Stuff Melbourne White People Like*

22 June 2009

Written by: Christopher Scanlon

Newspapers and magazines: A quick and easy way to develop a good rapport with a Melbourne white person is to chat about The Age. On no account should you actually admit to liking The Age. The whole point of reading The Age is to complain about it. Common topics of complaint are that The Age is going down-market and that you keep finding typos and grammatical errors in its pages.

If you really want to make it with a Melbourne white person, and even get romantically involved with him or her, tell them that you much prefer The Monthly over The Age. All Melbourne white people love The Monthly. What other magazine has given a platform to young and emerging writers such as Alice Pung, Robert Manne, Don Watson, Alice Pung, Clive James, Gideon Haigh, and Alice Pung?

Buying a subscription to The Monthly for the object of your affections is tantamount to expressing your undying love for them and saying that you intend to spend the rest of your life with this person. In no time at all, you will both have bought and renovated a federation period house in North Fitzroy and will spend your weekends reading The Monthly sipping a juice infused with wheatgrass and spirulina at a cafe with polished concrete walls and minimialist furniture.

Melbourne white people may also read The Weekend Australian. More specifically, Melbourne white people read Phillip Adams’ column. After cutting Phillip’s weekly musings out and pasting it into a scrapbook, Melbourne white people throw the rest of The Weekend Australian into the recycling bin or use it as compost.

Under no circumstances should a you admit to reading the Herald Sun. This is read by the wrong kind of Melbourne white person. If you do accidentally find yourself making a gaffe and saying ‘I saw this article in the Herald Sun‘, the only way to save yourself from ridicule by Melbourne white people is to immediately add the following qualification: ‘I happened to be in the dentist’s waiting room/cafe/on the bus and I saw it there and, well, there was nothing else to read’. If you fail to add this qualification, the Melbourne white person will be alarmed and end the conversation with you as quickly as possible.

Books: Melbourne white people have a fondness for books that is rivalled only by the citizens of particularly sophisticated and stylish European cities such as Paris or Berlin. What other city can claim the unique title of being named the second UNESCO City of Literature?

On every street in Melbourne, you will find booksellers. This may give the impression that purchasing books in Melbourne is a simple affair. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are only a few places where Melbourne white people purchase their books and there is a strict hierarchy of bookshops.

Top of the tree is Readings in Carlton. Some emphasis should be given here to Carlton, since Readings also has outlets in Hawthorn, Malvern, Port Melbourne and St Kilda. While Melbourne white people can technically purchase books at these locations, it is preferable to go to the Carlton store. The reason for this is that the Carlton store is located in Carlton.

Where Melbourne White People buy their books: Readings in Carlton

Where Melbourne White People buy their books: Readings in Carlton

The other reason for preferring the Carlton store is that it also happens to be located across the street from Borders. By purchasing the full-priced book at Readings rather the discounted, identical copy from Borders, a Melbourne white person can make a statement about their support for independent Melbourne bookstores. On no account should you purchase a book from Borders, Dymocks, or Angus and Robertson. The wrong kind of Melbourne white person purchase books in these shops.

If a book is not available at Readings, and it is needed immediately, Melbourne white people have the option of purchasing the book at the Brunswick Street Bookstore or the Paperback bookstore on Bourke Street. If these bookstores do not have the book in stock, Melbourne white people will return to Readings in Carlton to place an order for the book.

If a Melbourne white person should find him or herself in Sydney and short of reading materials, and assuming there are no flights back to Melbourne, Melbourne white people will buy books from Gleebooks in Glebe. Gleebooks is the Sydney white person’s version of Readings and Glebe is the Sydney white person’s version of Carlton.

Stephanie: If invited to dinner by a Melbourne white person, it is a certainty that the recipe will come from Stephanie. If you go to a lot of parties thrown by Melbourne white people, you might form the impression that everyone in Melbourne has a kindly neighbour called Stephanie who hands out recipes over the back fence.

In fact, Stephanie is short for Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook’s Companion. Melbourne white people refer to Stephanie by her first name as if they know her personally. It is not known why this is so. All you need to know is that The Cook’s Companion is the official Melbourne white person’s cookbook. If you have to cook for a Melbourne white person, you should select a recipe from this cook book. The only exception is if you’re preparing quince, in which case it’s acceptable to refer to Maggie.

