Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, July 12, 2012

City v Country Life (The Last Word)

Only 2 weeks in our new house and RR is complaining. He says there is too much "traffic noise". "What traffic noise?" I said. "That traffic noise!" he replied. I cocked my head to listen. There was a lone car driving past. Perhaps two. "There!" he said.

This is the response from a man who has spent the last two years living on a village lane so quiet you could walk down the middle of it and not worry about getting run over.

"You mean, that traffic noise?" I said, as another car chugged past. This one was going so slow I could hear Karise Eden's Hallelujah spilling out the open windows. In fact, it was going so slow I think I heard the whole song.  “Can’t you hear it?” he said, incredulous that I could be so facetious in the face of this urban cacophony.

“Can’t you sleep?” I asked him, wondering why he was being so uncharacteristically grumpy. “Well, it’s not as bad as New York, but it’s still loud,” he argued.

Here’s the irony. He grew up in North Adelaide, where traffic, while not Times Square, is still a constant. I, on the other hand, grew up in the country, where the only sounds were the cows calling to be milked. But now, as adults, we have switched aural allegiances. I prefer city living, where the sounds of sirens and drunks falling out of pubs lull me to sleep at night. He prefers the country, where a bike bell is enough to raise his head from his Sunday stupor. He’s having trouble adjusting to city living again after two years of village life. But I – oh my – I have embraced the return to urbanity with the fervour of Tom Cruise returning to a Scientology session after Katie pulled the pin on their fraying marriage. I love being able to walk down to the shops, rather than driving for 20 minutes down a mountain in a thick mist. I adore the fact that there is a supermarket around the corner. (“Oh, you’re out of beer honey! I’ll get that!” Actually, I’d probably never say that...) And I relish the proximity to the cross-city freeway, which is, oh, about a kilometre down the road. If the international airport was closer, I’d be as happy as Katie Holmes looking at her cheque account right now.

This is the problem facing a urban/rural relationship. One of you is never going to be 100% happy. “Perhaps we could buy a little cottage in the country one day?” he suggested yesterday. “I was thinking we could buy a little pied-a-terre apartment in the CBD?” I said sheepishly. I didn’t want to tell him I’d already dreamed of finding a cheap little studio in Paris. Right above the bustling Boulevard Saint-Germain. Or, failing that, in New York. Somewhere near the lovely hustle of Madison Square Park. (We haven’t entirely ruled out moving to the US. Or should that be, I haven’t.)

Reading one of Ben Petreath’s blog posts the other day, I laughed at the responses to his musings about country living v city life. It’s true that urbanites romanticize rural idylls. Sometimes the grass really is greener in the middle of the metropolis.

Here are some comments from both Ben’s post and also (Scroll down to read.) If you haven’t yet visited Ben’s delightful blog, do drop by, if only for a gawp at his enviable garden and life. Oh – and if you're in the country and need a city fix, here are some more photos from my recent love affair New York.

Manhattan, I'll be back soon. I promise.

See? There are cows in the city!


“I don’t think there’s anything beautiful about muddy fields and that’s what the countryside is. I think most city-dwellers have a romanticised view of the countryside. It’s only pretty if you don’t see it day in, day out. After seeing it for a while, you grow to loathe it.” FERN

“In the country you’ll generally have one shop in a small village, if you’re lucky (most places round here don’t have any shops at all and perhaps not any even within walking distance), but if you want anything more than a newspaper you’ll have to drive to a chain store. Oh, and there’s no public transport/proper streetlighting/pavements, so you HAVE to drive (which is incredibly limiting if you can’t).” FERN (She was on a roll.)

“In my experience, the close-knit communities you get from small villages generally foster resentment and oneupmanship rather than community spirit. I don’t know anyone who gets on with their neighbours.” (Yep, FERN again!)

“I wish I loved living in the country, but I really do not. I must admit that it really is beautiful out here, but we are so far removed from any conveniences (like grocery stores) that I fail to see the beauty most of the time.” JENNIFER

“We love living in the country. Sorry about your mud, Fern.” LORI

“I love London (with a slightly bigger garden?) for all-year-round living; the countryside can be grim in winter.” IAN

“I live in the country and come to London about twice a month on weekends. I love to catch the 18.34 on Friday evenings and observe the changes in the landscape with each stop towards London. I stick my head out of the little windows between carriages and sniff the air like dogs do, although I’m sure I don’t look as noble; foliage, manure, river and then on to diesel, dust and chip oil. For some reason a little wander through Boots on the London side helps me adjust to the pace of the city.” GIRLFROMTHERIVER

“Ah the country! Always the country.” KELLY


  1. I do love Ben Pentreath, I have a few of his bits and bobs around the house.
    I can't sleep unless there is total silence, I could live in London ( and have) easily but only in a back street with the bedroom facing a quiet garden.

    Hope life is calmer for you now!

  2. Relationship advice columns carry on about mismatched libidos, but we all know it is the mismatched real estates dreams that can really test the relationship!
    Double glazing is a good investment for managing traffic noise, I speak from personal experience.

  3. Well another one of those old age arguments. It depends where in the country. I spent some enforced time at my father's house a while ago .Up on Berry Mountain, (NSW Sth Coast) very cold and misty, I thought the Hound of the Baskervilles was about to bound through. BUT I love the birds,including lyrebirds and the wombats chugging through the garden.

  4. Oh dear!!!! I married a city bloke and he brought me back to the country...I love both!!!!
    We lived on busy roads and quiet streets and here I have two large supermarkets and road side stalls with home grown produce and less than an hours drive to four large communities if I desperately want a change of scene, Can't wish for better than that!!
    Enjoy the city and I agree double glazing works a treat!!! xx

  5. I knew this would happen!
    Millie xx


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