Why Melbourne really is the most livable city in the world

Despite expensive public transport, Meld's Marcella Purnama argues Melbourne is the world's most liveable city for international students

Despite expensive public transport, Meld’s Marcella Purnama argues Melbourne is the world’s most livable city for international students. Photo Bentley Smith

INTERNATIONAL students generally complain about delayed trains, overpriced public transport, increasing rental fees, and expensive food in Melbourne. When news came out that the city had been named the world’s most livable, I had my doubts. For people living here long-term, yes – maybe Melbourne was the most livable city in the world. But I was not so sure that was the case for the poor students who were often referred to as the “cash cow” of the city’s tertiary education industry.

But on a recent four-day holiday to Sydney, I began to realise why Melbourne was worthy of its title – even for international students. I have to say my holiday wasn’t a pleasant one overall, and after 24 hours in Sydney I was homesick – longing for a freshly brewed latte at my local Melbourne cafe, with poached eggs and smoked salmon on sourdough.

Then came the ultimate realisation: despite its flaws, I am proud to call Melbourne my home. Here’s why:

1. Melbourne may be the 21st most expensive city in the world, but Sydney is the 14th

Ever think your Melbourne rent is expensive? Well, Sydney tops that. While the average two-bedroom apartment in the heart of Melbourne costs around $400-500 per week to rent, in Sydney, this goes up to $800 per week. Not to mention the price of food. I never managed to find a meal for under $10 – something that’s common in many of Melbourne’s cheap noodle, sushi or sandwich joints. I am still feeling the effect of my Sydney holiday on my bank account.

2. Sydney buses vs Melbourne trams

There are no trams in Sydney. Well, there are, but they’re not the main inner-city public transport system as they are in Melbourne. According to my friend who is a Sydney resident, trams are for tourists as they are quite expensive. Not only does Sydney have very pricy public transport fares (a weekly full-fare public transport cost ticket around $50, compared to $30 in Melbourne), but its bus system is also very different to Melbourne’s – and I have to say that it is quite confusing.

Sydney’s CBD is double the size of Melbourne’s and we had to explore it on foot (for once your expensive bus ticket is validated, you can’t use it anymore – no two-hour fare!) I came back to Melbourne in dire need of a foot massage.


Melbourne vs Sydney: an old rivalry

Melbourne vs Sydney: an old rivalry

3. The friendly people – or not

The first thing I did when I arrived in Sydney was visit the tourist information center at Darling Harbour. I expected a warm welcome, but the two ladies who were talking to each other behind the counter looked thoroughly annoyed that I had interrupted their voracious chatter. One of them replied to my questions in short and unhelpful sentences and resumed chatting. As the first point of contact for a Sydney newbie, she left me wondering about the hospitality of this tourist city.

4. Drivers, roads, jaywalkers, one-way roads, taxi zones, traffic…

I missed driving and walking in Melbourne. The drivers are so hot-blooded – honking everytime they have the chance, speeding through every yellow traffic light possible. Giving way to other drivers is a rare sight in Sydney. You want to drive in Sydney? You’ve got to earn it.

The jaywalkers are even worse. I don’t think they care about their safety, and they walk as if they are going to live forever. Crossing on the red is normal in Sydney – not just three seconds before it turns green, but when cars are going by. I have no idea why they think another minute of waiting will cause them such harm.

Sydney has lots of one-way streets, and an impossible amount of taxi-only parking. To drive and to find parking in Sydney was no easy task. Plus, the roads are so narrow, and oh, don’t even get me started on the traffic jams!

Sydney has its flaws, but I have to give special mention to the restaurants, which are genrally fancier and nicer than those in Melbourne. Trying the pastries at Adriano Zumbo’s restaurant, eating fresh seafood at Fish Market, and delighting in the succulent pork ribs at Hurricane were the highlights of my Sydney trip.

But the next time I’m waiting for a delayed train, experiencing four seasons in a day or paying for my expensive accommodation, I’ve vowed to try to be less judgmental about my adopted city. I am, after all, living in the most livable city in the world.

There are 11 comments

  1. Lisa Patience

    We can be grateful that Gavan O’Farrell (The Age 31/1) isn’t managing our transport system or its funding. He complains about having to leave the men’s Australian Open final early for the last train but gives no thought to the practicality of his complaint or the hefty costs of dealing with it.

    Melbourne has just witnessed the longest grand slam men’s tennis final in the history of the game. Running an entire rail system, and perhaps Mr O’Farrell would want regional trains, trams and buses operating as well, on the off chance that an historically long match would be played is just too silly to contemplate.

    Running a transport system and its infrastructure, rolling stock and hundreds of employees is a major and costly enterprise. It already costs the State billions without having an entire system at the ready for a one in a hundred year contingency. Sometimes unusual events aren’t anyone’s fault and individuals need to say “fair’s fair” and take responsibility themselves.

  2. Robert Crisp

    Gavan O’Farrell also doesn’t seem to understand that taxis are part of the wider public transport system. I agree it would be senseless to have the city’s entire transport network at the ready just in case a tennis match goes for a record amount of time every now and then. That’s nanny state stuff. Completely impractical and unaffordable.

  3. Warren

    This should be titled “why Melbourne is better than Sydney”, not “why Melbourne really is the most livable city in the world.” Don’t get me wrong. I love living in Melbourne too, but if it really tops the whole world on livability, the other cities must be really crap!

    Oh and by the way, I regularly see people crossing on red in Melbourne too.

  4. Melbournian

    Melbourne is better than Sydney for multiple reasons. 1 Melbourne has a good transport service unlike Sydney. 2 Melbourne streets are wider and less haphazard than Sydney’s and 3 we have less expensive houses. p.s Melbourne has a larger total area than Sydney.

  5. Seth

    Are you joking?
    Thing about melbourne, it’s like a crappy wanna-be European city. To an untraveled Aussie, yeah it has a ‘European vibe’, but all it takes is a visit to a REAL European city to see how lame and uninteresting melbourne really is. Nothing bright or unique about the place.
    Sydney. Well, sydney is UNIQUE. It’s not a wanna-be anything, it’s just that beautiful harbour city that can be recognized in its own right, with far nicer suburbs than melbourne, and a more open australian vibe in general.

  6. Lee

    Such profound conclusions after only 4 days in Sydney? An incredibly childish and closed-minded piece. A latte and sourdough is all you deserve in your narrow life. I live in Melbourne, which scores a big fat zero in ‘the great Australian outdoors’ category compared to Sydney.

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