Where to Live

Wait! Even More Opportunities in the Big City

Photo Credit: © Michael Froehls
Written by Michael Froehls

In the previous post, we talked about some benefits of city life. One was having access to services that you can only find in a city large enough to offset the high costs of offering them. You will find the best cancer hospitals in Houston and New York, not in Iowa. We also mentioned the high level of energy that flows in a city which can help you become productive and maybe even more optimistic and successful. The third benefit was all the opportunities city living offers and the higher probability of positive serendipity.

Let’s now turn to some additional benefits.

Communities, Tribes and Ecosystems

Given the size of a large city, there is something wonderful going on – the existence of many different ecosystems in parallel. Let’s assume you live in London, England. You can have a life as a banker, an actor, a real estate developer, or be part of the start-up crowd, just to name a few. Your perception of the city, the tribe you hang out with, your daily commute, even your dating circles, are probably very different from those who live in a different ecosystem. Then there are meetups, InterNations parties, and countless events by thousands of organizations (political, professional, religious, cultural, sports-oriented). They all allow for interacting with like-minded people across your ecosystem. Equally, you are able to step into the other ecosystems occasionally to broaden your horizon. And don’t forget the wonderful skyscrapers to live in – another chance to meet interesting people in the hallway, the elevator, or the gym. People I encountered in the 30+ story apartment buildings of New York City certainly made my 10-year stint there even nicer.

Freedom and Meritocracy

The allure of a big city is especially great if you are not a white male: women, ethnic minorities, followers of rare religious beliefs. Whoever you are, in big cities your differences won’t be as noticeable. Cities offer subgroups and subcultures for every background or sexual orientation. Companies are staffed with people from all over the world, with the consequence that discrimination and exclusion of “outsiders” should be minimal – for sure less than in homogeneous small cities where you might stick out like a raw thumb. What you bring to the proverbial table counts, not your race, class, or caste. The freedom of living your life in the big city might also make you happier. You can be a single woman of a certain age and still have a fulfilling dating life in Washington, D.C., while the same might not be possible somewhere in the Midwest. Paris beats Grenoble, and Berlin beats Wiesbaden. It’s the same logic everywhere.

Money and Compensation

Living in a big city is expensive. Not only do you face higher real estate costs, be it rental or ownership, but food, transportation, cultural offerings, and so forth cost more. There is no end to spending top dollars. But there is a flipside. First, companies have to offer you sufficient compensation to survive; otherwise, nobody would work for them. Second, the accumulation of employees will attract more employers, who in return will offer decent salary and benefits to hire for their needs. The pressure for higher salaries is your friend – one you don’t have in a small city.

Real Estate

Then there is real estate. If you manage to get in, it will mean investing relatively more than in the countryside (because you can thanks to a higher comparative salary and you must due to higher prices). The upside is usually nice, though. Let’s assume you buy a little condo for $400K with 80% mortgage financing, compared to $150K with the same type of financing in Smallville. A similar percentage increase in value over time will translate into much more wealth creation in the first case than in the second. The first owner will have built significant equity, which she can now take out by selling and using the proceeds wherever. Our Smallville house owner will also be happy, assuming he did not buy in a village that is losing population and suffers from falling house prices as a consequence. He will just have to be content with less gain.


Life is rarely a paradise and each choice of location has its pros and cons. Life the big city can be stressful, costly, and noisy. These drawbacks might pale against the opportunities there, though. A cosmopolitan city like New York or Singapore might not your dream to raise a family or retire. For a few years at least, after graduation or when starting your career, no matter the field you are in, a big city usually offers unrivaled opportunities, professional advancement, and ingredients for personal happiness. Give it a try!

© 2019 Michael Froehls – All Rights Reserved

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