4 Things You Learn Moving From A Small Town To A Big City

So after a life spent in a small town, you think you’re ready to move to the big city. If multiple talking animal movie protagonists can do it, why can’t you? Besides, you know what to expect: glitzy nightlife, exotic dining options, everyone spends all day, every day honking their horns in traffic. Well, I’ve made this journey myself, and trust me, you’re in for some surprises …


The City Is Actually Safer

Small towns are where you can leave the windows open at night, knowing that in the very worst case, you’ll be visited by a talking owl with handy life lessons. Ask anyone who’s never left their tiny hometown what life in a big city is like, and they’ll provide you with the IMDb synopsis for The Departed. Sure, the city has its benefits … if you survive.

And in fact, within a couple months of my move, there was a brutal murder just two blocks away from my new place. Shot right in the goddamned head! Everyone had been right all along! And I was probably next! I had re-habitated to Murder Town, and it was only a matter of time before the police found my body in a river or a dumpster behind a Dunkin’ Donuts, or scattered in between.

The truth of the matter is that in general, you’re far more likely to die purely by accident, and that happens way more in smaller towns. There, you’re 20 percent more likely to die from unintentional injuries, your screams echoing across the tranquil countryside. That rural illusion of safety is based on pop culture, which tends to favor stories about shootouts in city streets over tragic tales of middle-aged men tumbling off their roofs while trying to adjust their satellite dishes.

Plus, for people like me, who don’t necessarily feel safer with a shitload of armed citizens around, I was relieved to learn that guns aren’t nearly as popular in cities as they are in rural areas. And to verify both of these studies, I just went and looked out my window, and didn’t see a single person open-carrying or trying to shoot a lawnmower full of Tannerite and getting their leg blown off. (Warning: That link is to a video of that exact thing happening, though now that I think about it, it mainly proves that the real killer is boredom.)


People Will Totally Refuse Cash As Payment

If somebody standing behind a counter tells you that the cash in your hand is no good, it’s a safe bet that the things you’re trying to buy are canned goods and bullets and that a riot raging behind you, because clearly the system has collapsed. Once, I went to nearby town and they asked me for a check instead of cash, and had no idea what to do. Don’t they have to take it, by law? Isn’t this the fabric that holds all of society together?

I worked at the same place for 15 years in my small town, and they still don’t have a credit card machine, because that shit will eat into three percent of their profits (that’s right, whenever you use a card, the bank takes a little sliver of that money from the merchant). We took cash, because we were in America.

When you move to a city, you may quickly find that physical currency is no longer accepted, depending on where you’re shopping. Suddenly my cold, hard cash was deemed as worthless as a slip of paper with “I PROMISE TO PAY U BACK” written in crayon. This is partly done for theft prevention (so easy for a cashier to just pocket the money and insist the missing carton of Marlboros must have been shoplifted), but abandoning the 10,000-year-old concept of physical currency entirely seems a bit extreme.


Nobody Smokes

Where I’m from, every fourth pedestrian seemed to be a glorious human chimney, and the designated smoking areas outside of bars were like their own private social events. You could hang out at the kids’ table inside the brewery, or you could play cancer roulette with the hip people outside. After moving, though, I’ve noticed that I’m often the lone smoker outside of a bar, and walking down the sidewalk while puffing away feels like I’m bothering literally every person I pass.

As it turns out, the difference in the number of smokers between urban and rural areas is fairly dramatic. In the span between 2001 and 2007, adult smoking in New York City had dropped 20 percent, and smoking among teenagers had dropped 52 percent. This was attributed to things like higher costs due to state and city tobacco taxes, anti-smoking ads, and there being fewer places to buy cigarettes. If you’re the type of person who likes avoiding annoyances like debilitating lung issues and heart disease, this is fantastic news. But if you’re a smoker (like me), you just feel like the fuckface who’s poisoning everyone in your general vicinity. Nice job, jerk. You just got all of Brooklyn sick. It’s like how common courtesy says you step outside of a crowded party to go smoke, only the city is one big crowded party, so there’s no place to go.


Driving Sucks In Exciting New Ways That You Don’t Expect

The traffic is the one part of city life everybody already knows about. It’s one of the first things you learn as a child — colors, shapes, and not going over the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:30. But it’s not just bumper-to-bumper traffic and gridlock that suck years off your life; it’s completely foreign concepts, like weird-ass parking rules you had no idea existed.

Where I live, there are certain streets that have what’s called an “odd-even” parking ordinance, which basically means that if the day of the month is even, you have to park on the side of the street with the even-numbered addresses, and the reverse on odd-numbered days. With a lot of streets in big cities, you’re forced to move your car at one specific time of the week to make room for street cleaning. Then you either try to cram your car into one of the four open spaces left in the whole city, or just drive around until the army of street sweepers has retreated. The policies are likely a large-scale Milgram experiment intended to see just what city-dwellers will tolerate before finally rising up to overthrow the system.

Back where I’m from, distance is actually a meaningful concept. The grocery store I would frequent was an inconvenient 12 miles away, and it took me about 15 minutes to drive there, which is easily calculated based on how fast the car is being driven. Now I live in a city bustling with commerce, so that store chain is now just a few miles away. Which is a totally meaningless figure, because what matters is how many minutes that is, and oh by the way, it’s at least the same 15-minute trek as in the small town (only it’s a much more stressful 15 minutes that feel much longer).

It’s particularly harrowing because when pedestrians have the right of way, they just fucking go. Considering how cold and cynical city-dwellers are supposed to be, these people seem to have supreme confidence in the goodwill and braking reflexes of their fellow urbanites. Some of us are from out of town, dammit! We’re not expecting strangers to just shuffle right in front of us while we’re trying to make a right turn! Plus, this is the ninth day of the 12th month, which I believe means I can legally park on your face.

Dwayne is on Facebook and Twitter … sometimes.

Man, what a Tale of Two Cities. No matter where you live, it might not be a bad idea to carry some mace with you.

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For more, check out 7 Things No One Tells You About Moving to a New Country and The 5 Worst Things About Getting a Job in a Small Town.

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