Australian cities – American counterparts?

Growing up as a kid watching Hollywood movies of different US cities, I’d sometimes like to think what Australian cities major US cities most closely match up with it in terms of national importance, population, climate, lifestyle, culture etc. It’s largely a fanciful exercise as all cities are unique with their own histories, cultures, demographics and geography which tend not to match up completely with any other city elsewhere, let alone one in another country. Also, taking into account that the United States has a population of 313 million people as opposed to Australia’s – rather paltry in comparison – population of just below 23 million, it’s largely an exercise in folly with the situation is compounded by the fact that US major cities and surrounding urban areas more often not have a population several times larger than their Australian counterparts. But, it’s all a bit of fun and is not supposed to be taken in any way seriously.

Before we start let’s have a look at the extensive table of the most populous metropolitan areas in the United States and the 43 largest metropolitan areas in Australia, along with their estimated population.

Now, let’s begin with Sydney, Australia’s largest city.

Sydney’s US twin city – taking into account national importance, relative population, history, culture, geography, etc. – would have to be New York.

Sure, it’s not a perfect but there’s more similarities than not. Both cities are often considered the international gateway and most recognised centres of their respective nations. Both cities are internationally renown for their landmarks and geography; both have been – and continue to be – havens for the ‘huddled masses’ – the refugees, the economic and political immigrants from across the world as well as intra-national migrants seeking fame, fortune or just a more open, inclusive environment; and both cities are multicultural, diverse, cosmopolitan metropolises with a sassy attitude and belief that they are important.

Next stop, Melbourne.

Melbourne’s doppelgänger is Chicago.

Melbourne and Chicago share the burden of often being second, or third – in the case of Chicago – city to their brash and bold older, larger counterparts of Sydney and New York. Yet, both cities can claim a soul, culture, history and spirit that embraces the best – and sometimes worst, when it comes to famous cases of organised crime – of their respective nations. Both relatively young cities, they bounded onto the scene in the 19th century in breathtaking fashion courtesy of the Gold Rush- in the case of Melbourne and growth of rail and expansion west – in the case of Chicago. Whilst, their larger, more famous counterparts could be dubbed their nation’s ‘international cities’, Melbourne and Chicago could rightfully claim to be their nation’s ‘national cities’ being road, rail and air transport hubs, being more centrally located geographically as opposed to their east coast cousins, and being centres of cultures, the arts, film and with a rich multicultural history. Both are also known for having more pronounced winters and often warmer summers than their coastal, more temperate counterparts.

Now, let’s look at Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane.

Brisbane’s closest US counterpart is Atlanta.

Now, this one was more difficult than the previous two as there is no neat match for Brisbane in the US. But, I’ve chosen Atlanta, despite many differences for the following reasons. Both cities are the premier cities of their regions which have a long, proud identity often viewed as distinctly different to other regions in their respective nations. Both cities and their surrounding regions have a history of political and cultural conservatism with a lingering mistrust of these in the southern States – in the case of Brisbane – and those northerners - in the case of Atlanta. Both are relatively booming, having come of age during 1988 in the case of Brisbane hosting the World Expo and 1996 for Atlanta hosting the summer Olympics. They have largely shaken off their cultural and historical hang-ups and image, become more diverse, open and inclusive, and gained further national importance as cultural, air, media and music hubs, being tagged as ‘the new South’ in regards to Atlanta and ‘Australia’s new world city’ in regards to Brisbane. Also, both cities share a similar humid subtropical climate.

Next city, Perth.

The city I’ve chosen as Perth’s sister city in the US is Dallas.

Like Brisbane it was somewhat difficult to find a convenient US match for Perth. But, likewise with Brisbane, I took into account culture, history and the local economy in determining its counterpart – Dallas. Similar to Brisbane and Atlanta, Perth and Dallas have many differences but at the same time many similarities. Both cities are also the premier cities in their respective States and surrounding region, and have a distinct cultural, historic legacy which largely differentiates them from other parts of their respective nations – Texas was its own republic and part of Mexico in the past, whereas Western Australia joined the Federation of Australia at the last minute with New Zealand even being offered a seat at the table beforehand. Also sharing with Atlanta and Brisbane, both cities happen to be more culturally and politically conservative than other parts of their nations; whilst both cities have and continue to benefit greatly from the resource-rich land which surrounds them. Nevermind the fact that one city is on its country’s west coast, the other being inland; both cities share a similar climate, attitude and perspective which is more than enough to warrant them as cousins.

Next city, Adelaide.

Adelaide’s partner city is Philadelphia.

Both cities having proud, rich histories and cultures, ‘the City of Churches’ and ‘the City of Brotherly Love’ have quite a few things in common. Adelaide and Philadelphia pride themselves on their rich legacies as places of justice, freedom and equality – Adelaide being the only major Australian city to have never been established nor housed a penal colony with the South Australian capital allowing all women the right to vote as early as 1895 whereas Philadelphia welcomed over 2 million African-American migrants seeking work and better opportunities during the 20th century. Both are known as thriving centres of art and culture and during the 20th century were centres of manufacturing and industry which saw them become the third largest cities in their respective nations, only to sadly be eclipsed by newer, flashier cities.

Next stop, the nation’s capital – Canberra.

And you guessed it, Washington, DC.

OK, there are many, many differences between Washington, DC and Canberra – first and foremost, the US capital being home to over five million people in its surrounding metropolitan area compared with just over 400,000 for Canberra. But, there are indeed many, many similarities. Firstly, both are their respective nations’ capitals and are also planned ‘compromise’ cities based roughly in the demographic centre of their nations at the time of their creation – due to competition among established cities for national capital status.  Both, are centres of justice, administration, civics and education, being filled with grand structures, boulevards, public spaces, parklands, sculptures and water features. Whilst, both cities also tend to reflect the mood and attitude of their nations with their architecture, landscapes and use of space.

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3 responses to “Australian cities – American counterparts?

  1. Reblogged this on This Blog and commented:

    Re-blogging this entry for interest sake, how close do you think I got with these comparisons?

  2. wow.im impressed w/ the effort and thought you put into comparing 2 countries biggest cities. good job!

  3. Thanks Carlos. Houston also shares a lot of similarities with Brisbane, particularly in regards to history, culture, climate. And, possibly could be a better match. It’s a tough job matching cities of different countries!

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