6 things I discovered when I went back home (Sydney) from home (Tokyo)

Thanks to Respect for the Aged Day and Autumnal Equinox Day celebrated in Japan, I went back to Sydney, Australia for the first time since I moved to Tokyo 7 months ago 🛫.

With the flight booked on the day I flew out of Tokyo (!) and being such a last-minute decision to visit Sydney in the first place, I didn’t have time to think or prepare or anticipate anything about what it will be like to return (temporarily) to Sydney; I simply experienced it.

For my 10 days whirlwind trip, here are the 6 things I discovered when I went back to Sydney where I lived for 9 years from Tokyo where I have lived for the last 7 months.

gday welcome home sign at sydney airport photographed by Native Expat 2019
This sign made me smile to myself, I do feel at home

#1 I slipped right back in

I didn’t have my familiar bed to sleep in at the end of the night and my workplace was at a different company located in a different area, but it was as though my life in Tokyo never existed. I felt so comfortable and I felt like I have missed nothing in Sydney.

Dangerous current at Sydney's famous bondi beach in September 2019 photographed by Native Expat 2019
The freshness is just how I remembered, even during a dangerous current warning.

#2 Not a tourist, just visiting

When I lived in Australia for 18 years, I visited Japan a couple of times before moving back to Tokyo at the start of this year. On both occasions, I was a total tourist. I went to the typical sightseeing attractions like Kyoto, Asakusa and checking out a cat cafe, getting overwhelmed by the sea of people at the Shibuya crossing and taking hundreds of pictures 📷📷📷.

This trip back to Sydney was quite a new experience for me to visit somewhere so familiar to me.

I have a bank account to draw money out of, I don’t need a map to weave in and out of the city, and I have seen and experienced the tourist ‘must do in Sydney’ so all I did was revisit my favourites like Bondi to Bronte walk, catching the ferry and taking in the vibes of the Inner West.

A Sunday ferry ride from the Eastern Suburbs to Milson Point in Sydney Australia photoghraphed by Native Expat 2019
A Sunday ferry ride from the Eastern Suburbs to Milson Point

#3 …but maybe it’s just me

My friend asked me if I have the travel card for Sydney (opal card) or asked me if I remember or knew certain streets. It took me as a surprise as I lived in Sydney for 9 years and just left at the start of the year!

To me, I felt like I slipped right back in but maybe to my friends, it hasn’t felt like so. Or, my friends often hosts overseas friends who aren’t familiar with opal cards?

Wattle blossoming in the Inner West in Sydney photographed by Native Expat 2019
..yes I do remember that this is Australian native, wattle

#4 Diversity and youth

On the train or on the bus, during the weekend or during the week, Inner West to Eastern Suburbs to the Lower North Shore – everywhere felt so diverse and so young. Tall to short, voluptuous to fit, chatter in multiple languages and people from all over the world all call Sydney home. Perhaps seeing many intercultural couples made me feel more comfortable in Sydney as I don’t have to try so hard to fit in.

#5 Missing the Japanese comforts

I know I can get by and live just like the Sydneysiders (like waiting for a bus for 15 minutes ⏳) but my appreciation has skyrocketed for Japan’s on time, frequent and clean public transport system and oshibori (hand towel provided at every eatery in Japan to wash your hands). I think living in Japan is ruining me with its super-high ‘general’ standard of living.

Rose Bay bus stop in Sydney photographed by Native Expat 2019
I guess I can wait 15 minutes for a bus when some of the bus stops have a view like this…

#6 Human touch

What I missed the most about Australia is the people.
My Sydney colleagues are from a diverse background of Indonesia, Australia, India, China, and New Zealand who all live in Sydney but every one of them shook my hands when I met them for the first time🤝. A handshake to welcome and farewell colleague is an Australian culture that all my colleagues have learned and this is the most amount of physical contact I have had in my entire Japanese career history of 4 months so far.

Let me clarify that I’m not even a touchy-feely person; I used to be an awkward hugger (my friend of nearly 10 years told me I look uncomfortable hugging) and generally, I didn’t like people touching me. Saying that, when it’s taken away from me by living in Japan, I absolutely loved my friends’ tight hugs and my colleagues’ handshakes. The visit to Sydney reminded me that human needs a human touch.

The view of Sydney harbour from the airplane photographed by Native Expat
Sydney from above

During the visit, I read an article on Qantas’ inflight magazine about business people who have moved to another country and their experience. Merlin Network’s CEO, Charles Caldas who moved from Melbourne to London said,

“The first year, you compare everything that’s not the same as at home and wonder why.
The second year, you still feel like an outsider but you’re excited about living and working somewhere like London, with Europe on your doorstep.
By the third year, you don’t feel like you’re on an extended holiday – you’ve made some local connections, the rose-tinted glasses are of and you’re not worrying about the differences.”

Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin Network

Maybe next year, I won’t even be writing posts like these when I appreciate that Tokyo is Tokyo and Sydney is Sydney.

Briefly returning to Sydney was a great reminder that its glistening beauty will always be there waiting for me. Rather than looking back and attempting to hold onto things I loved in my Sydney life, I should embrace this amazing opportunity to live in Tokyo and what it offers.

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