Where should I move?
April 17, 2006 2:02 PM   Subscribe

How do I figure out what city to move to?

I'm looking for a new job and basically have two cities that I'm interested in moving to (staying where I am is not an option given my lack of support network, general unhappiness here, etc.) - New York or Chicago. I've lived in Chicago before (albeit briefly, only for a few months) and loved it. I have two good girlfriends there, a good male friend who might be moving away for grad school soon, and a few other casual acquaintances who may or may not become good friends. In addition, I'm from the midwest, so the culture there is familiar. But damn is it cold. On the other hand, I've never had a NY experience, and I have a couple of good male friends (one is probably one of my absolute closest friends) there, and another one probably about to move there (from here, actually), but no close girlfriends. However, my friends there are very outgoing and I'd have the potential to meet a lot of people. And it would be a completely new and different experience. Chicago is more affordable than NY. But NY would probably be more social and probably contains more single men (at my age, sadly, this is a major concern).

Something else for me to keep in mind, one of the jobs I am interested in is focused on high tech and communications, so clients would likely be concentrated on either coast (more travel likely if in Chicago, but if I live in NY, I could either be in town OR have a super long commute to).

So anyway...how do I decide which city I want to move to? I am very torn between the two. I know you won't be able to magically read my mind adn say "move to city X", but if you've ever had such a dilemma and can help me figure out a logical way to determine where I want to live, I would really, really appreciate it.

Also, wow this was long, thanks for reading the whole thing.
posted by echo0720 to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
I had such a dilemma. My advice: visit both cities and test-drive each one *for at least two weeks.* The length of time will help you strip away your hopeful/fearful projections and let you appreciate each city for what it really is for the people who live there.

NY is a huge high, but for me, the thought of living there 24/7 seems a lot less attractive after being there for more than about ten days. (That said, it's a marvelous city -- just very expensive and rough on delicate sensibilities.) (And for what it's worth, I like Chicago a lot, but wouldn't want to live there.)

And also remind yourself that both cities are wonderful, and that what you do once you arrive will decide whether or not it was the right move. Having to make such decisions can drive one insane, but it's always good to remember that a great life can await you in either place if you decide to be happy instead of stewing in regret.

Best of luck!
posted by digaman at 2:11 PM on April 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Can't really go wrong with Chicago or New York. I've lived in both. Since the cities are both big, with huge sub-cultures for every like and want and need, then I think it's a tossup. It's going to matter much more about your friends, and where you live in town, and how long your commute is -- what I'm saying is stop focusing so much on NYC vs CHI and focus on the life that you'll build in either city.

You'll date a lot in both cities. You'll find good food, and great bars, and good music. Based on what you said, I think you should give NYC a try. It's a great city and everybody should live there for some amount of time (preferably while still young).
posted by zpousman at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2006

I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles (I was born in Chicago), and once I discovered what life was like without the bitter cold, I can't quite bring myself to go back, no matter how much I want to.

But if you can deal with the cold, it's a great place to live. If you can deal with the cold. Which I no longer can.

You know what makes living anywhere more bearable? Having good friends and/or family you care about nearby. You might want to focus a bit more on that, if you're splitting hairs about the cold in Chicago vs the cold in NY.
posted by davejay at 2:38 PM on April 17, 2006

Realtor.com has a tool to compare the cost of living in different cities. Not sure if this is the kind of info you're looking for, but there ya go.

Points in favor of Chicago, from a lifelong Chicagoan:

current championship baseball team

excellent blues scene


Chicago-style hot dogs and pizza

A point against Chicago this summer is the Dan Ryan Reconstruction which is already seriously hosing up travel all over town.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:46 PM on April 17, 2006

I'm quite familiar with both cities, I've lived in Chicago for about 5 months and had to leave for personal reasons. Of course I lived there in the summer/fall so never truly observed the bitter cold. I've spent a lot of time in NY (I worked there, but never lived there -- such is the life of a consultant). I understand the cost of living issues (and that I could actually afford to buy a place in Wicker Park or Roscoe Village, but not likely in Park Slope or Cobble Hill). The hardest thing here is where I'd be most comfortable - and as davejay said, where do I have the biggest support network of friends (I don't have family in either city). Also where would I be most likely to have a good time, to make more friends, to meet a normal guy, etc...
posted by echo0720 at 2:54 PM on April 17, 2006

Chicago has a much lower income tax rate than NYC + NY State do.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:10 PM on April 17, 2006

normal guy

In New York City? Fuhgeddaboutit!


