Monday, 9 January 2012

City Life vs. Country Life (Or, the grass is always greener on the other side)

I started drafting this post in my mind during a four and half mile walk through the Kentish countryside, not too far from my own home when I was with my best friend and her family on New Years Day. It was such a beautiful, lovely walk and had a lovely raw and rural charm that I have never quite been able to replicate while strolling through Hyde Park. Over the last few years I'd wanted desperately to escape the countryside which I saw as totally dull and boring, and move to the city, preferably London, and that is exactly what I did. However, during this walk I found myself really realising how much I regretted this move, and how much I really did not want to return to the city in exactly a weeks time. 
The annual village New Years Day walk in my friend Kathryn's village, 2012

I am a country girl. I have lived in and grown up in the same house in the middle of a wood, in he middle of some fields in the middle of the Kentish countryside. While I went to boarding school in the heart of Canterbury City, Canterbury is beautiful, historical and not really all that busy, nothing like most other English cities; it seems to blend into the countryside and farm land around it, and it was always close to my rather rural home base by car. However, over the last few months before I was due to move I started to find it rather unbearable, small and stifling, with nothing to do and without the excitement that the glittering lights of the big city that always beckon to teenage eyes. I saw London as somewhere exciting where I could meet people, go places, do things, and, ultimately become so much cooler than I saw myself becoming if I'd stayed stuck in such a small town. So many people I know who were born and bred in the city, hate the country and can't imagine themselves living there, and have actually managed to prove themselves right. I thought I was like them, a city girl rather the country bumkin I had been brought up to be. 
When I visited London I never really minded using the underground, but now I have to use it on a regular basis sometimes it can be rather stressful and demoralising.

I don't really make a secret of the fact to anyone who asks that I'm not really enjoying university, student life and that I find living in my bit of the city rather demoralising, but I was still rather surprised to find myself wistfully looking at Rose's photos of when she went to stay with her parents in the country, curled up in bed with my laptop in my East London student flat. I really, desperately wanted to go home, but not because I was homesick, I really would have not minded going somewhere else as long as there were trees, fields, sheep and roads without traffic lights, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings every few metres, somewhere that was actually quiet at night. 

The lesson that I have learnt? The grass may always look greener on the other side, and you're not going to know if that is the case without taking a closer look at the patch of it, but you should always give yourself the option of changing your mind and going back to your roots. They're called your roots for a reason!

As for what I'm going to do about my apparent dislike for city life, the answer is nothing, at least for the moment. I don't really have much choice but to be based in London at the moment, and it does have its benefits, such as Selfridges, The Diner, Pinkberry frozen yogurt and some pretty awesome bars in Covent Garden. And besides, if all goes to plan I won't be here for much longer, but that is news for another day.

Are you a city chick or a country bumpkin? And how do you know you are one, and not the other? 


  1. Oh my, this post struck a chord with me, primarily because I've done things completely the other way around from you (moving from my home in South London to Kent University, in Canterbury), and yet I'm feeling, in essence, the same way - living in somewhere so rural and tiny has thrown me, and I find myself missing London more and more every day.

  2. I've found exactly the same thing moving to London and being at QM. I spent years wishing to be here but then as soon as I got here I missed the friends I'd had for years at home and didnt find anyone to match up to them, and missed the general camaraderie of my small village at home! However I cant deny that the shopping and general things-to-do are much more fun here!

  3. Oh Rachel, I think this post has hit the nail on the head. I know I haven't particularly hidden my dislike for London and my love for the great Kentish countryside all that well recently, so it's quite comforting to hear that someone else feels this way too. I am a country bumpkin/seaside girl through and through and I cannot wait to move back. X

  4. Glad to know I'm not the only one at QM feeling like this then!

  5. Nice to know some of my friends will be moving back with me then!! (Though, speaking of living places, I have something to tell you on Sunday..!)

  6. If you haven't been go to Richmond park, i go some days and it's lovely to walk around especially when the deer are out and about


  7. I've been meaning to go there for a while - thanks for the recommendation!

  8. bah i could have written the exact same post. i don't know if you remember me saying, we go to the same uni so i totally know what you mean about this part of london.

    i've literally just come back from 3 weeks in the essex countryside and it's a bit of a culture shock even though this is my 4th year living in london. i just want to get a job that i can do mostly from home, adopt two retired greyhounds and live in the sticks! xx

  9. Yes, I really want that for the future too - a job from home! (Actually, I already have one - why the hell am I here?!)

