7 things I wish I knew when moving to Melbourne

Moving to Melbourne, Docklands Melbourne

Eighteen months ago, I handed back the keys to my comfortable, wine indulgent Adelaide life and moved to Melbourne. Given the first 12 of those months were taken up with all-consuming wedding planning thoughts, lace-gluing and dress-hunting*, I’ve now finally been able to settle into the rhythm of Melbourne life.

* My husband thought it would be a smart idea to propose the week before we moved interstate, because we definitely didn’t have enough monumental life changing juggling balls up in the air at that point in time we needed to add one more. Wedding planning.

As always, you can look back and dream about how nice it would have been to have had a magical fairy hand you a neatly presented package of information to assist in making the Melbourne move easier. Unfortunately, my magical fairy must have been sunning herself in the Maldives because I had to learn the hard way.

These are the things I wish I knew before moving to Melbourne:

1. Parking inspectors are EVERYWHERE

In that first year of living in Melbourne, I amassed enough parking fines that, rather than gifting that money to the City of Stonnington, I could have bought myself not one but two MIMCO bags.

I learnt that I needed to drive a postal van not a Renault to be able to park in a loading zone – a Schnitz craving doesn’t suffice. That was one expensive hangover-curing breakfast ($140 + the $12 swiss Schnitz wrap).

I learnt that clearway signs are unforgiving. At 7:01am your car will be towed. Even if you remember at 7:03am and madly Usain Bolt out onto the street in your Peter Alexander pyjamas and fluffy slippers your car won’t be released from the clutches of the tow truck. All you can do is stand and wave it goodbye, sending it off with a packed lunch, only to collect it later that evening after a playdate at the Collingwood compound. That is also after forking out another $320 fine.

2. Renting competition is as tough as the AFL

One of the most daunting and immediate issues to deal with when moving to Melbourne is finding a place to live (obviously!) so that you’re not camping out on St Kilda Beach.

I found this particularly difficult given real estate agents don’t want a bar of you unless you can present in person or send a real-life person (not your pet dog) to present on your behalf. Kind of difficult when you don’t live in the STATE and you don’t know anyone who you’re on such good terms with that they would happily give up their precious Saturday afternoon to inspect a rental for you.

My only option was to sign on the dotted line of a three-month, short-term rental contract, paying an exorbitant $430 for a one-bedroom (that should have been called a studio) fully-furnished apartment in Prahran. With no windows it was dustier than Dubai and eventually gave me asthma. I didn’t even know I had asthmatic tendencies. I see why the real estate agent wasn’t fazed about meeting me in person, they probably didn’t want me to meet the apartment in person either.

Needless to say, once arriving in Melbourne and moving into a dustpan of an apartment, I couldn’t wait to move out. Yet it was incredibly disheartening to find queues out the door as long as Kookai sale lines for every tiny rental apartment in the desirable suburb belt of South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor.

Eventually, frustrated, I found a place that was bigger than AnnaLynne McCord’s waistline and offered an extra $50 a week on top of the asking price. I was instantly handed the keys, proving money talks when it comes to Melbourne’s rental market.

Moving to Melbourne, Prahran Market

Close to public transport? Schools? And markets? All important suburb selection criteria.

3. Where to live in Melbourne?

I also found deciding where to live quite difficult, given I didn’t know a great deal about Melbourne’s suburbs, except that Flemington had a racecourse and St Kilda a beach. When you barely know names of suburbs, how do you know that you’re not signing on to live in the Bronx of Melbourne?

I also find Melbourne’s whole north-south cultural divide, where people shun those living on the other side of the Yarra, bizarre and troubling. How do you know which side of the fence you want to be catapulted into?

What I’ve since found out is that the cool people tend to live north-side and the posh people live south-side. So if you’re a live music loving, beard-growing hipster, Collingwood, Fitzroy or Brunswick are your best picks. Whereas if you’re a RangeRover (or Toorak Tractor) driving, Country Road shopping, Champagne sipper, Malvern, South Yarra or Toorak it is for you.

In the end, I took a punt. Fortunately it paid off – I’m a little too happy renting in Prahran, now wondering how I can fund a million dollar minimum mortgage to stay here…

If you need more help, I’ve written a couple of posts for share accommodation website Flatmates.com.au on the topic. Have a read here.

Moving to Melbourne, Chapel Street, Prahran

Chapel Street, Windsor, is a pretty good supermarket

4. Travelling interstate every weekend doesn’t aid settling in

I’ve been living in Melbourne for 18 months, 78 weekends, and this is the first time that I’ve spent a consecutive six weekends actually in Melbourne. Most commonly in that time I could be found travelling back to Adelaide to either plan my own wedding, be bridesmaid in a wedding or attend a wedding – you could reliably say that I’m at the stage in life where everyone is getting married, which I guess is better than being at the funeral stage.

But, as I’ve learnt, being caught between two worlds makes it difficult to embrace your new life in your new city. My recommendation: dive in, make new friends, discover new favourite shops and cafes, find a new hairdresser and put a limit on your Qantas flights.

