It has been a great opportunity to come to do a Global Exchange Programme (GEXP) in Melbourne, Australia. Having previously visiting Melbourne with my family on holiday, and hearing the many unique features this city has to offer from friends who had lived here to study, I had incredibly high hopes. I’m happy to say that Melbourne has met all of my expectations. Which is not to say Melbourne is perfect in any way, but it’s the flaws that also make this city the way that it is and gives me reason to appreciate Singapore from a different perspective.
The people of Melbourne is incredibly diverse, and nothing is perhaps more representative of that than the food that is available. Chinese, Indonesian, Turkish, Japanese, English, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Korean, and Greek – these are just some of the cuisines you can find along any particular street in the Central Business District. The image on the right shows Lonsdale Street in the CBD closed off of vehicle access to run the Antipodes Festival, which is a celebration of Greek culture and cuisine.
There is a surprisingly large number of sushi chains for a place so far away from Japan. In Singapore, we think of sushi as a meal or platter to be eaten seated down, but Melbournians prefer eating their sushi like snacks where rolled sushi they are eaten like street food or mini-burritos. I find that kinda interesting.
Of course, coming to Australia, I came to eat some Aussie food. A popular slightly higher-end fast food chain that my Melbournian friend has recommended to me is called Grill’d. Grill’d certainly knows how to make really fresh burgers because the first one I had is about as close to the best burgers I ever had (the best being Five Guys by the way don’t @ me).
I do not drink alcohol due to my body’s sensitivities, but going into restaurants and pubs, the drink I will always get is called ‘Lemon, Lime and Bitters’. It is a uniquely Australian bar drink that is non-alcoholic (technically it has traces of an alcoholic ingredient but it is not really counted). It is incredibly thirst quenching, and I have fallen in love with it instantly. It will be something I will miss when in Singapore, but I believe a brand called Bundaberg sells them in Singapore supermarkets!
There are also tons of other Aussie food I got to try, and I will give a brief run down and review of some of them:
- Vegemite Sandwiches – Vegemite is a black-brown paste that is apparently chicken flavoured but incredibly strong in flavour (some might say too strong), so I was told to spread it light and thin with butter in a sandwich. It was an interesting taste, but I would not really want to try it again.
- Weet-Bix – Literally what happens when WALL-E meets a bunch of wheat cereal. Weet-Bix is cereal shaped into little biscuit sized boxes. I have been told that it is up to you how to eat your Weet-Bix, except to never eat it dry! I had my try at some and as someone who gets a little lactose intolerant… it was alright. I probably still need more time with it to figure out what my best way of eating it will be!
- Golden Gaytime – It’s a lot of caramel and nuts! Definitely best enjoyed with a bunch of mates 😀
- Meat Pies – Something I actually enjoy eating back in Singapore too. But it is a staple for many Aussie cafés and they definitely taste amazing and fresh.
However, I need to mention the heartbreaking fact that a lot of the food here is really expensive. A meal here can range from AU$15-20, compared to Singapore where it is SG$5-10. This alone gave me the motivation to start learning to cook for myself more which I would say has been something I have been incredibly proud of. Groceries do not seem to be as expensive as eating out compared to Singapore so this likely points to something in the F&B industry.
After doing some research, I found that Australia has among the highest minimum wages in the world, at $21.38 per hour as of the time of writing this, compared to the wages at a typical fast food restaurant in Singapore at $8-10 per hour. I am a computer science undergraduate student but seeing the differences in the economies of both countries do fascinate me and it raises a lot of questions in my head on the lifestyles Aussies have with different configurations to their annual living expenses.
The story of a place can easily be seen through food and Melbourne has plenty of stories to tell indeed.