12 June, 2009

Sydney vs London

Is there a comparison? Should there be one made? Probably not. But I can't sit on the fence with this one. People need to know, know the truth about why I am still here when all my beautiful family and friends sit on the other side of the globe.

How do I keep this brief?

Lets go back to basics.

London is BIG, Sydney is small.
Whats does this mean? In London, it means that travel can be a real mission. Although I have/had plenty of friends who lived in London, it still meant that I had to spend an hour on the tube getting to them (and obviously an hour back) hence never on a school night. It also makes work travel a bit of a ball ache which I'll explain in more detail later. What I love about Sydney is you can navigate yourself around on foot if need be and you learn fast, the city is tiny in comparison and if you get lost, you can hail a cab and pay a fraction of the price it would cost in London. The downside of this though is its easy to bump in to people, I don't know about you, but there's something romantic about an anonymous make-upless daggy stroll in the city and when the likelihood of seeing someone you know bumps, so does the effort in your outfit. In fact classic example, I just had a phone call from a work associate saying he spotted me in the gym the other day and saw my trainer pound the life out of my at 7.30am. Not a good look especially given the compromising positions she puts me in!

London is expensiveThis is true, but not massively in comparison. Much to my disappointment upon arrival here.
Things that are significantly cheaper in Sydney:
  • Rent
  • Restaurants
  • Taxis
  • Transport
Things that are about the same:
  • Groceries. The market in Sydney is completely bossed by two pretty lame supermarkets; Woolworths and Coles. Both can dictate prices. You don't find the 241 deals that you see gracing the Tesco shelves and nor can you buy alcohol in these stores. Personally I prefer to pay more and get organic, local store food than fund these market bullies.
More expensive in Sydney?
  • Alcohol - You'd think that being next to Hunter Valley you would be able to grab those bargain wines (akin to the road trip you'd do to France) but no, you'll find a good five pound bottle of Aussie wine in the UK but over here, you pay twice the amount for the same decent bottle (unless you purchase a wine box aka 'goon' - a major social no-no in Sydney)
  • Clothing. Retail is very different here. I miss and long for a good Topshop for the basics. Here it seems there's no middle ground, you either buy cheap mass-produced poor quality pieces or you buy boutique/upmarket and pay for it through your teeth. Production for boutique fashion houses is expensive. I love the fact that highfashion is more accessible here though and you can get designer pieces on sale for reasonable prices but don't expect to be able to get a decent dress for less that $150. Unless you do what I do and get the never aging vintage classics from the op shops!

The weather is better in Sydney.
This is a big win for Sydney over London. Massive. Huge. Its not just the fact that the city livens up, you can dress appropriately and don't need to hide under an umbrella to avoid the elements, it is also a lifestyle perk.

London is admittedly built for its climates; lovely old wood fire pubs, fancy bars, restaurants, museums, theatre etc. Sydney however, when the sun shines, all you need is a beach and that is exactly what you have on your doorstep. Not only does this mean you save on money it also means that you can get a healthy glow for 9 months of the year and experience the outdoors much more than you would when rained in in England. My waistline will back me on this one.

What about culture?!
My Dad, being the Englishman he is, claims that Australia has no culture. Heaven forbid any Australians read this but I can see where he's coming from. I feel like Australia isn't exclusively one culture, yes there's sport, beer and surfing but there is also a massive mix pot of cultures. Although known for their strict immigration policy there are still generations who can claim their heritage here from around the globe. And I like this. There is also a sad past that doesn't get spoken about in Sydney which is starting to get addressed but Australia is still young and to be honest, when it comes to culture, London wins hands down. It has the best arts, theatre, fashion, museums from across the globe and history and architecture to back it. Culture is breathed in the city and is the epicenter of British culture in my opinion.

When I was in London, I felt like writing a guide to "Living in London for graduates". One of the items I remarked on as I would draft these guidelines in my mind was transport. There is no worse way to start your day than spending 1.5hours stood up in somebody else's armpit and being pushed around relentlessly during the city rush. It breeds bad moods and germs. That's before we get on to discussing Tube strikes, delays and inability to function at the slight extreme of cold weather. One of my guidelines was to learn how to run in heals. London is always on the go and you have a natural growing resentment towards tourists who dawdle on the wrong side of the escalator. You're always running to get that next connection and hence running in heals was a skill yet to be honed. Sydney however? Massively laid back in comparison. You don't get the herds of black suits storming through the major train stations. Although the transport and stations are more modern in London (which is strange considering they are dated back from the time when they ran on steam), cost wise, Sydney is cheaper. Systems in London are much more modern (think: Oyster Cards) and complex in London. Given the car parking, taxis and transport passes are much cheaper in Sydney and you can travel across the harbour via ferry so that's my winner.

