Damn you, Burley-Griffin!

A fair bit has changed since I last wrote anything here. Perhaps most importantly, I now live in Canberra (at least temporarily).

Canberra isn’t as bad as I thought (or had been told) it would be, but I think I’ll be glad to get back to Melbourne.

For now, here are some thoughts on how Canberra compares to my other Australian home cities, Adelaide and Melbourne (Den Haag will have to sit this one out):

1. Urban planning

Canberra is beautifully planned, which is good, except that it’s beautifully planned in such a way that it’s almost impossible to get anywhere without getting lost and going around in circles (Burley-Griffin apparently had a thing for circles).

Melbourne and Adelaide were also planned, but with sensible straight lines instead of never-ending circles. And Adelaide had the advantage of planning that went beyond the city centre, with good north-south and east-west roads (unlike Melbourne, where driving to the other side of the city is a half-day expedition).

As such, I think I can safely say that Light (Adelaide) > Hoddle (Melbourne) > Burley-Griffin (Canberra).

2. Small talk opening gambit

The standard small talk opening gambit pretty much everywhere is ‘What do you do?’ – but if you pay attention, you’ll notice there are common regional variations.

Adelaide being as small as it is, the main thing people seem to want to know about someone they’ve never met is who they know in common. While there are many ways to figure this out, probably the most common starting point is ‘What school did you go to?’

In Melbourne, the easiest way to pigeonhole someone is vis the northside/southside divide. The lack of decent north-south connecting roads (see above) contributes in part to a clear north/south division in Melbourne (with Richmond in a bit of a grey area). Will recently explained the distinction as follows:

If you see a guy with a hipster moustache and a tea cosy on his head, you’re on the northside. If you see a guy holding a protein shake and wearing a wifebeater, you’re on the southside.

As such, the question everyone wants answered in Melbourne is ‘Where do you live?’

In Canberra, it seems as though less than 10% of the people who live here are actually from here. Pretty much everyone is imported. So the most common question I’ve come across in Canberra is ‘Where are you from?’

3. Hayfever

Over the course of many years living in Adelaide, I think I managed to build up a tolerance to Adelaide pollen. I’d always had terrible hayfever in Melbourne as a kid, and that came back with a vengeance when I moved back to Melbourne.

I’d like to think that if I was in Melbourne this spring, I’d have built up at least a small tolerance to Melbourne pollen. I spent basically all winter telling myself that running would help.

Sadly, though, being in Canberra this spring, I’ve been unable to test my theory. And Canberra has decided to give me the same pollen-induced grief that Melbourne gave me last year. I think it’s because half of this town is still just paddock (with random suburbs and national monuments scattered in between).