Having first met the Aussie Ryan whilst on a semester abroad in Zürich, and having learnt that he was quite the football fan, I concluded it would be criminal if I didn’t have him over to Manchester to see his team play. Either way, I was intrigued to observe my friend and get his outsider’s view of Manchester. Would he notice that strange Manchester walk? That accent? The music: Oasis and The Smiths? The football rivalry: City v. United?
Well, his first impression was of Wythenshawe, and that the weather wasn’t much good (although in not so kind words). Living around the corner from the Curry Mile, I was proud to introduce my friend to the city by pointing down that barrage of neon lights. Yet that pride turned to embarrassment when I saw that relatively unimpressed look on his face. Clearly not living up to the atmosphere of Sydney.
The next morning, we walked up the Curry Mile. Apparently, it was ‘overhyped’. (Although he admitted the cheesy garlic naan he sampled was good). Beyond that I showed him the Ali G (“who’s ‘Ali G’?” he asked) and took an obligatory selfie in front of Whitworth Hall. His impression of Manchester was improving by the second.
“Quite the student town,” he thought. Almost everyone he saw looked like a student. Manchester wasn’t what he had expected, and Ryan thought it seemed like a smaller suburb of Sydney. Could you compare Manchester to Sydney, his university city? Surprisingly enough, the comparison was entertained, but then rejected. “Sydney is completely different, as it’s not a student town like Manchester is.” It’s funny to hear Manchester, one of the country’s biggest cities, referred to as a ‘student town’.
With this in mind, we moved away from the universities, further up Oxford Road towards Archie’s for lunch. “The best food for sure”, but only because it reminded him of Sydney’s burgers. “What’s so good about them?” I ask. They copy America. They fit into this new craze and hype around burgers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to show him Almost Famous — he would have loved it!
Being a History student, Ryan was treated to a lecture on Manchester’s history that lasted from the moment I saw him to the moment he left. Considering its Victorian history, Ryan thought the city itself felt very industrial, full of old decommissioned factories. He thought the Town Hall in Albert Square was very well preserved, and that it wasn’t until he saw the Memorial Hall that he knew about the amount of countries linked with Manchester thanks to its trading status.
I asked him something that provokes heated debates in my house every time it comes up — whether he had noticed a North-South divide. Ryan said that there was a difference, in the people. Manchester didn’t seem to have as much of a city culture as London or Sydney. Whereas in those cities it’s hectic, fast-paced, and moving, in Manchester, no-one seemed in a rush to go anywhere.
The Northern Quarter was Ryan’s favourite part of the city. It certainly had that Victorian vibe, yet also an alternative one. He hadn’t expected to find somewhere like that in Manchester. But when he was there, he found a little bit of expectation in regards to the music scene influence. “Everyone has the same sort of haircut because of a certain band from Manchester.” But when I mentioned the Happy Mondays and The Smiths, I was met with a “the what?” Clearly not the bands I was thinking of.
The Northern Quarter crowd was very different to what Ryan observed whilst on a classy night out in Spinningfields. It was distinctly different from the student town of Manchester that he’d come to know, classier and less student-y.
The National Football Museum was, apparently, better than the newly opened FIFA Museum in Zürich, and Ryan said that having only seen the first floor. He liked that it was free too. But what he did notice was our fixation on our 1966 World Cup victory. “You guys need to get rid of that World Cup. It was all those years ago. You need to move on.”
Ryan’s most intriguing observation though? The buses. “Why is it called Magic Bus? Is it magic or something?”