It’d been an exhausting year in Hong Kong, burning the candle at both ends and learning the work culture, in a very expensive City.
My firm had asked me to move to Sydney as there was a big event coming up, along with the need for someone to work closely with the regional leader and then to move onto South Africa to run the operation.
Australia had never been my first choice as I’d always thought it several years behind the western world culturally and technologically. But, it was another adventure and so why not?
We jumped on the next Qantas flight out of Hong Kong, landing in Sydney in a cool October.
We had a major sporting event coming up. I heard how crazy the Aussies were about sports and the rumors weren’t wrong. Those guys were outdoors guys and they lived for their sports, even more passionate than forthcoming “Pommie bashing” (we’ll come back to that later). Our first event to market and deliver was the Bledisloe Cup — for those unaware this is the annual Rugby Series between Australia (the Wallabies) vs New Zealand (Kiwis).
We were already selling out fast, but not surprising
In New Zealand, Rugby is almost a religion — every MD, every Head of Sales or Marketing of any decent sized company wanted in!
Living in The Rocks
As soon as we arrived in Sydney, we moved to The Rocks, pretty much downtown Sydney. It was a very different city layout and left me pretty confused initially. After a year in Hong Kong I’d become accustomed to walking out of my apartment to all my conveniences and here, all I had was a pub or a taxi ride out to the suburbs to find a decent grocery store. It took a while to get back to planned weekly shopping, versus as and when required.
It was a great location, that aside. Darling Harbor, right next door with numerous street acts to entertain, the Opera House, Ferry’s to all over Metro Sydney
Everything on our doorstep
The great thing this time however was a 1km walk to my office from my home on Harrington St to downtown. I loved the walk and it was a chance to psych myself for each day and debrief at the end of each day.
The next culture shock came with the contrast between Hong Kong’s 24/7 hustle and formality to now a far more relaxed, slower paced and very informal Sydney. I never forget i spoke briefly with Australia’s richest man and he came right out and said call me Rupert rather than Mr…
And, well Aussies faced with a Pom (that’s me) never hold back. Not a day passed without a new story to scare the s&!t out of me, somehow related to another stupidly dangerous venomous animal that had appeared in their home:
I remember the 1st story appeared after 3-days in the office. One of the team told the story of waking in the night only to find on his floor a funnel-web spider. I’d never heard of these before but soon found they are amongst the most poisonous spiders in the world. How, in one of the world’s most modern cities does a spider like that get in your bedroom?
My colleagues saw i was freaked!
Scare the Pommie
My regular, let’s spook the Pommie weekly story ensued. Snakes, Spiders, Octopus & Jelly Fish stories kept rolling in. I’m surprised I dare step outside of my apartment by the time they’d finished.
I have to say thought it was one weekend in January when i walked over to the Harborside and looked over. There we hundreds of box jelly fish.
An Amazing Country
It was an incredible country of extremes. My greatest regret having spent several months working hard is I never made time to get up to the Great Barrier Reef or Ayer’s Rock. I did however make it down to Melbourne, where I arrived in the morning of one of the Melbourne Open Tennis to 7 degree Celsius temperatures, wrapped in my winter clothing only to see it rise to 24 degree Celsius by the afternoon.
Hulking heavy clothing around I enjoyed however the fruits of great food down there. Dodging the trams, I managed some great food and highly recommend this cosmopolitan city.
Next stop Johannesburg
Things had been going so well, we’d been selling out events and coming out with many happy customers. It was going so well, my company thought the next step would be good to send me to South Africa — more specifically Johannesburg.
Now Johannesburg was at this time preparing for the Rugby World Cup and the country was excited. I headed over for a reconnaissance
1st stop, the real estate agent for rentals and some strong advice:
I told them just a couple of bedrooms, a pool nearby, fitness center etc. Their response was:
Get Staff — preferably live-in housekeepers who are always present, even when you are at work.
Alarms — best bet is a motion-sensor system that alerts an armed-response team which arrives in three minutes or less.
Big dogs provide a deterrent, both through noise and through their incisors.
Electric fencing — preferably 220 volts, which can cause severe injury or death.
It was a little disconcerting!
My son at the time was less than two years old, pretty mobile on his two legs and I decided perhaps this wasn’t the best place to bring him up. We agreed, the time was right to return to the UK and in so doing accidentally find the perfect platform to launch my new career
Next up, London here we come