Chicago vs St Louis?
August 24, 2004 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Chicago vs. St. Louis: I have job offers in both cities. I have never lived in either city, and I would have to work quite a bit harder at the Chicago job. I have specific questions inside, but the bottom line question is: Is the Windy City worth it? [more inside].

I'm single and in my early 20's. In either city, I would want to live in the city itself, very near to my downtown office. I don't mind renting.

The St. Louis job would require me to work about 60 hours a week. The Chicago job would require me to work about 80 hours a week, with a commensurate increase in pay. I don't really want the extra money, so my main question is about the cities. What are the big advantages, if any, of living in a Big City? What is the political and cultural climates like in the two cities? What is the dating scene like? Etc.

I was inspired, in part, by this thread.

Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by gd779 to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total)
Exactly where will the St. Louis job be? What do you consider "very near?" The central downtown area of St. Louis is a bit of a ghost town, with the exception of Washington Avenue. Basically, people go downtown to work, go to Cardinals, Rams, and Blues games, and go to the City Museum. I have a friend that lives in a loft on Washington. I'll ask him what he thinks of living down there.
posted by zsazsa at 7:17 PM on August 24, 2004

I forgot to mention Metropolis St. Louis, the group of self-described young people responsible for much of the revitalization of downtown St. Louis.
posted by zsazsa at 7:22 PM on August 24, 2004

Dude, Chicago. Really. Work the extra 20 hours and treat yourself to a downtown living experience you won't get anywhere else in the world. If I could afford to live downtown in Chicago, it would not even be a horse race with St. Louis. No offense to the Louisians.
posted by answergrape at 7:27 PM on August 24, 2004

I've been in both places, but I was only in St. Louis for 1yr worth of grad school & was staying in the University City area, so my opinion may not be entirely well-informed.

...having said that, I vote Chicago. I liked St. Louis, but not as much as Chicago. Mind you, St. Louis was markedly cheaper, which might figure into your calculations.
posted by aramaic at 7:33 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: Exactly where will the St. Louis job be?

Right across from the Cardinals stadium. As to where I've been looking to live, I've been considering that exact downtown area, the Central West End, and Clayton. I'd prefer to walk to work or take the metro, in other words.

Why all the votes for Chicago? What makes living in Chicago so great?
posted by gd779 at 7:43 PM on August 24, 2004

I'd pick up and move back to Chicago in a heartbeat. In short: it's never boring. Excellent theatre; super museums; great bookstores and libraries (admittedly, my definition of civilization involves many bookstores); movie theatres, both big and little; yummy food; cool architecture. Not to mention convenient public transportation. And, in comparison to Los Angeles or NYC, living expenses in Chicago are not astronomical (if not necessarily cheap, either). Living in the Loop would cost $$$, though. The obvious downside, of course, is that Chicago has Weather--but September is usually nice...
posted by thomas j wise at 7:56 PM on August 24, 2004

Chicago is a big city with small neighborhoods that function more like small towns. Each has its own character. You can go a few blocks and feel like you've left the continent. You can have Polish food for breakfast, Mexican for lunch, and Ethopian for dinner and not have gone more than a few el stops.

Downtown is young and fast-paced with all the sophistication of New York with a big dash of midwestern plain-speaking and friendliness. Bars are open till practically dawn and endless summer neighborhood festivals really put it over the top for me.

If it's a choice between St. Louis and Chicago, there is no choice.
posted by answergrape at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2004

St. Louis definately plays second fiddle to Chicago (hell even third or fourth), but is *much* cheaper. STL is currently undergoing an ambitious downtown revitalisation that could make it a really attractive city center in 3-5 years. To get in now means that you could afford a really great appartment with a really great view that will soon be in a really great location that will appreciate in value like those in chicago did in the 90s. That and you'll be working a lot less. The difference between 60 and 80hours a week is huge. 60 is just working hard, 80 is dedicating your life to the paycheck.
posted by jmgorman at 8:06 PM on August 24, 2004

Sort of a self link here - for a decent Chicago preview, check out Gapers Block.

Here's the thing about Chicago that people simply don't realize: it's enormous. St. Louis is miniscule by comparison. We play second fiddle to New York obviously, and the sprawling suburb that is Los Angeles has more people, but you'll not find a larger, more varied city in the US.

Take Boston or San Francisco - wonderful towns that boast several hundred thousand folks. Chicago pushes three million. That's why there's so much more in the way of theatre, culture, music, shopping, architecture and life in general. Oh, and "colorful" politics too.

All wrapped up in a friendly attitude that makes East Coast folks think Lake Michigan is spiked with something.

Come on over. We'd be glad to have you. And your taxes. And your vote(s).
posted by aladfar at 8:53 PM on August 24, 2004

I've never been to St. Louis, but I do live in Chicago (and have for the last two years) so I figured I'd chime in about my impressions of the cultural climate here. To be blunt, I think my experience here would be a lot more positive if I were white. This is an extremely segregated town and that gets tough to deal with after a while. I've never really been super sensitive to racial dynamics in places I lived (and I grew up in Orlando, went to middle and high school with skinheads, got thrown up against lockers, etc. etc.), but from the moment I've gotten here, I've become extremely aware of my 'minority-ness' and that gets draining.

People that live here seem extremely positive about the place, and I've tried giving it a chance, but I don't see the charm. I'm only here for school and every one of my friends that moved here from another city (admittedly all East coasters, and also all some shade of ethnic minority) has had a really tough time.

