City Living: Conveniences and Annoyances and How to Navigate the Urban Life

Posted December 10, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

Readers of Career Girl Network hail from all parts of the globe, from all different types of cities and neighborhoods, and from every walk of life. Many of you, though, are “city gals.” And for those of you who aren’t, perhaps you’re interested in living in a larger city and uncertain about making the move. Recently, a CGN reader emailed me to ask about city living. She’s interested in moving to a bigger city for the first time and wants to know the perks and downfalls of city life. So whether you’re thinking about living in a city, already do, or never want to, I hope these tips and tricks will help you better understand a “downtown” lifestyle and how to make the most of it.

First, some conveniences of living in an urban environment:

  • Stuff to do! Living in downtown Chicago, my husband and I have quickly found there is never a shortage of festivals, events, theatre, music, art, and more going on in our fair city. Whether it’s Wednesday evening or Sunday afternoon, you’ll always find something do in a bigger city.
  • Walkability. Not all cities have this perk, but many do. Living in a city center or core means often being able to walk to and from nearly everything you need – the grocery store, Target or Wal-Mart, restaurants, coffee shops, it’s all just a few steps from your door. My husband and I live in the downtown core and near the financial district in Chicago, and joke often that we live in the capital of sandwich shops in Chicago. If you want a sandwich, it’s on our block!
  • Public Transit. Most larger cities have great public transit systems that can get you from point to point relatively easily. Learning the bus system can be difficult, but once you know your basic buses, you’ll be fine. Trains are also super convenient as they usually run 24/7 and are reliable in snow, wind, and rain.

Next, I’ll be honest, there are a few annoyances of city living:

  • Green space. Living in a city often means a whole lotta grey, and not so much green. To get grass, I need to walk a little over a half mile to a beautiful Chicago park. If a backyard is important to you, you’ll need to move to an outer neighborhood or suburb, and stay away from downtown cores of cities.
  • Getting to and from the airport. In smaller cities, a drive to the airport takes a few minutes. In a larger city, airports often have to be further away to account for traffic and buildings. In Chicago, there are two airports and it takes at least 45-60 minutes on the train to get to either. A bit of a pain in the neck, I’ll admit.
  • Food deserts. Living in an urban core can often mean that the core of the people in your neighborhood are 9 to 5-ers who don’t live there full time. This can mean a lack of grocery store options or big box stores that makes picking up a few things at the grocery store darn near impossible.
  • Tourists. Now, I’m not complaining, I’m just telling you the facts. Living in a big city means dealing often with tourists. They crowd street corners with maps and don’t ever seem to walk fast enough. It’s just the way it goes. But if you can just go with the flow and understand they’re out to enjoy your city just like you are, you’ll be find.

Finally, I want to introduce you to a few services and businesses I couldn’t live without as a city dweller:

  • Grocery delivery services. There are countless grocery delivery services in the country, here in Chicago, we use PeaPod, in Minneapolis Lunds/Byerly’s Delivers, and more around the country. Nothing could be easier. No one wants to carry a watermelon from the grocery store to your house even if the store is a block away. These delivery services allow you to order food online and have it delivered direct to your door. Easy as pie! It’s a small delivery fee, but far less than the impulse purchases you’d no doubt make at the regular store.
  • Zipcar. When my  husband and I moved to Chicago, we chose to sell our car, and figured we would hate car-free living and cave to getting a new one after a few months. Well, it’s been two years and we’re still car-free thanks to great walkability, public transit, and Zipcar! Zipcar allows you to get a year-long membership to pick up cars on nearly every block in the city, drive them as much as you want, and pay as little as $8 per hour for the service. Zipcar pays for insurance, gas, and even tolls! It’s genius, easy, and saves us when we need to pick up cat litter or buy a new end table.
  • GrubHub and Seamless. These are two fantastic meal delivery services. Chinese at 11pm? They’ve got it! Your favorite Italian restaurant on a snowy night? On its way. You order online and never have to call the restaurant. I’m notorious for ordering food via the GrubHub app on my way home so it’s there just a few minutes after arrival. Perfect!
  • Daily Deal Sites! You’re all familiar with Groupon, but there are countless great daily deal sites that cater to specific cities, big and small – Living Social, Gilt City, Rue City, YouSwoop, and more. I find that as a city dweller, these deals not only save me money, but force me to think outside my neighborhood box about new restaurants, stores, and more. Get them!

So whether you’re a small town gal who hates the city or a city dweller already, I hope these ideas have given you a good glimpse into urban living and whether or not you might ever try it in your own life!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."