When you first arrive in a city to live, you might already be aware of famous landmarks and the trendiest places to eat, drink and hang out. But it takes a true local to know some of the more insider secrets and to simply understand how the city operates.
Enter the Global Greeter Network, a team of volunteers who show newcomers around the city or town they call home. A Greeter’s aim, according to the Greeters code, ‘is to treat a guest to their city as if they are friends or family.’ Finding a Greeter is a great way to quickly gain insight into local life. It’s not just about showing the most popular locations; it’s about talking, communicating and gaining a better perspective about the culture and inner workings of a city.
The first Greeter initiative was set up in downtown Manhattan, where a team known as the ‘Big Apple Greeters’ set out to change the idea that the city was too expensive, too exclusive and full of crime. These days, Greeters operate all over the world, from Sydney to Capetown to Kathmandu.
So, if you’re new to Australia and want to get a deeper understanding of your new home, there’s an army of friendly people out there waiting to make your life easier – what a comforting thought.
Finding a Greeter
Although part of a global network, Greeters are often associated with local councils. This is certainly the case in Australia, where most cities have a friendly group of Greeters. Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane have their own Greeter networks, and appointments can be booked on the respective city council’s website. Most Greeters require booking at least 24 hours in advance.
Occasionally, Greeters speak languages other than English and tours can be done in the guest’s language of choice. It’s a process well worth doing within the first week after you touch down in a new city.
What you can get out of the Greeter Network
As an international student, you can get a lot out of the Greeter experience. It’s likely the Greeter has been living in the city their entire life, so they’ll know it back to front.
You can have a tour tailored to what you need, whether it’s deciding where to start a bank account or where to buy your pillowcases. Or, if you want to know how to catch a bus, or you need to figure out the correct way to hail a taxi, the Greeter is certainly going to know.
It’s worth writing up some questions beforehand and sending them to the Greeter so they know exactly what you want to get out of it.
My Greeter experience in Adelaide
I decided to test the Greeter experience by undertaking a tour in Adelaide. My Greeter’s name was Lisa, and she was pretty cool and super funny – a true ‘Adelaidy’. She also had a hat with a lot of badges pinned to it, which she’d collected and traded with guests from every corner of the globe.
Lisa knew a whole lot about the city, too. She explained a bit of the city’s history and pointed out all the things that had changed since she was a kid – which was a lot!
She also passed on plenty of information you would probably never find in a textbook or on a reddit thread. She showed me where I could find the best local foods (like Haigh’s Chocolates and the famous South Australian frog cakes) and how to catch the city loop bus, and she introduced me to the local buskers playing the guitar in the mall and pointed out the only bookstore she knew of that sold coffee – information only a real local would know!