Monday, 15 March 2010

Sydney v Melbourne

I've been living in Melbourne now for close to 2 years. I've enjoyed the transition and all the changes I've made to my life a great deal. It's been a pretty wild ride.

in the processes of change, I've gained an insight into the differences between people an environs in New South Wales and Victoria and to what makes them so different. Sydney is a fast paced city with perhaps a million too many people. It's public transport system is a joke, with buses being a last resort and trains being an irregular inconvenience. Despite Melbourne having a better public transport infrastructure, Sydney actually has better trains. They hold more people due to on average having more carriages and two decks as opposed to Melbourne's one. Packed trains in Sydney aren't uncommon, but in Melbourne it's often very hard to even find space in which to stand at peak hour.

Sydney is Australia's sports capital, regardless of what Melbournians are told to think, thanks primarily to the diversity of sporting interests and saturation of team sports franchises. A swag of rugby league clubs in the NRL, pro soccer clubs, rugby union and AFL. Melbourne is perhaps better classed as Australia's 'events capital'.

Sydney loses out in the pollution stakes. Melbourne is a greener city, with more environmentally minded people actively taking an interest in their city and its future. Its air is clean but its water quality is on par with Sydney's, where on a typical day the humidity in tandem with the pollution can leave a person not yet accustomed to its weather systems with a feeling of greasy, grimy, discomfort.

Media-wise, both cities have it quite poor. Melbournians are the most insecure of all Australians. References to Sydney and a need to prove any form of superiority abound, and to an outsider not allied to either city it's very tiring and at times very irritating. Sydney-siders on the other hand couldn't care less, happy in their lot regardless of how other cities perceive them.

It's perhaps a result of such parochial feelings that the Melbourne media is absolutely saturated with Victorian rules football coverage. It's their game, and the media does everything it can to sideline any perceived threats, particularly from the likes of rugby league - not what one might expect from a city proclaiming itself the national sporting capital.

Women in Melbourne are generally thinner, paler, and smoke more than those in Sydney. I'm not really sure why, but Victorians seem to be absolutely petrified of the sun. Kids are taught that exposure to the sun is a terrible thing, are covered up at all times, and for this reason kids in Melbourne on average have weaker bones than those in Sydney, even if the children in Sydney take the reverse too far and have more skin cancers.

Men on the other hand tend to be taller and much weedier. Perhaps this is due to body-shape aspirations of Melbourne men being that of Vic rules footballers, and basketballers whereas men in Sydney seem to carry frames that are less metrosexual and/or child-like. There are exceptions to both rules of course.

Melbourne is insular. It's all about Melbourne. Sydney is outward looking, save for the fact that it is so aggressively tribal along social lines. Sydneysiders will happily travel across the globe and promote their city as an international hub, but you're much less likely to find someone from the Eastern fringe venturing into deepest, darkest Western Sydney, which may be the most foreign land of all. Western Sydney residents on the other hand are far more inclined to venture to the East of the city, but they will certainly point out how poorly they think of their Eastern neighbours once having gone there.

Culturally, Melbourne is a lot richer than Sydney. It's music, visual arts and live events are a rich tapestry. In Sydney they are more of an afterthought. Perhaps Sydney makes up for this in its own odd way, by being so utterly dominant when it comes to the Australian finance and business sector.

Misconceptions about Sydney from Melbournians aren't as common as those they hold about New South Wales as a whole. Melbournians have a weird, incredibly skewed view of NSW based on their limited experiences of travel to Sydney, and to Queensland via the Newell Highway. Every year Victorians head to Queensland in droves, looking for sunshine and great holidays, and in the process if driving they travel via the Newell Highway through the back of NSW. They see small dying towns, parched, endless flat paddocks, straight roads dominated by trucks and are then given to the idea that all of New South Wales is just as boring. They drive past everything that New South Wales has in common with Queensland without ever knowing it. Most people in NSW would prefer to keep it that way too.

Misconceptions about Melbourne from Sydneysiders are focused primarily on the occasional latest boasts coming out of Victoria and on the weather. It's a generally held belief by New South Welshmen that Victoria and Melbourne has the worst weather imaginable. Cold days, endless grey skies and incessant rain are the keys to this theory, and each of them are generally wide of the mark. Winter in Melbourne is very cold, and at times can approach those seen in the Blue Mountains of NSW, but Summer is perhaps a more pleasant experience in Victoria than it is in Sydney. Indeed, blue skies are not rare, even if muggy, sweaty days are. As for rain, the reality is that Sydney actually receives more rainfall that Melbourne, only that in Victoria it falls for longer, in a light, somewhat innocent drizzle. In Sydney the rain is more often driving, falls in bucket loads and is a worth planning weekends around, whereas in Melbourne you just go ahead anyway, because you'll barely notice it.

Perhaps the only real ugly side to Melbourne so far is its racism. A black man like my father can walk the streets of Sydney without even the slightest raised eyebrow. In Melbourne, perhaps due to the rarity of Victorian Aboriginal people, my dad becomes somewhat of a sideshow, and people in Melbourne have shown absolutely no shame with how they will stare, rudely at a person in the street, for being different. Going to the mall in Melbourne for an Aboriginal man with dark skin is a confronting matter, and it's really no wonder that people of Indian heritage are being murdered in the numbers here that they are.

I'm enjoying my time in Melbourne, and despite it being once a home to both my parents and grandfather, I really can't see myself forming any real attachment to the place, any more than I might to Sydney where both my parents were born. I'll be here a fair few more years, but in time I'll look forward to getting back - out of the rat race.