Home away from home

By Sunny Liu

David Amaya came from Columbia to the Melbourne CBD two years ago as a tourist and is now a long-term “CBD local”. 

“When you first come to a new city, you are a tourist. You only start living after you get over all the tourist attractions,” he said.

Becoming a “local” in Melbourne was probably the last thing Mr Amaya was expecting, as he did not speak any English before coming to Melbourne.

But after spending almost the entire past two years within the Hoddle Grid, David knows a lot of more about the city than many Aussies.

Mr Amaya, from Columbia’s capital city Bogota, has been living in the same CBD apartment ever since he hopped out of the car from the airport.

With limited English, he found part-time work doing food deliveries, where he spent his first year in Australia riding a bicycle along nearly every single street within the CBD.

“Doing deliveries helped me know the city very well. I know where the good food is, what is in every street and how to get around,” he said.

He said he got to know the city through the numerous bike rides, but it was through learning English that he got to understand the culture.

Having been a journalist in Columbia for six years, Mr Amaya took an extended English course in Melbourne for 1.5 years and is now studying project management and hoping to become an English-language journalist.

He has gone from speaking little to none English to now speaking it confidently and fluently and even occasionally faking the Aussie accent.

He said, albeit challenging, learning the language was the starting point of becoming part of the local community.

“People in the CBD are from many different countries and speaking many different languages, such as Korean and Arabic, but we can all communicate in English and that is how we get to know each other,” he said.

He also said learning the language could be a lifelong journey.

“I will always be learning English, just like I will always be learning my native language, Spanish, because languages are always evolving,” he said.

For David, coming from a different cultural background gives him a unique perspective on life in Melbourne.

When the city’s traffic and noise put many city residents and workers on edge, Mr Amaya said he loved how organised everything was.

“The public transport is very accessible. And when I ride my bike, everything is very orderly and people are very respectful,” he said.

And when Melburnians constantly complain about having four seasons in one day, Mr Amaya said the sudden changes in weather amazed him.

“In my hometown Bogota, it’s always cold. The weather doesn’t really change, but here in Melbourne we have four seasons and it’s one of my favourite things about Melbourne,” he said.

“I think my different culture makes me appreciate things more here. I will always keep the energy of when I first came to Australia when I was fascinated by everything new.”

“If I could choose where to live again, Melbourne would still be where I want to be.”

Mr Amaya said he was fascinated by how accepting and diverse the CBD community was.

“In the city, you can just be you. You can dress however you like and choose whatever lifestyle you like,” he said. “In Melbourne, no matter how busy people are, they still find ways to enjoy life.”

“I feel very comfortable living in the heart of the city. This is my home now.”

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