CrimeThis is a no-brainer, I see pregnant women daily in Sydney but not as often as I'd hear police sirens in London. I know where I feel safer walking home at night.

How do I put this? London gets the best DJ's and musicians from around the world. It also has the best clubs. Sydney - not so much, if at all. Also gigs over here are much more expensive, think 70pounds ($140) to go to a Coldplay concert. Ah I miss dancing to good music in a club where you befriend like minded people and an atmosphere which takes the roof off.

My experience of nightlife in Sydney has been either: Surrounded by children (16 - 21yo), prententious people and this kind of same same atmosphere where you look around and everyone has the same hair, style and attitude (yawn). That said, the best party I had over here was at a beach - now you don't get that at home. Good nights are much rarer but compensated with house parties, dinner gatherings and a not-so-bad-after-a-beer bar scene.
In summary.
So many more things need to be considered if you're going to compare these beautiful cities against each other but here are my main considerations.

I love Sydney, it may be slightly behind, smaller, have a terrible internet connection and lack in comparison when it comes to culture, but it has beaches, beautiful weather and a much more wallet friendly cost of lifestyle not to mention being safer.

I cannot deny a part of me misses London massively, the pace, the arts, the decent music and the classic English buildings, countryside which ensures that one day I will be going home to enjoy it again (albeit in the rain).

Update: I cannot believe I forgot to mention the relentless paper pushing in LDN, The Metro, The London Lite, The London Paper, City AM...etc Now that is absolutely ridiculous. Aside from the constant face thrust of papers while you navigate your way between tubes and busy streets; the litter caused by these free papers is an absolute disgrace.

Further Update (2013): Check out my post on London after returning for Summer 5 years later.


Ol C said...

Redesign looking proper! I need to get my ish sorted.

Jessica Brookes said...

Thanks, yes its definitely getting there.

I'm looking to integrate with my social pages too at some point too.

James said...

Great write up ;)

One comment I would make, is that compared to my hometown of Bristol / Bath, eating out in central Sydney is VERY expensive. We're not shy of spending money on good food, and the food we've had so far has been good, but compared to England, we're shocked at just how much more expensive it is. For example yesterday we had breakfast at the Rocks. Two eggs on toast, fruit salad with yoghurt and 2 coffees: £35. Chinese dinner last night near Circular Quay: Each dish between £20 to 30 !!

We're very well travelled and I have to say Sydney so far is right up there for eating out costs ;(

Aside from that of course it's a beautiful city ;)

Jessica Brookes said...

Thanks for your comment James. I used to live in Bristol once upon a time too, great place (sigh).

I think things have changed in the last couple of years mainly due to the downturn, London's prices have dropped (apparently?) and the exchange rate from pounds to dollar is absolutely terrible. My father was over here last month and could not believe how much more expensive Sydney seemed compared to his trip the same time last year (25% more).

I agree there are places where you'll pay top dollar in Sydney however, I still feel that good food is much more accessible here compared to London and I've found times when its even been more economical to go out for dinner than spend time and money making it food from scratch.

Hope you continue to love Sydney nevertheless and I'd be delighted to exchange eating out tips ;)

aprile01 said...

Great write up, there are a couple of things to mention on my part, I'm afraid I don't agree on the public transport point you made. I find London's system FAR better, I lived in Maroubra which is about 6-7km away from the city and it took me 40 mins during rush our to get to there due to poor transport links which is shocking when you think about it. If I was 7km away from my destination in London I would be there within 10 mins on the tube. Also, I'm surprised you found the food in Sydney so much better. Don't get me wrong the food in Sydney is great but I think London is just as good if not better, although on the whole Coffee is easily superior in Sydney. Like you I found the culture side of things desperately lacking in Sydney compared to London and the nightlife was frankly shocking. In deciding whether to stay in Sydney or return to London I wrote pros for each city down, here they are:


Better Beer (and cheaper)
Gateway to Europe
Beautiful Countryside

Within 2 weeks of writing these points down I booked my flights to London. I'm not trying to be mean to Sydney, I loved it, I still do. For me it's great fun to visit for a few weeks (which I will be doing in the future) but it's frankly a city lacking substance to werrent living there.

