/ groceries out of the car.
And if you want childcare/ preschool, put you child's name down and pay deposits NOW, I work in education and expat arrivals are always baffled that all of the local daycares are chock full (and around $100 a day). Also, kids don't start school until around age 5 and there is no public Nursery School provision, so you need childcare for a number of years.
Good luck, just make sure you get paid enough to make the move worth it!

Thumbwitch Wed 17-Jul-13 13:41:13

Frozen - as mentioned, Aldi are here. They're substantially cheaper than the Big Two, and there are cutprice shops to be found - the Reject Shop for one, but you can't rely on their stock (and tbh I've never seen nappies in them). Costco is also here but you have to pay to be in that.
Salvation Army and St.Vincent de Paul are the big 2 charity shops here, but there are others as well (obvs not for nappies!!) and they're in every town/suburb, I should think.
There are value ranges in Coles and Woolworths too but they're still generally more expensive than UK prices.

Fuel prices are in the throes of going up at the moment as well, which may have a further knock-on re. prices in shops.

FrozenYogurt Wed 17-Jul-13 13:55:39

Okay, looks like Manly is out then! I'll be a SAHM so no need for child care. Although it would be nice to enrol my DD into a few sessions of playgroup/nursery it's not essential. I'm hoping drop-in playgroups/regular park visits will provide us with ample social interaction with her peers.

susie any pointers as to where would be affordable? With the same feel as Manly?

newbiefrugalgal Wed 17-Jul-13 18:28:56

Where does your DH need to commute to?

FrozenYogurt Wed 17-Jul-13 19:19:53

newbie we're not sure at the moment, I would imagine the CBD, he'll be setting up the office himself so he will have some say in the matter.

Thanks so much thumbwitch, for your really useful info. It's good to know that we'll be able to budget a bit when we arrive. We live a comfortable life back here and it's quite a shock to realise our money doesn't go too far over there. Although, as my DH pointed out, wanting to live in Manly is probably the same as an Australian arriving here and having Knightsbridge and Chelsea on their list!! I just need to know where the Claphams, and East Dulwiches are of the Sydney market, I'm clearly (wrongly) aiming for the Notting Hill, Chelsea, Fulhams at the moment.

Trebletrouble Wed 17-Jul-13 23:03:59

Hi Frozen Youghurt,

I've recently moved back to UK from Sydney and can advise on these areas.
Manly is fab but v expensive especially for a house. Can also be a long commute if you dont live close to the ferry. We lived in Collaroy, further along the stretch of northern beaches but on a bus route (60 mins) into the city. They're express and only stop at limited places. Our rent was 700 dollars week for 3 bed apartment with terrace patio, underground parking. On a very busy road but only 2 mins to the surf club!
For a house, look a bit inland eg Cromer, Collaroy Plateau or Narrabeen. Dee Why can be nice in places and not so nice in others , but more affordable.
We paid 50 dollars a day (9-3) for preschool for 1 child and 65 for another. It can be hard to get places, most preschools take 3 year olds for 2 set days a week and 4 year olds for 3 days a week. Or there are 'day care' centres, more expensive and longer hours bug yoh may have more choice.
For activities, IME, most Aussie parents spend their time on preschool sport and swimming classes. There are hundreds to choose from if you have £££ in your budget for it. check out the local Anglican or Uniting Church for a more traditional playgroup with toys/craft/singing. Can be hit and miss so visit a few!
There are also preschool activities in the museums/botanic gardens if you live near them.
My top tip is negotiate a good salary. We were on a very good salary (dh 160k) but left due to the cost of living with 3 children on one salary.
Feel free to PM me for details on any specific areas as I've lived all over the north shore/northern beaches area.

Good luck x

slapdashsusie Thu 18-Jul-13 08:46:09

Froyo you can still have the 'northern beaches' lifestyle if you go slightly slightly inland, ie North Balgowlah, (Balgowlah Heights is more exxy than Manly) or Frenchs Forest/Belrose. These suburbs are close to the beach but you get more house (no flats) for your dollar- they are nice established family suburbs with big houses on big blocks, often with a pool. Around the $900 mark will get you something nice. Warning, though- the Forest area is markedly monocultural- very blonde! But the restaurants of Manly/Dee Why are a cheap cab fare away.
And the commute to the CBD isn't terrible, as you go in via the Roseville bridge rather than the Spit Bridge.

FrozenYogurt Thu 18-Jul-13 12:57:46

susie liking Froyo, might have to adopt that!

Mutley77 Thu 18-Jul-13 13:42:32

We are in Perth so possibly not that helpful but the cost of living is high all over Australia - supermarket and toiletries/baby items as others have mentioned are particularly expensive by comparison. Also I can't get over the cost of "basics" in a chemist, I don't seem to be able to go in to a chemist to ask for something for me/one of the kids and come out spending less than $20 - in England I would expect to spend £5 or under! Examples such as antiseptic cream, iron tablets, verruca ointment.

Healthcare is another thing to consider that hasn't been mentioned. Not sure if you will qualify for medicare but even if so you have to pay for GP visits (usually only adults - children are generally bulk billed) and only get half of the cost refunded so end up about $35 out of pocket. Prescriptions are also expensive and not free for kids (or pregnant women!) - big shock. As far as I understand private health insurance doesn't cover GP costs either. If you aren't planning to have health insurance you must have some cover for ambulance at a minimum as you have to pay for ambulances here (ambulance insurance cover is not expensive and obviously totally worth it - not sure how much they would charge you for a call out otherwise!)

In terms of rental - the agents like a lot of evidence for your good character, etc. You will need copies of bank statements, proof of income, references from previous letting agents (as we hadn't rented for at least 10 years prior they accepted a reference from the agent renting out our property in the UK as proof of us keeping our house in good order). We also provided photos of our house so they could see how nicely we kept it. The agents also wanted personal references (one needed to be from within Australia) and a weeks rent as a deposit upon application - would be refunded if we didn't get the property. It sounds complicated, and was, but better I think if you are aware up front. I was really stressed by it when I was looking round houses and suddenly realised that I needed to produce all this stuff within hours of a viewing to even be considered for a house!

Thumbwitch Thu 18-Jul-13 13:46:50

Something else worth mentioning is that the train ticket prices are much cheaper, IME, than in the UK. For e.g. - I sometimes choose to drive most of the way into Sydney rather than train it, because my trains only run once an hour, so I'll drive into Roseville and take the train from there to the Centre. Costs $5.40, iirc, for a return (off peak though - not sure if the price changes at peak hours).
For me to get to Sydney Central from my hometown (2h by train) costs me $11.40 return (again offpeak and again don't know if there is a peak charge).

The only train price I have seen/experienced that was utterly ridiculous was going to the Airport - $15 for 3 stops ($10 for a child). Talk about tourist-trapping! shock.

But maybe someone else can advise on commuter rail prices?

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