Sydney vs Melbourne
Since I moved to Australia in 2012, the grand debate of Sydney vs Melbourne has rung strong in my head. And since the start of this pesky pandemic, disabling me and many others from travelling between the two cities as frequently, I have been thinking long and hard about where my loyalties lie.
As it stands I am currently based in Melbourne along with my career and relationship, yet my social life and a hell of a lot of my happiness are still stuck up in Sydney. Why did I even move here, you may ask? Honestly I’d always wanted to give it a go and when the right job at the right time presented itself I took a chance, which has paid off in many ways. Am I convinced yet, well no, but slowly I am falling more in love with Melbourne, and really I feel like I’ve only just gotten started. Another major thing for me is that the thought of starting a business in Sydney feels near impossible, yet in Melbourne a creative side-hustle is almost a right of passage (more so when dealing with vintage clothing!). Yet I’ve been in Melbourne for two years and it still feels far from home. Yes, we did endure the strictest second lockdown in the world at one point, and that gives Melbs a total disadvantage beneath all other cities in Australia, but there’s something about this place that will not let me in, and baby, as an ex-Sydney sider all I can say is that I know how to have fun, so stop taking life so seriously and let’s go for a drink!
Melbourne, arguably a much better place to shop. Pictured above is Melbourne's Royal Arcade in the 1950s.
To me Melbourne is the darkness and Sydney is the light. Melbourne is grounded and Sydney is transient. Melbourne is nocturnal and Sydney is about spending the day in the sun. Melbourne takes itself far too seriously and Sydney doesn’t take itself seriously enough. Melbourne is socialist and Sydney is selfish. All equally exhausting qualities (and I’m sure that I’m a potent mixture of both!). These extremes are highlighted in the lifestyle each city offers. The restaurant and bar scene in Melbourne is almost better than in New York, and equally the beaches and weather in Sydney put Spain to shame.
I see Sydney as a surface city and Melbourne the city where one must dig. When onboard a plane to Sydney, you can look at the window and see below everything that the city has to offer - the heavenly harbour, rolling hills, beauty, beaches and buzz. When you’re on the ground there’s nothing more energising than perfect weather and millions of glossy, smiling people, stomping around and living life on their terms. Whereas Melbourne requires months of digging before you know where to go, however once you dig deep enough the thought of eating out in a place that doesn’t serve a 17-course degustation menu within the walls of a restaurant that’s hidden behind some graffitied garage door situated down a shady alley seems silly - and suddenly you are one of them!
The inferiority complex has hit Melbourne hard, a totally unattractive quality and something I’m rather familiar with, being a Kiwi. Kiwis hate Aussies, Aussies couldn’t care less, Melburnians hate Sydney-siders, Sydney-siders couldn't care less, in Melbourne north-siders hate south-siders and south-siders couldn’t care less, etc. As an unbiased New Zealander who lives on the south-side of Melbourne I will say none of that bloody matters. Equally I’ve done time in both cities, and I can say that neither is better or worse, in fact if they were to combine they’d become the world's only perfect city.
Surfing at Bondi, a normal Saturday activity for any Sydney-sider. Beach babes in the surf at Bondi, 1950s.
Which brings us back to the topic of people. Before moving here a friend said to me “When you make a friend in Melbourne you make a friend for life.” They were 100% correct, however they forgot to mention how impossibly hard it would be to make said friend in the first place. Luckily I moved here already knowing people from my past lives in NZ, London and Sydney, not to mention with my boyfriend, however actually engaging a local to go for a coffee with you is a near impossible task and will take a year of year work to put into action. On the flipside, when I lived in Sydney, the transient nature of the place and mood lifting weather meant it was rather easy to find yourself at some strangers birthday party only a few days after meeting them.
What about my actual friends? It’s interesting because the company I keep in each city is vastly different. In Melbourne I find that my brain space and waistline have expanded a lot - and I have the newspaper subscriptions and extra two kilos to prove it. Sometimes I have to check myself here as I feel almost annoyingly upbeat for the poor jaded Victorians ***must not have too much fun, must refocus on social justice issues to remain socially acceptable.*** In saying that I spent the majority of last week in Sydney town and the feeling of freedom and lightness after seeing my friends there left me with an overflowing cup of joy and it certainly pushed me out of the post Xmas slump I was experiencing (no doubt a hangover from the second lockdown last year). But there is something inherently selfish about someone in Sydney. This is not an observation of my own friends necessarily, but, for example, the city’s attitude to the pandemic alone couldn’t be further than one for the greater good - my Uber driver in Sydney the other day wasn’t even wearing a mask!!!
Now I’m sure if you saw me walking down the street you’d think I belong in Melbourne too - give me a trench coat over a bikini any day! The way stereotypes frame it, people in Sydney wear sequins and focus more on constant casual sex and property prices than anything remotely intellectual or outside of themselves, and Melburnians are far too focused on their brains, along with underground bar openings, to even consider shagging someone or buying their own apartment.
There’s also the argument of everyone in Melbourne being better dressed. I can say with certainty that this is a solid truth that goes beyond the fact we are forced to wear coats for half the year. Even after returning from Sydney on Monday the absence of flip-flops and presence of red lipstick here has made me feel much better. However an equally important fact is that people from Sydney are far slimmer and much more attractive than people from Melbourne...
I don't know where I belong, but I do know that I belong in this photo! The Paris end of Collins street, 1950s.
How do I stay true to myself? A kiwi, a Melbourne/Sydney hybrid, a woman of the world who also kind of hates Australia. My accent is telling enough - my boyfriend describes it as being “Trans-Tasman by way of London” and he’s right. But where do I belong and what should I do? Should I be reading a Proust book on the beach in a black swimsuit or donning a sequinned turtleneck to a book launch/restaurant opening/slam-poetry evening/queer night. I don’t bloody know, I think I’ll just have to move to Manhattan or Hobart post-pandemic.
My final takeaway theory is that everyone in Melbourne is so grumpy as they’re all totally vitamin D deficient, and everyone in Sydney is self centred as they all have so much botox that it’s frozen their brains somewhat. I, on the other hand, take supplements and love my frown lines, thank you very much!
As for Brisbane, don’t get me started!
All images courtesy of Pinterest.