Posts Tagged ‘Big Cities’

What I Love About the Big City

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Despite the British phone booth, this is Buenos Aires. They have several of these in Recoleta, I have no idea why.

It’s taken a couple months of being back in California to start to miss Buenos Aires. And I’ve started to realize that what I miss the most are things that have to do with being in a big city (Buenos Aires is the 8th largest metropolis in the world). Big cities, after all, are more like each other than the countries that they are in. So I’ve been reflecting on the pros and cons of living in a big city, and why I like living in one.

- The closeness of everything. Most of my needs in BsAs can be fulfilled within four square blocks of my apartment- the hairdresser, the grocery store, the stationery supply, lighting store, even the lab to get blood tests. Sometimes this leads to feeling a bit isolated if I don’t get out of my neighborhood, but it makes getting things done much more convenient.

- Not having a car. I haven’t driven a car since I have been in BsAs. I love not having the hassle of gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking. There is plenty of public and private transportation, and I have never not been able to get somewhere. It removes the hassle of drawing straws to see who will be the designated driver, as well.

- Socialization. Because of the density and the amount of people in the city, there is always an opportunity to socialize just about any day that I choose. I can go to a cocktail party, or invite an friend out for lunch. It is easier to accept an invitation, because I can meet someone with a fifteen-minute taxi ride without much impact on my day. I think socializing with people has unintended benefits as well- I hear about events, job opportunities, services, you name it. I definitely feel closer to people in a big city.

- Culture. If you live in the American suburbs, you have to go through a lot of effort to see an opera or ballet. In BsAs, I can walk six blocks and see a world-class performance. Music, dance, theater, all at my doorstep.

Of course, there are cons to living in a big city as well. After several months, I miss nature, and long for a stretch of trees and grass without concrete interrupting the view. I have to keep a closer eye on my belongings, although in BsAs, I am cautious about where I go and have never felt in danger of my safety. It is noisy and dirty, relatively.

But the suburbs to me feel… unnatural. The way that the American suburbs have sprung up seems to me against many of our natural instincts. There is a lack of connection with what is going on in the city at large, and with people.  Zoning laws are so strict that there are no corner pubs, or corner grocery stores where people casually run into each other. We all stay in our isolated houses on our isolated lots, and drive isolated from the air, sun, and sky in our cars.

The country, I can do. I get that. The city, I get that too. But the suburbs seem to me a strange animal that I would not miss if it went extinct.

Julia Evans wrote this article for where she blogs about her life as an expat.  She also writes a personal blog Evans’ Gate about living as an American expat in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her husband.  Comments on both blogs welcome!

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