Life in the Big City?

This was inspired by Eve’s thread on “Why you live where you do” (

I’ve spent most of my life living in smallish towns. These towns came in two varieties: suburbs which were boring, and college towns which were considerably less so. In fact, before moving to the current (boring) rural area, I hung out in the area where I got my PhD about as long as I reasonably could, and then some. I like rural areas. I like hiking and canoeing and gardening and open space and I’m not overly fond of crowds and traffic. So I’m not terribly unhappy with my life choices. But it’s a pretty monastic, contemplative existence I lead. Every once in a while, I suspect that I might be missing something. I begin to wonder if those people who live in the Big City are experiencing life to the fullest while I sit out in the garden and watch the bats fly about.

So here’s the question: for you folks who live in the City (any city), is your life one mad whirl of social and cultural events? Do you have but to go out clubbing to meet glamorous and attractive members of the opposite sex? Or do you find life more of a grim, dehumanizing daily struggle against angst and alienation in a concrete wasteland? Or is it like, you know, pretty much like living anywhere else?

Things I like about big city life:

I’m never bored – even on Sundays, there are always things to do
The variety of activities open to me
Better public transport than in the small towns I’ve lived in before

Things I don’t like:

The comparative lack of wide open spaces
The atmosphere of distrust and unfriendliness – nobody seems to trust anyone. London feels like the only place in the world where meeting someone’s eyes in the street is grounds for justifiable homicide
The insecurity brought on by a greater fear of crime
The sheer number of drunks and scary, scary people on the underground line I use

Before I moved to New York City, I thought that everyone who lived there was living this incredible life filled with awesome cultural and personal experiences. Truth be told, if you happen to be very good-looking and you’ve got a ton of money, it would be relatively easy to live such a life here. But I find that for me and most of my friends here, it’s a lot like living anywhere else. We do a lot of the same types of things we would do if we were living in rural America.

Granted, big cities give you access to a whole lot of stuff you might not have access to in a small town, but this doesn’t necessarily make things exciting every day. In order to live the lives of the people you see on TV, most people have to put in a lot of effort.

Grew up in the city, moved away (ok, FLED)about 5 years ago.
I hated the concrete, the neighbors fights and music, the traffic, the rudeness, feeling like I couldn’t stretch out my arms without hitting someone. It was crowded, loud and frenetic.
Now I live on a 2 acre parcel. No neighbors within 300 yards. Lots of the time I can’t hear a single man made sound. I have dogs and cats and they don’t get hit by cars.
I DO have a fenced yard, but try to fence in a cat! And I NEVER have to hear that “BOOM CHUCKA BOOM CHUCKA” car stereo crap!!

I have this discussion periodically with one of my friends. She lives in a town of 300. I can’t stand living in small towns, and I grew up in one. My first goal in life was to move. My friend thinks that towns of over 5000 are just a little too big for her.

A few years ago, I was forced to live in a small town. I couldn’t stand it! You couldn’t get a decent Greek salad within a 40 minute drive, to order pizza you had to order from the pizza place, the movie theatre played one movie a week, they rolled up their sidewalks at 9:00 pm, and to see if your friends were out that night, you only had to check both bars, bingo and drinking beer were the main (dare I say only) forms of entertainment, the cable sucked… I could go on.

I start to feel my throat close up whenever I’m in a small town.

Like I say, the point of living in a city isn’t that I’m going out all the time, only that I could if I wanted to. Plus, the foods better.

My friends and I have a countdown (3 more years!) till we leave for New York. It’s going to be much better then a lonely suburb. I figure with four roomates we’ll be able to make rent.

I grew up in a fairly small town in the Monterey Bay area (Watsonville) and now live in the mega-opolis we affectionatly refer to as the Los Angeles area. Sometimes I really, really want to get a loft or something right smack in the middle of all the hubub of the city. You know, some place where you can wake up, walk downstairs, cross the street and get a bagel. Sometimes I just want to go back up north where there are actual open spaces (that aren’t cemetaries). There’s so much to do where I live now, but I miss being able to see the stars at night. I also miss the dirt, odd as that sounds. It’s just so fertile; stick anything in the ground and it’ll grow. Down here I’ve pretty much given up trying to grow anything.
I dunno. I think there’s just many benefits and drawbacks to both. My solution? I’m going to make myself really wealthy and have homes in both locations.

I think the part that sucks the most is shopping.

It’s a much bigger pain in the ass to go shopping for mundane necessities in the big city.

It takes forever to ride the bus or the train, and driving is not much better.

When I lived in the suburbs I could just go to a mall and be done with it.

Now, if I need a spoon, some underwear, epoxy and a parakeet, I had better plan on making a day of it because it will take hours to go to all of those stores.

Although born in Buffalo, NY, I grew up in a rural town in northern Maine, population 4000 (about). As a kid I had a great time there. As an adult, I couldn’t wait to leave.
I now live in San Francisco. While my life isn’t a “whirlwind of cultural events”, at least I have that opportunity. I’ve been to the theatre to see Rent, and to comedy clubs to see nationally known comics, and to concerts in the park featuring big-time headliners, and to national monuments and landmarks. Those opportunities just don’t exist in small towns. The closest I think my town ever came to cultural happenings was the annual Duck Decoy race during the Acadian Festival. Whoopee.

I also come from Maine. I moved to Boston after college and have the great fortune of living in the Back Bay which is the best neighborhood in the city (unless you’re a gay man, in which case you would want to live in the South End). I wanted to lose the claustrophobia, but found that no matter where you live you create the equivalent of a small town around you. You have a select group of friends, favorite restaurants and haunts, etc.

The best thing about living in the city is the convenience. I’m a block from Newbury St. and 2 blocks from the Charles River. There are literally hundreds of fantastic restaraunts within a 5 block radius of my house, any kind of store I could ask for, yet I live on a beautiful, tree-lined boulevard. My office is across the street so my commute is about 45 seconds. I don’t have to own a car because I can take our clean, easy-to-understand subway anywhere I want to go, or hail a cab. I love it here.

On the other hand, I miss the beach and I miss my parent’s quiet, beautiful garden. I miss nature and the smell of the ocean. So I end up back at my parent’s house one or two weekends a month because, frankly, I miss them too. It’s only 2 hours away by bus so it’s not inconvenient and I have the best of both worlds at my fingertips. No place is perfect, but sometimes a combination of places can be.