March 04, 2003
The NYC of Australia
It's been just over two weeks since I arrived in Sydney and I am amazed at how quickly the time has gone. As you all know, I accepted a job working with an American company out here and in the space of five days packed up my belongings and moved from Melbourne to Sydney. Though much of my time has been spent working in an office, I have had a bit of a chance to explore this beautiful harbor metropolis.
Sydney is an amazing city. Though not the capital (despite what many American's think, Canberra, not Sydney, is the capital of Australia) Sydney is the largest city and center of what's what in the country - the hub of what's new, what's happening and what's cool. And, Sydney-siders know it. Don't talk to them about Melbourne, or Brisbane or god-forbid Perth - anything that matters within Australia takes place within their city limits.
As you might imagine, there is a rivalry that exists between Sydney and Melbourne, which, by the way, is the second largest city in Australia. Ask anyone who lives in either city what they think of the other, and I can almost guarantee you they will tout the benefits of their city while complaining about the disadvantages of the other. In only a few instances have I found an Aussie who is willing to acknowledge the differences of the two cities as something that is not good or bad but just...well, different.
Sydney is a shiny new penny of a city. The moment you arrive you are mesmerized by the Harbor, the people, the weather, the views. How can you not? Sydney is world-famous for its Opera House and Harbor - distinctly recognizable - and who hasn't heard about the amazing job they did on the 2000 Olympic Games?
Melbourne, on the other hand, has a more understated beauty. It is a quieter city, liberal yet reserved, old fashioned yet with it. Much of its touristic interest lies in historical information - the famous bushranger Ned Kelly was hung in the Old Melbourne Gaol (pronounced "jail"), the Olympics were held here (but in the 1950's) and prior to Canberra's existence, Melbourne was the federal capital of Australia.
It is tough for me to judge either city. My experiences have been as different as the cities themselves. In Melbourne, I worked as a waitress on the most bohemian street in the city and lived in a small Italian/Greek suburb behind a used bookstore. In Sydney, I'm working in a corporate building filled with mobile-phone touting yuppies and living in a corporate apartment in the middle of Darling Harbor, one of Sydney's most famous touristy sights. It would be like comparing an artistic life in New York City and a corporate one in San Francisco - you just can't. Each city has its own amazing qualities, yet you can't call one city "better" than the other - itís just different.
The best that I have come up with to describe the two cities is to call Sydney a combination of San Francisco and Los Angeles and Melbourne a combination of Boston and Chicago. My observations come some with geographic location, some with city sights, some with people and some with that indescribable "feel" you get from a city that reminds you of somewhere else you've been. But, in truth, it is unfair to burden the cities with labels from a country thousands of miles away.
I feel very lucky that I have been offered the opportunity to live in each of the two cities, even if it is only for a short time. And, when asked about my experiences, I will never be able to say one is "better" than the other.