That said, from what I hear Chicago is a diversity wonderland compared to other places in the Midwest, so my own experience could just be biased by the fact that I moved from New York City, and prior to that I had been at a college with over a 35% minority population.

That said, I don't think I'll ever live in as nice an apartment as I do now. I'd skip downtown (I lived there my first year and it felt like a ghost-town after the working folk left -- however, access to the lake is convenient, which is great if you bike, run, play volleyball, etc. for the three to four months of the year where the weather allows you to be outside). Your money goes a long way here - especially for quasi "city" living.

There's a decent amount to do, but a lot of the bar scene seems to be dominated by a very 'fratty' crowd. I get the impression that Chicago is a big destination for midwestern kids right out of college - then they get here and hang out with other midwestern kids which kind of gives the place a bit of a provincial feel.

I am sure many will disagree, just figured I'd throw out my own experience.
posted by buddha9090 at 9:09 PM on August 24, 2004

buddha9090, I'm not sure where you're going to school or where you're hanging out, but send me or Aladfar an email and we'll hook you up with a much better, at least slightly more diverse crowd. (Of course it's a destination for kids outta college -- they can't all go to the coasts. In fact, that's what gd779's doing -- he's currently in Ann Arbor.)

What are the big advantages, if any, of living in a Big City?
Variety, plain and simple. You're going to find more of everything in Chicago.

What is the political and cultural climates like in the two cities?
Chicago is run by Democrats, and the IL-GOP is in complete disarray. Safe to say, if you're on MetaFilter, you'll probably fit in just fine (unless you're buddies with 111).

What is the dating scene like?
I've been off the market for awhile, but I understand that there are far more single women than men -- although the gay scene is great, too, if you bat that way.
posted by me3dia at 9:37 PM on August 24, 2004

I think this is apple and oranges. If you're looking to get married St. Louis might be an easier grab (and to settle in, get a house in the suburbs, have kids and still live reasonably close to work).

To me it sounds like you want the St Louis job (you don't care about the money, mentioned the difference in hours) and I think you should go ahead and get it. Who cares what city you're in if you live to work. No one working 80 hours a week could enjoy all the things that Chicago has and still possibly settle down.
posted by geoff. at 11:39 PM on August 24, 2004

I'm inclined to agree with geoff. I live in St. Louis for a year (in fact the only city I've lived in other than Minneapolis), and it was nice. A bit brain-drained, but the people that are left are obviously tenacious bastards. Also, low cost of living, as was mentioned earlier.

When I was there, I rarely had reason to leave the city proper. Everything I needed was either in St. Louis or the university area.

The weather was always humid when I was there, but the winters were milder than they are farther north. Also, mind you, you'd be only a few hours' drive from Chicago.

In summary, not as much culture as I was used to in Minneapolis, and certainly not as much as Chicago, but it's not a bad city by any means. (Now, East St. Louis, on the other hand, is a shithole.)
posted by neckro23 at 11:52 PM on August 24, 2004

I just moved to Chicago a couple weeks ago and I'd definitely pick this city, for all the (positive) reasons mentioned above, especially what thomas j. wise and answergrape said.
posted by jennyb at 5:41 AM on August 25, 2004

St. Louis might be cheaper, but Chicago isn't that expensive - don't let people tell you that you can't find a decent apartment for a smaller hunk of change. I live in Andersonville, which is in the northern part of Chicago (a 30 minute train ride to downtown), and our apartment has a non-working fireplace, spacious rooms, high ceilings, and built-in storage for only $800 a month.

You sound more inclined towards the St. Louis job though.
posted by agregoli at 7:26 AM on August 25, 2004

There's no better place to live, for someone single and in their twenties, than the northside neighborhoods of Chicago. Someday you will move away, but you will remember your time there forever. Go.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:30 AM on August 25, 2004

me3dia, is that offer available to others, or just buddha9090?
posted by kenko at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2004

chicago is either very expensive or a really cheap place to live. i've lived in this city both ways recently (i prefer the expensive city, but that's just me) you don't even have to exile yourself north or south to get a cheap place to live, particularly if you have a roommate or choose the bus route over the el train. plus, it's amazing how much money you save when you liberate yourself from the car, even with the public transp. costs. and you do not need a car in chicago.

i find that chicago offers a great variety of living experience. you can find it all sports bars and frat boys, or all bergdorf women in jimmy choos. it's a very liveable and exciting place. and the lake is so much more ocean like than people think.

hell, if it weren't for the fact that i don't want chicago getting more crowded, i'd tell everyone to live here!
posted by crush-onastick at 8:51 AM on August 25, 2004

I just moved to Chicago from NYC:

Advantages: Everything you could want at your fingertips. Great crowd of youngish democratic people. Cheap theatre and music everywhere. All the lake activities (the lake is accessible from anywhere in Chicago - lots of people walk there directly after working downtown.

My only concern for you is that 80 hours (really?) is a lot. In fact, unreasonable. What kind of job expects you to work 80 hours on a regular basis? Something stinks about this job, and you are not going to be happy anywhere if you're working that much.
posted by xammerboy at 10:57 AM on August 25, 2004

Chicago is the coolest city I've ever been to. St. Louis is one of the worst.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:19 PM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all your comments. I learned a fair bit that I didn't know, and it's given me a lot to think about.
posted by gd779 at 2:43 PM on August 25, 2004

(Sorry, kenko, I was offline for a few days. I doubt you're still checking on this thread, but yeah, it's an open invite.)
posted by me3dia at 1:59 PM on August 30, 2004

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