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North Vs East: healthy rivalry or unnecessary hatred?

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.


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Christmas in November

F Kendall: "Sydney is overpriced, boring, mundane and smelly, with a poor quality of life."

I flew in to Sydney from Melbourne last weekend. What a difference.

Even from the air, Sydney sparkled emerald and purple from countless jacarandas in bloom, with the harbour and Parramatta River glittering like sliver.

By contrast, Melbourne was as dry and flat and muddy brown as a pint of stale Victoria Bitter.

Even at ground level.

I was down there for a wedding. Lovely couple, really dignified, refined and intelligent.

The Master of Ceremonies, acknowledging that the bride had moved south to live with her new husband, felt compelled at least three times in his speech to welcome her, and her guests to "the beautiful city of Melbourne."

There's a clue.

The need to repeatedly insist that Melbourne is, in some way, "beautiful". An affirmation made more in hope than confidence, I'm afraid.

He didn't have to boost the bride that way, to say repeatedly that she might be beautiful.

She plainly was. It went without saying.

I'm not saying Melbourne is without a certain charm. I had breakfast in the cutest little cafe in a laneway off Flinders Street. It was great.

And the CBD was bustling, even on a Sunday. That was nice

And I thought the horse-drawn cabs very nice. And some of the older, Victorian-era architectural confections reminded me of historical pictures of Calcutta under the Raj.

Quite impressive.

But there's certain grittiness and prickliness about Melbourne which, while doubtless character-building, is not "beautiful".

The Yarra is not beautiful. It's muddy, narrow and a bit mean looking.

The Christmas window display in Myers in the mall, and the parade of Santa, on 9 November was not "beautiful".

It was just weird.

Flinders Street Station and that big, chunky art centre thing that looks like a gigantic lump of rocky road candy left moldering beside the river are not "beautiful".

Sydney Harbour is beautiful. Macquarie Street is beautiful. Paddington Street is beautiful.

Collins Street is not. Neither was the Hummer police car.

It said "underbelly".

Richard:  The Myer Christmas display not beautiful, Eliot?  You're raining on childhood memories of amazement and wonderment. Where's your inner child, man?

One word to say to you


What about Yagoona, Eliot?

I spent a lot of my formative years in Sydney - during holidays, that is - and one thing that I have never forgotten is driving through Yagoona. But then, I understand that you grew up somewhere in Brisbane.

Toga virilis

Richard: " Where's your inner child, man?"

It hasn't stopped laughing since when, at one Christmas Midnight Mass, I saw Edward Clancy trip down the spiral stairs of the pulpit in St Mary's Cathdral.

Now that was beautiful.

Such beauty

If only my parents had been tykes - I knew I was missing out - damn, Catholics have all the fun.

Small surprises

A city's beauty comes in little surprises very often.

This morning, for the very first time, I walked up and over the new, replacement footbridge connecting the Wentworth Building to the main campus at the University of Sydney across City Road.

I have simply not walked toward Fisher Library from that side of City Road via the new bridge before. The bridge, very modern looking, was only recently constructed.

If you look, you may note that the bridge angles across City Road from Wentworth, and does not travel straight across at right angles.

As I climbed the stairs to the cross-over, in between the glass 'walls' running either side of the bridge, the crenulated tower of the Madsen geological sciences building rose into view at a short distance, more or less filling the empty space before me.

I'd never noticed how pretty the tower is before, atop what is otherwise a fairly plain building.

It's solid, square, heavy stone mass contrasted in a very striking way with the light, very modern, glass 'buttresses' of the bridge sides flaring either side of the tower's central column.

Very pretty effect.

Nice little surprise to start the day.


Alan Curran....

Done all that which you speak of.

Your assumptions are totally wrong... and I may well be familiar with larger eastern suburb compounds than yours.

Sydney is overpriced, boring, mundane and smelly, with a poor quality of life.  It interests me that the residents are so used to the overwhelming smell of petrol/diesel/fexhausts, that they really don't seem to notice it.


F Kendall: "Sydney is an overpriced, boring, mundane and smelly place with a poor quality of life."

I don't know what parts of Sydney you have found boring, mundane and with a poor quality of life. I can only assume you were in the Western suburbs or Redfern where indeed it can get smelly.

I would invite you to spend a week at my place on the harbourfront, have a sail on the water or maybe go to one of the many world class restaurants that abound around here. We could even go to the Opera House for a concert. Far from an empty life, don't you think.

On second thoughts, it would be wasted on you.

pointless local rivalries

Is Sydney indeed bigger than such, Maurizio Corda?

Sydney is an overpriced, boring, mundane and smelly place with a poor quality of life.  But, with excellent PR spin  that convinces people that it is something different. and exceptional.

That people are looking for some sort of personal esteem and prestige from their geographical location says it all about the emptiness of their lives.

Sydneysiders are suffering from a mass delusion.

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