Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Welcome to paradise...

A traveller crosses the globe, "searching for a better place". They most likely have googled the destination so much, seen the images, imagined what it is going to be like. When they arrive, they are open to the sunshine, the beaches, the people.

I live in Melbourne, Australia. Have almost all my life. Quite a lot of people arrive here with great expectations, excited that they have found a place that is so different to where they come from. For us residents, this is a bit weird.

Melbourne is visually impressive. It's only a few kilometres to a beach where you don't have to fight for a patch of sand. If you get up early enough in the morning, you might have it to yourself. The sun shines, a lot. It doesn't snow. The economy, if not booming, is certainly powering along. If you've just got off the plane from Ireland, or Spain, or the crowded cities of Asia, or the cold of Germany, then I guess it looks pretty good.

I've only lived outside Australia once, when I lived in Japan. It was back when Japan was the success story of the world. People were publishing books about the "japanese miracle". When I returned to Australia, everyone wanted me to give a talk about Japan. So I talked for an hour on 'the problems of Japan'. It wasn't what they wanted to hear, but I hope they learned something from it. There are no earthly paradises, and everywhere has some difficulties.

So what are the problems of Melbourne? All of the problems of a rapidly growing Western city. Housing is the most expensive in the world, which is quite amazing when you consider that it's only a few hundred years old. It is not surrounded by mountains like Sydney. With the right infrastructure it could grow and accommodate a rapidly growing population without major difficulties. That's not how it's playing out.

Yes, it's a great place. But it's not paradise.

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