    And it is funny that it seems to be QM bloggers commenting on this post - I wonder what that says about our part of London?!

  10. Oh, this post struck such a chord with me, primarily because I've done things completely the other way around (moving from my home in London to university in Canterbury), and yet feel, in essence, the same way - I am a city girl, living in a predominantly rural area, and it's almost stifling, in a way I hadn't quite realised until I came home for the Christmas break, and now the thought of going back is terrifying!
    Definitely feeling your pain, my dear, if for slightly different reasons xx

  11. It's funny, how we have essentially swapped and we both feel the same way! But are you liking bits of Canterbury at least - there are some pretty awesome places to eat even if the nightlife and shopping are not all that great! We should grab a coffee or something next time I'm in town!

  12. I should probably do one of these post : City life vs. Beach life. As much as I am loving living in London, I find myself missing the seaside sometimes.. I have never been much of a country girl though. I moved to Devon for uni, and even though I would go back to my uni days there anytime, it is not because I am missing the cows!

    I hope everything goes to plan for you! It'd be amazing! :)


  13. This is what I'm worried about when I go to uni next year; I live in a village near London but I have no idea how I'll cope with a city! It makes me wonder why I've applied to a London uni twice! At least you're not too far from home; I may end up in the depths of Siberia for a year if I choose the right degree ;) Hope you don't get too homesick x

  14. That sounds... cold? Well, at least if you're from a village near London, it will be easy to get home if you do go to a London uni and end up not being happy in the city!

  15. Well that is an intriguing little sign off!

    Try to make the most of your time in London and remember home is never too far away!


  16. I know! I can't really announce it yet, but I can't help but be infuriating with the little hints up until I can, but something very exciting is happening to me!

  17. Best of luck with whatever you do, everything will work out :)

  18. Aww, I am sorry you are finding things not great at university. I guess at least home is close enough to go back for the odd weekend during termtime?

    I definitely had some rough times during uni when I just wanted more than anything to go home, and quite a lot of the people I knew at university were from the country, and found even Bristol too big and citylike, so I can't imagine what a move to London would have been like for them!

    I love London, but I am lucky that where I like I am 2 minutes walk from Blackheath and Greenwich park - love having a flavour of the country in the city.

    ps would definitely recommend River Cottage Veg - have only made four or five of the recipes so far but it's a great book - definitely a 'vegetables for meat eaters' book that desnt try to convert you to full on vegetarianism but shows how veg can be the main component of the meal as much as meat can be. My mum made the stuffed peppers the other weekend and my boyfriend said they were the best thing he's ever eaten at my house - so that's pretty good praise!

  19. Yeah, I think I would be pretty miserable if going home was not such an easy option!

    And thanks - I might go and have a shifty at it next time I'm in a bookshop then!

  20. DanielleOxfordComma9 January 2012 at 23:11

    I considered QM, but changed my mind when I visited it. It just didn't look like a happy place to live.

    It's odd that when you're out and about at university you never seem to notice the people that aren't enjoying it. I had a very bad period in my second and third years when I went 200 miles home every single weekend. I went as far as filling in a whole new UCAS form to leave, but I've stuck it out, and now I feel far more comfortable.

    I agree that you have to try it out; I always thought I would be a city girl, but four years in Glasgow have taught me that I'm a homebody who likes living in a small, preferably rural, place. I do love the subway for getting about the place though. I hope you can sort your issues out, although the end of your post sounds sneakily as though you will! Good luck!

  21. I grew up in the city and consider myself a city girl, even though I've never tried living in the country before. To be honest, I don't really like the idea of living in a rural area - lately I've been feeling that even Sydney is too small a city for me!

    Sorry to hear you're not enjoying life at uni. I've been having a hard time adjusting to uni life and I go to uni in my hometown, live at home and commute, so I can't imagine how hard it would be for you!

  22. Thedollonfashion10 January 2012 at 09:32

    I moved to Birmingham nearly two years ago from a small rural town and can't say i've ever regretted it, I love having everything on my doorstep and weekends away in the country if ever I want a bit of peace! I won't live in the city forever, raising kids would be a no no for me but for now it's the best move I made.

    Hopefully your plans to move will come soon for you!

