We each have our own preferences in terms of where we live. Some of that is geographic, meaning we want to be in a certain part of the country or a specific metropolitan area. For example, in my case I choose to live within the Chicago area and have a specific reason for doing so: family. Who knows where I could be decades from now, but that’s the area for now.
Another aspect of where we choose to live can be broken down to a decision of city vs. suburbs. Some people love living in a city and couldn’t imagine living in the suburbs, and vice-versa. Now, we could also bring another type of location into the picture, which would be rural areas or locales far removed from a substantial city.
Why People Like Living in the City
It’s interesting how people who live in the city, here in Chicago, tend to view the suburbs. I should clarify up front that I’m currently living in the suburbs. Anyway, the stereotypes city dwellers I have known (many over the years) tend to have about the suburbs tend to paint the latter as being lame, for lack of a better word. Accordingly, here are some of the advantages they tend to rattle off either directly or indirectly:
- More “cool” people (as said by others)
- Diversity of people
- Fun, trendy restaurants
- Much better nightlife
- Cultural opportunities (museums, theatre, etc)
- Quick access to major professional sporting venues
- A more cosmopolitan environment
People tend to be willing to trade off space for location in the city. Condo or apartment living are the options for most. Not all, but most in the popular areas.
The suburbs tend to be viewed as one giant sinkhole of culture, all lumped together. There isn’t much distinction in the thoughts of how very different each suburb might be in terms of character and quality of life. To the loyal city person, they’re all bland and all cut from the same boring cloth.
Why People Like Living in the Suburbs
So, I’ve heard things from the other side of the fence as well. From comments I get from people who are devoted suburbanites, it seems like some kind of foregone conclusion that “of course” a person would want to live in the suburbs. Almost as if the city is not a “real” option to be considered.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard about why suburban life is preferred:
- Safer, with less crime
- Better schools
- More family-oriented
- More spacious housing
- Less congested
- More green
I’ve heard people talk about the city as if it’s one big, angry place. The notion is almost that one must always keep doors locked when driving, so the bogey man doesn’t chase you down at 40mph and carjack you. You know, knee-jerk reactionary stuff.
People in the suburbs tend to characterize the city as having areas that are either bad, trendy, or for business (downtown). Or, the city is seen as a place to visit a few times a year to get some culture and have some fun. Perhaps see a show, visit a popular restaurant, or see a ballgame. Then, high tail it back to the perceived security of the suburbs.
What Do I Think?
I realize that some of the things noted above are total generalizations. Just things I’ve heard or picked up on. They may not even be applicable to every city or area. Every U.S city is different, and not all provide the same city experience – and not all have the same number or variety of suburbs.
That being said, it seems like people tend to fall into one of the two camps. Some more entrenched than others!
For me, it’s really been a matter of timing. As in, the stage of life I am in when I have to choose.
As I mentioned, I currently live in the suburbs. So, you can see where I ultimately decided to live. When looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of environment, suburban living won out. Again, just based on this stage of life.
Currently, what I value most is safety and good schools. I’ve talked before about how I think schools are important when buying a home, and how a lesser quality home in a great school district is absolutely my choice over a great home in an average district. Not that I’m saying this is the only way to look at it of course, just the way I do.
Beyond schools and safety, I think nice cities have a lot more to offer. Here, the city has the entertainment, cultural opportunities, and diversity of choices that appeal to me. It’s more fun than being in a suburbs. I prefer a cool neighborhood restaurant over some generic chain any day! Seeing a major league game played under the bright lights and national spotlight is better than seeing some minor league affair that has no real significance.
But, there is a time and place for everything. When younger, I had a condo in the city. It was great, and I enjoyed as much of the city as I could. For a young professional, it was almost like an amusement park of sorts :) With no kids, I had far fewer reasons to worry about schools, and was not stressed about safety. But when your main responsibility is no longer yourself but other people, your priorities tend to change. At least mine did.
So, suburban life it is. For now, anyway. Who knows, as an empty nester many years from now, a move into this (or another) city might happen!
My Questions for You
What do you prefer, city or suburban life? Why?
Could you see this changing at any time in your future?