15 truths I learned when I moved to Melbourne

Words by Alyce Cowell

Illustration by Twylamae

Pack your bathers.

Okay, so it’s not quite the same as moving overseas to a non-English speaking country, but I’d say moving to another state in Australia comes pretty damn close. When you move interstate, you realise everyone has a different accent, everything has a weird name and the fashion choices are on another planet.

When I was 21, I packed up and moved from the Gold Coast to Melbourne, where I didn’t have enough jackets and people looked at me funny whenever I opened my mouth.

Here are 15 hardest truths I learned from my move – I hope they prepare you if you are thinking of moving too.

1. There’s a serious language barrier

Probably the most obvious of all adjustments is the language barrier between Australian states. I could literally write a book about this topic, but for word limit reasons, I’ll just share a few that have caused heated arguments, and a few punch-ons: in Queensland, they’re called togs or swimmers, not bathers. You go to the tuckshop, not a canteen. You drink out of a bubbler, not a water fountain. You use a refidex, not a boring Melways. And you pass me a Nikko pen, not a permanent marker. Seriously, just relax and give something a nickname for once in your life.

2. Triple layering tights is a thing

Once I was so cold on the Gold Coast I had to put on a cardigan, but when I moved to Melbourne, I learned the true meaning of cold: a singlet, a long-sleeve tee, a jumper, a coat, three pairs of tights, thick socks, a pair of boots and a beanie.

3. St Kilda, Lygon Street and the CBD aren’t the only places in town

Isn’t it funny when you move interstate, and you only know the tourist hotspots and think they’re really cool, but then after a few years you realise there is more to life and can’t believe you ever went there?

4. Supermarkets exist after 5:30pm

One of the best things about Melbourne is that it’s a great place to live if you’re usually hungover on a Sunday and get a craving for spinach and feta pastry triangles and tomato sauce at 8pm, because everything is always open past 5:30pm.

5. There are actually so many shoe options available

Not just thongs and sandals. There are boots and sneakers and brogues and mules, and because it gets below 30 degrees occasionally, you can actually wear them! You can even make shoes part of your outfit – not just something you slip on at the door, even though you can get away with wearing no shoes everywhere, if that’s what you’re into.   

6. And even more outerwear options

Obviously, if you like fashion (aka, like wearing something that isn’t denim shorts and a tank every day) Melbourne is the place for you. It’s also the place for you if you like to complain in summer that it’s too hot and you can’t wait to wear coats again, and then complain in winter that it’s too cold and you want to move away immediately.

7. Parking is like a whole different ballgame

Parking in smaller cities and towns is cute. You can always find a spot (no matter how much your mum and dad warn you you’ll never get one at this time of day) and if it’s paid parking, it sits roughly around the $1 per hour mark. On the other hand, you have Melbourne, where you need to push in, stare people down and sell your home just to get a park at Woolies (sorry, Safeway).

8. If you think it’s going to be cold tonight, double it

Unlike the tropical parts of the country, here in the south, we have to actually check the weather app every day to assess how brutal it’s going to be, and then dress accordingly. If you are crazy enough to venture out at night during winter, don’t even try to look nice. Just pile on every piece of clothing you own and be done with it.

9. Ordering fish and chips is really hard

While the naming of food is a key difference between states, I think we can all agree that fish and chips are responsible for most of the broken friendships. I’m just gonna come out and say it: Queensland wins here. It is so fun ordering fish and chips. Boring battered savs are given a jazzy upgrade to Pluto Pups, and potato cakes are renamed potato scallops even though that doesn’t really make any sense. They just don’t care.

10. Sometimes you have to go to bed in broad daylight

Because the Gold Coast is ever so slightly behind the times when it comes to daylight savings, it took me roughly 3.5 years to adjust to the whole ‘sunny until 10pm’ thing. I spent these years eating dinner in the afternoon, trying to block out the sun with towels before going to bed, and generally feeling out of sorts.

11. It’s not weird to go to a café on your own anymore

In fact, in major cities, going to a café on your own is totes acceptable – maybe even celebrated. We work from cafés, read books at cafés and sometimes just eat breakfast at cafes, enjoying our own company like a crazy person.

12. AFL looks a bit like seagulls chasing a chip

I’ve lived in Melbourne for 10 years. This is still true.

13. People won’t laugh at your fashion choices as much

I remember walking through the CBD on my first week in Melbourne, and seeing a young guy dressed completely batshit crazy. He was wearing every 2008 trend in the same outfit, and no one gave him a second glance. Sadly, I can’t say the same for other towns in Australia, who might throw a McDonald’s thick shake at you as you’re walking down the street.

14. You have to stop when the tram stops

Trams are no joke. When it stops, and the little red flag pops out, you better f*****g stop. They should really tell you that before you get in your car to drive for the first time.

15. Every city has their own lil’ quirks and that’s why we love them

Cities are like people – they each have their own fashion sense and their own personalities and are weird in the own special way. But that’s why we love them, even if they close the shops really early or have terribly boring names for absolutely everything.

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