North Vs East: healthy rivalry or unnecessary hatred?
by Maurizio Corda
The legendary rivalry between Sydney’s most influential and arguably richest areas, the Northern Shore and the Eastern Suburbs, is nothing new. While it is interesting and stimulating to see different areas of the city competing in order to achieve higher standards of life, stiff competition and the hatred that comes from it can get things frustrating and unnecessarily harsh.
It is always fascinating to hear about all the little stories – sometimes legends – which originate from the most diverse settings and parts of a big city. Every self-respecting metropolis has its fair share of urban legends, stories and epic rivalries between different suburbs or areas.
Sydney is no exception. With 4.28 million residents in its metropolitan area, the New South Wales capital offers a varied range of areas and neighbourhoods, which often clash when it comes to being compared. Quality of life in general, but also health care, pollution, land size, transportation and – why not? – beaches are some of the most common attributes which can grant a neighbourhood the ‘top’ status. The Eastern Suburbs and the Northern Shore seem to fight hard to excel in each field and both areas manage to give their residents high quality services as well as above-average standards of life in selected neighbourhoods.
It is interesting to see how both areas achieved their current status, and – needless to say – their origins were far from being as glamorous. Considered more rugged in comparison to the southern and western parts of the harbour, and with little agricultural potential, the Northern Shores were practically uninhabited until the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, which led to a massive expansion of suburbs between the 1930s and the 1970s.
On the other hand, the Eastern part of Sydney was soon inhabited by early settlers and became a working class district in the subsequent years. An extensive process of gentrification brought more affluent people in the area. Fuelled by the construction of the Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo and the construction of big expensive houses in the Elizabeth Bay area, the gentrification process led to an enormous enrichment of the Eastern part of Sydney.
Today, we can see both areas have an elite demographic composition, with excellent figures in terms of occupation, housing tenure, household and individual income etc.
According to the figures provided by the Dictionary of Sydney Project, the Northern and Eastern suburbs have a few percentage points above the Sydney regional level in average. The website, which provides profiles of every Sydney suburb, relies on census data only, hence the credibility and the professionalism of its results.
If we take two of the most famous Sydney suburbs – Mosman and Bellevue Hill – (Northern and Eastern respectively) as examples and compare them, we can see the difference from the rest of the Sydney Region. The percentage of the total population employed status is at 62.8% in Mosman and 60.6% in Bellevue Hill, against the 57.9% of the regional level. Managers and professionals account for a total of 63.3% in Mosman and 61.5% in Bellevue Hill, against the 37.6% of the Sydney Region. Finally, 38% of the households earn more than $2,000 weekly in Mosman and 36% in Bellevue Hill, while the regional average is of 16.8%.
These are pretty impressive figures and they can be extended to many of the surrounding suburbs. This puts the East and the North on the same level substantially. What can be considered better? Where does all the rivalry come from?
If you want to form your own opinion it would be best if you avoided asking Sydneysiders. People from the Eastern Suburbs will tell you that the North Shore is nothing compared to their suburbs and people from the North will of course tell you their part of the city is the best. Ironically, people from other suburbs will say none of the two is that good because of the people living there.
Phil from Mosman thinks, “Living in the North Shore is great. It’s quiet and well kept. I would never live in the East, too close to the city, there’re far too many homeless people and it’s more dangerous.” Thomas from Edgecliff, on the other hand, says, “My suburb is quiet and close enough to the night life, yet far from the chaos and danger of a big city like Sydney.” When asked about what he thinks of the North Shore he simply says, “It’s a nice place even though I’m not particularly fond of the people, they can be pretty snobbish and they tend to socialise with people from the same areas only.”
Comments are not always that friendly and it’s not unusual to hear about fights outside clubs caused by North/East rivalries.
Facebook can be useful to see how big the rivalry is. There’re tons of facebook groups dedicated to the North Shore or the Easter Suburbs. Some of them are appreciation groups, some others are hate groups. “North Shore/Northern Suburbs people are shallow snobs”, “The Eastern suburbs are so much better than the North Shore” and “The North Shore is SO much better than the Eastern Suburbs” are some of those groups. Offensive comments towards people from both areas are easy to be found in all groups.
The latter two, with more than 2,000 members each, go as far as providing a full list of reasons why their suburbs are better and why they wouldn’t live anywhere else. On one hand, the Eastern Suburbs are accused of having more crime, worse schools, polluted beaches, smaller houses, too close to the city, and its female inhabitants are rumoured to have an obsession for botox. On the other hand, the North Shore is considered too distant from the city life, with no culture, more conservative political beliefs, worse transportation system and the people are said to be shallow and snobbish.
While I find it entertaining and almost hilarious to read what’s written in one group and the other, it is sad that there are some people, especially among the young, who take their sense of belonging to a particular suburb so seriously, that they would make fun or, worse, get into a fight with people who are from different area. Sydney is so much better than pointless local rivalries. It would be nice if people could put some effort into avoiding the trap of clichés and shallowness.