News blew in late yesterday that Sydney is the 7th most expensive city in the world. Big deal. We already knew you have to be a criminal or a real estate speculator to afford to live here. Not that there’s much diff.
The real news was that Melbourne made number 8 on the list, ahead of Singapore, which is widely known as an extremely expensive city even for those who don’t habitually spit on the sidewalk.Melbourne has always prided itself on its title of “World’s Most Liveable City”. Apparently liveability doesn’t have much to do with affordability. And now Melbourne has another claim to fame. It’s a trait which is never, ever brought up in the endless, tedious Sydney vs Melbourne fights. Here goes then…
Melbourne is the city in the world most similar to Sydney. Well, it is. Forget the differences. As yesterday’s affordability ranking confirmed, Sydney and Melbourne have much, much more in common than either of them ever care to admit.
Truth is, the brashness of Sydney (as seen through Melbourne eyes) and the bleakness of Melbourne (as seen through Sydney eyes) are just two examples of differences between the cities which are wildly overblown.
Look at America’s two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles. One is subways, skyscrapers and snowy winters. The other is airheads, earthquakes and automobiles. They are fundamentally different places in terms of geography, layout, climate, culture, accent, industries and more.
By comparison, Sydney and Melbourne are almost identical. They’ve both got a tick over four million residents. They’ve both got a dense CBD, trendy inner city ring and sprawling, endless suburbs ringed by a combination of bush, farmland and water.
Sydney has a vibrant food scene, Melbourne’s may be a touch better. Melbourne has a happening arts scene but Sydney has the nation’s biggest film and literary festivals.
Melbourne has an ugly casino, Sydney has an ugly casino. Melbourne gets bush fires, Sydney gets bushfires. Melbourne has trams, but the vast majority of commuters use rail, as they do in Sydney. Or as they try to do.
The two cities share the same TV stations, most of the same radio stations, and increasingly, the same bylines across their two main newspapers.
Melbourne has a comedy festival. Sydney has CityRail. Melbourne is famed for hosting big events. Sydney didn’t exactly botch the Olympics. Melbourne went and removed a few giant bins and developed civic pride in its laneways. Sydney kept the bins and did likewise.
Melbourne has tough working class western suburbs, as does Sydney. Melbourne has innumerable ethnic groups clustered across a vast multicultural patchwork of suburbs. So does Sydney. The souvlaki is excellent in Melbourne. Portuguese chicken is a Sydney staple. Either way, it’s charred flesh on warmed bread.
Melbourne is supposed to be much hotter in summer and brutally cold in winter, but the climatic difference is minimal. Both cities share a January average maximum temperature of exactly 25.9 degrees. In July, the disparity in daily temps is less than three degrees.
There are, of course, some subtle differences.
Melbourne has enduring pop culture icons like Kylie Minogue and Shane Warne. Sydney has… I dunno, but whoever they were, the next big one just came along!
Both cities worship their own local football codes, but while Melburnians actually go the game, Sydneysiders prefer lounge chairs to bucket seats.
The tendency of Melburnians to attend anything and everything en masse says much about its citizens’ sense of civic pride. But it is also an indicator of something less positive.
Melbourne has a mob mentality. People there hang out with people who dress similarly, earn the same amount or barrack for the same football team. Sydney is more individualistic. That characteristic is often played up as narcissism by those who take David Williamson plays seriously, but it’s nothing of the sort.
Sydney people are less tribal for the perfectly good reason that they are not insecure. Confidence breeds individualism, and Sydney has confidence by the bucketload. Melboune, by comparison, seems a little insecure.
Melbourne has demonstrated its insecurity again and again over the years, with its endless repetition of that “World’s Most Liveable City” line, its never-ending boast of being home to big events which it pays squillions to host, and its incessant bagging of Sydney.
Melburnians never, ever admit they like visiting Sydney, even though they fly here for a visit at least once a year. Sydney people willingly visit Melbourne at every opportunity, especially when Jetstar has no cheap fares to Launceston or Adelaide.
There is of course one huge difference. It’s clichéd, but it must be said. Sydney’s waterways are among the most sparkling and beautiful in the world. Melbourne’s are like sewers.
How this undeniable reality has been factored into the old “liveability” index down the years is a mystery. That said, it is tough to find a parking spot near the sparkling waterways of Sydney. Or a parking spot anywhere, really. Mind you, with Warnie on the loose in his black Mercedes, Melbourne roads are no picnic either.
Face it, Sydney and Melbourne. We’re both a lot like each other. And now that we’re officially separated by just one rung of economic affordability, perhaps we should learn embrace the other things that bind us.
I still reckon the GWS Giants will flop within five years, though.
This article was originally posted on The Punch
By Anthony Sharwood