Big City Apartment Dweller Question

Why do you live in an apartment in a big city?

Don’t you miss living in “nature”?

Those are the best ways I could phrase those questions, and I’m not sure they are the right questions.

But here’s some background. . .

Some friends and I were talking today about living in big cities. We just can’t understand why anyone would want to live around that many people. And we all agreed that we have no concept of what it would be like to live in an apartment on the 54th floor in the middle of a city. We can’t understand why anyone would want to do that.

We’re not criticizing, but it’s beyond our comprehension why anyone would WANT to live in skyscraper in a big city.

Helena, Montana

I don’t drive and don’t want to have to.

I like the convenience of having everything I need nearby and accessible. I like being able to run out for snacks if I have a craving at 1.00 in the morning.

I like having shops with good, varied selections (of whatever it is I’m shopping for).

I like a certain amount of noise outside. Complete silence would be too Blair Witch Project-y.

Frankly it’s beyond my comprehension how you guys don’t die of boredom out there after a day or two.

Ruadh, I understand the complete silence thing. And it happens here.

I was going to give a little bit more of an explanation of where I live, just for comparision ( I don’t care about the replies of, “I really want to move to Montana!”) So here’s a comparision.

I live in town. I am a 12 minute walk from “downtown” and a 6 minute walk from getting into the mountains (where I can go 40 miles south before hitting a paved road). I’m a 4 minute drive from work and a 10 minute walk to work.

Box stores are about 10 minute drive.

Uh, I don’t know what else to add. You can’t get food (other that delivery pizza or Perkins) after 10 pm. We have a couple of Chinese restraunts, two Mexican, one Thai, on crepes, a couple of Italian. …

See, it boggles my mind that you even know how long it takes you to drive someplace that it only takes you ten minutes to walk to. Apologies in advance if you have some kind of disability but why on earth otherwise would you drive a distance that short ???

We have all those plus Indian, Nepalese, Persian, Spanish, Japanese, French, Filipino, Cuban, American, Indonesian, Turkish, Australian (!), Cypriot as well as traditional Irish and I’m sure I’m forgetting a number of other nationalities. I’m known to complain because there’s no Ethiopian here!

And this isn’t even a particularly large city, as far as national capitals go. I would die without the variety.

Cause I like it here

Well, I never really lived in “nature,” so I don’t particularly miss it. It makes me sneeze, anyway. My father has a huge house out in the middle of nowhere, and every time I visit him I realize there is absolutely nothing to do within a 50 mile radius.

Well, I don’t live in a skyscraper, but the reason I like living here is I enjoy having an infinite variety of things so close. My job is a 15 minute subway ride away, I have 30 restaurants within a 2-block radius of my apartment, ranging from fast-food to very fancy. I can get to some of the best museums, stores, libraries, universities, theaters, symphonies and food by going into Manhattan.

I get to see lots of movies before the rest of the country.

I get to learn about other cultures without having to travel very far. There are at least four languages spoken regularly in my apartment building, and there are large Greek, Mexican and Indian communities in my neighborhood.

I don’t have a driver’s license or a car and I won’t get one if I can avoid it.

You’re right that things can get cramped from time to time. I enjoy walking in Central Park or Grand Central Terminal when I’m feeling claustrophobic.

*Originally posted by ruadh *
**See, it boggles my mind that you even know how long it takes you to drive someplace that it only takes you ten minutes to walk to. Apologies in advance if you have some kind of disability but why on earth otherwise would you drive a distance that short ???

It’s an OK question. I would walk to work daily except that:

a. I am not a morning person. So by the time I’ve got up, got cleaned up and walked the dog (5-15 minutes) I usually have about 6 minutes to get to work. The car is easier. (And I feel ashamed about that and am working getting up earlier.)

b. I go home for lunch. Walking home and back for lunch takes 25 minutes, versus 10 minutes driving. I’d rather spend the extra 15 minutes at lunch walking through the mountains with the dog than walking through streets on my way to home.

I need to move a sprinkler, back in awhile.

  1. Because living in the city is exciting.

  2. Because it’s great being surrounded by many interesting, cool, different people!

  3. Because if you work in the big city (and wanna make big city $$$), living in it makes the daily commute a hell of a lot easier!

  4. Because to get to the country, mountains, ocean each weekend is about a 30-45 min. commute, so you get the best of both worlds!

  5. Because it’s where most of the artistic culture, museums, restaurants, galleries, etc. are.

Last night at 3 a.m. I went to the corner store for some food. The sidewalks were not quite packed but there were a lot of people out. It would have been so depressing if I had been the only person around. I guess if you hate people it makes since to go be a hermit in the middle of nowhere. I would go crazy from boredom. In a small town you have to see the same people, all the time, even people you don’t like. There are always new people to meet here, and they’re different and interesting.

