Is it better to live in the city or country?

Ned Browne 18 January 2020

They say the grass is always greener, but which lifestyle is truly superior, country or city living? We weigh up the pros and cons.

The UK has one of the highest internal migration rates in Europe—3.5 per cent of the population move each year. Whilst many of those choosing to move to relocate to neighbouring local authorities, many more are moving into and out of the city.  

London has an extremely high migration rate

Over the past decade alone, London’s net internal migration stood at minus 550,000. Although, higher birth rates, immigration and younger people flocking to the city still meant its overall population swelled by 1.1 million between 2008 and 2017.


Where and why are people moving?

The biggest inflow into the UK’s cities is from students and people looking for work in their early 20s. 

Once people start families, many choose to move to suburban or rural areas.

Others have been priced out—London’s property prices, for example, although subdued in recent years, are still eight times the average salary.


Pros of living in the city

best things about city living

  • Job opportunities. Cities offer more jobs in a wider variety of professions. Plus those living in the city tend to earn more.

  • Transport. Many cities have excellent transport links—bus, rail, taxis and underground. Although, commuting isn’t much fun during rush hour.

  • Amenities. Cities abound with restaurants, museums, cinemas, theatres, gyms, cafes, shops and pretty much anything else you can think of.

  • Education. Whilst the quality of schools varies widely in cities there is, at least, plenty of choice.

  • Acceptance. Cities are melting pots of beliefs, races, cultures, sexualities and haircuts. Everyone can find their niche in a city.


Cons of living in the city

downsides to living in london rush hour

  • Pollution. Cities are definitely more polluted. Changes to emission laws should improve this in the near future, but the rise of SUV ownership and the diesel emissions scandal have definitely held things back.

  • Hustle and bustle. Cities are often overcrowded and noisy. Finding your oasis isn’t always easy.

  • Inequality. The rich and poor often live and work cheek by jowl in the city. And living in a city can be expensive, especially if you want to partake in its cultural delights. But many people live on the fringes of society.


Pros of living in the country

pros of living in the english countryside

  • Fresh air and tranquillity. Being able to open the window and breathe in the fresh air and hear birdsong is a daily privilege. Moreover, many people in the country have more of their own outdoor space. Gardening anyone?

  • Housing costs. Most of the UK’s most expensive properties are in the cities. In terms of bang for your buck, the country wins hands down. However, beware: heating and running a larger property is much more expensive.

  • The best things in life are free. This includes country walks, wildlife spotting and picking wildflowers.

  • A slower pace of life. If you’re sick of the rat race, this may be hugely appealing.


Cons of living in the country

cons of living in the countryside boredom

  • Car needed. Most people who live in the country rely on their car—to shop, to commute and to drop the kids off at school. This is expensive and ramps up your carbon footprint.

  • Lack of job opportunities. This is starting to change with the rise of home working.  But this is often only an option for those established in their career of choice.

  • Cost. Competition drives down prices. If your choice of corner shops, restaurant or pub is limited, expect to pay more.

  • Wifi and 5G. Netflix is always less enjoyable when it’s constantly buffering.


So which lifestyle is best?

Of course, there isn’t a winner. Isn’t that why so many people crave a city apartment and a bolthole in the country?


Read more: Could you live a carbon-neutral life?

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