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Group of people watching the sunset over Sydney harbour in the winter
Photograph: Trent Szmolnik

Nine things all Sydneysiders know are true about winter

When the chilly season rolls around, life in the Harbour City takes a turn for the strange

Maxim Boon
Maya Skidmore
Written by
Maxim Boon
Maya Skidmore

Fact: Sydney slaps in the sunshine. Also fact: winter here is a whole different experience to the sun, sea and sand of the warmer months. When the mercury plummets, a strange transformation comes over Sydneysiders as we all do our darndest to make it through the trials and tribulations of the chilly season. Even if you’re a relative newcomer to Sydney, everyone who has lived through winter in the Harbour City will be ruefully nodding along to these frosty truths. 

No matter how many years you’ve lived in Sydney, winter always comes as a surprise

For reasons that are entirely mysterious, mass amnesia seems to sweep the city every year as soon as spring rolls around, wiping our minds clean of any memory of the winter cold. So, when the temp starts to drop around May – as it does every year – it still completely blindsides us. Sydney folk try desperately to resist this seasonal inevitability, wearing shorts and singlets and thongs long after the weather forecast should have sent us running for our knitwear. In fact, the only thing as sure as the arrival of winter is that Sydneysiders won’t see it coming. 

It makes no sense for Sydney houses to not have central heating

Save for the seasonally savvy minority, most homes in Sydney are a thermostat free zone, especially the city’s quintessential suburban terraces. And sure, it could be argued that making sure homes stay cool at the height of summer is an architectural priority, but why just shrug off the lack of heat at the opposite end of the year? In fact, it can often feel colder inside a Sydney pad than it does outside during winter. And that’s not the only issue we have with home sweet home…

Mould, mould and more mould

It doesn’t matter if you live in an old Victorian house or a brand new unit, sooner or later every single dwelling in Sydney will succumb to the spores. There are of course the black sprawls in the corners of bathrooms and kitchens from Palm Beach to Cronulla, but there’s also the horror of pulling out a pair of shoes that have been in the back of a wardrobe for a few months to find out they’ve become the fungi equivalent of a Corey Worthing Facebook rager. How on earth a solution to this mouldy misery is yet to be found escapes us.

No matter where you’re from, everyone’s tolerance to the cold drops when they live in Sydney

Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in Australia, with people from all over the globe – including from countries where winter temps drop to well below freezing – calling the Harbour City home. But despite whatever seasonal hardiness migrants might have had in their motherlands, once they’ve moved Down Under, their perception of what qualifies as cold rapidly shifts as temperatures that might have once been considered balmy feel arctic.

Layering up sends us all on some surreal style journeys

Even the most discerning of fashionistas can look unhinged when the ol’ winter wardrobe is cracked open. Wearing two to three hoodies at once seems entirely reasonable and bobble hats that would make Anna Wintour wince become an essential whenever you venture into the elements. Looking cool and keeping warm are most definitely mutually exclusive, as any semblance of style is shelved in favour of chucking on as many layers as possible.

You will hear the words ‘it’s cold’ about a million times a day

A side effect of the aforementioned annual amnesia is an incessant need to remark on how chilly it is. It’s the middle of winter, so it stands to reason that it is cold outside. But despite the glaring obviousness, it is still somehow vital to speak on how brisk it is to anyone you may happen to bump into.

Get ready to rehash the same conversation about whether you prefer to sleep hot or cold

To be fair, this is also a small-talk staple in the summer months when struggling to sleep through sticky, stuffy nights becomes Sydney’s favourite topic of conversation. But whether or not you chuck on the blankets when it gets cold or you prefer to literally chill in bed is a chinwag we’ll all have multiple times during the winter months.

Everyone in your house fights for the best bit in front of the heater

On shivery winter nights, mornings and afternoons, Sydneysiders can be found battling their loved ones to the death for the perfect snug position in front of the same decrepit heater that gets dragged out of a forgotten corner on the first freezing night in early June. The rest of the house be damned. All that matters is the heater, and lo’ betide anyone who tries block your way.

You will inevitably fight with your partner if they put their cold feet on you in bed

Is there any greater crime than when your partner schleps into bed after you, bringing their blocks-of-ice feet into your carefully warmed cocoon? At some point in every winter, there comes the full-blown adult tantrum when they dare to venture their feet over to your side to steal the hot water bottle and chaos ensues. Just close your eyes and think of summer, OK?

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