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A Guide to Living in Canberra: 13 Things You Need to Know

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by Belladonna (subscribe)
Loves going out and about, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and writing about her adventures!
Published March 5th 2020
What I think makes Canberra a unique place to live in
I'm a Sydney girl, but Canberra has been my home now for the last ten years. I came to live in Canberra after I married. I must admit, I never really liked Canberra when I first got here. I had come from the hustle, bustle, energy, and excitement of Inner West Sydney. And to me, Canberra was rather dull by comparison.

But that was ten years ago. Since then, I've learned a lot about this amazing city of ours, and I've grown to love it, warts and all.
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here

As we approach Canberra Day, it's got me thinking about the things about Canberra that are unique to Canberra. Things that only people who live here could understand. Now, my Canberra experiences will be different from yours, but I've discovered some things, behaviours, and beliefs that only my fellow Canberrans would be able to understand.

Here are thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here. This is a personal list, you might want to add some of your own!

1. There are people living in Canberra who were actually born and bred here.
Over the course of ten years, I've met a lot of Canberrans. However, the majority of them weren't actually born and bred here. Canberra is such a transitional kind of place, with people moving in and out. But I have met the occasional Canberran who was born in the old Canberra Hospital and who spent all their lives here. Like my husband!

2. You hear a lot of public service talk.
A LOT of Canberrans I've met work in the public service. My group of girlfriends all work in the public service. My husband works in the public service. I don't work in the public service. But conversations will naturally gravitate towards the public service. So I'll hear talk about policies and programs and I'll hear plenty of acronyms such as APS, EL, and SES being thrown about. In these conversations, you're expected to know what everyone is talking about. So just nod away and then divert the conversation towards something more interesting if you feel you're drowning in acronyms and policy manuals!
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here
By sasint from Pixabay

3. It can get clique-y.
Canberra is a small city compared to the likes of Sydney and Melbourne. Now, owing in part to its smallness and the transitional nature of its population, people here can get very protective of their 'tribe'. In other words, Canberrans can be clique-y. Now, I'm not saying that people in Sydney or Melbourne are less clique-y than Canberrans. Believe me, there's plenty of clique-y behaviour going on in big cities too. But I know Canberrans are clique-y because a friend of mine (newly arrived to Canberra) confided to me last year that she found it hard to fit into my group of friends. And that's when I realised to my very great horror that I had a clique!!!
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here
Source: By ELEVATE from Pexels

4. Some people can get super defensive if you make a bad comment about Canberra.
And I mean SUPER DEFENSIVE. So if I argued with them about Canberra being clique-y, they would shout me down with a counter-attack. They get all huffy and puffy with you if you even dare to compare Canberra with another city. I've come across one or two people like this during my ten years here. In my opinion, these people need to get into a new hobby or a new obsession that's not Canberra-related.

5. And then you meet some people who just don't like Canberra.
These are the people at the opposite end of the spectrum. They moan about living in Canberra, they hate Canberra, they should just leave Canberra!

6. The bus stops are pretty unique.

7. And so are local shops.
One of the cutest things about Canberra are the road signs directing you to the local shops of a suburb. But then again, if there weren't these road signs, then you would never find the local shops! Local shops are literally, the hidden gems of Canberra's suburbs.
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here

Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here

8.There is a Northside Vs Southside mentality.
It took me a while to figure this one out! I live Southside, but I didn't know much about the whole Northside Vs Southside thing for many years after I arrived in Canberra. When I first arrived, I was more of the Sydney Vs Canberra mentality. However, I'm starting to understand that there is a division between those of us who live in the South, and those who live in the North. Do I care? No, not really. Except during Summernats time. And that's when I'm so glad I live in the South!

9. Some people think you're not a true Canberran if you turn your heaters on before April 25..
Apparently heater season in Canberra begins on April 25 or the day after it. My husband told me about this, but I just laughed at him. And I still laugh at him when he reminds me of it every year. I'm not a true Canberran anyway, right?! So I'll damn well turn on my heater whenever I feel cold, even if it's March!

10. Traffic? What traffic?
Driving city-bound on Hindmarsh Drive or the Tuggeranong Parkway at 8.30am on a weekday morning (even if in the rain) is BLISS compared to driving at the same time and in the same weather on Parramatta Road, Canterbury Road, the M5 motorway, or any major road in Sydney. I wasted HOURS of my life stuck in traffic that was not moving on the M5 in Sydney. Canberrans can complain, but Canberra's traffic is nothing like Sydney's.
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here
Source: By Life Of Pix from Pexels

11. There's actually a Canberra Day public holiday.
Hooray! Held on the second Monday in March every year to celebrate the naming of Canberra. Canberra was named at a ceremony on 12 March 1913 by Lady Denman, the wife of the then Governor-General Lord Denman.

12. Where are the fences?
One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Canberra was that in the suburbs, there are no front yard fences separating one house from the next. The yards and gardens seem to blend into one another with more natural markers such as hedges and bushes separating one property from the next. I suppose this all adds to the Bush Capital feel of Canberra, and that's great. But I have a fence-mentality. I need a fence around my front yard! When can I get a fence?
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here
Source: By David McBee from Pexels

13. We're a pretty awesome city.
It may sound like I'm complaining about Canberra (I'm sure the super defensive Canberra lovers will think so!) but after ten years of living here, I think we live in a pretty awesome city. Top travel guide book publisher Lonely Planet thinks so, and named Canberra as one of the top three cities in the world to visit in 2018.
After all, there's lots of awesome stuff about Canberra like Floriade, Questacon, the War Memorial, the National Multicultural Festival, Balloon Spectacular, National Museum, National Gallery, Braddon, the Kingston Foreshore, Canberra region wines, local breweries, the National Arboretum, farmer's markets, our nature reserves and parks, and our diverse and cosmopolitan community. There's just so much to love about our amazing city!

Happy Canberra Day, everyone!
Thirteen things I've learned about Canberra since moving here
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Why? Because I love Canberra!
Your Comment
Well done Belladonna, spot on
by derrie (score: 0|4) 1187 days ago
Ha ha number 9 is so true. In our family we weren’t allowed to turn on the central heating until after ANZAC Day.

I was also driving home from a night out in Civic around the large roundabout at Parliament House and a kangaroo bounded alongside my car for a bit down Adelaide Avenue. Canberra is unique!
by Nicole J (score: 1|67) 1187 days ago
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