It’s a funny thing, the suburbs. In Brisbane, there’s two things that inspire rabid arguments – State of Origin, and living northside or southside. Recently I’ve noticed a third topic coming up frequently – inner city, or the burbs?
Once most of my friends moved northside, we found we lacked, umm, competitive spirit. Either that, or we realised we had nothing to fight about at dinner parties, so we’ve come up with a new category to harass each other with.
Whatever the reason may be for that (a thread to pull at another time), the burbs versus the inner city has come up in conversation lately, and tied to it is travel time. It’s an interesting norm that for those firmly in the inner city camp, car travelling in Brisbane is regarded with absolute disdain, particularly if you must drive longer than 30 minutes anywhere. For inner city dwellers like myself, travel time is a waste. In fact, when I lived in London and commuting to work, friends, and incredible historical buildings and artefacts took a minimum of an hour, it was a common grumble that in Brisbane, I could get everywhere I wanted to go in under half an hour (and there was usually a clean and serviceable public bathroom when I arrived – my god, win). “Let’s go and see the lions at Trafalgar Square/National Portrait Gallery/Tower of London/Big Ben!” Really? It will take an hour and a half to get there and I’m snuggled up in my pj’s watching Come Dine With Me.
[Admittedly, this was the only time I ever mentioned Brisbane in a manner that trumped London. And admittedly, I went and saw all those things. But between awe and amazement, I looked forward to the time when I could return to inner city living and never have to waste hours commuting again.]
Those who live in the burbs are acclimatised to travel, usually via car, and are also quite keen to spend time in airconditioned shopping centres. Those who live in the inner city are acclimatised to paying huge rents/mortgages so they don’t have to travel via car, or ever step foot inside a Westfield. And yet people from the burbs inexplicably take this as a personal affront. “God forbid you have to drive for longer than 30 minutes!” screeched an outraged burbs friend recently when I described my 30 minute-rule (who, despite the outrage, is looking to move to New Farm, but I digress).
Yep, I’m just not gonna do it. And it’s not just the travel time, though that’s a factor. There’s more reasons:
- The burbs are flat. I don’t like brick houses. I don’t like gardening. I don’t want your cat in my yard. And I really don’t like hearing a lawnmower at 7.30am on a Saturday morning. Some of us have hangovers to deal with.
- The burbs glorify shopping centres. Unlike drinking, I don’t regard spending a day at a shopping centre as a genuine hobby. Also, I tend to trip over – a lot. So I really shouldn’t be near prams and there’s no other place where so many of them congregate.
- I’m a runner and running in the burbs is visually dull. And there’s scary dogs. If I wanted to feel bored, depressed and in fear for my life while running, I’d hire a personal trainer.
But it’s not all one-sided. Burb-lovers – you don’t want inner city people moving in. Trust me. I, for one, would be terrible at it:
- I can’t handle “the pop-in”. If you’re coming to see me, let me know in advance, so I can get dressed, turn off Predator and attempt to have some snacks ready for you. Which will be in the form of old rice crackers and some cheese, because unlike burbs people, my fridge is small and never filled with delicious home-made treats.
- By the visual evidence below, I lack a green thumb. I’m a firm believer in knowing your limits. If I can’t handle a pot plant, having a place in the burbs with a garden is likely to look like Game of Thrones’ Winterfell by the time I’m through with it. And then people will get all pissy that I’ve “lowered the value of the street” or something. And then no-one will pop in on me. Which yes, I don’t want, but in the burbs, it’s a measure of your social value, so therefore I’d suddenly want it bad.
- I’d insist you have a barbecue, and insist I’ll bring a plate to “help out.” That plate will be a bag of pre-mixed salad on sale from Coles and a bottle of vodka. Which I’d drink on my own and then expect to collapse on your couch.
Ultimately, though, here’s the thing. If you want to live in the burbs, godspeed. Have fun. Enjoy your lush vegie gardens, renovations and wasp-battles. But I’m not coming. Give me densely populated streets, a barista on every corner and the fact that I hardly ever drive my car. And since variety is the spice of life, let’s enjoy visiting each other’s hoods safe in the knowledge we never (ever) have to live there together.