VIKAS said...

Sydney's glory days are now in the past....

All that propoganda about the the Beach lifestyle...when I was there on a holiday it took us 4 hours to get to the beach on a sunny summer weekend due to the traffic, and the Taxi ride costed me $145 !!!

And property in sydney costs almost the same as london now, everything in Sydney is so so expensive now, most people have to work very hard (like london) and some people I met did 2 jobs, nobody I met in Sydney really had time for the "poster" lifestyle that they brag about all the time !!

And above all, I love Europe and love the fact that I can fly to over 20 "real" countries on a weekend or take a Train to Paris and be there in less than two hours. London is the gateway to Europe.

London clearly wins hands down for me, Sydney did 15 years ago but now Sydney just a Sunny London - but isloated in the middle of nowhere.

Most Australian cities in my opinion were "copy and paste" American towns, and the only thing special in Australia were the poisonous creatures, 45 degree plus heat, sharks and backward attitude.

Cities in UK have character, substance, history, and architecture that is clearly missing from Australia. The only area where Australia wins hands down is weather....but a flight to spain will probably cost me the same as the Taxi ride to the beach did when I was there...I don't susbribe to the propoganada the life in Sydney is better than London, maybe Brisbane or Perth but not Sydney.

Anonymous said...

I have recently taken an IT contract in Sydney for a very good rate and have been very surprised about how expensive it is here.

Mainly, the rents are ridiculously high when you consider the size and quality of houses/apartments. Even when I went up to $1000 week, the quality of the places was very poor compared to say Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide.

And I agree with the comment regarding the Sydney lifestyle "Sun-Beaches-Outdoors" etc. Traffic and crowds make Sydney's beaches less attractive.

The traffic congestion in Sydney is terrible, so most people have a fairly long commute to/from work.

When 5pm arrives, the place I work at is an absolute ghost town, as people scurry off for their commutes home. This is in contrast to other cities I worked in where people meet to do stuff after work. Sure this happens on Fridays, but not the rest of the working week.

To reduce your commute you can obviously live closer to the CBD, but most of the rental places are tacky apartment blocks.

On the other hand, once you drive out to the outer suburbs (which are cheaper), the problem is that you are in just an suburban sprawl. Mostly Westfield shopping malls and the occasionaly main street. Nothing like the villages in England.

As for eating out, well restaurants in/around CBD are expensive for average food to very expensive for good food. Coffee is CBD varies widely, whilst coffee in North Sydney is terrible.

Sydney conversation often revolves around real estate, the problem I think being that like the other poster mentioned Sydney was good 10-15 years ago.

Property development went crazy in 00s and now the city is a mass of ugly apartment buildings and terrible traffic due to lack of infrastructure investment.

Anonymous said...

I was living in Sydney in 95-96 working on an IT project and remember saying to myself that Sydney is paradise, but I won't say the same today.

I went back to Sydney again in 2009 for 5 months. I must say that the place has changed beyond recognition and has lost almost all of its good points apart from the weather. The city is extremley expensive (much more so than European captials like Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona) and at times even more expesive than London.

The city is a lot more Crowded, Filthy (just like London) and Stress is clearly visible on peoples faces everywhere. The whole "laid back" culture has just dissappeared from Sydney as many struggle to make ends meet.

Apart from that, what didn't work for me was the absence of Pub culture and beautiful Countryside that London offers. The food in Sydney was expensive and the variety was nowhere near that on offer in London.

The weather was clearly better in Sydney, it was sunny all year round while london gets virtually no Sun four months a year, but there is Snow here in winter if you like.

Overall London offers a much Classier Cultural experience when compared to Sydney because of it s History, Architecture, Shopping, Food, Countryside and Proximity to Europe.....But you have to be prepared to put up with the weather....

Anonymous said...

I am Australian living in London, I have done so in two stages of my life. My first as a young twenty something for a few years, till I was made to leave (immigration etc). It was tragic at the time, I loved London and for that age group it is fantastic. I am back now some twenty (eek) years later with my children who are 10 and 12 respectively. For me, Sydney for lifestyle wins hands down. For my children, even though it has been fantastic for them, I have to say a certain frivolity has left them. For a mother this is hard to watch, the formality of arrangements and play dates, the lack of places to roam, the general stiffness of the place leaves me pining for the lifestyle of Sydney for our family.Having said that, I will be encouraging my girls to come back ( and they have said they definitely will one day) to come and have some of the best years of their life in this wonderful city.