By the way, very few people live on the 54th floor of a building. Most skyscrapers are office buildings, not apartment buildings.

OK, thanks. I now realize even better that there are just some world views that make absolutely no sense to me. (no sarcasm implied or meant)

  1. To me, the ability to set on my deck and watch the sky change over the mountains is paramount. Being able to walk out my front door and putter around in my lawn/garden or take off into the mountains is great. I cannot fathom living somewhere that I can’t take two steps out the door and be standing on a lawn. I like the fact that at night, there is NO sound here.

  2. The idea that, “There is nothing to do in the country.” makes me smile, ruefully. My ex-wife left (in-part) because she said, “There’s nothing to do here (Montana)” I was gobsmacked.

Because I can’t find enough time to use the golf clubs, raft, kayak, cross-country skis, backpack, camping gear, fly rod, spin rod, hiking boots, mountain bike, tent, etc.

  1. I understand the restaurant, concerts, etc. concept.

I guess the difference of opinions is best summed up by a raffle once held by the Eastern Montana Cattleman’s Association:

First Prize: One week in New York City.

Second Prize: 10 days in New York City.


Who really hopes no one feels insulted by this reply. It’s just a difference of what you like.

Other people have covered it well enough. I’ll just add that I don’t need to move a sprinkler.

Yes, sometimes I do miss being in nature. I grew up in a mid-sized town in Northern California (although, at 56k people, that’s probably fairly large for Montana!) and it was only a short drive to nice hiking areas in the redwoods or at the ocean. If life were perfect, I would live in Twain Harte, California, near Yosemite. It’s in the middle of nowhere and absolutely gorgeous. I lovelovelove it.

But I also love it here in Chicago, too. I’ll be turning 25 years old in a couple days and right now, I want to be doing interesting things and having a good time. I’m excited for the upcoming Gauguin exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art. I’m going to try to somehow crash the soldout Giants/Cubs game at Wrigley on my birthday. I’m planning on studying Spanish and Hebrew soon. I can get any sort of food I want (Indian and Ethiopian food make life worth living). I want to go see the new production of Homebody/Kabul that I just read a review of in the Reader. When I walk around, I hear people from all over the world speaking various languages.

It’s exciting to live in a big city. Maybe someday I’ll get to live in Twain Harte, though, and I’ll be happy there, too.

Heavy stuff.

(It takes me about 40-45 minutes to walk or else a 10-15 drive. I will drive if I have to carry awkward stuff.)

As for the OP:
I think it depends on the city. Vancouver has a gorgeous view not matter where you are, trees and green space everywhere.

Toronto is in decay but still has beautiful greenspaces (some of which are so overgrown it’s like a jungle), and an evening on our friend’s balcony watching the sunset over the lake is still quite beautiful.

I saw a hawk eating a squirrel outside my office window – Missing nature? Nah, it’s still all around me.

I can not live in one of those huge tower apartment buildings in which every apartment feels like a box. While I live in the heart of downtown, I live in an old building with hardwood floors and that every apatment is a little different from the others. Plus, my big old apartment is actually rather quiet. So aside from the occasional siren, I don’t really notice that much of a difference from my former more rural town.

Ringo, thank you. I think you posted the difference. And beer led to the following haiku.
It is evening
I need to water the grass
Hah, I am kidding

I like the city for many of the reasons others have listed, namely the cultural diversity. I can immerse myslef in any of a dozen cultures without going more than 5 miles from home. I am no more than an hour’s subway ride or drive both from world-class museums, several universities, dozens of theaters and live music venues, but if I drive an hour in the other direction I see cows grazing.

(I don’t live in a high-rise either, though. I live on the 1st floor of a 12-flat, and I have a backporch with access to a lovely backyard/garden, and I have a herb garden, a grill, and some hanigng planters on my back porch. My cat loves to peek through the screen door at the birds. But I’m a 10-minute walk from the train downtown, and half a block from a major bus line, and a block from a 24-hour grocery store. Best of all worlds, I say. I don’t know how people can live where it’s all concrete, though.)

i live in a house in a big city 'cause that is where my job is. i would rather live in a small town and not deal with the traffic, and pee fill stairs, and pooped on plazas. sometimes you gotta be where the job is.

i’m hoping to move when i retire.

Let’s see. I am 10 minutes from the cultural stuff of downtown (theater, opera, high-falutin’ restaurants, etc.); there are multiple movie theaters, shops, restaurants, city parks, zoos, etc., within a 5-10 min. walk, even more in a 10-20 min. drive.

If I don’t want city life, it’s a 10 min. walk to the water, 20 min. drive to the beach or to farmland, 30 min. drive to the (popular) mountains and 1 hour to deserted ones, less than two hours to old-growth forest, desert, ocean, even glaciers.

