• Marion Mays

From Melbourne to Sydney


If you’re not yet aware of the ongoing rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, you’re probably not from around here. 

What you’ll hear from any Melbournian is that Sydney lacks a culture and food scene, and what you’ll hear from Sydneysiders is that Melbourne lacks beaches, sunshine and, of course, a beautiful harbour. 

But I’d like to delve further beneath the surface of this rivalry between two of Australia’s largest cities. I want to explore the parallels between their ways of life, and why living is becoming increasingly more difficult as costs increase and wages do not. 

I visit Sydney frequently for both business and recreation, and what I notice is a large shift in lifestyle just an hour’s flight away from Melbourne. 

Sydney is crowded, fast-paced and business-centric and the people reflect this. There’s something about a city that never stops moving; it's certainly never boring but it also creates an atmosphere of increased stress and little time for niceties.

So, why has Sydney become so high pressure in comparison to its Melbourne counterpart? Is it because the people there thrive off a busy corporate environment? Or, is it because they are simply overworked? After all, it’s not easy to balance the cost of living in a place that has just hit top ten on the list of world’s most expensive cities.

If you were to compare the average net salaries of Sydney and Melbourne, you see only a small difference, with Sydney at $5,043.59 per month and Melbourne at $4,227.05. Yet upon comparing living costs, the gap is significantly larger. 

To buy a city apartment in Sydney, for example, you’re looking at $13,000 per square meter, as opposed to $8,712 per square metre in Melbourne. Meanwhile, you’ll also be hit with higher transport and grocery costs.

I see so many Melbournians struggle as it is to set aside any money following day-to-day living expenses. Placed in the same situation in a more expensive setting, I can only imagine the increased pressure this would bring.

RateCity tells us you can expect to pay an average of $880,902 for a median house in Melbourne compared to $1,167,516 in Sydney. This puts the required average household incomes for home buyers in Sydney at almost $200,000, as opposed to Melbourne’s $140,000.

On my latest trip to Sydney I was faced with a line of people just to reach an elevator. To my disbelief, I was told it often extended out of the building. The justification: "that's Sydney for you". It begs the question as to how much longer this lifestyle is sustainable; one consisting of overcrowding, inflation and stress.

Is Sydney merely ahead of its time and waiting for us all to catch up?

It shouldn’t be anyone’s narrative; that they have to work so hard to maintain a decent standard of life they have little time for any enjoyment or recreation at all. Yet, this is what I see frequently in Sydney and it’s certainly not a great reflection on our current economy.

There’s a reason Melbourne has beat Sydney out for the world’s most liveable city seven years running, and it’s certainly not because of the abundance of culture or laneway art.

How lucky I feel to live in a city where the housing market, whilst with plenty of hard work, remains penetrable. A city where our net incomes certainly seem more on par with living costs than that of Sydney’s.

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