I'm only partly joking. There are a gazillion hot single guys in NYC, it's true. But because of the cost of living and the ethos of social climbing that reigns there, they're all busy-busy-busy. I know a lot of people who adore NYC but tell me that they hardly ever see their friends there because everyone's always working.

There are maybe 3/4 gazillion hot single guys in Chicago, and they generally seem friendlier up front to me, as well as being cute Midwesterners. But I'm married to a cute Midwesterner from just south of Chicago, so I'm prejudiced.

For le sex = New York.
For le mariage = Chicago.

But don't take that any more seriously than I mean it.
posted by digaman at 3:37 PM on April 17, 2006

I don't mean to hate on Chi-town, but thick pizza and Da Bears do not a metropolis make.
New York is the greatest city on Earth, it's the world's capital.
Come experience it while it still has the title.
posted by BillBishop at 4:17 PM on April 17, 2006

This tool is cool because it compares the cities based on characteristics that you care about (weather, cultural activities, cost of living, etc) and allows you to exclude those you don't care about (elementary school student-teacher ratio).
posted by chicken nuglet at 4:32 PM on April 17, 2006

New York is the greatest city on Earth, it's the world's capital.

sez you.
posted by dydecker at 4:45 PM on April 17, 2006

Five years ago, I was entering a quarterlife crisis and decided I needed to move to either DC or NYC to do the work I really wanted to be doing- working for a progressive non-profit. I had spent most of my life in the south, and was living at that time in the purgatory that is Delaware.

I didn't know anyone in DC, and I only knew one person in NYC and our relationship was... complicated. I had spent more time in DC, and had made only a few day trips into NYC. After interviewing in both cities, weighing the cost of living, and job opportunities, I opted to move to NYC. Primarily because I was thrilled by the diversity and complexity of New York. And also, NYC scared me shitless. I needed that life shift.

Five years later, I've made significant career strides, have a great circle of friends, and a pretty awesome boyfriend. Best decision I ever made. Sometimes I miss my car, but that's about it for negatives.
posted by kimdog at 4:46 PM on April 17, 2006

Are you prepared for life to become a little bit hard? Because if you aren't, you shouldn't move to NYC. I love NYC, but it is just hard to live here sometimes. You (probably) don't have a car. Everything is orders of magnitude more expensive than you're used to. You have to walk a lot, wait for the subway a lot, wait for a table, deal with lots of people constantly around you, noise constantly surrounding you, stairs everywhere, and oh yeah did I mention that you will probably feel at least a little pressure to wear heels during all of this sometimes? And while it might not get as cold here during the winter, it gets noticibly hotter in the summer.
I love the city. Love it. But the price you pay for all the awesome aspects of the city (culture, people, variety) is more than just monetary cost of living, it is also the general burden of everything you do being just a little bit harder. Neither of these costs should be taken lightly.
All that said, if you think you're up for it, it will certainly change your life.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:43 PM on April 17, 2006

I faced a similar decision about a year and a half ago, NYC vs. San Francisco. I chose NYC because it was closer to my folks and other friends. I'm beginning to (heart) it. But I'd probably feel the same way about SF. Similarly, I don't think you can really go wrong with whatever you end up choosing.

One thing about NYC, my friends are continually visiting because they happen to be passing through anyway. Not sure the same thing would happen with any other city.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:32 PM on April 17, 2006

I was in new york recently and had a great time, but the thing that struck me was how much adapting I would have to do to live there. In other words, I'm sure it would change my life, as someone said, because I'd have to change my life drastically to live there. Much more than say, D.C. or Chicago. And if I did move to NY, I'd probably never leave once I did change.