Moving to Melbourne, Melbourne skyline West Gate Bridge

5. Trams are about as fast as taking a camel to work

When I first moved to Melbourne I loved the idea of trams, the look of trams and the sound of trams as they romantically rattled along Melbourne’s streets. And I still do, kind of. But I’ve also discovered that I DO NOT love driving behind a tram or riding on a tram as they’re slower than Optus’s broadband speed.

When Metro Vic’s wonderful Journey Planner tool tells you that it would be faster to walk the hour from my Prahran home to my CBD office, rather than take a tram, you have to consider buying a bike.

Trains on the other hand are where it’s at.

The darkest days in my Melbourne memory bank centre around a very common theme: when the super quick trains aren’t running. This can be for a variety of reasons, a dead body being the most random but torrential rain and lightening being the most common. Squeezing onto a rickety tram with the thousands of other displaced commuters, to only have your face positioned awkwardly in someone’s coffee breath for the next hour as you pace your way up St Kilda Road is not my most preferred way to start a Monday.

Moving to Melbourne, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne trams

6. Dressing for Melbourne’s winter

I’m notoriously BAD at dressing appropriately for cold weather. In Adelaide, during the depths of winter, I would often walk around in havianas or long sleeve sheer tops or some sort of attire where the sleeve was purely ornamental.

I’ve learnt the hard way that layering isn’t just a fashion statement in Melbourne, it’s a pneumonia prevention method. Best to invest in a good coat (mine is from Saba and I love it), a The North Face vest, waterproof gloves and a hooded stylish raincoat. Prepare for venues and shops to be super warm and the outdoors to be super cold, and you need to be able to transition between the two easily – a big heavy coat with a light top underneath is a winning combo.

I also didn’t believe in boots before I moved to Melbourne. I now have boots in all shades and sizes: flat boots, high-heeled boots, tan boots, black boots. Invest in good boots, but not suede boots, which will lose any battle against Melbourne’s rainy winter.

Fortunately, there are so many wonderful shopping options to make the task of dressing for Melbourne winter so much more fun and enjoyable.

And ALWAYS carry a compact umbrella because when you don’t it’s guaranteed that you’ll be caught out, and by caught out I mean goodbye straight hair and goodbye mascara now running down my face.

Moving to Melbourne, Melbourne weather

7. Get out and explore

Finally, someone should have told me to get my head out of my bridal magazines and go and explore the wonderful, multi-layered city that is Melbourne.

Embrace the coffee culture, have an opinion on which are Melbourne’s best restaurants and be prepared to argue your opinion with strangers, pick a Melbourne-based AFL team (and learn the rules) and don’t be afraid to perform the carefully-choreographed dance that is a hook turn.

I wish I’d put aside the seating chart and song list and gone out and explored before now.

UPDATE: And, since I’ve moved to Sydney, these are the things I miss dearly about Melbourne.

Moving to Melbourne, Hosier Lane, Melbourne

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17 Comments

  1. Kaela
    2 November 2015 / 10:31 pm

    Thank you for writing this post! I’m moving down to Melbourne in less than two months and it’s so helpful to have this type of advice. Some of these things I already knew, but others I wasn’t aware of. Thank you again!

    • 3 November 2015 / 5:35 pm

      Thanks Kaela. My pleasure! Good luck with the move x

  2. Ryley
    11 December 2015 / 1:51 pm

    I would also like to thank you for writing this. I am moving to Melbourne in the new year on a ‘why not’ moment and stressing about finding a job and where to live! And I have had the exact same thought, how do you know which side of the city you want to live and what’s the places you should stay away from, No one writes a REAL post about it all, and this is the best one I have found so thank you!

    • 11 December 2015 / 2:24 pm

      Thanks Ryley! Once all the moving admin is out of the way, you won’t regret it. It’s a great city! Good luck x

  3. 12 April 2016 / 2:42 pm

    Very insightful and accurate post Kim! We’ve had so many friends and family make similar comments about finding a rental property in Melbourne so we’ve actually just started a new business designed to make moving here a much easier process! Excellent tip on dressing for the weather as well – you can never have too many pairs of boots in Melbourne!!

    • Elizabeth
      30 July 2016 / 11:32 pm

      $160 is a huge outlay for one inspection .. I’ve got a better idea for relocations. Storage, pets welcome, accomodation plus and for a very affordable cost.

  4. Elizabeth
    30 July 2016 / 11:23 pm

    We are moving from Brisbane, we have jobs in Epping but can’t find affordable short term living! We are looking in mid August 2016 is there something happening at this time and should we buy a tent just incase?

    • 1 August 2016 / 11:34 am

      A tent could be a good idea! The move definitely cost us a fortune. Have you tried AirBnB or Stayz? Some places on there offer month-long discounts, so you might be able to find something short-term that’s affordableish… Good luck!

  5. Stephen Kereama
    22 October 2016 / 11:53 am

    Great informative post. I’m researching the pros & cons of moving my family to Melbourne. So the seven points you raised are helpful especially my passion & love for good entertainment and music. So the north side maybe a great hub for me but the south side maybe a great hub for the family. Hmmmm. Thank you Kim for taking the time posting a great blog.

    • Kate Smith, Abbotsford
      2 January 2017 / 5:01 pm

      I smiled when I read this blog as could completely relate. However, originally from regional Vic, and as someone who has lived on both sides of the river in Melbourne (10 years on both), I think that this description of where to live, while helpful, is a little bit over-simplified – and the ‘shunning’ only really tends to come from those wannabes who aspire to living in areas such as Brighton and Toorak (for the wrong reasons), as opposed to your regular residents, south of the river. On the whole, Melbourne is a pretty down to earth city, and the real ‘old money’, which can be found both sides of the river, wouldn’t dream of ‘shunning’ anyone.

      Times have changed, and there is something for everyone on both sides now. I recommend spending a couple of weekends here and talking to as many people as possible. Friends from Sydney and Perth can’t believe how friendly everyone is – yes; you can ask someone on the street where they get their hair cut and they will be helpful.
      Some additional info to above:
      – The majority of APS private schools (plenty of prestige) are north of the river around the Hawthorn/Kew area. The inner suburbs on the north side are demographically diverse, making for a community with (often) less judgmental attitudes, and some of the best public schools in Victoria; and both therefore are in family friendly areas.
      – I would suggest (generally) the inner areas on the south side (i.e. Prahran, Sth Yarra) generally not so family friendly (for same reason as Fitzroy, etc.), due to the large amount of bars/clubs and lack of space . However, Toorak, Glen Iris, Sandringham, Balaclava, the Inner Bayside tend to be a bit quieter and have a bit more space. Areas such as Clifton Hill, Fitzroy North, Alphington and Abbotsford are well known for their community spirit, and are therefore great family areas. Likewise and still within 10 kms from the CBD, Kew and Hawthorn.
      – Traditionally real estate has always been more expensive south of the river, however, in the last 5 years or so, this has changed dramatically from both renting and buying perspectives.
      – The north side prides themselves on their diversity in all things, the non-judgmental attitudes that come with that, and it’s efforts towards sustainability. Likewise, on the south side, Elwood and parts of St Kilda
      – Yes, Fitzroy, Richmond and Brunswick are trendy areas to go out, but so are Prahran, St Kilda and Elwood (an extremely diverse neighbourhood) – south of the river. Away from the main strips all have lovely areas for families.
      – Plenty of posh people living in Cue, East Hawthorn, East Melbourne, North Carlton (north of river); Plenty of cool people living in Elwood, St Kilda (south of river).

      I had similar problems finding out where to live when I moved to Sydney – it is a conundrum. I, very quickly realised that I got more accurate information from individuals saying positive things vs those saying negative things (do you want to live where negative people are?). Spend some time here – rent a place via AirBnB for a weekend – go to coffee shops, see some live music, theatre, check out neighbourhoods, check out Council websites (will tell you a lot about an area), and most of all, talk to people, etc.

      Obviously, there are many other areas in Melbourne that would probably suit your needs. I draw to your attention that my comments are general by nature, and are limited to the areas I know, and my own personal experiences. Good luck with your research. Melbourne is a great town – it is culturally and historically rich for both children and adults alike. I hope you get the opportunity to spend some time here

      • 2 January 2017 / 8:37 pm

        Well said Kate. Couldn’t agree more with all of your points.

  6. Julia
    21 December 2016 / 10:59 am

    Your post cracked me up, thank you for this lovely read.
    My husband and I are moving to Melbourne in less than two months (from Vancouver, Canada). We met in Australia a few years back and fell in love with Melbourne, so we decided to move there permanently. I was researching for a place to rent and found your blog. My anxiety of not finding a place quickly is raising even more after reading your post, especially we have a small dog as well.
    Fingers crossed everything will work out.

    Happy holidays Kim!

    • 30 December 2016 / 12:33 pm

      Thanks Julia for your kind words. Having moved cities twice, I can tell you that it is definitely daunting but miraculously all falls into place. You’ll be fine and will absolutely love Melbourne. All the best with the move!

  7. 11 January 2017 / 12:08 am

    Melbourne is an amazing city that’s packed full of things to do! Melbourne’s cultural scene is well-known, with a calendar filled with music festivals, art exhibitions, and theatre events along with sports being a big focus.

    Melbourne is Australia’s 5th most expensive city in terms of renting, below Darwin, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. So although prices are reasonable compared to the rest of the country, Rental prices can still come as a surprise to people relocating.

  8. 28 April 2017 / 10:51 am

    Hi Simone, we are looking at moving end of year from Perth – what is your business? Would love to get in touch. Kind Regards, Amber

  9. Melissa
    26 August 2017 / 5:57 pm

    Had to laugh, you painted quite a negative picture but having made the jump from Adelaide to Sydney I felt similar. After 7 years in this big smoke I finally took a trip to Melbourne (yes I have no idea why I waited so long either) and found it a dream. Oh and for such fast past lifestyles, transport in either city is pathetically slow. I take an hour to travel 11 kms to work!

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