Is Melbourne still one of the world’s most livable cities?
Australia's cultural and culinary capital through the eyes of its newest family members.
Melbourne may no longer be the ‘World’s Most Liveable City’ – Vienna seized the title in 2018 – but the word well and truly got out during our seven-year reign. Right now, our city’s population grows by 327 people a day, and around two-thirds of these newcomers are from overseas. Asia is Australia’s largest source of migrants, with India, China and the Philippines all featuring in the top-five birth countries of our newest residents, along with New Zealand and the UK.
Migration to Melbourne is a hot political topic – as it has been for the past 100 years – and not everyone is happy about the current rate of growth. The federal government is working to woo international migrants and students towards less-congested regional areas. But a long history of welcoming migrants has shaped Melbourne and will help define its future.
Melburnians are fiercely passionate about their city, but how do all these newcomers feel about it? We spoke to five new arrivals to find out what delights, surprises and confuses them about their new home town.
Ankur Sharma from Delhi, India
In Melbourne for one month
“A friend in Melbourne convinced me to apply for jobs here,” says Ankur, who is working as a software developer in Southbank. “They told me Melbourne was good – nice air, nice people and nice weather.
"My wife and son are excited to arrive in a couple of months. Right now, I’m staying in a flat-share in Southbank. It’s close to work and I didn’t want the hassle of a commute straight away. But public transport here is very nice to use. It’s not crowded like India and it’s so civilised. People let you get off before they get on. In India, people don’t wait for anyone.
“There are not many people in Melbourne. Only at Flinders Street – that’s like any street in Delhi. Pollution in India is terrible. Here, I feel good about breathing and I actually take pleasure in it. I’m glad my son will be able to grow up breathing this air.
“So far, Melbourne’s weather has been very confusing. Sometimes you need a jumper and then later you’re hot. I have been carrying a jacket and an umbrella in my office bag. My colleague thought this was funny.
“Around 70 per cent of my colleagues are Australian, and I am trying to get used to Aussie words. The other day, my boss emailed me to say, ‘I’m off this arvo.’ I thought, ‘What is this?’ I had to Google it.
“I’ve noticed Aussies don’t like to eat so many cooked foods with oils and spices as we do in India. Australians like to eat leafy things, but always with a glass of wine or beer. I’m an occasional drinker – twice or thrice a year – and since moving here I have been for a drink five times with colleagues. You don’t want to feel out of place.
“Everyone talks about the league of football but I’m not really interested in this. I can’t wait for the cricket to start.”
Leslie Goldman, from Washington DC, US
In Melbourne one month
Artist and paper restorer Leslie moved to Melbourne for husband Steve’s work. “He came home one day and said, ‘I’ve been offered a role, but you wouldn’t be interested’. We thought, ‘You only live once!’
“I felt at home straight away, everyone was so friendly. I thought, ‘Is there anything wrong with Melbourne?’ Now I know about the heat and the spiders. Coburg seemed really interesting – multicultural with a hardcore edge, and it’s not too hipstered out. We’re loving Turkish and Lebanese food and the coffee is phenomenal. The lifestyle here is more balanced and people seem fit. Washington has so many Type A personalities and people work – or drink – all the time.
“I want to become part of Melbourne’s arts community and its Jewish community. We have looked at a couple of synagogues but we haven’t quite decided on one yet. I’ve learnt that if you’re part of a community you can make friendships and connections. I’ve rented a studio in Brunswick and I’d love to sell my paintings at markets here.
“I love the trams, but the trains are confusing. What is with the loops? And the stations. You land at Flinders Street and think, ‘Where am I going?’ It’s not on the board or you need to know the end point of the train. It would be great if every station had ‘to the city’ and ‘from the city’ signs.
“I’m getting used to the different sounds of birds, but to me, magpies sound like they're sick. I’m really interested in finding out more about Aboriginal art and culture. Also, I want to go to an AFL game but I need someone to explain it. And I just had to do the toilet video thing for my friends at home. You know, ‘Does the water flush the other way in Australia?’ But I couldn’t remember which way it goes at home!”