While European cities are stifled by the economic crisis, with expensive living costs and high unemployment rates, Sydneysiders claim they are living the dream.
The NSW capital and Australia’s biggest city with more than four million residents, was voted eighth best in the world in the 2012 Quality of Life Index, but does working there live up to expectations?
Aussies and Brits are choosing the city for its career opportunities in industries such as hospitality, IT, finance, recruitment, education and health care, plus for the high standard of life and the perks that are on offer when they’re not working.
Brit Joanna Nicholls, 31, has lived and worked in marketing in Sydney for six years.
“The quality of life is second to none,” Nicholls says, adding that even after all that time she’s “still falling in love with the place”.
With her home overlooking Freshwater on the northern beaches, Nicholls goes for a run along the coastal path every day before or after work, and often goes for a surf in the evening.
“I work in the city too, so I feel I get the best of both worlds,” she explains. “The city has a huge focus on the arts and nightlife and is full of variety. There are new bars, nightclubs and restaurants opening all the time. I’ve certainly never been bored or stuck for entertainment.”
Simon Meyer, managing director of recruitment company PageGroup Australia, says the average annual salary for their qualified candidates is between AU$90-100K (£58-64k).
PageGroup recruits for industries such as banking, finance, legal, sales, technology and hospitality.
The nation’s minimum wage is about £10 per hour, available to workers in retail and hospitality industries.
“This is an area where there are plenty of opportunities for people without qualifications, particularly on a seasonal basis and moving into the Christmas season,” Meyer says.
He doesn’t mince his words: he believes Sydney is the “best city in the world”. From a global perspective, Australia is a bright place to be.
Jane McNeill, the director of international recruiter Hays’ New South Wales branch, agrees. She raves about the city’s work/life balance.
“It’s Australia’s most multicultural city and has a society that is open and friendly,” she says. “There are excellent transport and telecommunications facilities, plus a great outdoor lifestyle with plenty of options for leisure activities, close to the water and Blue Mountains.”
Work-wise, McNeill reckons the city offers serious opportunities for career development compared to the UK.
She says: “Candidates who work in the UK’s construction, financial services and legal sectors in particular have become more interested in Australian vacancies given the economic conditions in Europe and associated budgetary cuts, which have hindered career growth potential.”
It all sounds fantastic so far, but what’s the catch? Brits looking to relocate and Aussies looking to return home should bear in mind that while their salaries may increase in Sydney, so will their living costs.
“The cost of living can be relatively higher,” McNeill says. “We advise candidates considering making the move back to Australia to do their research in terms of their earning potential and what things will cost.”
She adds that the recruitment process has become more complex than it was a few years ago. “There is no longer any room for a one-size-fits-all CV; you need to tailor it to show how your skills best match those that the employer is looking for,” she says.
“Some organisations are using keyword filters to ensure they only review CVs that include the key skills mentioned in the job description.”
Once you’ve got a permanent job, you can easily spend the week in the city centre, sipping away on coffee in bohemian Surry Hills or inner west villages, then devote weekends to beaches like Bondi, Coogee or Bronte.
“I miss family and friends in the UK,” Nicholls says. “But I’m pretty certain I want to live in Sydney for good – I’m a more relaxed version of myself here.”
Tips for sydney living
• Shoes and flip flops (thongs) are not interchangeable, so plan ahead. If you’re going from the beach to the club, flip flops (thongs) may not cut it with the burly doorman.
• Work out what you need and pick an area to suit. If you want to walk to the beach, the inner west is no good.
If you need to get into the city in under 15 minutes, scratch the northern beaches and Bondi off the list. Surry Hills and Bondi Junction are good starting points.
• Be safe. Yes, there is a beachy vibe, but you still need your city wits about you, especially in Kings Cross and the CBD at night.