The world of travelling is full of clichés. The more time I spend on the road, the more I discover that common assertions about people and places tend to be shallow and baseless.
If somewhere is “too touristy”, you probably shouldn’t bother with it. If somewhere is poor, it’s unsafe. Hotels are cleaner than hostels. Street food in Asia will just make you ill. Everyone from New Zealand is friendly, and everyone from Finland isn’t. Middle-aged backpackers are boring, creepy or both. Most of this talk is – in my humble opinion – nonsense.
On a few occasions before I visited Australia, I heard the maxim repeated that “you’re either a Sydney person or a Melbourne person”. Apparently, it’s this black and white: Sydney is about the sights, Melbourne the culture. Sydney is barbecues in the park, Melbourne restaurants after dark. Sydney for nature, Melbourne for history. And so on.
After visiting and spending quality time in each of these great cities, I can confidently say – while it’s true that they are very different places – there is absolutely no reason why you can’t be both a Sydney person and a Melbourne person. There, I said it.
Perhaps the cliché stems from the longstanding rivalry between the cities. Since the days of modern Australia’s infancy, the two have vied for supremacy and the right to be recognised as the country’s premier location. It’s just possible that all those years of impassioned competition have encouraged staunch affiliation to one place or the other.
After Australia became independent in 1901, so bitter was the dispute over which city should be capital that in the end they had to build a city half-way between Sydney and Melbourne to fulfil the role. And so Canberra was born, and remains the capital today.
While there is some basis for the generalisations about Sydney and Melbourne, both are huge, vibrant, modern, all-round cities that have something for everyone. Sure, Melbourne is better for music, but you can still find great live bands in Sydney. Sure, the most iconic sights are Sydneyside, but Melbourne has plenty as well – just do a quick Google image search for Federation Square, Princes Bridge or the Shrine of Remembrance. Both have beaches and sunshine. Sydney has incredible places to eat, and Melbourne does spectacular fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
It’s quite possible that you will be especially drawn to one city or the other, if only because of a particular experience you have there. To be sure, I felt much more naturally inclined to the Melbourne lifestyle, and if I were to visit Australia again or even move there, it would be top of my list. But ultimately, it is entirely possible to go to Australia and thoroughly enjoy both of these amazing cities.