Living in Germany – Big City vs. Small Town

I grew up in Hong Kong, a city with a population of more than 7 million people. During my studies, I have lived in other big cities like Prague and Berlin. I was so used to live in big cities that I thought I could never live in a small town. Some years ago, I decided to move to a small town in Germany with less than 50,000 people due to my internship. Before moving there, I was worried that living in a small town would be very boring and inconvenient. Surprisingly, I was not bored at all and fell in love completely with this town. Ever since then, I think I can never live in a big city again.

So, what is so amazing about living in a small town? I think there are both pros and cons. And it depends on what kind of lifestyle you want. Below are some of the differences:

Getting around

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There is usually a good transportation network within a big city: U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram, bus, etc…Therefore, you do not need a car if you only stay inside the city. If you plan to live there for longer term, you can buy a monthly or yearly transportation ticket. Then, you do not have to think about paying whenever you need public transportation. Besides, there are more job opportunities in a big city. When you have a job in the city and you live also inside the city, you do not have a long commute to work.

In a small town, there is usually some public transportation (like buses) within the town. However, it may not be as convenient as in the big cities. For example, in the small town that I lived, buses are running only every 20-30 minutes, and no buses on Sunday. Even so, I like living in a small town because I can go everywhere with my bike. Once I had a bike, I was completely mobile.   I rarely used the buses, because I did not like to wait and the buses may not always come on time. My cheap second-hand bike costed only around 50 EUR and I used it for more than a year. This helped me to save a lot of money which I would need to spend on public transportation if I would have lived in a big city.

Entertainment

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One big advantage of living in a big city is the great selection of entertainment options. For example, you can find cinemas which play movies in English; there are many different kinds of restaurants; there are plenty of shopping malls; there are more options for language courses or other courses like dancing, cooking, etc.

The entertainment options in a small town cannot be compared to the big cities. I am Chinese and like to cook Chinese food. In the small town that I lived, there were a few Asian markets. However, they are quite small and cannot be compared to those Chinese markets in the big cities. Same for the restaurants: there were no authentic Chinese restaurants in the small town that I lived in. All I had were some Asian mixed restaurants which offered very “Germanized” Chinese food. Furthermore, there were no cheap hostels in the small town that I lived in. There were a few expensive hotels but it was not affordable for students like me back then.

From this perspective, it sounds very bad to live in a small town, isn’t it? However, there are some advantages to it. It is less crowded and much quieter in a small town. There are much fewer tourists. After living a few years in a small town, I can’t imagine moving back to a big city. I do not prefer to live in a place fully packed with people everywhere. Just to give an example. When I had to register my new address in Berlin, it took me two to three hours waiting in the “Bürgerbüro”. In a small town, the registration took me around 15 minutes. So, I almost didn’t need to wait at all. This applies to other government departments like making my driving license or renewing my visa, etc.

Social aspect

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As there are more people in a big city, there is a higher chance that you can meet many different kinds of people. As mentioned, there are more entertainment options in a big city, it means that you may have more ways to make new friends. This is good especially if you are new to the city. For example, if I want to hang out with people from my own country, there is a big Chinese community in Munich. It is not difficult to meet other Chinese people and connect with them.

In a small town, I would still be able to find a few Chinese here and there. Maybe it is harder to make new friends. However, it depends also on other factors. For example, if you live in a town with a university, the chance is that many students are living in that town as well. When you study at that university, you will have some connection with other students so it is easier for you to make friends who live also close by. Same if you work for a company in a small town. You can hang out with your colleagues in the same town. Since there are not many entertainment options, the most common activity is house parties. You can invite your friends to your place or you go to theirs. If you don’t have any connection to make new friends in a small town, it can be hard for you. But once you have your small community, you can have as much fun as you live in a big city. It is all about the people that matter but less about the place.

Housing

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Everybody knows how difficult it is to find a place to live in a big city like Munich. Is it easier to find a place in a small town? Not necessarily. The problem in a small town is that even though there are fewer people, there is also less supply. When I was looking for a flat in WG-gesucht in a small town, there were only a few offers (less than 10) per day. It is as difficult as in a big city. I ended up moving 4 times within 15 months living there.

Regarding the housing price, it is getting really expensive in the big cities. For example, Munich is one of the most expensive cities if you want to buy your own flat/house there. Since it is so expensive, people are looking for flats outside the city. This also drives up the house prices of the surrounding towns in return. The farther away from the city, the lower house price you can find.

Now I have my small family and I choose to live in a small town. We can afford to buy a house in a small town which is a bit more far away from the city. Our house has a big garden. And we paid 200,000 EUR less for the same house when we live 20 kilometers further away from the city.

So, what is better? Living in a big city or a small town?

It depends on your preference. If you are young and enjoy meeting new people and nightlife, living in a big city is something for you. For families, many like to live outside the city to have the advantages of bigger living space and lower house prices. Meeting new people and nightlife may not be as important for families any more. On the other hand, they prefer to live in bigger flats where there is enough room for the kids.

As for me, I prefer to live in a small town near a big city. A town with around 50,000 population is the best for me. Because it is not too big and not too small. I have everything I need in the town like doctors, supermarkets, schools, kindergarten, restaurants, shops, etc. And if I feel like doing a big shopping, I can always travel to the next big city on the weekend. It may take me one hour to drive to the big city, but I do not need to be there every day.

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What about you guys? Are you living in a big city or a small town? What is your preference? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

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