London vs Melbourne

As the time on my UK visa began to run out I started mentally weighing up the benefits of living in London versus living in my home town of Melbourne. The hassle of getting a new visa meant I was unlikely to do so in order to keep living in the UK, even if London’s benefits did end up outweighing Melbourne’s, but it was something to think about. At the end of the day, there are undoubtedly things I will miss about London when I eventually settle back into Melbourne, and while the conveniences and benefits of London may outnumber those I can list for Melbourne, I think the Melbourne ones carry more weight. Some of the benefits are quite obvious and some were quite unexpected: listed below in no particular order just for interest’s sake!

Pros of living in London:

  • Several of our very closest friends live in London
  • Lots of friends and family came to visit
  • Cheaper and easier to travel to Europe (and even the west coast of the US and Canada, although we never ended up taking advantage of that)
  • Cheaper to fly London-Aus-London than it is to fly Aus-London-Aus
  • Cheaper and more fashionable clothes and shoes
  • Cheaper food and alcohol
  • Lots of sales and specials – something is always 2 for 1 or 3 for 2, or even buy 1 get 2 free (Pringles and easter eggs I’m looking at you)
  • To combine the last two points: cocktails are ½ to ⅓ the price in Aus and usually 2 for 1
  • Junk food is super cheap (chocolate, crisps, biscuits) and there’s a huge variety (also British jelly babies are better than Australian ones)
  • Bigger variety of juice flavours
  • Bigger variety of beers, ales and ciders
  • The convenience of being able to buy alcohol from supermarkets and off-licences
  • Continental mini marts – being able to buy cheap international food
  • Retailers such as M&S (for the food) and H&M (for the clothes)
  • Lovely cosy, independent pubs (when you can find one amidst all the chains and franchises)
  • The fact that you can get tea or coffee at pubs
  • Variety of hot alcoholic winter drinks (mulled wine was only just starting to make an appearance in Melbourne pubs when we left in 2010)
  • You can almost always split bills at restaurants, even if everyone is paying by card!
  • Centuries more history: castles, cobblestones, Tudor houses, Roman ruins…
  • Lots of free, excellent museums
  • Fast, cheap, uncapped Internet
  • Cheap mobile plans
  • Bigger variety of stage productions with bigger names and cheaper tickets
  • Some great TV (but there’s also some really rubbish TV)
  • Easy to get anywhere by public transport
  • Frequent, cheap buses (and the fact that they’re double decker :)
  • Real and distinct seasons (the coming of spring is genuinely exciting, and London really comes to life on a proper summer’s day)
  • Snow and the novelty of having a cold Christmas (where the traditional image of Santa actually makes sense ;)
  • Most flats are rented furnished (ideal if you’re only going to be in the country temporarily – you don’t need to ship over or buy and furniture and whitegoods which obviously saves a lot of money)
  • You don’t have to do an annual tax return (because PAYE tax is more carefully monitored and adjusted throughout the year)
  • Free and fast shipping
  • Post offices are open and mail is delivered on Saturdays
  • Wide variety of magazines
  • Argos (it might seem lame to include it but it’s cheap, convenient, and there’s nothing like it in Aus)
  • Possibility of bumping into actors and celebrities

Pros of living in Melbourne:

  • Family – in particular, being able to hang out with my Mum and go cycling with my Dad
  • Our cat, Jonty
  • A smaller, less crowded, more easily digestible city
  • Friendlier, less passive aggressive people who are more upfront and relaxed (I never appreciated this enough or even realised it until I lived in London)
  • Less bureaucracy and fewer middle men
  • Clean, non-chalky water that doesn’t stain teacups or leave crunchy bits in your tea
  • More cycle-friendly: flat, less traffic, more bike baths
  • More sun (having always been a winter person I didn’t think I’d miss it, but I did!)
  • Houses are generally newer and less likely to develop mould
  • Proper air conditioning
  • A vibrant creative arts culture: small galleries, exhibitions, street art
  • Lots of great, high quality cafes
  • Fewer chain/franchised restaurants (it’s only really fast food that is franchised in Aus, most proper restaurants are independent – unlike the UK where independent stores are the exception)
  • Quality of restaurant food is consistently higher
  • Cheaper and more authentic Asian food
  • Great, fresh ingredients, more of a “scratch cooking/baking” culture (cooking from scratch is rare enough in the UK that they’ve actually given the concept its own name)
  • Easier to get cheap and good quality red meat
  • The Queen Victoria Market
  • Confectionary and savouries you can’t get in the UK (Cherry Ripes, Pizza Shapes, etc)
  • Lovely cinemas (Nova, Kino Dendy, Palace, the Astor)
  • Easier to travel to Asia and New Zealand
  • There’s also lots of variety just travelling around Australia itself: city, beach, countryside, farmland, mountains, desert and rainforest all in one country
  • Higher interest on savings accounts (4-8 times as much as the UK)
  • 2 hour public transport tickets (vs paying per trip in London)
  • Knitting yarn is actually easier to come by (I thought it would be the other way around), and cheap yarn shops like Spotlight are easier to get to
  • Wider roads

Most of the London pros come from the fact that the population is larger. Given that this fact was the root of my main frustrations with London (so very crowded and people being generally unpleasant to each other as a result – on the street, on public transport, at work) I feel confident that I can conclude Melbourne’s better quality of life wins overall.

2 thoughts on “London vs Melbourne

  1. Pingback: 2012 blogging year in review and two more awards | dinosaurs can't knit

  2. Hello, my name is Alex and I’ve just read your comment. There are many similarities between yours and my current situation so it was great to see people having similar thoughts as myself.
    Thank you


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