Anonymous said...

(VIKAS) EXCUUUUUUUUUUUUSE ME!!!!! i am very offfended by your kidding. I'm an Australian and while i do LOVE my country, i cant wait to move to London. Although i do have to agree on sum points, Australia isn't as bad as you say it is.

Great write up

Home in Time said...

I heard the following joke once, "London - if you like the weather, you'll love the food!"

I used to think the same when I first arrived in London from Sydney 4 years ago, but London really grows on you after a while. Sydney wins for lifestyle, beaches, weather and London wins for culture, travel and work.

James said...

Nice post, I was actually looking for a pic that compared London to Sydney in February so that I could make a friend of mine who is going back to London jealous...

I agree that:
Good coffee is more readily available here, though there is good stuff to be found in London - Blame Starbucks, Pret, Nero etc - Try Monmouth out!

Seafood is better in Sydney, by quite a long way, though the beef and sausages here in particular DO NOT compare.


They rock and I would say that people work much fewer hours here - So all good!

and Banter!!!

All much better in London. It's amazing that even though smaller than London, much more insular in terms of "talking to strangers"....

Despite all of this, Sydney is a much better place to be a family man I'd say.

Is is OK to love both cities?

London Forever said...

as an australian living in London I couldn't disagree with you more. I have lived here for 6 years and I never envisage myself going back.

Sydney is smaller than London? are you kidding? so you are catching a cab from Manly to Darlinghurst on a regular occurance? that will set you back at least $100. the transport in Sydney is a f*cking joke. the tube is brilliant. It can't even compare to the utter uselessness of sydney's transport system. Buses and trains running every half hour. If you are lucky. Pathetic.

I will never go back to Sydney, rents are ridiculous, groceries are ridiculous, fashion is terrible.

If the only thing you care about is warm weather and the beach that's great, but that's all you will get from Sydney. the novelty of good weather wears off after 10 years of doing nothing with your life, getting skin cancer, and dying an early alcohol binged death.

Are you really comparing Crime in Sydney and London. I wouldn' walk around alone past 9pm in Sydney with the amount of Ice Addicts living in the inner city. You have shootings in the western suburbs all the time. I can't name the last time I heard of a dangerous crime in my area, and I live in Camden.

Sydney is full of pretentious idiots who couldn't make it in a bigger city. Big Fish in a Small Pond. Yes you may have a tan, but guess what - no one cares.

byron smith said...

"London is BIG, Sydney is small."
If you are talking area, rather than population (which, since you then go on to talk about travel, I assume you are) I suggest that by "Sydney", you are probably only referring to a small subsection of the city. The area of Sydney is actually larger than that of Greater London. Sydney is also considerably more spread out while the shape of Greater London is roughly an oval, meaning that its land area is more compact. The longest possible straight-line distance to travel while remaining within Greater London (from say Hillindon to Havering) is a little under 50km. The same in Sydney (from say Palm Beach to Wedderburn) would be close to 75 km.

I have lived in both cities. They are both large cities. London's population is about 70% higher than Sydney's, but Sydney's land area is larger.

Debra Mennins said...

It's always a case about the grass being greener on the other side. When you think about it, city life is dependent on the proper management of time and resources.

dentist Sydney City dental veneers

Anonymous said...

London is awful. Horrible weather and very drab and old. Sydney is a modern city. We live in the 21st century, not the 18th. Just look at Sydney's skyline. Pretty much sums up how much more Sydney has progressed than London. Even Perth (Our 4th largest city) has progressed more than London! You can go enjoy being a snobby miserable Londoner or enjoy Sydney's vibrant lifestyle accompanied by it's awesome weather!

Anonymous said...

very intersting debate....would like to respond to the previous post though....

London has more Modern Buildings than Sydney, They are scattered all over the Metropolitan Area and not just in the city center like Sydney...Read this below for example:

"Sydney's vibrant lifestyle " is enjoyed by a handful, the rest are struggling financially in Sydney as well.....Its not land of milk and honey, well not anymore atleast..

Weather is not everything....there are dozens of Cities in Europe that have Blue Sky weather like Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Portugal, Milan, Athens...etc etc...but that doesn't mean overall life there is better than London...its just different, and thats there reason why there are so many Greeks, Italians, Portugese, Spanish people living in UK..There is also a massive Aussie and Kiwi community in UK now....

