In every corner of the globe, we city dwellers are always quick to pronounce our metropolis of choice as the best and lambaste any other possible competition. LA will tell you San Francisco’s too cold and grumpy, while those who prefer the City by the Bay dismiss their friends further south as sun worshippers who spend their days stuck in traffic.
We can be quick to say “Oh no, I could never live in…” place X, Y or Z, despite the fact that thousands (if not millions) of other people have chosen to do so. With such a small population spread across a vast country, it’s perhaps no surprise that Australian city lovers are even more territorial than most when it comes to championing their home cities.
Sunday evening saw the end of the Asia-Pacific leg of our tour to launch Monocle’s first book – The Monocle Guide to Better Living. Having made stops in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore, a team of seven of us met with readers first in Melbourne, then Sydney and finally Brisbane. Despite all of the Antipodean events having taken place in great independent bookshops in each city, there were few similarities between them. Melbournites painted their home as the thinking-man’s city with good public transport and a strong literary culture, while in Sydney, everyone’s healthy glow suggested their city’s virtues without much need for any lobbying.
But on the subject of Brisbane, both the intellectual Melbournites and radiant Sydney-siders were united, deeming it a provincial country town with not much going for it but good weather. Brisbane’s urban counterparts further south seemed concerned when I told them I’d be spending a few extra days in the Queensland city thanks to flight cancellations following Typhoon Usagi.
Long past its time as a simple gateway to the casinos and condos of the Gold Coast, Brisbane should be a city that Australians around the country learn to champion. Great independent restaurants are scattered across not only the uncrowded CBD but also much of the city’s picturesque residential areas. While old homes in many Sydney suburbs are being replaced with shiny new-builds, the clapboard Queenslander house prevails in areas like Brisbane’s New Farm and Teneriffe. Having quietly grown from a small town into an emerging cultural hub with a high quality of life and a dynamic creative scene, Brisbane’s a city that doesn’t seem to need to compete with those around it. Perhaps that’s an attitude that those of us who live in all sorts of cities around the world should learn from.
Aisha Speirs is Hong Kong bureau chief for Monocle.