Oz is hotter than hell but people still see it as heaven on Earth
And they say there’s no exciting news in February. What’s the Economist Intelligence Unit’s cost of living index when it’s at home then? Among other things, this thrilling document offers an ordered list of the world’s most expensive cities.
Each year we grimly watch as Dublin continues its unwelcome surge up the chart. Each year we wonder what makes people stay in Zurich – a city rarely acclaimed for its vibrancy – when a cup of coffee costs the same there as a racehorse in earthy Bucharest.
As it happens, Dublin has, in 2013, slipped from 30th place to 34th. At the height of the boom it reached 16th. It seems there is an upside to mass redundancies, home foreclosures and pay cuts.
Never mind that. Our topic today is the baffling rise of Australia. Two cities from that distant nation – Sydney and Melbourne – have made it into the top five. “Ten years ago there were no Australian cities in the top 50 and I have not seen this sort of climb with any other cities,” said Jon Copestake, editor of the index.
It’s hard to imagine a less worthwhile enterprise than denigrating a country one has never visited. But we’ll give it a go.
Why has Australia become such a desirable place to live? An examination of the nation’s soap operas does nothing to dispel suspicions that the cities come across like Basingstoke with worse weather. If the sun isn’t stripping the skin from your baking bones then typhoons are propelling Jeeps angrily across uninteresting thoroughfares.
Recent films such as David Michôd’s excellent Animal Kingdom do, at least, suggest that there is more to Australian suburbia than endless barbecues and games of street cricket. Apparently, the cities also teem with drug-crazed psychopaths who will puncture your jugular for the price of a Vegemite sandwich.
The countryside appears even more appalling. Naming the interior “the outback” only encourages the suspicion that, should one venture beyond civilisation, venomous spiders will fall upon any leg not already severed by giant crocodiles. You might as well call the place the Cauldron of Oblivion.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a great admirer of much Australian culture. Oh, pick yourself up off the floor. Nobody enjoys that ironic side-clutching act. Yes, the (ahem) Aussies’ habit of cutting any word of more than one syllable down to its root and then adding a “y” or an “ie” makes the blood boil (if it weren’t already boiling because you’re living in stupidly hot Australia). But the country does have its fair share of excellent writers.