City versus country: where will you live post-pandemic?

The pandemic has prompted city residents to take off for second homes in less congested areas. Will the move become permanent? Have cities lost their magic?

Laura

Living in a rural area during a pandemic means I can hike on my own property, ride my bike past farmland and store a fifty-pound bag of flour for making bread and pasta. It also means I’ve been able to accommodate my kids who are fleeing various virus-infested cities.

Tim

New York City has been overrun by coronavirus, making my subway commute–as a severe asthmatic– like playing Russian roulette. I need a hazmat suit to buy groceries. Parks are closed. Museums shuttered. Riding out the storm in Jersey was a no-brainer—but, when the city goes back to being a city, will I go back?

We’ll always want to live in cities, even post-pandemic.

culture

Culture opens our minds to new experiences, and enriches our lives. It’s also a catalyst for growth in neighborhoods. A recent study has shown that the neighborhoods in London and New York that have grown the most are those with high cultural capital.

Think about it: New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, San Francisco cable cars–these cultural symbols will always draw people to the cities from which they’re known.

cars and freebies

Public transportation means you can avoid a car payment. By contrast, in the country you not only need a car; you might even need one with four-wheel drive.

That public transportation can deliver you to the free 800 acres of Central Park, books at the New York Pubic Library, lights of Times Square, walks on the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the High Line trail.

health care

Health care in cities is generally better than in rural areas. A 2018 report found, when comparing rural versus urban health care for Medicare beneficiaries, rural residents, regardless of race or ethnicity, often received worse clinical care than urban residents.

broadband

Internet access can be sketchy in remote areas. Twenty minutes to download a work-related PDF, dropped calls and slow-mo video conferencing is not fun.

diversity

Living among people of various cultures teaches tolerance and sensitivity, and enriches our lives.

The city has lost its appeal. I’m moving out.

coronavirus

This will not be the last pandemic. And it’s far from over.

Viruses like to settle into cities. Try riding the subways during rush hour when they’re aren’t any seats left or straps available. People stay upright through all those tunnel twists and turns by pressing up against each other. You walk off the train wearing a stranger’s skin care products.

The only way to maintain six feet of distance from other people on the sidewalk is to walk in the middle of the street. Good luck with that.

Why go to a bar when you can’t get close enough to strangers to have a conversation?

And forget working out, at least at the gym I go to. It hasn’t been cleaned since World War 2.

working from home

The pandemic made it clear: for some, work can happen nearly anywhere. Less commuting means less wasted time, less stress, and less pollution. No in-person meetings means less cost to businesses. If your job allows it, why not continue?

housing and food and clothing

Apartments are generally more expensive in the city; in some cases, they’re much more so. Raise your hand if you’re tired of being a respectable adult with multiple roommates. An example: I live with three guys, we each pay $1800 a month, and my room is roughly the size of my father’s SUV.

Food is more expensive in the city–even from grocery stores–but, of course, the difference in cost is more affected by whether or not you’re eating out. Eating out is much easier in the city, though. (Try walking the High Line without stopping for food.)

A drink at a bar is more expensive in the city, and bars can be harder to find in rural areas.

Clothing can be more expensive in cities, especially if you live by trends, which are more visible in that environment.

cultural attractions

The culture in a city is available whether you pay out the nose for rent or you take the bus from the suburbs. Hey, you can drive that car you now can afford to own and still have money to spare.

gyms

The gyms are clean: no hairballs, no sticky vinyl seats, no sketchy water fountains.

people

If you forget to lock your car door in the country, you’ll find a load of vegetables on the front seat from your neighbor. If you lose your dog, the neighborhood organizes a search team.

How many people do you know in your city apartment building?

nature

Foxes sprinting through the woods, coyotes howling at night, a pileated woodpecker beating up a tree trunk. Fish-filled streams. Dogs running off-leash. Cows.

These are regular encounters in plenty of areas outside the city.

2 Comments

  1. Let’s talk about class. I’ve been thinking that with the shut down the divide between the haves and the have-nots is just going to be getting wider and wider. The people who cannot work from home and who have no income right now are going to go farther and deeper into a financial hole. And many of those people live pay check to pay check without any reserves. So, let’s talk about how lower class, and many middle class people move to the country or a small town. Do they have a choice to pick up and move? Maybe it’s a matter of accepting and dealing with what you know rather than risking what might be better. Hum…

    • You make a really important point. Lower income families are being hit hard from so many directions. Coronavirus testing is not equal across socio-economic class, yet who is ringing up our groceries? Access to health care is not equal, yet who is keeping food in the supply chain? And, of course, the ability to put together a down payment for a new rental can be out of reach.

      Will we be more willing to have conversations about class and access to healthcare and affordable housing because of the pandemic? Or will the pandemic make it all much worse?

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