Sydney Greeters is part of a global organisation called the International Greeter Association. Greeters are volunteers who give up their time to show visitors around their hometown and help encourage cross-cultural friendship.
I first came across the greeter service back in 2010 when I was lucky enough to be shown around Paris by a lovely retired gentleman who had lived in the city all his life.
He was a Paris Greeter, and wow he had some great stories to tell. For each street we walked he shared tales from history and stories from last week. He took us to tiny local street markets not listed in guidebooks and showed us to the best the area had to offer from a delicious fromagerie to his favourite bakery.
He was so generous with his time that this morning became the highlight of my ten days in Paris and the beginning of my interest in becoming involved with the Global Greeters Network.
So what is the International Greeter Association?
The International Greeter Association is an organisation of greeter services around the world. Big Apple Greeter in New York City was the first and is probably the largest, but there are now over 80 services operating worldwide. One of the network’s goals is to build cultural understanding by sharing a little of your world with a stranger, and from my experiences with them, they do a great job at this.
Why I helped start Sydney Greeters
Once I returned from Paris, I was pretty keen to get involved, so it was disappointing to find that my Sydney did not have a greeter service operating. I enquired about starting one and discovered it was quite a task. I did not have the time required to get it off the ground with a family and a full-time job.
Fast forward a few years, and I enquired again. This time there were a couple of others interested. I got in touch, and it was then we launched an official Sydney Greeter service in April 2015. I am now a volunteer manager and one of the ever-growing number of greeters who get to show this amazing city to visitors. I am also a board member of the International Greeter Association and very passionate about our mission to offer sustainable, slow travel experiences to guests from around the globe.
What does a greet involve?
So the first thing to know is a greet is not a tour; the volunteers are not trained guides. While they may have detailed knowledge of particular interests, like history or indigenous culture or street art, time spent with a greeter is more like visiting a friend in their hometown and spending a few hours with them. At the same time, they show you some of their favourite places. All the greeters have excellent knowledge of Sydney and a real love of the city. Each greet is unique; we share our perspective on our city.
How does it work?
Once you decide you would like to book a greet, you complete a request form. It’s best to fill out this form at least 3-4 weeks before your visit. We will ask you for some brief information about yourself and anyone accompanying you on the greet. It’s also good to share your main interests and give a couple of dates that would suit you. If you have any special needs, this is a good time to let us know so we can accommodate these in our planning.
Once we have this information, if there is a greeter available, they will contact you directly to arrange your visit. Sadly even with over 50 volunteers, we are not able to fulfil every request but we certainly do our best.
The Greeter will email you directly and come up with a few possible ideas for your greet. Depending on your interests, they might suggest a visit to the beach, a short bushwalk, or a stroll through an inner-city suburb. What you see and do will depend on you and your greeter.
What type of people are greeters?
Sydney Greeters range in age from their 20s to their late 70s and come from all walks of life. At the moment there are 50 volunteers available but we adding new greeters every month. Thanks to Sydney’s diversity, several of our greeters speak more than one language, so we can sometimes help visitors who are not comfortable speaking in English.
Let me introduce you to a couple of our greeters
Mario is one of the founders of Sydney Greeters; he did all the hours of paperwork to get the group off the ground.
“I am a passionate traveller myself and like learning about different cultures by meeting locals for cross-cultural exchange. During my travels, I found that it’s best not to plan too much ahead and instead gather travel tips from locals that take me off the beaten path. Sydney Greeters allows me to give back to fellow travellers and contribute to my guests’ holiday experiences by showing them parts of the city that are not mentioned in any guidebook. I enjoy seeing the smile on their faces when we walk through our beautiful city and then know that I have helped them have a memorable stay in Sydney as a Sydney Greeter volunteer.”
“I guess it would be fair to say that I am a passionate traveller and love meeting people. I am also passionate about Sydney and love playing tourist in my city. If I can share a little bit of Sydney with our visitors, that gives me an enormous amount of pleasure.”
Along with being one of our very popular greeters who has been with us from the early days, Lyn is our recruitment manager, she interviews and trains all our greeters to ensure we can give you the best experience.
“My friend told me about Sydney Greeters because she knows how much I love showing my interstate and international friends around our beautiful city. Without a second thought, I volunteered right away. For me, a highlight is Sydney Harbour – you can walk around, sail across or fly over one of the very best waterways in the world. It’s like a diamond – always impressive but sparkling spectacularly under the light of a sunny day. Taking other people around gives me an excuse to revisit and share favourite spots and discover new and exciting ones. There’s no need to travel as frequently now because the world comes to me!”
Would you like to become a greeter?
If you live in Sydney and think you would like to become a greeter, complete an application form at the bottom of this page.
If you want to see more of our greeters in action, check out the Official Sydney Greeters Facebook page.
Have you ever experienced a greet on your travels? We would love to hear about your experience.