    The doll on fashion

  23. I can totally relate to this but from a city perspective - I'm originally from Leeds and went to University in Newcastle which I loved because in many ways as I think they are quite similar in personality and 'northern-ness'. When I went to go to Uni I was itching to get out of Leeds, I was fed up with it having lived their all my life and wanted a fresh start. I loved Newcastle but by the end I wanted to move away, go onto bigger things, get into fashion PR and live the London life - that's what I did. I got a great job and moved into a flat with my friend in a reasonably alright area. After two months I got the same pangs that you were getting. I despised the tube commute, I hated how I spent most of my money on ridiculous rent, that everywhere was busy all the time and it took ages to get anywhere. I missed living next to a park, being able to get a 15 minute bus ride into town and being able to stroll into a vaguely empty and friendly pub and order a pint under £4.00. I moved back home to Leeds, best decision I ever made. Sometimes I think you need to go ahead and experience these things that you think you really want. Yes, it doesn't always work out, but then you've got it out of your system and you can move on.

    I'm sorry to hear you're not really enjoying London but chin up and plough through - just remember it's not forever if you don't want it to be :) xx

  24. So sad London didn't live up to it's expectations. But at least you'll never think 'what if'. I guess I've always been a city girl, born and bred, and despite really wanting to got to the country for a few days, I don't think I could ever move out of the city.

    Remember though: London has me :) :) and expect great things for next year as well!

  25. I'm definitely a country bumpkin through and through! I love nothing more than sticking on my wellies and going on woodland walks in muddy puddles! Plus it makes day trips to posh shops in London more special :) I think the only city I could live in would be San Francisco because that doesn't really feel like a city and it has the gorgeous Golden Gate Park and the beach - what more could you want?!? That's all a dream though because I'll never be able to get a visa! Boohoo! x

  26. Even though I enjoy being in the countryside on occasion, I am a city girl. Though my home town is no London, I still was born in a city, raised in a city and never really got used to the lifestyle of countryside. I need the reasonable crowd, the events and art and constant liveliness in the place I live. Knowing that life goes on while I'm asleep is somehow comforting but the peace of the countryside is always relaxing for a vacation. x

  27. London Last Night10 January 2012 at 16:52

    Hard to say... I guess in my heart I will always be a country girl because I just love Nature so much. But for now I am very happy in the big city as London has always been my dream city. I guess it's just right when you are young but when I grow older, I'll probably go back to the countryside.

    London Last Night

  28. I started off the opposite really, growing up near London and never wanting to go to the countryside. But now i've been living in central London for so many years I find myself thinking about moving to the country. But then i'd miss London too much, ah what to do! xx

  29. I lived in London until I was 12 then moved to Ireland. I always went back to London throughout the years and loved it but even more so last year when i spent a month there alone being at the right age to enjoy all it has to offer. I think its good to be able to come and go though, there's no place like home which is little old Ireland for me! Currently in Australia and it doesn't have a patch on London or Ireland!

  30. I'm a bit of both, actually! Love the beauty of the countryside but need the drama, shops and business of the city (so long as it isn't Oxford St on a Saturday... yuck!)

    x Michelle |

  31. rachel, i know exactly what you mean. i lived on the Isle of Wight for the majority of my childhood in the middle of the countryside. i was always wishing i lived in the city, and now that i do live in london i find it massively stressful!! i was just wondering what uni you are at, i'm at UEL, and ive been reading your blog for ages, it would be so mad if we were at the same uni!

  32. rachel, i know exactly what you mean. i lived on the Isle of Wight for the majority of my childhood in the middle of the countryside. i was always wishing i lived in the city, and now that i do live in london i find it massively stressful!! i was just wondering what uni you are at, i'm at UEL, and ive been reading your blog for ages, it would be so mad if we were at the same uni!

  33. I grew up in a small town but go to uni in the city, I hate city noise but love having easy access to all things going on in the city. Defiantly think that I wouldn't mind living out the rest of my youth haha in the city but moving to a smaller town much like one I grew up in when I want to 'settle' down :) lovely post

  34. Hi Rachel,
    My name is Edward - I'm a producer at BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.
    I think this post is a great read, although I know it was in 2012.
    I'm producing a discussion on 'families moving to the countryside'.
    I've loved to talk to you about it a bit more.
    The item is for Monday so I'm on a bit of a tight deadline. If you could get back to me as soon as possible, if you're interest.
    I'm on or 020 7765 0625

    Speak soon,