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Sydney Sized

12 March 2017 12:22PM IRL

Sydney is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.

Or maybe you will, I don't know.

hello from sydney

The defining feature of Sydney for me, so far, has been its size. It's the biggest city in Australia, and it knows it, and it shows. It's easy to feel like nowhere else on this vast continent even matters, because Sydney is just so enormous.

Sydney is Australia writ large. It's the examplar. It's where most of us are, and where most of the rest stop. Melbourne will probably get cross at this, but Sydney is Australia: The City. Where Melbourne has its own culture, its own reputation for being a bit alternative, a bit cooler, Sydney is just... Australian.

Which also means that I've found it a bit tricky to latch onto an overall distinct, snappy, blogg-able descriptor. Beyond, y'know, just big. It's like a fish trying to see water. It's hard to put your fingers on differences in character when everything around you is just like you only more so.

Aside from the looming cultural mass of it all, Sydney is also just, like, physically big. Seriously. It just keeps on going forever. And the suburbs aren't just endless seas of homogenous residential. It has nodes and threads of proper city woven pretty much all the way out. It's got structure.

I haven't really had any way to get around other than walking, so maybe that's one reason why it feels so large. It's certainly the reason my feet are killing me. Well, that and the Converses.

Actually, it's probably mostly the Converses. Those things are pretty, but they are not made for distance walking.

crossing the bridge

I've also put a lot of trips on my Opal card, which I'm just now realising is probably an attempt to get in on the start-your-transit-card-brand-with-O theme that London's Oyster and Hong Kong's Octopus have got going on. Anyway.

My train trip to work and back every day takes me across the Harbour Bridge, and the novelty still hasn't worn off, and given that I'm only here for a month, I'm not sure it will.

It's been raining most of the time I've been here, but this weekend was much nicer. I took some time out to actually see some sights - I walked through the botanical gardens, did the iconic bridge/opera house photo, and took myself on a ferry trip up to Manly, where somehwat disconcertingly, the sun did not set over the water.

And that entire ferry ride, the city just kept on going past me, showing absolutely zero signs of thinning out.

the wrong sunset

As a literal function of that size and density, we come to the last really big thing about Sydney. It has a massive population, and you can feel it. It's not just most outsiders' only experience of Australia, it's many, many, Australians' only experience of Australia too.

You could spend a lifetime here and never see every part. There's a little bit of that Americans-never-leave-America vibe here. There's no compelling pull like there is in Perth, no sense that, well, if you really want to make it you've gotta leave. Sydney is a major world city. It's the biggest population center for thousands of miles in any direction. There's no need to leave.

With a population of that size, you get diversity. Not just of people, but of niches. Sydney is big enough that it can support a massive hipster strip in Newtown, and a rich yuppie district around where I'm working in Pyrmont, and a proper Chinatown with a pretty spectacular garden. Enough people live here that they can self-select into those areas and concentrate their character.

chinese garden panorama chinese garden panorama chinese garden panorama

Like New York or London, it's not human-scale. It'd be a great place to work, or visit regularly, but unless you found exactly the right niche I feel like it'd be pretty ovewhelming. As far as being a comprehensible place to live, I think I still prefer a Perth-sized city.

I've always known Perth was small, but I've never felt it like this before. All the other comparators have had something else that's different, some big cultural thing that makes the size not so noticable. Here, there is no culture shock, and so it becomes obvious: Perth is small.

And from here, it'd be so easy to think it might not even matter at all.

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