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Year Aboard at UTS : First impressions and cultural differences

Hi guys !

My name is Julien Guerin, and I’m currently an exchange student, doing my third year of Bachelor at UTS, studying Business and Management.

I just came one month ago from Paris in France, and will stay for a whole year, that’s why I wanted to share with you the first impressions I had when I came here during the first few weeks.

Also, I’ll try to explain to you the main cultural differences I’ve noticed between Sydney and Paris. As a matter of fact, all my remarks will concern things that surprised me or appeared strange to me. It’s not my intention to judge people or habits, or to tell which one is the best.

The city: atmosphere and characteristics

First of all, during the first few days of my arrival, I had the opportunity to discover the city, and mainly the CBD, because I had to move a lot across the city to visit flats (I chose not to live in UTS Housing).

My first impression of the city was, and still is, very positive: I find the city both modern and charming. I mean, obviously the buildings are very new, but unlike New York, they decided to give a particular architecture to the buildings, and not make all of them look the same.

Also, when you walk in the city, you can be surprised by the diversity of the suburbs: sometimes by just walking few hundred metres, you can have the illusion of not being in the same city.

Speaking of city and atmosphere, I currently live in Bondi, 10 minutes by walk from the beach. I chose to live here because of the unique ambience of this place. When you just walk and chill in Bondi, you really feel like you are on holidays and it really looked like the Australian way of life I imagined, with the beach, surfers and seaside homes.

To conclude for the city analysis, I really found it's way bigger than Paris: the area of Sydney is 100 times bigger: 12,350 km² (if considering the surrounding area) against 105 km², and you can really feel the difference. Indeed, the whole city and the buildings are more spaced out. Sometimes, I had the impression Australia really had “space to lose", even in a big city like Sydney.

The people: cultural gap

As I love psychology, every time I go to another country I like to see in which way and why people are different, because I trust it reveals a lot of information concerning the cultural features.

First of all, when I came to Sydney I expected to meet plenty of Australian people, but you quickly realise there are not many of them in the city. In fact, we were told only 30% of the inhabitants of Sydney actually are "Aussies", with the great majority of the population immigrants and tourists.

Due to the geographical proximity between Asia and Australia, it’s not a big surprise that there is a strong Asian community in the city, and Sydney’s Chinatown is representative of this.

There are also many English and Americans in the city, not surprising once again if we consider the Australian history, and the fact these countries have a close culture.

Concerning the student population (the people I meet the most), I noticed a large German community, and also lots of French people, but many from India.

Concerning the behavior of the people, and the cultural differences I noticed, I would say, even if it’s hard to explain, that people seem more peaceful, respectful and helpful than Parisian people. For example, if you need information in the street, because you’re lost, people seem really more willing to help you than back home. Also, the city and the people seem cleaner, or at least more respectful of their streets: indeed, because of the very high price of cigarettes here (around $20 a pack, against $10 in France), there are no cigarette butts in the street.

Cost of living and wages

I will now talk about a crucial matter for every student: the cost of living.

All the comparisons I will make are relative to the Parisian cost of living, which is not the cheapest city in the world, but it will give you an idea. First, I will start by the areas which are more expensive in Sydney than is Paris (yes, it’s possible!).

When I first arrived, my main concern was finding a flat to live, and that’s here I realised how expensive housing is here. If you want a private room in the CBD, you’ll find nothing really good under $280 per week, and $300 in Bondi, and if you accept a share room, it’ll be $200 inner Sydney, and $240 in Bondi. This is more or less two times more expensive than in Paris (also there exists government financial help for every young person in France, which helps a lot).

Secondly, the price of the transport astonished me here in Sydney. In Paris, for every student (French or foreign), we have a kind of Opal (travel) card that we pay $500 per year, and it enable you to go everywhere in Paris and beyond, with no limit of distance, number of buses or train taken. So, when I realised I basically spend $30 a week for transport, which make $1,500 a year, I must say it’s something I didn’t expect.

For the other areas of your living (supermarket, clothes), I think prices are more or less the same than in Paris.

Moreover, I said I found Sydney is an expensive city, but I also was surprised, and in a positive way, by the wages here. Honestly, it seems if you work just 20 hours a week, or if you work in full-time, you can earn much more than you need as a student. We were told here the minimum salary was around $18.50 per hour (and I personally know nobody paid less than $20 per hour, even for the most basic jobs), whereas in France the minimum wage (and the one you’ll have as a student) is $13, and $10 after tax.

That’s why even if life is expensive, you can manage to live quite well if you work, even with a part-time job.


As a French guy, it would have been surprising not to talk about a such important area for us: food. I must say if you buy your food from a supermarket, and you cook by yourself, you’ll eat the same way and find similar products as we find in France.

But, the problem comes when you want to eat outside, in the city. First, the price of food here didn’t surprise me, but if you want to eat healthy outside, it’s going to be very difficult. When you don’t know the city well, it appears there is a lot of fast food, and Asian restaurants, but if you’re not fond of this kind of food, or if you want to diversify, you’ll have to search more widely. With time, you manage to find good address. If you want to eat a diversified food, I would advise to go to shopping malls, where there are tons of restaurant, offering a very wide range of food, for example, the one in Pyrmont next to the port.

That’s the end of my analysis and of the sharing of my first impressions when coming here in Sydney, I hope you've learned interesting things.



Julien Guerin

International Business

PSB Paris School of Business, France

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