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A day in the life of a Sydney Tour Guide

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

In a strange turn of events I’ve become Sydney's new tour guide which is ridiculous because I couldn't find my way out of a brown paper bag. Fortunately, they allowed me to experience the tour through the eyes of a tourist on my first shift. However, unlike the tourists I had to memorise not only four hours of commentary but also the route. It’s hard to describe the pressure one feels flying down a hill at 30 kilometres an hour with 12 tourists in tow unsure whether to turn left or right at a fast approaching intersection. When I looked behind me I saw one of my confused Europeans drifting naturally to the right and screamed, “LEFT RENALDO! LEFT!!!” The oncoming car honked incessantly at Renaldo as he flipped off the driver in only the way an Italian can.


It’s not easy being a tour guide, you have to be engaging, interactive and manage to regurgitate the information in a way that’s conversational and doesn’t make you sound like a shrill history teacher. All the while interweaving your own knowledge of the city which is especially hard if you’re not particularly observant like me and can never remember the names of things. Unfortunately a tourist doesn’t understand directions like, “the whiskey bar behind the green door in Surry,” they quite rightly expect you to know the name of it as a tour guide.


Despite growing up in Australia I have a hard time describing the culture in a way that doesn‘t butcher it.  Here’s an excerpt of a conversation had on my last tour when a tourist asked about Australian cuisine:


Me: We’ve got incredible coffee and really good food in Australia like burgers, pasta, Asian…

Tourist: Right, well that’s American, Italian and Asian what’s Australian cuisine?

Me: “Well, we’ve got this thing called a meat pie, and ahh for desert we have these things called lamingtons which is basically just a piece of square sponge rolled in chocolate and coconut. ”


As you can probably imagine, the poor bastard appeared underwhelmed that he had flown for over a day to enjoy Australia’s limited offering of a meat filled pastry and a piece of chocolate coated sponge. Unfortunately a local bartender rubbed salt into the wound when we went to the pub and he recommended he try a VB. Shortly after his first sip I watched as disappointment washed over his face as he probably thought, “I should have stayed in Munich.”


If you want tips you have to work for it and be prepared to make conversation filler like “no way! you’re an accountant? That’s so crazy I love numbers.” You also have to circumvent specific questions that you may not know the answer to, such as how high is the Centre Point Tower (305 metres if you’re wondering) I didn’t know the answer at the time so simply answered “very” with a smile. An American piped up, “OK here’s an easier one for you, how high is the Harbour Bridge” to which I also had no answer for which I assume didn’t look great seeing as though he revealed it was an ‘easier one’ and in all fairness is one of the main attractions in Sydney.


Despite these learning curves, what I can do now is fix any damage to a bike in eight and a half minutes, which I can assure you is a feat by my standards. It's a shame I sold my bike before I got this job. Now that I know the correct PSI tyre pressure it turns out it wasn‘t a crap bike I was just riding it on a flat tyre.

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