Dining out: Because Melbourne has so many restaurants and cafes, you may think that choosing a place to eat is easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. When selecting a place to dine in Melbourne you have a choice between Vue de Monde, MoVida, or a small dumpling house located in a hard-to-find laneway in Chinatown. The harder the dumpling house is to find, the better.

If you take the dumpling house option, resist the temptation to point out that the dumplings are stodgy fare, not unlike bad English cooking. Melbourne white people are convinced that food made by non-Anglo people is always better. There are no exceptions.

Holidaying: When going on holidays, Melbourne white people have the option of going to The Prom or touring the Great Ocean Road. Melbourne white people will tell you that The Prom and the Great Ocean Road are ‘really special’. This means that they are pleasant, but that the water is always frigid, even in record-busting heatwaves.

Resist the temptation to point out that equally or more spectacular landscapes can be easily found in Tasmania and the coast of NSW. Pointing this out will only offend the Melbourne white person. Simply nod, and agree that these places are indeed special.

* Apologies to Christian Lander

Christopher Scanlon teaches journalism at La Trobe University

  • Marian

    Absolutely brilliant! And so, so true.

    Christian Lander came into RRR when he was in town – very witty man. I put him on the podcast here:

  • James

    I just happened to stumble across the book today. And it was at Borders across the road from Readings. But don’t worry, I went to Readings and had a much more ‘deeper’ experience. I loved his section on Liberal Arts, and how white people love to get away with reading and writing about Proust and pretend it means something. Hysterical!

  • tj

    Excellent. I hope there is a follow up article about the coffee index in Melbourne and the bar scene where a place can only be worthy if the furniture is unclean and unmatched, the building should have been condemned and the staff are too aloof to serve you. And don’t get me started about the importance of shopping at Savers and not an actual retailer.

  • Jza

    I’d like to add that Melbourne WHITE people love hard to find laneway dumpling houses, for example Shanghai dumpling house… but as a Melbourne born ASIAN, but pretty much white person, i find most laneway hidden dumpling houses to be of horribly poor quality and taste. And caters to drunk hipster white kids who go to such restaurants to “pre-drink”.

    Foul dining experience!

  • Hanna

    Green: is Melbourne white people’s favourite colour and the environmental awareness is explicitly stated by the compost’s central position, next to the rainwater tank, in the backyard. To avoid any confusion there is a sign in the front yard that informs by passers and neighbours that Melbourne white people’s water is grey. If they live in Brunswick, Melbourne white people might also display their passion for nature (and free range, organic eggs) by housing chickens, and the occasional sheep, in the back garden.

    In the spirit of green, Melbourne white people in the cities northern suburbs educate their toddlers by spending their Saturday mornings in some community garden, like Ceres. Here Melbourne white kiddies pat goats and plant trees while Melbourne white parents sip soy chai and read the Weekly Australian. Melbourne white family then makes their way home by pushbike.

    Sometimes Melbourne white people fantasise about a life in the country, preferably Castlemaine or Daylesford. However, when Melbourne white people realise that they will have to commute on the same train as people from West Footscray and Sunbury they quickly change their mind.

  • Mel

    Funny you should say that James. I must confess to looking for his book in Borders first (had a voucher), but it could only be found, across the road, at Readings!

  • hansel

    don’t get me wrong, this is good, but

    is better…

  • Scal

    Nah, Hansel, that list is (unintentionally) for white people from the suburbs who have just moved to Brunswick but haven’t quite got it yet.

  • Caitlin

    Melbourne white people have recently improved property values in and around Castlemaine as they have been relieved to find that there is a daily express train that leaves at a suitably early time as to still allow time to ride their bike to the station and clutter up the train aisles. Here they can indulge their love of permaculture, farmers markets and Steiner education in peace and read their Weekend Australian while sitting in the courtyard at Saff’s on weekends.

  • Schnicka

    The writing style reminds me very very very much of Ignatius Jones “True Hip” written way back when… a little too similar, though folks will have forgotten…

  • Sam Granleese

    As a migrant to Melbourne from interstate I read this article with keen interest and let out a guffaw in the office. Very funny and observant.

  • Wheeler Centre

    Hilariously snide.
    We wonder if you haven’t neglected something [cough]Wheeler Centre!

  • Ittay Flescher

    This is very clever, but to find out why SWPL is more than just another piece of classic white self deprecating humour, read this: