For most of my life, I lived in a big city, which I will call Condo-Mania so that I’m not singling it out from other U.S. cities. After high school, I moved from a place with a population in the millions to Savannah, Georgia, which only had around 150,000 residents—big difference.
When I tell people that I’m from Condo-Mania and tell them that I prefer Savannah, they’re perplexed. Why on earth would I willingly leave behind a metropolis that they’ve heard nothing but good things about in favor of one that they believe has nothing to offer? Here’s what I tell them.
1. The Rapid Growth Rate
Condo-Mania was, at one point during my high school years, considered to be one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country. That meant that the city I was born in was different than the one I left, despite the fact that I lived in the same spot for nearly eighteen years.
A side effect of having such a large population is, of course, traffic. With more traffic comes longer commute times, which in turn requires drivers to pay more for more gas; plus, it leaves less time to relax at home and with family. The problems that traffic causes are pretty obvious, so I’ll move on to the next side effect.
Since people are flocking to Condo-Mania, the city needs to accommodate the surge in population. The reason why I chose to nickname the city Condo-Mania is because developers tend to choose to build condo buildings and apartment complexes, so that as many people can live as close to work as they can. Condos and apartments also appear in the suburbs, but, in addition, there are neighborhoods popping up in areas that used to be just farms and rural areas.
Another industry that has to expand is shopping and entertainment. For commercial businesses, especially chains, the fast-growing metropolis is perfect, because newcomers will find comfort in what’s familiar to them. When shopping or going out to eat, it’s safer to go to Target or Applebee’s, because people know what they’ll get there rather than a small restaurant that they’ve never heard of.
2. High Prices
The high cost of living is not an unfamiliar concept to millennials. Sure, there are often better job opportunities in larger cities, but having a higher wage doesn’t mean that there will be more money left over at the end of the month. Rent tends to become higher the closer to the city the location gets, depending on the quality of the location, of course. Obviously, a studio in a dangerous neighborhood would probably cost less than one in a safe suburb, but that also means that a studio in a trendy area costs more than a three-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of town.
Most of my parents’ friends live in areas outside of Condo-Mania, because they couldn’t afford living directly in the city anymore. However, they still work there and have to make a long commute (remember what I said about traffic?). Many people in Condo-Mania have done the same thing and moved to the outskirts; I just happened to go way out!
One thing that my dad and I agree on is that living in Condo-Mania typically consists of working to pay the bills with little left over to do fun things. It’s practically a miracle that millennials are able to afford decent housing there, especially after blowing all of their funds on avocado toast. In all seriousness, though, people who’ve lived in Condo-Mania for a long time have to move out because they simply can’t afford it anymore.
3. The Atmosphere
As with most major cities, except for perhaps ones with a lot of character that focus more on things such as the arts, Condo-Mania has a business mentality. It’s a common trope in storylines for the main character to break away from the fast-paced, suit-clad world and head off to a village in England to write novels or something like that. Climb the ladder, make a lot of money, show it off: This unspoken motto was basically the tipping point for me, because people went to Condo-Mania to work and try to achieve the glamorous lifestyle that the city advertises. As a result, the atmosphere became cold since the focus was placed more on status and possessions rather than being friendly to each other.
When I moved to a smaller city where there were no high-rises or big businesses, the atmosphere changed. There is an army base and a port industry where I now live, but, since neither of those industries is known for being incredibly lucrative, people don’t move to the area in hopes of buying a mansion and ten luxury cars. As a result, people tend to be friendlier and move at a more relaxed pace, because there is less of a focus on climbing the business ladder. In addition, the light traffic and greater variety of small businesses mean that there’s less stress and more of a genuine, community feel.
Even when I give people the Cliff Notes version of the reasons that I just described here, there are some who still don’t understand why, after moving out, I no longer see the appeal of living in a larger city, at least in the U.S. (International cities do seem pretty cool.) The most common response is that there’s nothing to do in smaller cities or that everyone feels entitled, but every place is bound to have entitled people.
As for the things to do, I found that there is plenty to do where I live. Because it’s not as commercialized as Condo-Mania and not all the houses are torn down to build complexes, the character of the city still remains and just going through the town is inspiring and a joy for me. Plus, since the cost of living is cheaper, I have income left over to do the things that many wouldn’t be able to afford to do in Condo-Mania.
But, there are some things that Condo-Mania has that were a bummer to leave behind—namely, the conveniences of big-city living and the glamor. Yes, I admit that I enjoyed going through the wealthiest part of town and daydreaming. I’m sharing what I experienced so that those who’ve never spent a large amount of time in such a city know what they’re getting into when they hear nothing but good things about it. After all, every place has its downsides. In the end, though, if someone is perfectly happy living in a place like Condo-Mania, then that’s perfectly fine, just as how I’m happier in Savannah. No place is one size fits all.