I love Melbourne with all my heart. But, and I say this with love, this city is whack.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much intense prep work you do for your trip. You’ll read blogs, you’ll watch YouTube videos, you’ll ask friends—but none of it will match up to experiencing it yourself for the first time and ending up 45 minutes in the opposite direction of your intended destination.
Disclaimer: Most of these I find whack simply because I grew up in a wildly different environment. If you’re a born-and-raised Melburnian, chances are you won’t find any of these out of the ordinary at all.
1. Tram stops are in the middle of the road
There is something about exiting the crosswalk mid-way that feels so counterintuitive. And it certainly does not help directionally-challenged individuals like myself either.
That said, I developed a completely rational fear of taking the tram, and in my first three months, travelled around via Uber almost exclusively.
2. Tram stops are ridiculously difficult to spot (at least the first few times)
The only indicator of most Melbourne tram and bus stops is a pole. One that is relatively thin and so easy to miss (not pictured). Though, this might just be me being pampered by the luxuries of convenience in Singapore—bus stops are equipped with shelters and benches, so not recognising one would be near impossible.
3. Do not — I REPEAT — do NOT tap on if you’re travelling in the city
Trams will greet you with a plethora of posters that’ll kindly tell you that you do not need to tap on when you’re travelling in the free tram zone.
One could infer from that as you can still tap on; you just won’t get charged. And an aggressive rule-abider like myself will certainly do so. Because god forbid what happens if you unintentionally use a service without paying?! The world would end! Seven years of bad luck! You will end up in hell as if you weren’t already going to!
But alas, for my unfortunate little wallet, that’s not the case. So take it from my experience—don’t tap on if you’re travelling within the city unless you’re in the mood for tossing $4 on what could have been a free minute-long ride.
If you’re travelling only a stop out of the city (e.g. Crown Casino), you could probably get away with not tapping on at all. But if the myki card inspectors come after you with that $300 fine, please exclude my involvement from the narrative.
4. Keep left to turn right
Anyone who’s driven in Melbourne will tell you that driving in the city is an absolute nightmare. Because the trams take up the middle of the road, cars are required to keep left while signalling right, when they want to make a right turn.
“Keep left to turn right?! Okay.”
“Wait, you don’t have to keep left to turn right here.”
“Huh?! Then when??”
But beyond that, drivers have to be on the lookout because this rule doesn’t apply to every right turn. Yes, it’s just as confusing as it sounds.
5. Birds have zero respect for humans
It might sound like I’m on the brink of insanity but Melburnian birds simply do not have respect for us. Or could it be that Singapore’s birds are the uncharacteristically human-fearing and compliant ones?
Either way, one thing holds true: you can’t dine alfresco without having more than 12 birds boldly picking away at your clearly unfinished plate.
How are the birds like in Singapore?
For starters, it doesn’t take much for them to leave you dining in peace. And even when they do attempt to hijack your grub, all it really takes is a disapproving glare and a semi-aggressive shhh. If you happen to walk into a flock of birds on the streets, chances are, they will hastily fly away.
In Melbourne, however, birds just casually walk alongside you. They fancy themselves your companion. They are your equal. Dare I say even, lifelong mates.
6. Poppadom costs just $1 at Queen Victoria Market
Just another fact about Melbourne that makes me go “huh???”.
If you’ve lived in Singapore, you’d be familiar with stashing these tall cans of poppadom in your office desk for a cheeky mid-day bite. I distinctly recall mourning what would’ve been a long-term separation from one of my favourite snacks.
Turns out, I didn’t have to get all dramatic as I usually do, because a vendor at Queen Victoria Market (QVM) sells the exact same brand for just a dollar!
I was teeming with excitement as I ran home to proclaim the good news of the poppadom to my best friend ‘Alyaa. Listening in on our conversation, her mum then made an extremely good point: What if it’s expired?
While this made a whole lot more sense—and completely true, by the way—I’m in utter disbelief that it never once crossed my mind. One can of poppadom in Singapore costs upwards of $2, yet the same cans being sold at QVM for less than half off somehow didn’t come off to me as dubious.
7. International hotels are scarce, but locally-run apartment-hotels are in abundance
This does apply to Australia in general as well but… Forget your Grand Hyatt or St. Regis, because chances are you can get a bigger room for a fraction of the price. Granted the interiors will not be as opulent, but the spaces are just as functional and liveable.
I guess this fact isn’t so much whack as it is simply cool to know. I really was just dead set on squeezing out a couple more points here.
8. Asian groceries are surprisingly affordable in Melbourne
Before coming to Melbourne, I had the impression that finding Asian groceries here would be a challenge—and a costly one at that. Especially South-East Asian condiments and ingredients that virtually no one else in the world has heard of: kecap manis, chicken rice paste, teh tarik, etc.
Because I’m as kan cheong as they come, I couldn’t help but to stock up on my bak kut teh seasoning when I didn’t need to at all.
You just need to know where to look; every Asian grocery store has a specialty, in which prices and item availability vary according to.
My personal favourite is Laguna QV Supermarket (not a sponsored mention, though frankly, I wish it were), which is tucked away at a little corner in QV. It’s my go-to for when I’m craving South-East Asian snacks like kueh lapis.
I’m highly aware that half of the post was essentially aimless rants about tram confusion. But fret not, I’ve gotten the hang of them after a year!
To reiterate, this post is not me hating on Melbourne. If anything, it’s my way of showing the deep love and appreciation I have for this city. After all, I am a Sagittarius *cue ohhhh‘s from astrology aficionados*.
Perhaps some time in the future I’ll make a list of everything I find whack about Singapore, because believe you me, there are plenty.