As I began wandering the streets, I disagreed completely with the cab driver's perception of this town. This is a town of backpackers. Maybe at different times of year it fills with a different crowd, but right now everyone is like me. It's hardly 20% Australian here. Even shop owners and workers are on visas or have just recently moved overseas to Australia. Shops tailor to the different nationalities and backpacker needs.
The nights are loud, as there are bars along the streets. Drunk people talk, laugh, and yell. One night I went into a Japanese restaurant for some "Take Away." The entrance was confusing. You had to walk through an entry hallway which then led to multiple closed doors. I paused, not sure which door to go through. An inebriated Australian man in his upper-twenties ran up beside me, scratched his head, and exclaimed "How you get a bloody drink in this place if you can't get in!" He chose a door at random, which proved to be correct, and I followed. A Japanese woman greeted us. Before I could say a thing, the man announced that he would like a table for two, for himself and this lovely lady. He proceeded to point at me. I nervously laughed and informed everyone that I was just interested in Take Away, not to stay. Unfortunately, they didn't have Take Away at that time. As I turned to leave, the man drunkenly shook my hand and slurred that it was great to meet my acquaintance.
While searching for an apartment, I was informed by several Australians that St. Kilda is place of hookers and their drug dealer boyfriends, just beside millionaires in seaside sky rises. In one unkept public bathroom there were multiple sharps boxes and signs that said "If you use, at least use Sharps."
I'm sure if I was a big drinker or if I stayed out late at night, I would likely see a worse side of this town. However, the people I have met, even that drunk man, have been quite polite. The hotel I am staying at is very safe feeling with the exception of a particularly creepy mural, and is staffed by helpful people. The attractions nearby are beautiful and interesting. Despite what the locals say, I think this town was a perfect place to start, at least at this time of year.