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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.

Transport
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.

Nightlife
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.

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