So far, I have been living in several cities you could call a “metropolis”, among them Kawasaki and Yokohama (both in the Greater Tokyo Area) as well as Hamburg and now Cologne. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to prefer life in the city to life in the countryside. I grew up in a rather rural area. We never lived far from the next big city (Hamburg), but I always liked it in the countryside. It’s quiet, the air is fresh and you are surrounded by nature. But after having lived in more or less big cities for the last couple of years, I start to think I prefer the city.
Neighbors’ behavior seems to vary greatly between different countries. Though I can only speak about Japan and Germany in terms of living in a metropolis long-term, I think the differences can be huge. In Japan, the buildings’ walls are much thinner than in most western countries. Still, I have never been disturbed by any neighbor while living in Japan. A cough now and then or some running water is more or less the maximum you will ever hear from adjacent apartments. Everybody knows how thin the walls are and is thus especially respectful and tries to be as quiet as possible. In Germany, on the other hand, I have made some quite different experiences with neighbors. Maybe it was just the neighborhood I lived in at the time, but in Hamburg I not only had a neighbor who liked to stand in his apartment’s doorway only dressed in his underwear to look at what was going on outside, I also had especially noisy neighbors, who would fight and slam doors at half past three in the night. Here in Cologne, on the other hand, I haven’t had any problems so far. I do hear my neighbors, so it’s nothing like Japan, but they don’t really “disturb” me. Maybe it really is the area you live in.
Transport and Accessibility
A great advantage of living in the city is that I don’t have to use a car to get somewhere. I hate driving too much (plus I don’t even own a car and don’t intend to buy one in the near future), so I really depend on public transport. After growing up in a small town where there’s only one bus per hour (one every two on weekends), which sometimes, without any notice, just doesn’t come, public transport in the city is luxury to me. When possible, I still try to walk a lot to places I can reach on foot. And in the city, I can usually reach most of the important places on foot. But when I have to carry heavy shopping bags or am just tired, I can always jump into the next bus or train and be home within minutes. Plus, as a student, public transport is completely free for me, so I don’t have to worry about spending too much money on transport.
Culture and Night-Life
The cultural life might be what I like most about living in a metropolis. No matter what day of the week, you will always find somewhere nice to go. There’s an abundance of clubs, bars, museums, theatres and so on and you are bound to find a band you like or a show you want to watch whenever you feel like it. In rural areas, these events are often much scarcer and also (sometimes) of a lower quality. For example, the variety of movies shown in rural area cinemas usually cannot be compared to the choices you’d have in a metro area cinema. Also (and this of course makes perfect sense), more popular and famous artists tend to come to bigger cities rather than the countryside.
Markets and Restaurants
I admit that it can often be easier to find high quality, fresh food in rural areas than in the city as you can often buy directly from the farmers or even go into the field yourself to pick for example strawberries. At least, it’s much easier to buy local food from the farmer’s market. But in my opinion, the situation in urban areas is rapidly improving. If you look for them, farmer’s markets where local produce is sold can be found all over in the big cities. And nowadays, there are more and more organic grocery stores, where you can buy everything you need. Also, more exotic ingredients are much easier to come by when you live in the city, be it Asian, Middle Eastern or African cuisine. And on days when you don’t feel like cooking, there are always many different restaurants or delivery services to choose from. In the countryside, you’d probably have the choice between the one Italian, Greek and Chinese restaurant, and that’s it.
Being in the nature is a very important part of my life. I love hiking, cycling, taking pictures of landscapes and generally being outside. This sounds like a challenge living in the city, but actually I think I spend a lot of time in the nature. On weekdays, spending some time in the park or near the water is always nice (in my case, the Alster or Elbe in Hamburg, the Rhine in Cologne and e. g. Minato-Mirai – a place near the harbor – in Yokohama). And on the weekends or when I have some time on my hands, I like to make little day trips to the actual countryside. Using public transport to get to the outskirts of the city and taking your bike with you to be able to go from there is a nice option. When I lived in Hamburg, it took only 20 minutes by subway and then a five-minute-walk until I actually stood in a forest north of Hamburg.
As you can see, I think city life has far more advantages than disadvantages. I can deal with the neighbors most of the time and for me the city offers everything I need – as long as I get out to see the nature every now and then. Sometimes, these “escapes” have to be more than just a day trip and I go out hiking somewhere in Iceland (like I just did). I love being “away from everything” sometimes, but it’s always nice to be able to return to the city afterwards.