City life is often romanticized. Books, television and movies have presented it as bursting from the seams with adventure, culture and a wealth of possibilities. Making it big in the big city has been a mantra for young people for decades, and not without good reason. But realistically, not everyone is going to enjoy the hustle and bustle of an urban environment. How do you decide whether you’d thrive in a major metro area?
It’s time to step back and take a careful look at your options. Like everything else, living in the city has advantages and disadvantages. Some are logistical, like expenses and housing, and others are deeply personal — in which environment are you the happiest? You should have an informed understanding of all of the above before you make any big decisions. If you’re considering a move to a big city, we’ll walk you through some things you should know as you move forward.
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Living in the City: Advantages
Major metro areas are popular among millennials for a reason. Many of them have their heart set on city living after graduation, and it’s not hard to see why. When you’re ready to enter adulthood headfirst, here are a few advantages to living in a big city:
1. Entertainment Options
You never have a shortage of things to see and do when you move to a major metro area. Regardless of your preferences, you’ll find places which appeal to your interests, filled with like-minded people who share them. Whether you’re into loud clubs or quiet bookstores, you’ll find both in abundance.
While suburban and rural areas have their own social and cultural amenities, they aren’t on the same scale you’ll come across in the city. You’re also far more likely to see your favorite musical artists in major metros, as they have less incentive to visit small towns. If you’re looking for entertainment and cultural enrichment, cities are often ideal.
Furthermore, larger cities hold more communities and clubs that can help you connect with fellow residents. If you’re trying to make friends, it’s only a matter of narrowing down your interests and getting involved in activities full of other passionate people. In a small town, it’s far more unlikely you’ll be able to connect with friends who share a love for niche hobbies and events.
2. Career Opportunities
As mentioned earlier, graduates often move to major metro areas after they leave college, and one of the primary reasons is career advancement. You’ll find more opportunities in the city, and a greater variety of opportunities as well. Whatever you studied, you’re likely to find a position where your education is relevant.
As context, employment growth in several metro areas has exceeded 20 percent in the past five years. A combination of educational, economic and environmental factors have contributed to this, and though employment rates differ throughout the country, one thing is certain. The job market is currently strong for a wide range of industries that attract young professionals.
Furthermore, some careers can really only be pursued while living in a big city. It’s hard to imagine pursuing a technology-oriented job in a small town, when these roles are packed into urban centers like San Francisco, New York and Seattle. Major business and financial centers tend to set up shop here, too. The reality is, breaking into one of these career paths often requires young professionals to relocate to cities where greater numbers of these jobs can be found.
3. Public Transportation
The costs of owning a car can add up quickly. You have to account for car payments, insurance, registration fees and other expenses. It places pressure on your budget, and when you work an entry-level position at a company early in your career, you can’t always justify that kind of investment. Even if you find a reasonable used car, one major repair can throw off your saving goals for the month.
Fortunately, you have a range of options for public transportation when you live in a major metro area. The subway provides a relatively fast, convenient way to get from place to place, avoiding traffic. Plus, you might be able to focus on a book rather than keeping your eyes on the road — as long as the noise isn’t too distracting.
Of course, not every American city is well-equipped for public transportation. If you’re wondering whether your favorite hotspot has a reliable system, check out its rankings. If buses and subways are well-organized and frequently used, then it’s a safe bet to ditch your car before you move.
Living in the City: Disadvantages
While metro areas have their appeal, you’ll find the issue isn’t as one-sided as some might think. Urban living is great, with entertainment options, career opportunities and public transportation, but just like everything else, it has its downsides. Between traffic, crowding and higher expenses, life in a big city might just not be for you. What should you know before you start packing your things to move?
1. Higher Cost of Living
Housing costs are often higher in the city than in suburban or rural areas. While this will differ from place to place, depending on your city of choice, it’s typically cheaper to live in the suburbs. This can also affect your long-term goals. Are you happy renting for a while, or is your heart set on saving for homeownership? If you’re spending more income on housing year-to-year, then you might have to put off any plans for property while living in the big city.
This also means you’re more likely to be sharing life with a roommate in order to pay a reasonable rent. It’s increasingly difficult to find an affordable apartment in the biggest cities, giving you fewer options for independent living. If you’re looking to live alone, then you may want to seriously rethink moving to the city.
More than this, you have other life expenses you need to consider when making the move to a major metro area. Dining, groceries and entertainment are usually more expensive in the city, and you might find yourself spending more than you’d like for a night out. While you have more options — an attractive advantage of city living — these options come at a price which some people would rather not pay.
2. Less Personal Space
If you value having lots of personal space, cities might not seem so appealing. The close quarters of subway cars and sidewalks aren’t for everyone, and it’s a significant change from life in a small town. When you weigh your options, ask yourself the question, “Do I feel claustrophobic in crowds of people?”
You might not feel that way at all, and this “disadvantage” wouldn’t even occur to you if it weren’t on this list. On the other hand, the thought of people crowding you whenever you step out your front door could make you uncomfortable. If this is the case, you should reconsider making the move to a city. You might be happier in a quiet environment, where loud neighbors are less of a potential nuisance.
3. Large Population
The large population of major metro areas can create other unforeseen challenges in your daily life. You’ll find it far more difficult to find a parking space if you drive, and once you arrive at your destination, you’re still not in the clear. You might have to push through a crowd, wait longer for a table at restaurants or linger in a line.
Traffic is another important consideration. Country living often means empty roads and direct routes to the grocery store. While living in a big city, you’ll either be taking public transportation or careening down a highway in rush hour to pick up a few necessities. More people can mean more excitement, but this level of energy can be exhausting when you’re on the road.
You have to consider all the little obstacles which keep you from completing a simple task. Something which shouldn’t challenge you in a small town could extend into an hour-long ordeal. As we’ve stated, big city living is convenient in many ways and inconvenient in others.
4. Fast-Paced Environment
Living life on the fast track can be thrilling. But it’s also more likely to lead to burnout. Culture depends on the city’s regional character, of course, but for the most part, city dwellers have a lot more on their plate. New York was ranked the number one most stressed out city in the U.S. due to long commutes and skyrocketing expenses.
Consider whether you feel up to longer work hours, longer bus rides and an urge to hustle just to stay ahead. In a small town, it’s less common to compete for jobs with late-night expectations, and commutes are often a 10-minute drive. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive to stress, and the magic of living in a big city will be lost on you if you end up frazzled by your day-to-day.
Should You Be Living in a Big City?
Living in a big city isn’t all about glitz and glam. It’s an experience some people couldn’t imagine living without, but it repels others. Often, it’s a subject that people in your life will have strong opinions about, and it can be hard to cut through the noise.
In the end, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to your lifestyle. If living in the city has advantages you’re drawn to, then it’s worth overcoming some of the obstacles you might be dealing with. And if suburban or rural life provides a stability and peace of mind you crave, then there’s nothing wrong with avoiding the crowds. Living in a big city has pluses and minuses, and hopefully we’ve helped you figure out which approach works best for you.