Moving To Melbourne: A Guide For Global Executives
12 min read
Considering moving your career (and your entire life) to Melbourne? Well, I have to say I can hardly blame you. Blessed with a picturesque setting on the Yarra River, Melburnians enjoy bragging about how many years in a row they were named the most livable city in the world by Economist Magazine.
(Incidentally, it was seven years – from 2011 to 2017. In 2018, Vienna took the top spot. But Melbourne remains #2, still an impressive ranking.)
However, this doesn’t change the fact that moving abroad is a huge life change. And I have the feeling that livability isn’t your only parameter.
You want to make sure that your next move is also a smart one for your career. So in this post, we won’t just explore the ins and outs of moving to, and living in, Melbourne. We’ll take a look at its industries, economy and opportunities.
Because, after all, life can’t just be about wearing black and sipping a flat white in the laneways, right?
It’s true that Melbourne is somewhat less expensive than Sydney.
It’s also true that Melbourne makes many of the same claims as Sydney: natural beauty, access to great beaches, lots of sun, a copious variety of neighbourhoods and architecture for housing, world-class food, coffee and culture.
In fact, the two cities almost sound as though they’re competing with each other. And as a non-Australian, you can’t help but wonder who’s telling the truth.
I’ll explore the Melbourne vs Sydney rivalry deeper in a second, but first let me share with you another statistic which will pour more fuel on that fire and, incidentally, help you see why moving to Melbourne is not such a bad idea.
According to Quartz.com, last year Melbourne was the most liveable city in the world – with Sydney not even in sight:
2. The Melbourne vs Sydney Rivalry.
In case you hadn’t heard, this ongoing case of city sibling rivalry isn’t simply an urban myth. It’s real. The squabbling between the Sydneysiders and Melburnians goes down kind of like this:
Sydney Harbour versus Melbourne’s Docklands
Bondi Beach versus St Kilda
The Northern Beaches versus Essendon
Sunshine versus culture … you get the gist.
Ridiculous, right? Why would two great cities whose inhabitants are more similar than they are different, waste time vying for the country’s “top spot”?
The truth is it’s been going on since before the selection of Australia’s capital city—Canberra, chosen presumably because Sydney and Melbourne each couldn’t relent the honour to the other.
So, yes. The divide runs deep. And moving to Melbourne means becoming a Melbourne patriot.
Word to the wise: Try to avoid discussing the rivalry with Melburnians.
They seem to be taking the whole thing more seriously than the Sydneysiders. Call it the underdog syndrome, which may last as long as Melbourne remains in the #2 spot.
However, from an economic and career opportunity perspective, Melbourne does have a lot going for it.
3. Melbourne’s Economy And Industries.
Quite a few professionals are moving to Melbourne because of its thriving economy.
Melbourne is in the state of Victoria, which accounts for 3% of Australia’s land mass and 24% of its economic activity. Victoria’s economy is on par with the largest economies in South East Asia.
In fact, Victoria’s economy is larger than both Singapore’s and New Zealand’s.
Five of the top 10, and 36 of the top 100 Australian companies, are headquartered in Melbourne. Ahem … this means there are more top companies located in Melbourne than Sydney (both domestic and foreign-owned).
Over the last decade, Melbourne’s population has grown faster than any other Australian city and some say it will overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest city by 2030. Others say by 2050.
Melbourne’s population now sits at 4.5 million people and growing. No wonder the rivalry is alive and well.
Victorian industries are growing at warp speed and break down into 10 primary sectors:
1. Professional Services.
No surprise, this is Victoria’s largest industry, accounting for 18% of its economic output.
The sector employs nearly 400,000 people and includes industry groups such as legal, architectural, engineering, accounting, life insurance, superannuation and financial asset investing to scientific research and management consulting services.
Victoria’s retail industry employs over 300,000 people. Melbourne attracts major international brands and is home to Chadstone – the largest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. Also, Alibaba, the world’s largest e-retailer, is based in Melbourne.
