It’s hard to know what to expect when you move to a new city. I certainly had no idea what I was doing or what I was in for when I moved to Canberra about four-and-a-half years ago.
I was 19 and I’d moved here from the Central Coast in NSW for work. I’d been told I had the job and had two weeks to move which involved buying furniture and appliances, as well as finding a house to live in.
At the time, the rental market here was not great. I struggled to find apartments that were up for rent and the only thing that saved me was having a conversation with a real estate agent and explaining my situation to her. She came back to me a day later with an apartment and it was all mine.
I moved into a new place in Gungahlin because a 20 minute drive to work seemed completely reasonable. What I didn’t prepare myself for was the roadwork on Gungahlin Drive Extension which meant that some days it took me 45-50 minutes to get to work. Even if I went via Flemington Road or the Barton Highway it still took forever because of congestion. It would have taken a fair bit of research but I wished I’d looked into that properly because I probably would have moved to another suburb to begin with.
I didn’t know one single person in Canberra when I arrived and didn’t really have any friends for another six months. I was much younger than everyone in my workplace and we didn’t have a lot of common interests. I eventually struck up conversation with a guy that occasionally came into my workplace, got into his social circle and then things picked up from there.
Lots of people told me Canberra was ‘cliquey’. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree. There are some aspects of Canberra that I found incredibly cliquey to begin with, public sector vs private sector (then if you were in the public sector the cliques were either what Department you were from, or what APS level you were), or UC vs ANU (UC were the ‘dumb’ ones and if you weren’t studying law at ANU you were pretty much brain dead). Not everyone would experience these cliques, it really depends on the industry you work in and your age, I think. I hardly notice the cliques anymore, or maybe I just don’t care. I know that a lot of people do have trouble making friends though.
When I announced to people that I was moving to Canberra, I was met with pretty much the same responses each time:
- OMG, can you bring some fireworks home next time you visit?!
- You will die in winter, it’s so cold!
- The rent is so cheap because no one wants to live in Canberra.
- There’s nothing to do, Canberra is boring.
Sadly, if you’re excited to move to Canberra because of the fireworks you’ll be disappointed. Fireworks aren’t a thing anymore.
Yup, our winter is cold. But you won’t die. I never had a big coat and couldn’t find one I liked so I just used to get around in a cardigan. Sometimes I still do. Winter is manageable, however if you park outside expect to have ice on your windscreen in the morning. Keep a spare card (an old credit card works well) on hand to scrape it off. A bucket of water goes well too, but whatever you do, don’t throw hot water on your windscreen. It will crack.
The rent is NOT cheap in Canberra. Well, if you compare it to Sydney it is. But comparing it to what people pay on the Central Coast or in other regional areas, it is much higher. Be prepared for that.
For the first year and a half I lived here, I thought Canberra was the most boring place on earth. I thought it was horrible. I know this sounds silly but once I got into a relationship I started to enjoy Canberra a whole lot more. A relationship gave me motivation to go and explore Canberra. It’s hard to find that motivation if you don’t know anybody.
My advice for people moving to Canberra without a support network here is to find a housemate rather than moving into an apartment alone. I wish I’d taken that step rather than doing things the hard way.
In saying that, stick it out. If you’re having as terrible a time as I did, it will get better. A few years in and now I think Canberra is the bees’ knees and I never want to leave!