Welcome Home

Words by Ragina Hong
Art by Victoria Mangano

To all those trying to make Melbourne their new home,

Welcome to what is about to be one of the most memorable, fun, and sometimes loneliest chapters of your young adult life. Like me and many of us already here, you’ve sprouted your wings and flown away from the nest. Gone are comforts of home–showing up to the dinner table to be fed, having your laundry washed and cleaned. It might feel more like a free-fall, a hard and shocking tumble into independence and adulthood.

You’re brand new to this city, with its own cultural identity, lifestyle, and language. How do you go about fitting in? How do you find your place when even your accent sticks out like a sore thumb? How long is it going to take for you to feel like you belong?

As someone who’s been through it, and is still going through it, I can tell you this: at first it will be hard. But after awhile things start to get a lot easier, and suddenly, you don’t need to use Google Maps to find your way around the city anymore. You don’t fumble around with your Myki or constantly check the PTV app for when you need to get off. You don’t stumble on your coffee order or get all nervous and sweaty when the uber-cool barista asks, “how ya goin’?”

Here are a few things I would advise you on so you can be bottomless brunching in no time:

1. Walk everywhere.  

Walk around and explore your neighbourhood, the city, other cool and funky places, like Richmond, Fitzroy and Carlton. Walking around lets you gauge the vibe of the area and the people living there. You’ll pass by houses, each displaying a little insight into the residents (I’ll give you a tip, share houses are often the ones with tired patio furniture out front).  Melbourne is the kind of place where you’ll find hidden boutiques, antique DVD stores or local ramen shops. It’s a city built for walkers, so let the streets surprise you.

2. Head out

Go to bars, cafes, book stores and community centres. Hopefully it’s where you’ll meet some cool Melburnians, and if not, just listen to what they talk about. Not in a creepy eavesdropping way, but just sit and observe the people in the room, pick up on the things they talk about, and maybe you’ll learn a local tidbit or two. Now I know that a section on the Frankston line abbreviates to MATHS-Malvern, Armadale, Toorak, Hawksburn, South Yarra. Like a CHAMP.

3. Read the notices

I always find posters, flyers and wall art interesting because there are so many diverse communities and activities happening in Melbourne. No matter how niche or weird you think your interests are, you are guaranteed to find a group of like-minded individuals. There are disco festivals, gaming competitions, crochet clubs and Disney pub quizzes.  It’s all yours for the taking. Be brave and bold.

Suddenly, months in, without you really noticing, you’ll find yourself owning quirky and functional totes and embracing oversized, vintage sweaters. You’ll purchase some funky socks and resin-art earrings that you found at the Finders Keepers market. You’ll take the plunge and get your very own customised KeepCup.

And it will all feel completely natural.

Of course, there will be the more trying times, moments where you miss your family so much it aches. Times when there’s nothing you long for more than their voices or a hug from Mum after a long day. There will even be ugly days where you get jostled or barked at or sneered down to. There will be days where you ask yourself, “why the hell am I putting myself through this? Why do I stay?”

You stay because nestled between the mundane moments are some of the most wonderful, beautiful and joyful parts of living in Melbourne. You stay for the Saturday morning brunches with new friends you never would have met otherwise. Friends that despite your completely different upbringings, you manage to share so much of the same humour, values and understandings.

You stay for the blurry nights in the city, the cold air biting your bare ankles with the city lights twinkling high around you, laughing with your friends as you try not to trip in your wobbly heels en-route to getting a mandatory post-clubbing HSP fix.

You stay for the summer night sipping Red Hill pinot noir at gorgeous wineries, snuggled in a wooly blanket. The sun slowly sets and you feel whole, you’ve found a new home.

I hope you have the time of your life.

Love,

Gina

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