The creative and cultural industry employs over 200,000 people and includes fields such as game development, graphic design, fashion, filmmaking, media, music and comedy. Independent, commercial and community-based opportunities are thriving.
On par with the creative industry, Victoria’s visitor economy has created over 200,000 jobs. Victoria is Australia’s second most visited destination (guess who’s #1?), and one of the fastest growing in Australia—particularly for Asian tourists.
There’s a trend of Sydney tech startups and scale-ups moving to Melbourne, due to the city’s lower cost of living.
6. Transport & Defense Technologies.
Over 10% of Victoria’s workforce is employed in manufacturing, Victoria’s third largest industry after financial and professional services.
As of this writing, the Victorian Government is making major investments in transport, infrastructure, industry and urban development. Along with those investments comes construction.
7. Food And Fibre.
Central to Australia’s food processing industry, Victoria produces:
27% of Australia’s total food exports
40% of Australia’s total fibre exports
Approximately 190,000 people are employed in the food and fibre value chain across the state, with the sector accounting for one in six regional Victorian jobs.
8. New Energy.
Victoria, with the support of the government, researches and develops renewable energy solutions from sources such as wind, solar, marine and biofuels.
In fact, the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere is based here.
The Victorian government sponsors an A$20 million New Energy Jobs Fund which offers grants to businesses specialising in the new energy technology industry.
New Energy currently accounts for about 4,000 jobs. So it’s small but promising.
9. Medical Technology And Pharma.
Victoria’s capabilities in the medical technologies and pharmaceuticals industry are known globally for transforming cutting-edge research into life-improving outcomes.
A little over 20,000 people work in this sector and types of employers include:
10. International Education.
Victoria has 10 universities, 12 government training institutions (TAFEs), more than 250 private education providers and eight offshore campuses and centres within its borders.
4. Cost Of Living In Melbourne (COL).
There are many COL calculators out there, and multiple studies examining which international cities are the most expensive.
Add to that expat sites which detail personal experiences from professionals who moved from, say, London or New York to Melbourne, and sousing out the truth can be a confusing task.
However, we can say with certainty that in the Economist’s Worldwide COL 2018 report, Melbourne is in the top 20 most expensive cities in the world. So while it’s far behind NY, London and Sydney, it’s not cheap.
This is a 2018 comparison between Melbourne rents and other global cities.
Paris is 10% more expensive
New York is 26% more expensive
London is 25% more expensive
Hong Kong is 20% more expensive
San Francisco is 31% more expensive
Vancouver is 6% cheaper
Moving to Melbourne can save you money – if you’re used to paying New York or London rents. But be aware that salaries are not at the same level are in business hubs of USA and UK.
5. Melbourne’s Distinctive Climate.
Moving to Melbourne? I hope you don’t mind rainy days.
Could it be that the winter is really nine months long in Melbourne? While that might be an exaggeration from people who were expecting the stereotypical warm, sunny weather that Australia is famous for, Melbourne’s weather is quite temperamental.
Melburnians love to say that their city can experience four seasons in a day.
A quick change in the direction of the wind can lead to a massive drop in temperature known as a “cool change.”
Translation: Don’t leave home without sunglasses, an umbrella and an extra layer or two. It may be sunny and 40 degrees Celsius in the morning, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be 18 degrees by afternoon. The opposite can also happen.
Take a cue from the Boy Scouts and be prepared.
6. Natural Beauty Of Melbourne.
Okay, so it’s cold and rainy part of almost every day. Which means you can’t count on enjoying a dip in an outdoor pool by the ocean like in Sydney. That said, Melbourne does have lots of open green space and nature nearby.
You don’t have to travel far from the centre of Melbourne to find beautiful gardens. Some of the best are in the Fitzroy, Carlton and Rippon suburbs.
And there’s the Royal Botanic Gardens right in Melbourne.
Within an hour of Melbourne, you can also reach beaches, mountains, rural farms and zoos. There’s also a zoo and an aquarium right in Melbourne. National parks are also within reach, as is Victoria’s wine country.
7. Melbourne’s Arts & Culture.
Since getting a tan isn’t an option, the weather in Melbourne seems to foster creativity and style. The lively art and music scene in Melbourne is unmatched anywhere in Australia.
A note about fashion: Get ready for lots of black, lots of layers, often coming together in a kind of calculated shabbiness. You may recognize it as Melbourne’s take on the global hipster motif.
If you’re moving to Melbourne from a colourful and tropical place like Hawaii, you may find the Melbourne colour palette rather dry.
To compensate, Victoria offers leading libraries, galleries and museums. It also hosts countless festivals, literary and music events. In fact, Melbourne hosts 62,000 live music concerts each year and claims home to more songwriters than anywhere else in Australia.
And for the literary snobs among you, Melbourne has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature.
8. How To Find A Job In Melbourne.
If you’re going to live and work in Melbourne, you either need to be a citizen, or qualify for a visa.
If you’re still unsure about which Melbourne employers interest you most, using LinkedIn for your Melbourne job search is a great idea. As you research job types and employers in Victoria, take note of the recruiters’ names you see popping up.
Send them a carefully crafted invitation to connect briefly outlining your career goals, why you’re moving to Melbourne and what value you can add to their company.
What types of jobs are available in Melbourne right now and who’s hiring?
There are several popular Australian job search sites that are worth checking out.
Each of these sites offers details such as salary range and visa requirements. Seek is perhaps the most comprehensive as it also features company reviews, volunteering opportunities and businesses for sale.
By the way, Australian resumes have their own proclivities and unless you know what those are, you’ll miss the mark with Melbourne recruiters. Fortunately for you, this is a topic I know just a little bit about.
To open a personal bank account when you first arrive in Melbourne, you’ll need a passport, a valid visa and confirmation that you arrived in Australia within the last six weeks.
After the first six weeks, you’ll also need either a driver’s licence, birth certificate or other secondary-form of identification along with your passport.
If your bank in your home country is international, consider opening an account before physically moving to Melbourne – to save time and hassle.
10. Where To Live In Melbourne?
Spanning over 9990 km2, metropolitan Melbourne has over 300 suburbs and residents from more than 200 countries, making it Australia’s most culturally diverse city.
Domain is the best place to find rentals (get the mobile phone app, not the desktop version – trust me), but Flatmatefinder is also popular.
Melbourne’s often quirky neighbourhoods and lovely surrounding suburbs offer distinctive variety in types of housing and prices. As is likely the case where you’re living now, you can search online or work directly with a real estate agent. You might consider renting before you buy to get a better sense of where you want to live.
This site lists average prices for suburbs and towns as well as a breakdown of a suburb’s population, public transport, demographics, etc.
11. Melbourne’s Transport System.
The Melbourne Tullamarine Airport is one of Australia’s major international and domestic gateways. It operates 24 hours a day and is host to more than 20 international airlines.
It is, however, worth noting that Sydney is Australia’s primary international airport. The airport is approximately a 30-minute drive from the Melbourne Central Business District (CBD).
Melbourne has the largest streetcar network in the world. Locals call it the Tram.
While certain routes in the CBD are free, rides throughout Melbourne and its suburbs can be purchased using a smart card system called Myki – similar to the Opal card in Sydney. It can also be used on all buses and trains.
The tram network is kind of like the weather in Melbourne.
How great it is depends on whom you ask. Most locals who use it to commute for work find it crowded and slow. The reason or the slow speed is that its tracks run on the street primarily. So the tram is subject to the flow of traffic, just as if you were in a car.
12. Driving In Melbourne.
Melbourne is very livable without a car since public transport is extensive and cabs and Ubers are abundant.
But, if you want to own a car in Melbourne, here’s the scoop.
You’ve got to register your car with VicRoads. As is the case in most countries, the cost of will vary according by vehicle type and your home address. Car registrations are generally renewed annually.
And of course, everyone who drives a car in Victoria needs a valid driver’s licence. Here are the exceptions:
Temporary residents don’t need a Victorian driver’s licence for the duration of their stay, but do need a valid International Driver Permit or overseas licence to drive here.
