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As 2012 begins, so will my second full year in this country. I reckon this one will be even better than the first.

Arriving from England back in late 2010, I can look back now and admit how hard I found my first year in Sydney.

I never expected the culture shock I got when I moved to Sydney. This blog has been one way to cope with that. Writing about some of the peculiar things I’ve observed has helped to understand it in my own mind.

Surely Australia would just be England with sunshine I thought? No, not at all. From the serious matters, such as Australia’s uneasy history with the Aboriginal people of this country, through to the silly – like the sight of kangaroos hopping down the streets in Victoria. Every day has shown me something new.

It’s taken me over 12 months to adjust to having so much sunshine for a start. Being able to explore far flung beaches, go kayaking, walk along the coastline on weekends. Instead of arranging afternoons that actually avoid going outside in the rain like I was doing in the UK.

My diet has changed. I was used to casseroles and pastas. But here, year-round we eat barbecued meat or fresh fish from the market and salads almost every evening. I’ve never eaten so much Sushi or Thai food or Banana Bread either.

I’ve stopped complaining too much about the price of everything. Though I still feel like I’m being robbed every time a can of soup costs me $4, or a bottle of water on the street $3.

My dad told me last week my accent was changing. He hates it when I go up at the end of every sentence, Aussie-style. It’ll go I said, ‘No worries mate.’

I know not to get offended when I see ‘Coon’ written on a packet of cheese, or hear Wog used in the workplace. I know my Rangas from my Bogans. I still call my ‘thongs’ ‘flip-flops.’

I’ve met some great Australian friends now, not just ex-pats. People who’ve lived in Sydney their whole lives and with whom I can have a conversation without talking about what we miss from home.

Yes, I still shop for clothes online at Dorothy Perkins, but I also find a lot I like in Marcs, and Myer and Sportsgirl.

I’ve experimented with the sunrise exercise routine, getting up at 5.30am in the mornings, when the heat is just bearable in the summer. I’ve still felt inferior to the gorgeous Aussie girls who just seem so lean and glamourous and blonde.

I don’t really miss Eastenders or Strictly Come Dancing anymore. But I’d recognise Dani and Hayden from Australian Masterchef in the street.

I check smh.com.au in the mornings now, instead of bbc.co.uk. I subscribe to Mumbrella for my media news. We’ve got the Gruen Transfer boxset.

I can get stopped on the street and offer a tourist directions. I can tell you where to get the best cup of coffee on George Street and where serves the best Mojito (not too sweet, not too sour).

I keep my mosquito repellent at the side of my bed, and I make sure I’ve got my Factor 30 on for the morning walk to work.

I can tell you that it’s a nightmare trying to catch a bus home from Bondi on a busy Saturday…but the North end of the beach is your best bet.

I’ll know where’s best to stand for a good view at the Chinese New Year parade. I can tell you not to forget to arrange a meeting place for your friends at Future Music Festival. I can tell you what radio station to listen to on Australia Day.

I know my NRL from my AFL. My CBD and my QVB. My capsicum from my eggplant. I remember to ask for no beetroot on my burger. 

I know that I would have known none of the above without living in this country.

Am I changing? Am I losing the person I was when I arrived here?

I hope not. I think for the first time since I arrived here I’m finally feeling like I belong in this city. Not feeling like some outsider visiting for my holidays, not really ‘getting it’. But a true resident, like I’ve turned it from my house to my home, like I’ve been invited into the party.

Yes, it’s great to do new things and discover new adventures each and every day.

But I reckon there’s also a lot to be said for doing things the second time around too…..

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picture of rain

Is this all we have to look forward to this weekend in Sydney?

It’s December in Sydney and the sun should be shining!

But sadly, our plans for the beach, barbecues and outdoor beers are on hold as the rain is predicted to set in for the second weekend in a row.

So, what to do? Here’s my top five suggestions for making the best out of the miserable weather this weekend:

1)      Sushi and songs

For the perfect all-in-one dinner/drinks/late-night entertainment venue that saves you having to bar-hop through the rain, head to Mizuya on George Street. This underground restaurant serves up delicious, fresh sushi in cozy surroundings, far away from the disappointing weatheroutside. The hot pot with wagyu beef is a favourite of mine, and the various meat and fish skewers are addictive. Better still, you get to order your dinner on a touch screen at your table, meaning you can keep going back for more until you’re stuffed!

Oh, and once you’re full of sushi and sake, simply head down the corridor to the real reason Mizuya was created – karaoke booths where you can gather all your mates into a sealed room, belt out your favourite songs until the early hours and even order more sushi if you wish!

2)      Head to an Irish Bar

That’s right, what better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, than settled down in a traditional Irish Pub with some hearty grub, a live band or two and perhaps a pint of Guinness. There’s plenty of options in central Sydney including PJ O’Brien’s, Durty Nelly’s, Scruffy Murphy’s and Paddy Maguires.

For the ultimate Irish experience however – and a venue I can’t recommend enough – head to Mulligan’s restaurant in Chippendale. You’ll enjoy the best comfort food in Sydney, in surroundings which feel like you’re in the living room of a cuddly older relative.

3)      Pretend you’re in the UK

For an ex-pat, Christmas in Australia has meant swapping many of the traditional wintry fayre for light, summery bites in reflection of the warmer weather. So this weekend, why not head to Lindt Cafe at Darling Harbour and indulge with a warming hot chocolate and marshmallows, or snuggle up at home with a hot mince pie, brandy butter and your favourite Greatest Hits Xmas CD.

4)      Get cultural

Time to explore all the museums, art galleries and other interesting parts of Sydney that it just seems wrong to visit when the sun is shining. First stop could be the new Picasso exhibition now open at Art Gallery New South Wales where you’ll get to see more than 150 pieces of his work.

5)      Get out of Sydney and catch a flight to Melbourne

Four words that need no further explanation: Topshop is now open. What better reason do we need to escape Sydney for the weekend than a chance to explore one of the UK’s most successful fashion chains now open at its first location in Australia. Prepare yourself for chaos and queues, but it’ll be worth it when you get to swan into work on Monday in your brand new Topshop clothes.

Who needs sunshine!

What are your weekend plans?

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