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For Indian-born Shashank Behl, moving to Canberra in 2015 was “an accident”.
The engineer originally moved to Sydney to study in 2009. When he lost his mining job a few years later and his wife received a promotion for a role in Canberra, the couple were underwhelmed at the prospect of moving to the capital.
“We’d first visited Canberra as uni students over a long weekend,” Shashank says.
“It was kind of quiet, and honestly, we were disappointed.”
In fact, they’d been so lukewarm about the move that they formed an escape plan en route to their new home city.
“We agreed to try it for three months and just see how it went,” Shashank says.
“We knew we always had the option to go back to Sydney, where I’d been driving Ubers.”
Six years on from that barely lukewarm start, Shashank’s life has “completely changed for the better.”
He found it easy to secure a job in the public service, and fell in love with the chance to do work that had an impact nationally.
“Previously with the uncertainty of private engineering contracts and Uber-driving, my life was a mess,” Shashank says.
“The public service has given me stability and flexibility, and a real sense of purpose.”
That flexibility means working from home, starting at six o’clock in the morning.
“By two in the afternoon I’m done,” he says.
“It means I can spend time with my family. It gives me a lot more time for my personal life. And I’m not under any sort of work stress. I don’t have to work outside my eight hours work time.”
The easier lifestyle is a huge drawcard for the Behl family.
“It’s the lack of hustling and lack of crowds and wasting time in traffic,” Shashank says.
“Compared to Sydney, my stress levels are 10 per cent of what they were.”
Shashank believes people are quick to judge the capital.
“We never realised what a welcoming change Canberra could be until we actually experienced living right here in its social fabric,” he says.
“It was an eye-opener. It feels like a secret that Canberrans keep.”
The people themselves are a big part of what Shashank finds so desirable about the city.
“Canberra attracts people who are highly educated and qualified,” he explains.
“The civic sense of the city helps shape your personality. People have similar values.”
Those values include a commitment to renewable energy and a connection to nature.
“It’s the rolling hills of the arboretum, beautiful views of the city and the Brindabellas, kite-flying, coffee in the sun on a Spring day,” he says.
“You’re right in the city, but it’s the serenity. It’s the peace and quiet and the quality time as a family. It’s all the little things.”
Their love of and loyalty to Canberra is a stark contrast to the couple’s shaky first impressions of a city they’d put on short-term trial.
“There’s no better feeling than being at home,” Shashank explains. “I feel more relaxed and secure. You can let down your inhibitions and be yourself, and live freely here. It’s a feeling of convenience and comfort.”