So I really don't think you can depend on people who live in NY to gauge how much you'd enjoy it. They've made their decision, and I doubt they can even imagine not living there. I think the difference between living in Chicago and NY is so great you should be able to make the decision on your own.

So maybe chicago isn't ny, but you also don't have to adapt as much to live there. Worth it? I'd say only you can decide. But I'd pretty much ignore the whole "only in ny city" crap. It's more of a magnitude thing than anything else.

One thing about NYC, my friends are continually visiting because they happen to be passing through anyway. Not sure the same thing would happen with any other city.

That could happen in any city. Depends on where your friends are.
posted by justgary at 10:15 PM on April 17, 2006

Disclaimer: I was born in the Chicago area, live in the city and have visited NYC only a handful of times.

For me, the big difference comes down to the type of people. You can compare and contrast bullet points like restaurants, museums, etc., all day long, but at the end of the day a city is all about its people.

New Yorkers (at least, those living in Manhattan) are *much*-more status- and image-oriented, whereas Chicagoans just care about getting shit done and doing it well. For Manhattanites, it is a Very Big Deal that they live in Manhattan, and they'll tell you at every opportunity, almost as if needing to be validated. ("It *was* a good idea to move to a $2,000-a-month roach-infested studio, right? Right??") In Chicago, things are much more laid back.

Clearly, both cities have all sorts of culture -- although I would argue Chicago has better architecture, food and music -- but people's attitudes are key. You mentioned you were a fellow midwesterner; I think the attitude difference would be the biggest point to consider.

Best of luck with the decision-making.
posted by adrian_h at 8:14 AM on April 18, 2006

It sounds like you are young enough that, perhaps, this won't be the last place you ever live. So you can look at your decision as "Where do I want to live for the next however-many years?" Does it make it any easier to decide if you look at it as a temporary situation, or an experiment, or as your contribution to research on urban living in different cities?

Another, possibly more obsessively compulsive way to look at it is to chart out your anticipated expenses and income for the next [some length of time]. Say five years. Assume no huge fluctuations in the economy, so everything stays relatively stable. At the end of five years, which city will have put you in the best position financially, perhaps to proceed with the next phase of your life (for example, marriage, parenthood, another new job, another new city).

Yes, the cost of living might be higher in NY, but maybe the salary of the job you get there will more than compensate. Or maybe you will be able to afford to buy property in Chicago vs. renting in New York, and that added investment will work better for you in the long run.

Good luck! If I were you, honestly? I'd go with the city most unlike what I've experienced before.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:35 AM on April 18, 2006

New Yorkers (at least, those living in Manhattan) are *much*-more status- and image-oriented, whereas Chicagoans just care about getting shit done and doing it well. For Manhattanites, it is a Very Big Deal that they live in Manhattan, and they'll tell you at every opportunity, almost as if needing to be validated. ("It *was* a good idea to move to a $2,000-a-month roach-infested studio, right? Right??") In Chicago, things are much more laid back.

Sure... there are plenty of status and image oriented folks NYC. But they don't make up the majority. Your day to day interaction with these types of people largely depends on the neighborhood you live in, the places you frequent, and the industry that you are in. The ubiquitousness of this lifestyle as the only lifestyle in NYC is a myth largely perpetuated by Friends and Sex & the City.

I live in upper Manhattan, work for a large liberal non-profit, and don't feel compelled to be part of any social "scene". I also seldom wear heels. My dealings with the uberhip, image-conscious masses are limited to my random wanderings through SOHO, the Meatpacking District and the Lower East Side.

If you want that type of life, you can certainly find it in NYC. But it isn't the only type of life you can have here. Not even close. And I say this as someone who grew up in a blue-collar lower middle class family in rural Appalachia.
posted by kimdog at 12:22 PM on April 18, 2006

Re: the Manhattan attitude, my friends in NY and the people I'd likely encounter in the places that I'd be hanging out are mostly brooklynites and east villagers, they have their own indie/hipster type attitude, which is one that I'd in my social circle no matter where I lived, so that's not much of an issue for me.
posted by echo0720 at 1:09 PM on April 18, 2006

« Older Why can Tabasco congeal split-pea soup?   |   Does NO2 really aid lifting? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.