Jessica Brookes said...

Its been wonderful to reflect on this post years later and see the attention that it gets. Thank you for all your amazing comments.

I actually left Sydney a year ago after living there for 4 years and ironically am writing this from London as I fly in for a visit. Where am I living? Everywhere and nowhere. I have chosen a life of travel for the foreseeable future.

Something about mankind is always wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side, that longs for what one does not already have and given all our experiences are limited by our world perceptions and conditioning from childhood this discourse will always provoke many differing subjective views.

Sometimes I love London. Sometimes I love Sydney. Sometimes I loathe them both. Our homes match our heart and there will always be good and bad. My view now is really to accept and be grateful for whatever is living on your doorstep - whether its a pumping music scene or a beach, a hobo or a historical monument.

All being said, do I intend to move back to London or Sydney? Nope. Not for now at least. Seeing how materialism is blinding the eyes of Western society from what the planet already gives us i.e. nature, has made me venture more in to countryside, mountains and away from the city. For now as I travel around the globe.

But who knows, my next write up might be Kyoto vs Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, enjoy where your rug rests. And if you're not happy with where you live, sell everything, book a flight, pack your bags and go discover somewhere new.

Anonymous said...

I love London and I love Sydney too. I think they are similar cities of villages where most satisfaction can be gained from seeking out hidden treasures. No culture in Sydney? Rubbish. Sydney has small historic homes, beautiful historic districts and aboriginal sites. The harbour is surrounded by acres of gorgeous reserve. Of course there are dull areas like in any town. Comparing the cost of living in Australia's largest city and financial centre with that of small regional cities in the UK like Bristol is a bit daft. I think some people come here expecting to feel affluent with minimal effort. Work hard and be adventurous and interesting yourself and almost any City will return the effort...

Anonymous said...

I moved away from Sydney 10 years ago to live in London, heading back this year to give it another shot. I think its hard to compare the cities as they are so different, but alot of comments I agree with. Hands down London holds the torch for culture and entertainment. Every weekend in London is an adventure, Sydney... dull. I spent every weekend just hanging out with family, was a bit mundane. I give Sydney one year to wow me or Im moving back to London! Perhaps after 10 years away, Sydney might have caught up with London.

Anonymous said...

I think both cities are very different, if you live here in Sydney you will find it is more expensive than London. The food and service is nil compared o London and the public transport and roads are a joke. The taxi service is crap and the cost is exuberant compared to London, New York and other cities. This place is the 2nd most expensive place to live in the world and even the hot weather in summer is disgusting when it gets 40c plus OK if you can afford to run your air conditioning as the high cost of electricity makes it very costly for normal income families and pensioners.

Anonymous said...

As a visitor to Australia and ok not actually coming from London but have knowledge to crime stats of the UK I was appalled only two weeks after arriving here as to the amount of muggings shootings stabbings and beatings they have in Sydney. If that amount of murders took place in the UK in that short space of time the country would be in lock down!!!! As for the city nightlife I have not partaken of it but as a parent I would fear my teenager visiting Kingscross. Life in the suburbs from what I have seen consists of going to shopping malls to cool down and shop at the same old two supermarkets. Fashion here is way way behind the UK the men have dress sense and are scruffy and poorly dressed. TV well that is a joke if it isnt sport or british made forget it !!!! There is very little culture and if you are not well off financially forget it YOU DON'T FIT IN. Yes you may have the heat but in the two months here we have sat out in the garden a handful if times as it is too hot and you would burn or get cancer. As for the bbq's you Aussies claim to be ace at come on your skills on the bbq are feeble compared to what I have seen people in the UK come out with. Plus we have only had three in two months !!!!! People dont want to be out they just sit in the air con lounge watching paint dry on TV otherwise known as cricket. I look forward to the UK and its seasons its lovely cafes where you can enjoy a cream tea and decent cod and chips a decent cup of tea and to not have to listen to arrogant australian men who have little or no respect for women or children having heard one true Australian tell his granddaughter to go outside and play with a packet of razor blades ( the child was 2) and then to tell the mother of said child to put the little bitch to bed. THIS I WAS TOLD WAS AUSSIE HUMOUR!!!!! Ermmmm ok then it is humour I will pass on thanks. THE UK WINS HANDS DOWN EVERYTIME oh and by the way just seen on the news another teen shot dead in Sydney !!!!!

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