Rural Charms vs City Perks……..Family Lifestyle Pros and Cons

If you had told me 6 years ago that I would be living in rural mid Wales with an 18 month old daughter and the love of my life, I’m sure I would have had you sectioned for delusional behaviour.  In those days I was more night club queen than a welly-wearing mama, squandering my disposable income on dining out, regular clothes shopping and overseas holidays.

It was a heady and undeniably enjoyable period of my life, I was lucky enough to live in some of the worlds biggest and most exciting cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Dubai and London but I also spent time in smaller, more rural settings in New Zealands South Westland and the mountain town of Minakami, Japan so I’ve had a pretty good overview of the pro’s and cons of both as a singleton, but with a family I now have a fresh perspective.

I’ve always felt very strongly about location, its part of my lifelong travel addiction to naturally gravitate towards places based on their lifestyle merits and not so much to do with practical things like jobs and infrastructure.  This topic will mean different things in different parts of the world, as city and rural environments are so diverse.  A small city in New Zealand for example, is probably not going to present the same issues as say Los Angeles or Bangkok and by the same token, the lifestyle in rural Nepal will be a far cry to that of countryside Wales, but I guess you never know!

Here’s my overview of both scenarios, let me know if you have any more to suggest!

CITY FAMILY LIFE

Pros:

More choice: From healthcare providers to educational institutions – a huge range of services and products are on your doorstep which makes life more convenient in many ways

Entertainment abounds:  From movie theatres to museums and specialised kids activities, parks and amusement centres – there will always be something new to do whatever day of the week so kids have no excuse to say they are bored!

Dining out is an option!: This may not seem inportant and actually is often a nightmare with young kids but for mums and dads it is a treat to have a choice of cuisines to choose from aside from the requisite Chinese, Indian and soggy fish and chips

Work is more abundant, at least for most industries: Being able to support a family is easier (on the surface anyway) and salaries are significantly higher

Cons:

Weirdos everywhere: This seems to be more true for some cities than others but whenever I visit London at least, I am constantly aware of people acting very strangely all over the place, especially public transport and public parks…..these are the ones that you read about in the news for going beserk for no reason, its scary.  Sure there are weirdos in the country as well but more often than not everyone knows who they are!

Negotiating buses, trains and ridiculous amounts of steps with buggys:  I can’t stand the tube, especially when pregnant but even without the bump its not a pleasant experience being packed like sardines up against other commuters sweaty armpits in an muggy, airless underground box.  Add a few kids to the equation and perhaps a baby buggy and it becomes a logistical nightmare.  Buses are not much better.  This isn’t so much of a problem in smaller cities where driving isn’t akin to the Bahrain Grand Prix and you can bundle the clan into a car (supposing you drive).

It’s bloomin expensive:  Whilst you might get paid better in the city, most things cost way more as well so the benefits are kind of cancelled out.  To buy or rent a decent flat/house you’ll either be paying throught the nose or living on the outskirts of the city anyway and spending longer commuting in the morning – worklife balance quicky goes out the window.

Crime:  Ok I might be a bit of a nervous nellie about this one but its really just a numbers game, more people = more crime……yes it may never happen to me or mine but there’ve been enough close calls for me to consider this one of my most major deterrents to big city life.

Stress:  I know this is present everywhere so not exactly the preserve of metropolis dwellers but I think there is an ambient level of stress involved in daily life in the big smoke, everyone is in a hurry, people start to blend into a faceless mass, there is a sense of aggression in the air, the noise, the pollution……

RURAL FAMILY LIFE

Pros:

Space and pace!:  Room to breath and fresher air to go with it, here a daily commute always involves greenery and less of the traffic jams (unless of course you are commuting into the city).  The pace of life is slower, it’s not a cliche its true…..there is just not such a rush to get everything done all at once and kids can also have room to move and play.

People actually talk to each other, sometimes even strangers:  Catching someones eye with a friendly smile is not perceived as a threat or challenge and you can usually presume the same in reverse.  People take time to stop on the high street of rural towns and have a natter, albeit sometimes about the neighbours/local scandal etc etc but you get the idea, its a nice thing and I want my kids to have a relationship with the community they live in, not be afraid of it.  I have to admit that in New Zealand even most of the cityfolk are pretty approachable and will often strike up random conversations over the bananas in New World and you’ll know their life story before you leave the shop, its an endearing quality of my countryfolk which I had all but forgotten before my recent trip home, at first I was pretty suspicious until I realised perhaps it was me being cynical.

Cost of living is more economical:  What would you rather?  1 bedroom flat with no outdoor space in a bad area or a 3 bedroom barn conversion with an orchard just outside a market town?  They can cost about the same unless of course you’re talking about posh country areas where city folk have second homes, or just mansions….then its extortionate but you get the idea…..generally living in the sticks, even if its a smaller city or small town is much cheaper for rent at least.

Peace of mind: The odd crazed gunman aside, generally there is less violent crime out in the wop wops (as we’d call it in NZ)……maybe its something to do with all that space and green, it just chills people out.  Obviously there are still people to watch out for, especially around your children but the sense of closeknit community can help to reassure.

It’s beautiful: Sure, there are some magnificent cities out there with awesome architecture and sprawling parks but it can’t compete with the absolute serenity of the mountains blanketed in snow or a lush green forest in a quiet mossy valley.  It feels as if these beautiful places impart a little of their special energy to all that live within their fold.

