Today I was asked what I’ll miss the most about living in Sydney. For such a simple and straightforward question, it got me thinking deeply. Was it because I sought some sort of definitive answer for the purpose of my own resolution, or was it because someone was interested in hearing my personal, vulnerable, thoughts?
Even more interesting, was that the person asking the question of me wouldn’t have known just how deep in my heart Sydney sits. The answer though, is unlikely to be what one would expect.
In 2002, when I returned to New Zealand following 18 months of living at Bondi Beach, I was young, tired, broke, and sought family comforts. Returning was a decision which wasn’t thought about too much; more a case of something that simply needed to be done.
When leaving London In 2010 I was happy to put the City in the past. London had proved to be the opposite of my ideal lifestyle, and although aspects of the chapter were thoroughly enjoyable – travel and career – the city seemed to suck life’s energy from me. Auckland and Christchurch in more recent years have been chapters that served as stepping stones to larger goals, and hence leaving both were met with pride and excitement for what lay ahead. Returning to Sydney two years ago was immensely satisfying; a feeling of being reunited with a place I have long adored, and which truly resonates with my personality and personal goals. But leaving, brings sadness and defeat.
Packed with entertainment, and moving at a pace that is not so fast as to become overwhelming; Sydney is a spectacular city. Summer months provide long, hot days, which bring with it a thriving social calendar, and the Cities layout brings no shortage of peaceful moments among nature; a fundamental element I had missed dearly during years in London. Bondi Beach, on Sydney’s eastern coastline, is even more special. With no train connection to the village, Bondi has impressively kept an intimate, community vibe, and being a favoured destination of travellers’, there’s an open invitation among people. Here one can be alone but never lonely.
At Bondi Beach my home is a few metres from an emerald green ocean, surrounded by pure white sand. Between home and the ocean is my favourite coffee shop where I need only walk by before my order is placed through the production line, and it’s enjoyable moving from place to place by foot, leaving the car parked for days. For exercise there’s a selection of World class walkways direct from my front door, or public outdoor gyms which can combine entertainment with exercise. Bondi Beach is truly different from anywhere i have lived before.
But there’s a sad undercurrent to Sydney City, which I have only now uncovered. A reality that when discussed transparently, becomes acute just how many people it affects, and one which has inspired me to leave the place I had hoped would see out my years.
As time has progressed so too has my career, and in turn my place within a business. Where before I wouldn’t have been privy to integral decisions, I now have closer insight to the strategic core. My findings haven’t been favourable.
I grew up understanding that in business, your greater return comes from outstanding treatment of your people. It could be through your team or through your customers, but care, kindness, respect, and consideration will always bring success. Always. Sometimes you’ll want more from your team, and sometimes you’ll assume you have squeezed all you can from your customer, but playing to the strength of these core values will grow your business. Experience has shown me that businesses who have sought collaboration, openness, and flexibility to fit the needs of the customer have been forward thinking businesses, moving in a direction with too many positives to list, and too few negatives to ponder. In Sydney I have found the opposite to be rewarded, and the more the conversation is circulated, the more evidence suggests this to be true.
Here, a “black and white ” approach is commandeered, and micromanaging encouraged. Leadership is demonstrated through removing autonomy, and criticism preferable over feedback. The result is a churn that is accepting, rather than confronting. Over the past two years of my working life arrogance and sexism have featured, bullying has been prevalent, unexpected and unjustified terminations have been rife. Sydney business acumen proven to lack integrity, moral conduct, and above all, common courtesy of human regard, through which business can thrive.
When reflecting the dream I came to Sydney with – accepting a job offer I had long been working towards, and rejoining a old and loyal friendship circle – a short lived sadness washes over me. I arrived with excitement, promise and hope for life in a city I had long admired, but sadly a distaste instead uncovered.
So when asked what I will miss the most about living in Sydney, I can answer in considerably few words. I will miss the excitement of entertainment on my doorstep, and living in a community that encourages getting to know one another. I’ll also miss, the warm weather, spectacular seascape, and the adventure that comes from living on a large continent, with plenty of land to explore. But most of all I’ll miss the respect I once held, for a City I adored.