Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to travel extensively and experience a number of vastly different cultures. Doing so has highlighted for me just how incredibly blessed we Sydneysiders are because as much as I've loved every bit of my travels, I love Sydney even more.
One of the things I love most about our beautiful city is how much those who have immigrated from Europe, Asia and now South America have broadened our culinary horizons and given us an extensive array of cuisines to enjoy – something that happens to be rather unique in the world.
Travel in Italy for example and you'll enjoy the most amazing Italian food, but will be hard pressed to find other cuisines. The one time I did manage to find a Chinese restaurant – in Torino – I ended up having to order my food by pointing to pictures of the dishes as I was unable to communicate with the owner in either Mandarin or Italian. Which reminds me of another amusing experience in a Chinese restaurant – this time in Prague – when a group of Australians thanked me for the meal, thinking I was the owner. "No worries, mate!" I replied in my broadest Australian accent.
Another thing I love about our city is its relative safety – something we so often take for granted. As Steve Neethling, our CEO from Cape Town, constantly reminds me, in Sydney, a woman can walk safely through the streets in the evening. That's certainly not true everywhere.
Next on my list is our medical care, which is among the very best in the world. Emergencies are taken care of professionally, with superior medical equipment and staff – and it doesn't cost us a cent.
Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to travel extensively and experience a number of vastly different cultures
Then there's our police, who we like to complain about when we get booked for a minor infringement, but who do a superb job of keeping us safe. And let's not forget that the emergencies they respond to can be incredibly distressing and traumatic.
We complain about paying taxes but I now view it as my contribution to my country, which provides me with much-needed community services and wonderful infrastructure. Compare that with post offices in Italy, airports in Russia, roads in India… which reminds me of an advertisement I saw when I was in India for locally produced cars. It showed a European car with the tagline: 'Made for 100 km per hour' and then an Indian car with the tagline: 'Made for 100 potholes per hour.'
We have so much to be grateful for in this incredible city, so let's remember to focus on the positive and avoid being negative – something we should be implementing in every aspect of our lives because our time in this world is limited and we never know how much time we have to enjoy being with our loved ones.
Let's be kinder, more generous and more tolerant with those we love. It astounds me how often we are the most hurtful in words and deeds to the ones we love most.
One of my greatest regrets is that I will never have the opportunity to make peace with my ex-wife, Debra, who passed away suddenly last year. While our relationship was challenging, I realise that there are other ways I could have communicated to make it more harmonious.
This painful lesson has made me far more aware of my words and I take great care not to say things that will hurt, or to attack my loved ones personally.
My provocative sense of humour is still very much intact, but those who know me well, know that many of the things I say, are said with my tongue firmly in my cheek!
One more thing: Too often we believe we are right about an issue (and fight to defend our position) when we only see it from our point of view, without considering the other person's upbringing, background, culture and experience. Most times, it is not important to be right. As a friend of mine, who has also left this world said, "Better to be happy than to be right."