Civilization or wilderness, crowds or isolation, triumphs of man or of nature; anything I want is in easy reach.

Why live anywhere else?

I’ve lived in the city for my whole life. I think the thing I like about city life is public transportation. I don’t like having to drive everywhere. I live five miles from where I work, close enough to grab a bus or even walk in case my car breaks down. If I lived farther away, I would have to add traffic worries to an already long list of stressors. It’s also not worth the strain on my poor little car.

However, I am getting city fatigue. Trashy streets and crowded sidewalks are starting to wear on me. I wouldn’t mind living in a small town right outside of a larger metropolitan area. One day I want like a house with a yard where my cats can play.

I haven’t read the other posts, but I’ll give you my perspective. I live in L.A. It seems that no matter where you want to go – Downtown, Santa Monica, Hollywood, the airport, the Valley – it takes 20 minutes to drive there. I crave trees and wooded paths. I crave clean air. I crave the lack of people all around. I want to live where concrete and asphalt are not covering everything, and where grass and soil line the roads.

To be sure, if I lived where I want to live (northern Washington – Bellingham area) I would not be able to go a half mile for Indian food or just down the block for Thai or just around the corner for excellent non-chain pizza. (Well, pizza is easily available in Bellingham.) But I could always drive up to Vancouver for that.

I wish I could live in the cool green wetness of the Pacific Northwest instead of the hot dryness of Southern California. It does get cool here, but not for very long. And although I appreciate the wetness, the one month that we get it, it doesn’t smell as good as when the rain hits the pines.

(Going back and reading a bit…)

L.A.'s skyscrapers are downtown, and there aren’t all that many of them. Actually, I live in a 30-unit apartment building. Still too many people around.

Hiking, camping, fishing, riding a fast motorcycle on a lonely road, kayaking in waters where islands abound and the dungeness crab are there for the taking, taking tea while the rain falls quietly and cooly outside…

You’d hate it here in Los Hideous!

I was born and raised in Helena and lived there again until about 3 years ago. I then lived for 2 years in Seattle, and now live in 'Burbtown.

In Helena, there are no people of any color other than white. Okay, there’s a couple (when I lived there, one of the local insurance agents was a very smart, likeable black guy), but not many. “Diversity” in Helena means you teach your kids about tolerance, understanding that they don’t actually have to exercise any because everyone looks like you.

In Helena, the streets roll up at 10 p.m., promptly, 7 days a week. No food, no dancing, no fun. When I was in high school, we used to steal beer from our folks and drive up into the south hills to watch the planes land – woohee! I don’t think things have changed much.

Helena is a very conservative, government-oriented, not terribly intellectual town. Sure the library’s pretty good, but not great, and Carroll College gets some good lectures on occasion, but not great ones. Even when they strive for some culture – and they do – it’s not going to be first-rate culture, because the town’s too small and too homogenized.

But I never felt unsafe in Helena. The people would give the shirts off their backs to help you if you need it. It was and always will be my hometwon and I love it – I just don’t think it’s without fault.

In Seattle, there is something to do 24/7. Shows, concerts, dance clubs, lectures, museums, ride the ferrys, whatever. The outdoor activities here are better than in Montana, because it’s greener, prettier, the mountains are bigger and the rivers deeper – and there’s more of both than around Helena. And you don’t have to drive 60 miles to drop your kayak in around here – which you do from Helena, unless you’re running Wolf Creek, which is hardly primo water. Fly-fishing’s better in Montana, though. But as far as the city is concerned – I liked being a short taxi ride away from a dozen kinds of fun. I liked having literally hundreds of good restaurants to choose from – and nary a casino among them. I liked being able to see a movie the weekend it opens – not six weeks after everyone else has seen it, when it finally makes its way to my small town. I love the baseball games and the football games and the festivals. I love that there’s true selection for shopping – not just one department store that gets the remaindered stuff from bigger stores in the chain.

But I’m a small town girl at heart. I didn’t like the traffic. (Okay, I loathed the traffic.) I didn’t like not feeling perfectly safe after dark in my own neighborhood – not often, but sometimes. I didn’t like not knowing who my neighbors were.

So now I life in a quiet leafy, semi-rural suburb and work in a smaller town. But I’m still in close enough proximity to the city to be able to go do stuff when the spirit moves me. There are wonderful things to be said for living in a great little town like Helena – but there are wonderful things to be said for living in a city too. I don’t expect you to agree with anyone else about which of the two is better but I don’t believe you can’t even imagine the attractions of living somewhere else.

But I’d about drive back myself, for a cajun chicken sandwich from the Jailhouse. :slight_smile: