Aussie Working


Should I Do My Working Holiday in Sydney or Melbourne?

Many years ago, I was living and working as a recruiter in London. I had been transferred to an unrelated company to build relationships between the two firms, which was also for me, as a young man in his twenties, my big OE (overseas experience). One of the tasks I was given in London was to facilitate Londoners who were looking to have their own OE in Australia make the move and ideally secure a temp role in Australia through Recruitment Solutions, the company I was working for at the time.

Every month or so I would run a seminar in our offices and discuss what to expect when heading down under for a working holiday. One of the many questions that was raised over and over:

What’s the difference between Sydney and Melbourne?

This can be tricky, and there is an unsaid rivalry between these two great cities. Before I go any further, I should also declare my hand as someone who has spent most of his working life in Sydney. So here’s how I answered the question.

Think of a river. At the head of the river, the water is moving very quickly, there are rapids and obstacles, and things are pretty shallow. That’s Sydney.

Now think of the mouth of a river. The water is deeper, still on the surface but with currents you can’t see. This is Melbourne.

Sydney, I used to say, is more of an American influenced city. People will respect you for just trying to do something different. It’s louder, more brash and entrepreneurial. Sydney Harbour is our bling! Alternatively, Melbourne is more European influenced. Culture and the arts are important, and so are families and heritage. Over time, Australia has had the duel influences of the U.S. and North America alongside the UK and Europe.

Scandalously, I would suggest you might be able to tell if someone is from Melbourne or Sydney when you first meet them. In Sydney, you will be asked what you do for work. In Melbourne, they are more likely to ask where you are from, or, if I were to stir things up even more, which school you went to. Is it true that in Melbourne people are more concerned about your pedigree than your acheivements? I would be keen to hear any comments on that.

In the end, I would say to everyone who is planning a trip to Australia that they should visit both of our beautiful cities and make up their own mind on how different they are.  The people2people network of offices includes Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.

I wonder, if Sydney is the head of a river and Melbourne the mouth, what would Brisbane be? A beach?

4 thoughts on “Should I Do My Working Holiday in Sydney or Melbourne?”

  1. Hey,
    Thanks for the info !

    I am researching my Working Holiday Visa to travel and work in Oz. I am from the states
    ( surf city , California ).

    I am leaning more towards melbourne as it seems to fit my personality more. However, i have a question.

    Would Sydney be a more travel place to see lots of things and experince new people/cultures?
    I am used to Los Angeles traffic and people and am not a fan of that city . Its all Chaos in LA.

    Could you email me with some tips or advice on this topic?
    That would be AMAZING

    Thank you 🙂

  2. Dear Austin

    Thank you for your comment and enquiry!
    Without getting into a Sydney vs Melbourne argument, both cities are fantastic and worth visiting, with lots of wonderful cultural experiences (disclosure: I live in Sydney!). Both cities are very different experiences from each other, (along the lines of LA vs NYC!). On the working front, both cities have most of the corporate head offices in Australia and therefore largest populations of any city in Australia. So you can’t avoid traffic, although I should add, that both have better public transport than LA.

    Don’t confine yourself to one city, remember, there is also Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Brisbane and Darwin to get to as well!!

    Enjoy your working holiday!

  3. ……oh and I should have also mentioned Canberra, it is after all, the nation’s capital!



  4. Hi~This is Charlotte from Hong Kong & I have the same question in my mind when i decided to have working holiday in Australia. And your passage is the first one i read after i searched on google!!!
    Really thanks so much for your info, i have been to European countries for few times but never been to US/Canada/Australia. I love the culture and art etc of the European countries but i really have no idea of the American style
    What if i love all kind of adventure games out there in Australia? Which one will you recommend?Thz

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