8 life lessons we learned living in Melbourne

Southbank, Melbourne at night

Although our time in Melbourne has come to an end for the foreseeable future, we still find ourselves looking back fondly on our time there and reminiscing on the permanent impact this beautiful city has had on us. Life in Melbourne has taught us many things; here are eight life lessons we’ve learned over our eight years in what was considered the most liveable city in the world for seven of those years (darn Vienna!)

1. How to be prepared for any kind of weather

There’s a reason why everyone in Melbourne has the Bureau of Meteorology as one of their top favourited websites. Crowded House gets it; their hit “Four Seasons in One Day” was actually about Melbourne. Never have we been in a place where it can be clear and sunny and then, I kid you not, 30 minutes later be pouring rain (the photo below is really no exaggeration). One day’s high temperature can frequently be the next day’s low. Every morning there’s a mental checklist: sunnies/sunglasses, check. Umbrella, check. Three layers of clothing to cover all of hot/cold/wet weather, check. Extra jacket just in case, check. Outdoor seating at a cafe or pub comes with the inherent risk of having to put on and remove your jacket and/or sunnies at least four times in the one sitting. But on the positive, it’s something that all Melbournians can whinge about together.

Melbourne weather is unpredictable at best
So true

2. What good coffee tastes like

Coming from America, I was under the impression that Starbucks was the place to go for a good cup of coffee. Nowadays, I turn up my nose as I walk past them and head to one of the countless cafes in Melbourne. Coffee is a point of pride in this city; you tend to feel really cheated if you have a bad cuppa. We’ve even been known to reject free coffee if it’s not up to scratch. Our favourites are Code Black and Market Lane in the CBD. If you like your coffee strong, ask for a magic; it’s a Melbourne original. If the barista doesn’t know what you’re talking about, get out of there and find another cafe.

Coffee and cafe culture in Melbourne
Pure bliss

3. Sometimes you have to do a bit of searching for a good bar

In many cities, if you tried to convince someone to come down a dark alleyway to some secret bar, they’d probably turn and head the other way…quickly. In Melbourne, that’s where you’ll find some of the best bars in town. Usually the journey involves a few twists and turns and trying to guess which unmarked door will lead you to delicious cocktails as opposed to the back of the kitchen of a nearby restaurant. There’s even a cocktail bar behind the deli fridge of a sandwich shop! Also, it pays to look up; Melbourne has a plethora of sweet rooftop bars with magnificent views of the city. Urban List has a great, but by no means exhaustive, list of hidden bars in the city. Our favourite is Eau De Vie; look for the lantern above the door down Malthouse Lane. Their take on the espresso martini will not disappoint.

Espresso Martini with nitro frozen cream, Eau De Vie, Melbourne
This ain’t your grandma’s espresso martini

4. How to drive some of the most unique road rules on Earth

They say you’ve become a full-fledged Melbournians when a hook turn actually makes sense to you. What is a hook turn, you might be asking? These delightful conundrums occur predominantly in the CBD, which consists of pulling into the leftmost lane if you want to turn right. I think we spent at least a year of fully avoiding them and taking three left turns instead.

Not an mani-turner, Zoolander (quickmemes.com)

Then there’s the issue of disappearing lanes. Where else in the world can you be happily driving along when, often without warning, the lane you were driving in suddenly disappears into parking spaces? That, topped with an excessive amount of speed cameras and stringent speed limits, makes driving in Melbourne a pretty interesting driving experience to say the least.

5. The sport that is Australian Rules Football

While Australian Rules Football (AFL) is played all over the country, its most fervent fans undoubtedly reside in Melbourne. “Who do you barrack for?” (Translation: which team do you support?) is as common of a question here as “where do you live?” or “what do you do for work?” I remember when I first moved to Melbourne and was constantly getting asked that question, and when I replied that I wasn’t following a team, I would inevitably receive a lengthy and heartfelt lecture on why that person’s team was the best. AFL is practically a religion here; it either strengthens or strains relationships, brings together or breaks apart families. When you’re new to the sport, it all seems a bit chaotic, like adults playing an intense match of Hot Potato. And you’ll inevitably wonder, why are people always yelling “BALL!!” at the top of their lungs? I have worked with local AFL teams for as long as I’ve lived in Melbourne and feel I’ve only just recently started to understand and appreciate the sport. But if you don’t, you’re in luck; Melbourne is considered the sporting capital of Australia so there are plenty of options to get your sports fix. Nevertheless there’s just something so Melbourne about going to the footy and having a meat pie and Carlton Draught.

AFL match at the MCG
Ahh footy at the G…so Melbourne

6. How to cycle for transport

Melbourne has a pretty impressive infrastructure for cycling, much better than what was available in most of the sprawling suburbs of America growing up. It’s a healthy and environmentally conscious way to get to work and a great way to tour the city. Although Melbourne is known as a bike friendly city, a majority of people who commute by bicycle have had a run-in or near run-in with another vehicle, so if you’re going to join the hoards of Lycra-clad commuters, there are some things to keep in mind. Always assume a car hasn’t seen you until proven otherwise. Even parked cars aren’t safe; many cyclist get knocked over by a car door swinging open unexpectedly. When it comes down to it, cyclists and drivers may not get along but there is something they’ll always agree on: pedestrians are the worst. Also, watch out for those tram tracks! They love to suck thin road tires in then spit them out sideways, usually at the most opportune moment when there’s a fairly big crowd to witness your spill. And referring to lesson #1, don’t ride in jeans. It’s just not worth it.

Bicycle Path, Yarra RIver Melbourne
So many great bicycle paths to get you around the city

7. There are some very weird and wonderful characters out there

In our time in Melbourne we’ve come across some interesting people. One night we were on the tram into the city, when a fairly large woman walked on carrying a takeout container. She proceeded to walk down the aisle of the tram repeating, “Mmmm, mmm, mmm…get in mah belly!” Or there’s the time the time we were walking in the CBD when a group of four nicely dressed men were singing in jolly unison, “Move over, move over! Get out of the way!” for no apparent reason. If you go out regularly in the CBD, one night you’ll inevitably come across Elmo jamming out on some popular street corner. Apparently one time (or maybe there have been multiple occasions) he got in a fist fight with the Cookie Monster over their respective turfs. One of our favourites is the man with a guitar on Collins Street that simply sings what he sees; he never fails to get a chuckle out of passerby’s. Everyone in Melbourne has a story of some eccentric person that they’ve come across; they’re mostly harmless and add a bit of character to the city.

8. Living in a multicultural society

There is no doubt that Melbourne is a highly multicultural city. According to the City of Melbourne website, there are around 140 different cultures currently living in Melbourne. As an example, there’s the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece residing in Melbourne. It definitely makes for an interesting dynamic in which to live. On the one hand, there’s a vibrancy that come with so many different cultures living side by side, creating diverse interactions and pushing people to grow outside of their comfort zone as they learn about the world outside their own. On the other hand, it can, and does, cause tension and bring out the ugly side in people. We can’t deny that racism is present in Melbourne, most people have seen evidence of it firsthand, but on the flip side of that racism, there is almost always someone willing to stand up and squash it, restoring your faith in humanity. Although living in such a multicultural city can have its challenges, it is one of my favourite aspects of the city and why it’s been one of my favourite places to live for all these years.

Agree or disagree? Have your own favourite Melbourne lesson to share? Let us know below!

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