Cons:

It can be hard to get into social circles:  Whilst most people are very friendly, they have also likely known everyone else in the area since pre-school and can be a little wary of new-comers, especially from the city!  Joining the Country Womens Institute isn’t going to be for everyone, especially if like me you don’t know your flans from your filigree frosting.

Finding work can be difficult:  There is a much smaller job pool and not the same range of positions, if you are a farm hand, mechanic, teacher or medical professional then there are plenty of opportunities….but for others it can prove challenging especially if you don’t fancy working for minimum wage

Small town, small talk: It happens!  Your business is generally not just YOUR business and everyone will have an opinion whether they express to you directly or not.

Shopping or getting supplies can be a mission:  Often involving a lengthy drive to the next big town or city to stock up…..luckily internet shopping has been invented and as you don’t really get to window shop much, you don’t feel the need to buy all the shiny things in the window! So I guess thats a pro really!

I think the conclusion I have come to for myself, is that overall I prefer the country life……but would like to be close to or in a medium sized town that has some character and sense of place….oh and the some decent eateries and shops would be a bonus too!

What’s your take on this and can you add to the pros and cons above?  How do they relate to where in the world you live?

Sarah

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Posted on April 18, 2012, in General, Global Family Culture, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hannah Bunting

    I love the world, love travel, love all in offers, I’m from a small town in The English Lake District and am grateful for growing up there. I have also partied it up in the worlds major cities (London, Manchester, New York, BA, Shanghai, Moscow etc etc) , lived in Birmingham, Melbourne, Tokyo for 4 years (been boarding, but not lived in Minakami). I have also had the experience of living and working in a rural community in Nepal and loved all of my homes, even the 5 months in a campervan! I am not scared of the dark, I mean the real dark, or having no electricity, nor am I that phased about being pushed into a train by the white glove men with the doors closing and my handbag being stuck on the outside and unable to move my arm (though it’s not a long term lifestyle choice). But I have always thought I’d love to give my children the sort of childhood I had, Ok, times have changed, the 4 bedroom farmhouse with stables and horses still seems financially unobtainable, but something about the freedom of the countryside has it’s hold on me. Maybe you like what you know, my friends who grew up in London, see no reason not to bring up a child there.

    I currently live in Perth, a sort of city with a country vibe, a happy medium, but as I advance further into my 30’s, I still dream of returning ‘home’ as a place to bring up children. My partner is also from the same town, Keswick, we don’t have any children yet, but we do feel a little displaced, Keswick falls into, in fact is probably the definition of, the National Park/ natural beauty/housing shortage/declining community and inflated house prices due to second homes syndrome kinda place. The average salary is minimal and yet house prices are sky high. Put simply, we can’t afford to live there. We are an increasing middle band that is not eligible, and has no desire to access ‘council housing’ and yet priced out of owner or even rental markets! It’s sad, it really is. Perhaps working abroad could give us a leg up toward moving home. Perth has a lot of green space and is never busy, sometimes disappointingly so in terms of being a city, but it is is pleasant, we live central and my partner has an hour commute into the less desirable suburbs, an extra 2 hours onto his working day that he never experienced before in Keswick, but the same as me in Tokyo, at least the trains aren’t busy when you’re going against the grain.

    Wowsers, I never usually read blogs and have never left a comment, perhaps that is a good thing, as ‘a comment’ is in danger of morphing into an essay! But I feel ya, I wouldn’t change the years I’ve had (well, maybe delete a few killer hangovers and save a little more, maybe…), perhaps different to yourself, If you’d asked me 6 years ago where I would like to be in 6 years time, I’d have painted a wonderful picture of the rural dream, the front flower garden, the vege patch at the back, the aga, the trees, watching the changing seasons, as it is a dream. I’d throw in some horses and chickens and maybe a goat and be baking and shopping at the farmers market and my children would grow up attending country shows and enter competitions where they make animals from mis shaped vegetables and miniature gardens using moss as grass and they could post letters in a traditional red post box next to a stone wall with ivy growing on it and have to turn wellies upside down before putting them on in case dear little mice had sneaked in or been deposited by the cat, they’d go of for hours playing, they’d have no mobile phones and I’d have no idea where they were, yet I’d be safe in the knowledge they’d return when they got hungry…you get the idea! I’d like to recreate my experience of growing up. But that is just not viable for us at the moment, in a few years I’d like to think we’ll be getting closer to that …… maybe Wales is where it’s at, I’ve always loved holidays I’ve had there. So in conclusion, good on you, I’m sure your child will thank you for their childhood, and grow up to have the same crazy 20’s as we’ve had! Enjoy the countryside – it’s awesome, and is so much more of a blessing to be able to live there. All the best!

    • Hi Hannah, wow it sounds like you’ve had a pretty interesting life yourself and continue to do so! I have plenty of friends from Perth although I’ve never been there, it is one of the cities I thought I may try at some point exactly for the reasons you pointed out – its more of a big country town than a city!

      I know what you mean about returning ‘home’, its a bit of a complicated issue in our household as we’re a bi-national family…..one person is always going to be away from their extended family. I actually grew up in a small city in New Zealand, Dunedin which has many of the benefits of countryside living due to its natural surroundings and relatively small population, although I don’t think I’d choose to live there now with my family…..

      We are at a crossroads right now in fact, trying to decide where and how to make life work in rural settings…….going to try out Cardigan area for the summer and possibly move to Devon eventually…..but you know about the cost of living down that way! Still I guess if you never try you never know right? I hope you get your dream, it sounds idyllic!

      Did you used to teach English in Tokyo/Nepal/Shanghai?

      Perhaps you should start a blog too! 🙂

      Sarah

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