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Two years in the capital

By Lisa Martin - 19 February 2015 8

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This week I mark two years in Canberra. This is a milestone for me given I despise the cold and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it once I discovered what winter was like.

When I first moved here, I made a promise to myself that I would give it a minimum of two years in Canberra – and if I wasn’t happy at the end of those two years I would move on. I thought two years was a decent amount of time to get a good idea about the capital, make some friends and feel settled after moving away from everything I knew in Queensland.

It took a good 15 months before I felt somewhat settled in Canberra. The first 12 months I obsessed mostly about how cold it was and became a bit of a hermit, counting down the days until I would move back to Brisbane. I made small efforts to make friends but found it hard due to work commitments and decided it was too challenging a few times.

But I came to a point where I realised it was my mindset that was getting in the way of enjoying Canberra. I had focused for so long on doing my time and returning to Brisbane that I wasn’t open to enjoying what Canberra had to offer. Once I changed my mindset, my whole experience changed. I made some great friends, and enjoyed going out even on freezing nights.

I’ve said it before: In my opinion, Canberra isn’t that fun on your own (which is is probably why it gets such as bad wrap), so once you make friends the city does offer a more opportunities. I haven’t met a single person who moved here as an adult and found it easy to make friends and find things to do. It’s one city where you have to make an effort to meet people and find activities to interest you – it can be cliquey and is extremely transient.

But while the experience of moving to Canberra was a lot harder than I imagined, it was life changing. I learnt a lot about myself and what I enjoy doing and became more resilient. It takes a lot of will and effort to move to a new city knowing no one and make it work – it’s challenging, confronting, and often uncomfortable.

I’m not sure what my career holds or whether I’ll stay in the capital for the long term, but there are a number of things that I’ve enjoyed about Canberra life aside from the great career and networking opportunities and challenges.

For starters, the lack of traffic jams and peace and quiet even in the inner city suburbs are among my likes about living in Canberra. Life in the capital doesn’t run at the often intense pace of some other cities – it’s an easier life.

Another of the major pluses for me is that it’s possible to live within walking distance of the city centre and not have to catch public transport or find a park for work – and also go home for lunch. Most of what I need is within walking distance so I get exercise and save time not competing for a carpark. I know it’s not possible and affordable for everyone to live as close to work and city as I am but it’s good to have a choice. When I moved here, I weighed it up that driving or taking public transport to work would cost much the same as paying the extra amount to live in the inner city.

I also like that there’s plenty of natural attractions close to the city or within a 30-40 minute drive and you don’t have to compete with traffic to get there. There’s Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura, the Tidbinbilla and Namadgi Nature Reserves, as well as a number of other mountains such as Mt Stromlo, and places such as Cotter Creek.

While I hate winter, I do enjoy the obvious change in seasons – something you don’t really get in Brisbane. I like seeing the colours change to orange, red and yellow on trees around the capital and it’s a great view of the city from Mt Ainslie on an autumn day. Spring is also a beautiful time of year in Canberra offering mostly sunny days, albeit with crisp mornings, and the grey of winter transforms into a city of green.

Within the Canberra region, a road trip to visit the wineries (and the chocolate shop) out in the Murrumbateman area is a must do. The drive is easy and scenic, and great for a sunny weekend and you can make a full day out of it – or just take a couple of hours to sample a few wines. Take your pick of wineries from your one man operator to bigger operators with extensive displays and attached restaurants.

I don’t know how they all survive but Canberra seems to have an extensive variety of restaurants and cafes given it only has a population of around 380,000. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the restaurants and brunch places in Canberra but try and give a new one a try each time I go out for lunch or dinner and I’ve had some amazing snacks, meals and drinks – it’s appears to be lot better quality than in Brisbane. And Canberra has seen me discover a love for brunch on a weekend morning.

What’s Your opinion?


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8 Responses to
Two years in the capital
farnarkler 10:51 am 22 Feb 15

Queanbeyanite is on the ball with the statement that Canberra is a big country town. It’s not a BAD place to live if you accept that there are limitations on entertainment and transport. As has been said, there are more than enough clubs and groups to join. And if you’re hibernating in Winter, get down to the ice rink when the Brave are playing and join in the verbal abuse of the opposition team. You’ll soon make friends.

MERC600 1:23 pm 20 Feb 15

Very friendly people out at Fyshwick in the evenings,,, so I’m told.

pink little birdie 10:39 am 20 Feb 15

rubaiyat said :

Yeah, Canberra sort of grows on you. But it takes a while.

Coming from Sydney where I always knew the neighbours and you greet people on the street as you pass (at least in the suburbs) the avoiding of each other, if they didn’t know you and trying to run you over if you are crossing the street, took a bit of getting used to . 😀

But lately, Canberra has taken a huge leap forwards in activities and places to dine out. In fact the sheer number of excellent dining opportunities in the last two years is astonishing!

It pays to join things. Bush walking, the ANU Film Group and Canberra Swing Katz are stand outs. Wish there were more geeky things, or perhaps I don’t know of them yet, used to meet a lot more ANU academics when I was with a computer user group years ago.

What sort of Geeky things are you after? Theres a huge ingress presence and it’s almost common for people to have their own minecraft servers. There is a 3DS club that meets in civic fortnightly. There are regular public lectures on almost any topic. Join a friends of here and you’ll meet the academics of that particular subject. They have those coding challenges semi regularly here too.

gooterz 12:45 am 20 Feb 15

If you want to friend someone in Canberra do it with someone not from Canberra!

rubaiyat 10:29 pm 19 Feb 15

Yeah, Canberra sort of grows on you. But it takes a while.

Coming from Sydney where I always knew the neighbours and you greet people on the street as you pass (at least in the suburbs) the avoiding of each other, if they didn’t know you and trying to run you over if you are crossing the street, took a bit of getting used to . 😀

But lately, Canberra has taken a huge leap forwards in activities and places to dine out. In fact the sheer number of excellent dining opportunities in the last two years is astonishing!

It pays to join things. Bush walking, the ANU Film Group and Canberra Swing Katz are stand outs. Wish there were more geeky things, or perhaps I don’t know of them yet, used to meet a lot more ANU academics when I was with a computer user group years ago.

Queanbeyanite 10:04 pm 19 Feb 15

Glad you like it Lisa, the cold country does take a little getting used to. Having visited Brisvegas I can’t imagine how you would cope constantly bathed in sweat living there.

Just remember that it’s a big company town with exceptionally good pay and conditions!

Maya123 7:08 pm 19 Feb 15

“I haven’t met a single person who moved here as an adult and found it easy to make friends and find things to do. It’s one city where you have to make an effort to meet people and find activities to interest you – it can be cliquey and is extremely transient.”
When I moved here – many years ago now – I made friends almost from my first day, and I have always found it hard to make friends, but I had no trouble in Canberra. That was because when I moved here there were still hostels and I moved into one. In no time at all I was going out with others from the hostel to discos, movies, trips to the snow, cycling, sporting groups etc. I found so much to do. Coming from the country I was amazed how much Canberra had to offer. The only thing that took me many, many years to like was the countryside. Coming from a place with rainforest I found it hard to appreciate. I like it now, but it probably took me twenty years to say that.

Rollersk8r 4:20 pm 19 Feb 15

Coincidentally I have Canberra-raised friends, some living in Brisbane, who love to constantly tease about how anywhere but Canberra is a great place to live.

However, I’ve honestly never understood the statement that it’s hard to meet people in Canberra. I’ll admit we have a fairly long season of winter hibernation – but that doesn’t stop meeting people through the usual channels like through flatmates, workmates, sport and hobby groups, online dating etc??

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