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How is Melbourne today different from in the past?
Melbourne in the 80s, when I was in high school:
- Very Suburban. High density living did not happen: the Great Australian Dream was a large suburban home with a garden, and only the indigent lived in apartment blocks. Seeing apartments spring up everywhere remains a shock to me.
- Renting happened, but was something to get away from; the notion of renting long-term is still alien to many Australians, which is why they are so disillusioned about housing affordability.
- There was nothing, nothing going on in the CBD past 6 o’clock. Nothing. Noone lived in the CBD. At all. Minimal presence of restaurants. Very little in the way of cultural stuff. (I’m not counting the Arts Centre.) Tumbleweeds.
- In fact, Chapel St South Yarra was the only strip where there was some partying all night.
- People did go in to the CBD to shop, particularly at department stores like Myer. Local shopping malls already existed, but they did not have the exclusive hold on shoppers that they do now.
- Swanston St was still open to traffic, and not a mall. Bourke St Mall was already a mall, and was even more blah back then.
- Southbank was wasted, as warehouses. Just like Docklands should have been. (Snobbery towards Docklands is also a very Melbourne thing.)
- The inner suburbs were not yet gentrified, and were still gritty working class places.
- Nowhere near the foodie culture Melbourne has now, and certainly none of the food snobbery. Places like Mietta’s (1974–1995), the restaurant of Mietta O’Donnell, were still pioneers of good food, not what you’d routinely expect. And the fusion and innovation that Melbourne hipsters now expect as a default just didn’t exist.
- No coffee culture outside of Lygon St (Little Italy). I had my first latte in ’90. And for a long time, they couldn’t work out how to prevent the glass from overheating: they’d serve it with a napkin holder.
- Much bigger pub culture. Especially around universities. In the ’80s, still featuring the 6 o’clock swill: people getting blind drunk because pubs would shut as 6. Again: no boutique beers back then.
- Not that I experienced it at all, but the snobbish Anglican establishment of Melbourne was likely more prominent. You really have to dig to notice it now. And Real Housewives of Melbourne is not the place to find it.
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