Permanent visa holders may drive on their overseas driver licence (if it’s written in English or accompanied by an English translation) or international permit for the first six months upon entering Australia (or the date of visa issuance).
After six months, if you want to keep driving in Victoria, it’s time to get a Victorian driver’s licence.
If you’re not already driving on the left side of the road, you’re in for an adjustment. And thanks to the trams, hook turns are a thing. Watch this quick video for an explanation:
Final word on driving – Melbourne has five different types of cameras designed to catch out drivers who break the rules, including the devious point-to-point cameras that average out your speed over a long distance.
The fines can be startlingly high.
13. Life In Melbourne.
While both Sydney and Melbourne claim to be the international cultural centres of Australia, Melbourne exudes a unique vibe.
Block after block of laneways dotted with bookstores, cafes, small bars, indie record (yes, vinyl) and clothing shops all faced off with street art give the city its hip quotient.
Perhaps it’s all part of the sibling rivalry plot, but I read that most of Australia’s contemporary writers and artists hail from there.
But, of course, Melburnians are Australians. So sports are big, especially Footy, Cricket, Netball and Rugby. And in their determination to one-up Sydney, if those aren’t exciting enough for you, check out a recent addition: The Formula One Australian Grand Prix.
1. The Water, The Coffee And The Beer.
Melbourne claims to have some of the healthiest municipal water in the world.
Which, according to the locals, makes for extraordinary coffee and craft beer. Over the last few years, Melbourne has seen a 1,000 percent increase in the number of local breweries. This means that one in three craft beers in Australia now comes from Melbourne.
As for the coffee scene, in addition to the standard latte and cappuccino, try a flat white (a blend of espresso and steamed milk sans froth); a long black, a double shot of espresso added to hot water: a short black, a standard espresso; or a macchiato, espresso with a dash of milk with froth.
While this sounds eerily similar to Sydney, Melburnians are known for innovations in brewing and roasting.
While this sounds eerily similar to Sydney, Melburnians are known for innovations in brewing and roasting.
But the obsession with a warm, caffeinated beverage makes sense when you consider the pervasive chill in the air.
2. Weekend Getaways.
While Melbourne doesn’t have loads of beautiful beaches within public transport distance like Sydney does, it does have the Great Ocean Road – a huge swath of nature with endless beach towns, national and state parks, and some of the most stunning coastal landmarks in Australia.
Within an easy three hour drive of Melbourne, you can find a range of things to do including hiking, biking, skiing, world-class wineries and restaurants.
Festivals and events showcasing the local areas are held year-round, so check what’s on and plan your trip. If wine is your fancy, the Yarra Valley and King Valley are some of the country’s best.
14. Making Connections.
Feeling at home in a new country can take a while. Fortunately, Melbournians are famous for their friendly attitude, so moving to Melbourne is perfect for people who are don’t make friends easily.
Beyond relying on work to make friends and connections, you might try searching for meetup.com for an Expat Meetup Group.
Another great resource, which you can sign up for before you move, is InterNations. Based in Germany, they’ve created an international group of professional expats in cities all over the world.
With over 3 million members, you could show up in Melbourne with some events on your calendar and with a few connections already made.
Moving To Melbourne: A Sydneysider’s Conclusion.
It’s impossible to portray the full picture of what Melbourne has to offer your career—and your life—in a single blog post. And, as I said when we started this trip together, moving abroad is a huge step.
I’ll leave you with the musings of Richard Glover, a writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, on the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne.
Last summer, whilst visiting his partner who was working in Melbourne, he wrote:
We caught a taxi through Brunswick and Fitzroy. I stared out the window at the passing parade – kilometre after kilometre of funky bars, tiny restaurants, and quirky independent clothing stores.
I turned to her wistful amazement. “Just how far does the groovy go?” “Oh, further,” she said with almost religious awe. “A lot further.”
The rivalry is over. Melbourne, you’ve won. Won on coffee, won on groovy, soon to win on numbers.
We Sydneysiders? We’d love to visit. When you are playing the main game, you sometimes need a break.