And even cooler if you’re 87, according to some.
It takes a certain type of personality to be able to handle the chaos of confined living, loud noises and unreliable transportation schedules that make up city living, and it is not one that can be learned with years of therapy, or so I’ve been told.
The ambiguity with which I source my claims is intentional, as the topics of both coolness and preference for city living are as provable as the existence of God.
Through various interviews with people who lived (or live) in cities—and have a strong opinion on the matter—I found a few common threads that help to give insight as to why some people get the high and others get the hell out:
People who were born and raised in a city don’t get bothered by the close proximity, lack of transportation control and noise because it’s their norm; they don’t even notice it.
Living with roommates in tight quarters is difficult for many, a fact that most city-dwellers—especially those who are still early in their careers—have to face, due to the rising price of rent. (In New York City, the average cost of a 1-bedroom apartment is $3,100/month. In San Francisco, the most expensive city in the United States, is $3,400/month).
The multitude of cultures and languages stimulates some and frustrates others. Of the people I interviewed, though, the multiculturalism was a pro for city living across the board.
The lack of yard space—and small living in general—is not ideal for raising children.
The city is a great place to make career connections.
BTRtoday: Why do you think one may want to leave NYC after a certain age?
AC: I grew up in New York City. My parents grew up in New York City. My grandparents grew up in New York City. All I know about where to live and thrive and raise babies is here in New York City. I have aunts and other family members that moved away to the country and I have seen other people come here to live for a year or two and then go back upstate. What I have noticed is that most people who leave New York—or are really miserable when they visit—is that their anxiety levels are super high while in the city. They can't stand being so physically close to other people all of the time, the lack of control with public transportation schedules, the lack of privacy and quiet while living in an apartment building, and other things that I don't even notice since I grew up here.
BTR: What do you love about the city?
AC: I love taking the subway. The fact that I have no control over when the next train is coming or how fast it's going gives me some time to relax. Also it gives me time to read or play games on my phone. It forces me to have about 30 minutes a day to not do any thing productive and just chill.
I am terrified of houses. There are too many ways to get in. I grew up in an apartment on the 7th floor with no fire escape. The only way in was the front door which had two locks and a deadbolt. I get nervous in quiet places. My dad always taught me in order to stay safe just stay in places "where there are witnesses." I don't listen to headphones when I walk about. I try to stay aware of my surroundings. I think some people find it exhausting to be aware all of the time.
I tend to work well under pressure. The bustle of the city might keep my stress levels to ideal productive levels.
BTR: What do you love about your city specifically?
AC: I love so many things about my city! I love that you can find pretty much any cuisine you can think of, including crappy chain restaurants. You can also find every culture here. In my building, on my floor, there is a lady from Georgia who is constantly screaming in Russian and a family of conservative Muslims with the black headscarves. My neighborhood is a nice mix of Bengali, Russian, Hassidic Jewish, and some old school Irish Brooklynites. I love that there are so many 24 hour establishments. I love that the subway is 24 hours. I love there is something to do every night if you are so inclined. Currently I live near a big green park, the beach, and several trendy neighborhoods for bars and restaurants. I can do whatever I feel like doing! I love that there are so many inside jokes when you live here. I love that some people can't handle living here; I'm quite the city snob.
BTR: Can you explain what your relationship is with New York City?
KK: I've lived in Brooklyn for 6 years and don't want to be here much longer. I gave myself a 10-year timeline when I first moved, so I'll hopefully be out within the next four years. I wanted to be here for a good chunk of time in order to make connections and advance my art career while being immersed in a culturally rich environment. I grew up in the suburbs and was intrigued by the energy of urban life.
BTR: I recently read an article in Time Magazine saying that city living affects the brain and increases emotions such as anxiety and fear. Do you agree?
KK: I completely agree, which is why I'm looking to escape sooner rather than later. A couple years ago I started suffering from anxiety attacks; I thought I was dying because I had never experienced anything like it. No major events set my anxiety off, I think it was a lot of pent up negative energy from daily life. Once I realized what they were, I started focusing on managing my stress. I'm lucky enough to have a car so I can escape upstate frequently to visit family and friends.
Also been living on my own for the past two years, which has really relaxed me. I think roommate dynamics in small living quarters attribute to a lot of city life stress. In regards to whether I think this brain change is a positive or negative thing, I think both. Positive because I feel like a lot of city people are empathetic to human differences, city people are more open to race, culture and sexuality. Negative because a lot of people dealing with the stress will turn to drug or alcohol abuse, or some people snap and end up harming themselves or others.
BTR: Do you think you are going to miss the city once you leave?
KK: I have loved my time in Brooklyn but am looking forward to retreating to a more reclusive area. I'll miss living in a close distance to my friends, as well as all of the amazing art, music and food you can find on a daily basis in a close radius. Oh the conveniences! On the other hand, traffic and large crowds have become really stressful to me as I've become older. I look forward to living somewhere that doesn't smell like piss and garbage 24/7!
BTR: What cities have you lived in?
AD: Kiev, Chicago, Boston, New York. I’m a big city boy since birth, but I’m not sure I like cities too much. Then again, I don’t think I’d make it in the countryside.
BTR: What do you not like about city living?
AD: I love nature and I hate noise when I sleep, but I love all kinds of ethnic foods and that is something you can only get in big cities. I also like yoga and tai chi, which is much more prevalent in big cities. Sometimes I wish I could live next to a big nature preserve on Long Island or even somewhere in Maine. Central Park is a joke and is always overcrowded. So it is a love/hate relationship with cities.
BTR: Why do you think you would not make it in the countryside?
AD: Country people would probably think I am huge weirdo because I am not from the country; I am an outsider and a foreigner with a lot of strange interests, such as vegetarianism. In my imagination, country people tend to be more conservative and focused on their established communities.
BTR: Have you ever had an encounter with a country person that made you feel uncomfortable? Or is it more assumption?
AD: Actually, I do have a lot of country relatives in Eastern Europe and I really love them (They are hardcore peasants!) When I was working with more remote communities in western Massachusetts, though, I did feel some hostility sometimes. It seems that there was some reservations towards “Boston people." Also, I feel that the countryside in New England feels more cultured, organized and richer than, let’s say, the Midwest.
BTR: It seems as though the racism came more from your being from a city as opposed to being from another country. And you are from Ukraine, correct?
AD: Yes. I am Ukrainian.
BTR: Do you think their cities are culturally different than ours in the US?
AD: These days everything is global. I grew up during a different era. The younger generation is much more connected to the broader trends now: They eat falafel, became hipsters, hang out in Berlin, speak English, etc.
Obviously, the older generation is still there as well, including people who grew up in the USSR when the country was isolated, but city living has the same traits everywhere. There is always a degree of anonymity, of being lost in the crowd and that is nice!