I often hear about people who yearn for the “slower pace” of a small town compared to a big city. I can’t relate. While I too enjoy a slow-paced life, I would much rather live in a big city than a small town and do not find them to be as fast or as stressful as other people do. I was happy in the city.
Keep in mind, the biggest city I’ve ever lived in had a population of about 300,000. I have never lived anywhere the size of NYC or London, but I would be more than happy to. So when I talk about my city experiences, it’s within that context.
The town I currently live in has a population of about 18,000. It is far too small for my liking. I moved here from Regina, Saskatchewan (population approximately 200,000) and I would go back there in a heartbeat if circumstances would allow me to.
I read somewhere that people who prefer big cities tend to be neurotic and I think that makes sense. I definitely have neurotic tendencies. There are several reasons I prefer cities, most stemming from my neurotic and introverted nature.
For example, I get stressed out driving, whether in a big city or small town. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I have actually found driving in small towns to be worse in some ways, because while there’s not as much traffic, it’s pretty much a free-for-all, with fewer controlled intersections and with pedestrians just crossing roads all willy-nilly. If I have to turn left when there’s oncoming traffic, I want a left-turn light, and those don’t even exist in many small towns. City traffic may appear more hectic, but to me it seems that it actually works like clockwork.
Parking can be nerve-wracking in big cities, but here’s the great thing: Public transportation! Leave the car at home and you don’t have to worry about such things. While learning to use public transit was overwhelming for me at first, once I got used to it, I found it a lot less stressful than driving. I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. I was worried at first that strangers would talk to me (as an introvert, not my favourite thing) but that almost never happened. It ended up being a good thing for me. I don’t even have the option of using public transit in the small town I currently live in, as the bus only runs past our house twice a day, which is not conducive to getting around.
Many small towns are in locations that offer a lot of outdoor recreation, but unfortunately, I’m not an outdoorsy person at all. I grew up in a family that went camping, fishing, and backroad exploring, but as I got older I realized those types of activities are not for me. Some of my favourite things to do are shopping and dining and the options in small towns aren’t great. Where we currently live, we have to drive for an hour and a half to get to a city where they even have an Old Navy, a Bath and Body Works, or a Bed Bath and Beyond (some of my favourite stores). I do enjoy nice walks in scenic parks, but I like the city kind where I don’t feel completely isolated from civilization. I get a kind of scary, bleak feeling when I’m somewhere remote and I feel too isolated. I like knowing that everything I could possibly need is nearby.
I suppose in some ways small towns can be nice for introverts when you don’t know anyone yet, but once you do, like I do here, everyone knows your business and it’s impossible to even run errands without running into people you know and having them ask a lot of questions. In cities, you don’t necessarily bump into the people you know at the supermarket. There are so many supermarkets to choose from, the odds are slim that you would encounter anyone you know.
And speaking of questions, I’ve found that people tend to be extremely curious about other people’s lives in small towns. I find that kind of social atmosphere to be very oppressive. It’s not that I have anything to hide, but I do like to live a relatively private life with only a small circle of trusted friends. In cities, neighbours and casual acquaintances maintain a respectful detachment in their daily comings and goings (but will still band together and help in an emergency). I appreciate that.
Also, in cities, there are a lot of different kinds of people, and you don’t stand out if you’re different in some way. In small towns, you pretty much have to conform to whatever the norm is or your life is very uncomfortable. At least that’s how I feel here. For example, the town I currently live in is staunchly politically conservative and I am very left-leaning. I have found myself in the midst of conversations where people are talking about certain controversial topics and just kind of assuming that everyone present feels the same way about it, when I very much do not feel that way. Awkward.
And then there’s crime. People think cities are so crime-ridden, but what I have found is that the crime is very much confined to one bad part of the city, and you can feel safe in the other parts. But in a small town, the criminals can be anywhere. Regina gets a bad rap but I felt safer in my neighbourhood in Regina than I do here in the small town I currently live in which has a certain seedy element that you can’t get away from.
A lot of people think small towns are more wholesome and are great places to raise kids, but I have not found that to be the case. In the small town I lived in when I was a teenager, drugs were everywhere and it was seen as cool to commit petty crimes. That culture permeated the whole place and there was no escaping it other than just isolating yourself. It was probably partly because there was little else for youth to do. In bigger cities, there are many options for keeping busy. Yeah, if you’re looking for the seedy side you can find it, but if you want a wholesome existence you can find lots of great things to get involved in and lots of like-minded people. In fact, whatever your interests are, you can find ways to explore them, unlike in small towns where your options are very limited.
And speaking of limited options, it’s awful to come of age in a small town, where jobs and educational opportunities are few and far between. If you can afford to move to the city for college, you’ll be okay, but if you can’t, it can be really hard to get anywhere in life. That’s the worst thing about small towns for me: Once you’re there, it can be really hard to get out again.
If I had children, I would want them to have all the options available to them in the city rather than end up stuck in a small town with a minimum-wage job and nothing to do after work except ride around in someone’s pickup getting high.
City life is definitely for me, and I hope I will have the opportunity to experience it again. I yearn for it, in fact.