Australian cities: expectations vs reality

Having been almost two years in Australia, I have had time to travel across the country and visit almost all the states and territories excluding Western Australia. I’ve been to many cities and smaller towns in Australia, visited the outback and had a memorable real Aussie bush experience. During this time, many of my previous expectations about Australia and especially about the cities here, have completely changed.


For someone coming from Europe, the biggest surprise is that how small and quiet the city centres are here. If you go to any European city with population, let’s say, more than 500 000, you’ll find a busy, lively city centre that is full of people from early in the morning till late in the evening. Here, on the contrary, the city centres, maybe excluding Sydney and Melbourne, are really quiet, clean and empty. When I was walking in Adelaide, I couldn’t believe that the city actually inhabits 1 million people. No way. It was dead quiet. And the capital, the city of Canberra, it was boring as ****.


IMG_5140 IMG_6164

Where are all the people then? With the rising property prices, people are moving farther and farther from the cbd and commuting to work. Also living in the suburbs in your own house suits better to the Australian way of life: you have your own backyard, you can have your garden, do your barbecue, it is safer environment for the kids and so on. So suburbs here are incredible large. It can take me two hours to drive from one side of Melbourne to the other, even more with public transport.

IMG_6346-1 IMG_5344

That takes me to the next point, owning a car. If you are lucky and live and work in the city centre or near train station in the suburbs, you might get away without a car. But if you live in smaller towns or don’t have an immediate access to a train station, owning a car is almost a must. If you go to some European town, the town centre is usually very densely populated and you can find everything you need within a walking distance. Here it is another story.

IMG_5008 IMG_6177-1080x720

However, suburbs here (my experience is mainly from Melbourne) are very lively and different from each other. In many parts of Europe, the city centre is where the action happens and outside the city, there is nothing except the obvious, houses after houses and maybe a large supermarket. People just go there to sleep and spend time at home, all the life happens somewhere else. Here the suburbs have character, personality and different vibes. Some of them are posh, others artsy and hipster, others inhabited by different groups of immigrants. There is something for everyone. One thing is common though, you can get good coffee in all of them.


In our imagination Australia is a continent full of eternal sunshine and endless beaches. So it might be a surprise that there are not white sandy beaches and blond surfer boys in all the cities. Even in Cairns the beach boulevard is almost ugly and you cannot swim in the water. And in Melbourne we have beaches but the waves are not suitable for surfing. And yes, it get cold here too!

IMG_4826 IMG_3471

The people might also be not what you expect. When you land in Sydney or Melbourne or to some other big city and expect to see stereotypical white Australian dundees with their kangaroo leather hats and aboriginals, you might be disappointed. The biggest cities are very multicultural with people from all corners of the world. You might be shocked by the amount of Asians and Indians. For example, in my building there are mainly Asian students living in here. In fact, it’s been less than five times when I’ve seen another white person in the lift, and I’ve lived here almost 6 months! I also very rarely see Aboriginals in the southern cities, whereas in towns like Alice Springs, you see many indigenous people.


Anyway, Australia is a country full of beautiful cities and towns. And when you travel outside the cities to more rural areas, you’ll see a totally different way of life. Whatever expectations you might have about Australia, reality will be at least somewhat different. This country is so diverse, interesting, multicultural and under a constant change that there are new things and places to discover almost for a lifetime. On the one hand, this is a fairly new, modern country that is still shaping its identity. On the other hand, here you can find one of the oldest indigenous cultures known to man. You can embrace the “traditional” Aussie way of life with barbecue, beaches, footy, cricket, sausage rolls and meat pies or you can explore the rich heritage, cuisine and culture brought here by different waves of immigration. After living in here for almost two years, there is one thing I can say for sure. If you come here on a holiday and visit just Sydney and maybe also Melbourne, you haven’t seen anything yet! So spend some time here, go, travel, explore, discover!

You might fall in love with this.

IMG_4734 IMG_4725 IMG_6342-001


  • Roma Small
    March 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Oh geez Gloria Jean’s. Haven’t seen that sign in ages! I know I’m home when I see that! We’re the opposite to you, Aussies floating around European cities, I do agree they’re most action packed in the city centre and Aus loves suburbia and ypu mentiined a good tip, a car is essential in Aus!

    • Sandra
      March 21, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Yep, Aussies are everywhere in Europe! They love to travel, don’t they.


Leave a Reply