Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Full report: A British Wellingtonian's visit to Melbourne

Melbourne is a small island off the coast of Australia ("Straya") mostly inhabited by penguins and chavs, much like the British Melbourne in Chelmsford, Essex.

Melbourne is big

Unlike Wellington, Melbourne is a very large city. Some buildings are as high as 11 storeys tall. However,  navigating the city by paper map is only permitted for older people. Visitors under 35 must refer to Google Maps on their phone all day long. Engaging with other human beings by asking directions is only allowed after your battery is dead.

4 seasons in one day, not just 3

Even the weather is bigger in Melbourne. Expect temperatures of 35 degrees, 14 degrees, showers, hail, wind, humidity and arid dryness - all before lunchtime. Melbournians and Australians in general complain about the weather here, but only because they've never been to Wellington.

Hipsters

Melbourne is the undisputed world capital of hipsters. This rare and backward subculture has an obsession with bad moustaches, 7-inch LPs and other things of no value to the human race. Best natural habitats are the suburbs of Fitzroy and Brunswick, where you can be assured of the most flagrant, expensive and unenthusiastic posers. Anybody riding a bicycle with more than one gear is probably doing it ironically.

Please do not bait the hipsters, although let's face it, the worst they'll do is fling their decaf tofu salad at you.

A cosmopolitan city

Melbourne is a global and cosmopolitan city, much like Wellington. However, Melbourne's ethnic mix is more European than Pacific, which means you are 17x more likely to be surrounded by smokers on the street.


Trams

The best way to get around the city is by tram. With fixed routes, maps, and identifying numbers for each stop, it's like a bus system which can be used by anyone, even newcomers. In fact tram use is often mandatory - walking to neighbouring suburbs is expressly forbidden. Like local Melbournians, you must catch trams into the city and back out again rather than just walking for 10 minutes.


Myki card: like Oyster and Snapper, but more confusing and completely different

The local transport card is Myki ("Mikey"), which is used in the following manner:
  • Your first tram trip is $3.28
  • Your second tram trip is $4,782.00
  • Your third and all subsequent tram trips are free
  • You don't need to tag off! Unless:
    • you are making a trip only in Zone 2, which is for some reason completely different
    • it's your last trip of the day. You must decide before boarding the tram that it will be your last trip of the day. If you change your mind, each further tram trip will cause 1 kitten to die.
Top tip - Blend in like a local by using your Myki card's wireless function. Simply board the tram and sit down!


Aborigines

There are no brown people in Australia whatsoever and there never have been. All evidence to the contrary is bleeding-heart hippie propaganda. There certainly wasn't any violence against these made-up brown people either.


The State of Victoria

Australia is a federal country divided into 6 states. As a visitor, you may be unaware that Australians swear allegiance to their home state every day, and are committed to a lifelong tribal war against all other 5 states. This is a strategy of the national government to ensure healthy market competition and survival of the fittest, and helps explain Australians' psychological dependence on sporting success.

Melbourne is in the state of Victoria, which is of course the best state, despite the dubious practice of bottling and marketing criminals' urine as the state beer.

Beer

Melbourne's culture and lifestyle is top quality, but the same cannot be said of the beer. Melbourne's many impressive bars and pubs boast "craft" beer, but it seems that all Australian beer is designed to be drunk at ice cold temperatures in the glaring summer sun - even local and craft "ales" resemble lager, and appear to favour a crisp, light texture at the expense of flavour or character.

There are indeed some venues with outstanding Australian and international beers, such as the Taphouse in St. Kilda, but for a city of Melbourne's size and reputation it's sad that the excellent bar scene is not equipped with excellent beers.


Beaches

The Melbourne/Wellington relationship is supported by the lacklustre Melbourne beaches. The harbour water is very still, which does keep water temperatures at St. Kilda and Brighton Beach a few degrees higher, but the downside is a lack of waves and a rather disturbing murkiness. For a decent beach trip, head down the coast for an hour or two and enjoy the ocean beaches outside of the bay.

Language

As everyone knows, Australian "English" is simply a more terrifying version of New Zealand "English". It resembles a cross between Cockney London and a drunken angry wasp, spoken directly through the nose or the side of the mouth.

Like NZ "English", Australian boasts its own bewildering array of slang, of which "bluey" (redhead/ginger), "pot" (half pint) and "thongs" (flip flops/jandals) are only the beginning. However, while most strong Kiwi accents are limited to rural areas (e.g. Waikato, Hawke's Bay, the entire South Island), you may encounter indecipherable Australian accents in any part of urban Melbourne.

Top tip - don't be afraid to get stuck in to a discussion you barely understand. This is actually an integral part of Australian culture and locals will respect you more.

Wildlife

Australia is often known as the Federation of Dangerous Animals, and Melbourne is no exception. While sharks, jellyfish, snakes, spiders, dropbears and venomous platypuses are very rare in the city, you should still take caution before entering the sea or wooded areas. However, as long as you don't get bitten, eaten, infected, mauled, poisoned or otherwise injured, the flora and fauna are very pretty indeed, so take your camera. (It'll help the emergency services identify which anti-venom you need.)


Graffiti

Melbourne has some excellent graffiti, and a surprisingly comfortable and creative attitude towards street art. Fitzroy boasts some excellent street art, along with the laneways down in the CBD - just go walking about and you're sure to see something cool.



Water

Remember that Australia will run out of water in 2021, and preparations to turn the continent into a desert-themed amusement park are already underway. For the time being however, both visitors and residents are limited to showers no longer than 5 minutes, even in private homes. Of course none of this stops the city of Melbourne operating water sculptures or spraying flower beds in the most inefficient way possible, at all times of day.

Immigration

Australia is pretty serious about migration, despite being a welcoming country to other cultures and refugees. Be careful not to bring in any fruit or vegetables, or mud on your shoes, or you may be given a cheeky taser blast by friendly Immigration officials.

Always allow extra time when catching your flight out of Melbourne - with long lines for check-in, security, and multiple passport checks, it takes longer to leave Australia than enter whichever country you're going to.


Enjoy your trip to Melbourne!


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