Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Elitism in Melbourne

Contributed by SGinMelbourne

Got a ride in my neighbour's beautiful Porsche Cayenne from my neighbour after dinner...

This is not a "show-off" post, but to share my observation here that there is simply no class divide in Australia. The rich and poor mingle freely, and I don't feel the sense of elitism and exclusiveness that I did back in Singapore
This car would most likely cost over half a million dollars in Singapore and about $AU150K in Australia but either way, I wouldn't be able to afford it.
But the fact that they drive such a car didn't bother me, nor did they look down on me for driving a humble toyota.
Over the years, something inside of me as a Singaporean has changed..I don't know what it is and it can't really be explained in words..
Perhaps, I have completely let go of the mindset of amassing material possessions, and pursuing status or wealth. I guess Australia has changed me a lot. Now, I appreciate whatever I have and am thankful that my new country has given me a second chance in my career and my new life.

Additional commentary by S
In view of all the hoo-ha about the Anton Casey case, a friend and reader SGinMelbourne felt strongly enough about it to share this account. It seems that there is little stigma whether one chooses to cycle, drive, or take public transport to work. In fact I suspect that most people will think of those who drive to the city and park there, as idiots. Only an idiot would face such congestion and pay such hefty fees for parking. Like a Singaporean.

Then again, although it has only been about two months since we have first set foot in Melbourne, I can't say that there is zero elitism or materialism here. Certainly there must be such traits in every society. Driving along Toorak Road (apparently Melbourne's equivalent of Orchard Rd in SG), I saw many posh luxury cars and expensive homes. There are 'poor' suburbs with high crime rates as well. And just yesterday there seemed to have been a racially-motivated crime in the area as well.
But I would agree that Melbourne (and probably most of Oz) is way more egalitarian than SG. People appreciate your company, and not for your possessions or status. You may get friendly questions about where you live and what you do, but nobody is going to tell you about how wonderful their house is and how lousy your house/car/dog/bike/job is.
This was very apparent in the mountain biking group I joined, as a newbie to Melbourne, and a relatively less fit and competent rider than most of the group. Not once did they make me feel bad for being slower on climbs, or for not knowing the way. In fact, I almost never had the chance to get lost, as someone would be waiting for me every time the trail split. Unlike in SG where people with expensive bikes tend to form exclusive cliques, here, you would get less-experienced riders riding entry-level bikes riding alongside race-ready bikers with expensive bikes, with hardly any talk about which was the latest component or whose bike had what cool features.
Truly a refreshing experience. Now I need a GoPro to show you people what sort of trails you are missing out on... Meanwhile, this is someone else's YouTube video of a trail segment I did on Sunday. It was awesome...


  1. KAM in Switzerland24 January 2014 at 04:52

    Just wait. Wait a bit. 2 months is nothing.
    You need to live in a place for say 2 years , then you start to see "reality".
    I lived overseas for more than 12 years, so I am sharing my experience.
    People will be nice first. Until they know you are defenceless or that you are "too kind".
    Beware of smiling people too. Not all are "true".
    TBH, you are naive to say there is no class divide in Australia. There is more there than you think.
    Are you living in your own "rich" bubble?
    Take care.

    1. Hmm .. maybe you should consider moving to AU instead? I've been here for 3+ years and I have yet to see the "reality" that you mentioned. But all things said and done, I'm sure racism and elitism exists everywhere, all I can say is find better friends.

    2. KAM, one year in, happy to say that you are wrong about Oz.

      But of course, you would know, eh? =D


    3. One year is still nothing. My own honeymoon period lasted 3-4 years.

      After 10 years in Melbourne (now back in SG), let's put it this way: Australians are polite but not friendly.

      Brit culture is all about appearances. So locals will never make a racist remark to your face. Everything is very subtle, very covert until you get backstabbed. But it is the same shit.

      They are being nice as the culture demands it, not because they care. Other migrants are more likely to be genuine.

      The class divide exists, and is probably even worse than Singapore. I am not sure how wide your social circle is. If you mix mostly with the working-class in the Western suburbs, you will naturally not see it.

  2. Hey Sunshine,

    My reader has been here for a couple of years. Not to say that whatever has been said is gospel, or whatever you said isn't valid.

    I've been here for two months and what I wrote is in green and italics.

    I think keeping things in perspective, there's always going to be a class divide anywhere in the world. But surely some places it is more pronounced.

    Some people can see what does not exist, despite never having lived in a particular place. I've met tons of them in SG. You expose them by saying "I want to migrate"


  3. Hey well, I emigrated to Australia (Melbourne too!) just over a year and a half ago, and I must say - what I've experienced is much closer to Neurotic's! :)

    To your continuing happiness!

  4. Hi Kam (& Neurotic)

    I am a Singaporean Chinese. I have lived in Australia for 42 years.

    What do I like about Singapore?

    "Hawker" food. Still a lot cheaper than in Australia although the quality is not the same as when I was a kid in Singapore running around in the slums of Chinatown. (I guess we probably all see the past through rose tinted glasses.) Mee rebus and mee siam are not of the same standard. Ee min as I know it is no longer available. Nobody seems to be able to cook it anymore.

    Fresh durians - yummy, although the frozen stuff here from Thailand is not too bad.

    Family - still have relatives, and friends, in Singapore - always nice to catch up with them.

    Some great things about Singapore: (a) the road system is better than in Melbourne or any city in Australia (b) crime rate is much lower (c) no shootings as in Sydney (d) excellent communications infrastructure (e) great airport (f) good Peranakan food (g) good health facilities - expensive, but good (h) good public transport

    Some great things about Australia: (a) people are open and generous (b) fairness is very much part of the Australian psyche - "a fair go" (c) people have a great sense of humour - ability to make fun of and laugh at oneself (d) high concern for the under-dog - there will always be someone somewhere who will stand up for the disadvantaged (e) freedom of speech, freedom to associate, freedom of the press, academic freedom, etc (f) safety net for those who have come upon tough times etc etc

    Regardless of where you live you will always encounter people who are not nice. As Asians living in Australia we just have to be careful not to jump to the conclusion that if a white person is not nice to us that that person is racist. The person could be just one of those grumpy people who are not nice, period, whether they are dealing with black, white or brindle.

    I spent six years plus heading up a government department (equivalent of Permanent Secretary in Sg), not that it is any big deal. It is an example though of what is possible.

    Just some pretty random thoughts.

    Have a great time here. Hope you continue to like it, as much as my wife and I have. All the very best, and Happy Chinese New Year.

  5. Hey Michael. I appreciate your in-depth comment!

    "Regardless of where you live you will always encounter people who are not nice. As Asians living in Australia we just have to be careful not to jump to the conclusion that if a white person is not nice to us that that person is racist. The person could be just one of those grumpy people who are not nice, period, whether they are dealing with black, white or brindle. "

    This is so true.


    1. I'm a Singaporean living in Sydney. Been here 6 years , never experienced a racist remark made against me. Most Aussies are very aware of their remarks made about others and usually pleasant. I never been awkard about driving a humble car or judged based on their work that do.