My Simple Guide to City Life
There is something about the City that I love. My wife is a secluded beach person, which is super nice, but I’m all about the energy and vitality of a city. This includes the heavy flow of people, cars, and street vendors along with the pollution, constant noise and crazy people. I feel more connected to the world in a city.
On a bit of a side note, my friend here told me of a time when he accidentally came across a gathering of homosexual “little people” in the entrance of a subway station. Seems it was a tweet-up of sorts. Extremely random, extremely city.
We have spent most of our lives in suburbs but more recently had the chance to spend nearly 2 years in Bangkok and currently living in Mexico City for an extended period as well. We have also visited Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and my favorite city of all time, New freakin’ York. I’m picking up a thing or two about city life and thought I’d make a short guide to living in the City… any city.
- Enjoy the Food – almost every major city in the world has some of the best food you’ll ever eat. Hidden gems and local favorites that are as unique and hard to come by as the low-price airfaire you’d hope to find to get there.
- Make Your Presence Known – not in an obnoxious American way but in a respectful, friendly foreigner sort of way. I can’t speak Spanish very well but I routinely say hello (or rather, “buenos dias”) to about 8 people every morning on my way to drop my kid off at school. These are the folks right outside of my apartment as well as the caretaker within my building. In small conversations here and there, I have been able to learn more about life in my city and I do believe that I am establishing trust with each interaction. It’s hard to imagine that these friends and acquaintances of mine wouldn’t stick up for me if anyone ever tried to punk me… not that I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. Ahem…
- Public Transportation is Your Friend – it’s not always the most comfortable or glamorous way to get around but it’s what most of the “normal” people in your city use to get around. It’s also a great way to get a little pulse of the mood or disposition within a city. Something I see every day is just how extremely exhausted the people are from working abnormal (by most standards) hours in order to support their families. It is also not rare to see many downtrodden faces. Pain exists everywhere and you can see this first-hand whenever you choose to board the bus or train.
- Expect Craziness – something that just about every single major city has in common is its share of craziness. There’s the natural chaos and madness of heavy traffic and the daily hustle & bustle, but there’s also a plethora of people suffering from mental illness and/or drug use. We have a guy who hangs out near our apartment who is strung out 90% of the time we see him. He stands directly in front of us sometimes without saying a word but as soon as we greet him, it’s all good. He seems creepy but I have learned he is harmless. I’m embracing the craziness.
- Yes, Leave Your Home Without It – I never carry my credit and debit cards around with me unless I need them for something specific. This is just in case some daring guy chooses to mug me despite my menacing exterior. Along the same lines, I don’t carry too much cash either but if for some reason I need to, I put the dinero in my pocket. As long as the brave mugger doesn’t feel me up, he’ll never know about the cash that’s not in my wallet.
- Figure Out Your Routes Beforehand – Nothing says, “here i am, take advantage of me!” like a dude with a map in hand and a camera around his neck. I try to be very intentional about looking like I know what I’m doing and where I’m going, especially when I’m by myself. This is achieved by figuring out my basic subway routes before I leave the house and walking with a humble swagger. Sounds like an oxy-moronic move? Yes, but it’s possible.
- Take Notice of the World in Front of You – the City gives you access to the hurting and destitute in ways that suburbs cannot. Not to say pain and brokenness do not exist in the suburbs, they’re just more hidden. The opportunities to give and serve are literally staring you in the face as you walk the streets of the cities and there is a profound duality of privilege and burden at play here as we witness the needs of the world at our feet. What will you do when you come face to face with this reality?
Hope you find this helpful as you think about your favorite or current city.
What are some other helpful thoughts you have in regards to city living (or visiting)?