Why I love living in the suburbs

There is a certain local blog I’ve started following very closely (with transport being one of Auckland’s biggest growing pains as the city expands, I’m keen to keep up with what’s happening in that area).

One thing that does frustrate me is the sometimes excessively ideological stance it takes. City life = good. Suburbia = bad. Walking and biking and of course, public transport = good. Cars = bad.

Absolutely, we need to reduce car congestion particularly at peak times – and I think that’s our biggest opportunity in regard to public transport. But for the majority of Aucklanders, a car is still going to be almost a necessity for your leisure time. (Even more so for people who don’t work in the CBD and generally need to drive to work.) I don’t ever imagine there being enough demand for a regular bus from, say, town to Bethells beach, and I sure hope there never is, to be quite frank. That would be horrible – I can’t even begin to fathom it.

Most of us do not live in the CBD, and I’d say very few of us want to. (Not bashing the CBD! Just stating a general truth. The most desirable areas are undoubtedly the immediately surrounding suburbs rather than the CBD itself.)

Personally, the closest I’ve ever lived to town is Epsom/Mt Eden (about a 15-20 minute bus ride). Here’s why:

Location/proximity

We have to balance the ease of getting to work for me AND him. We are probably always going to work in very different parts of Auckland, and he will probably never be in a situation where public transport makes sense for his commute. It’s also ideal for us to live close to friends and family, who are all central-west/west. His side of the family has no car of their own; we always go to them. He also spends a lot of time with friends; the time and petrol costs when we lived over in Epsom sometimes got a bit silly.

Food

The best Asian food is found in the suburbs. None of my regular favourite restaurants are in town. YMMV depending on your tastes. Also, grocery shopping is wayyy better in the suburbs, both in terms of supermarkets and cheap grocers/butchers. When T’s sister lived way out west we’d bundle visits with a trip to the massive Lincoln Rd Pak’n’Save, the supermarket to end all supermarkets.

Room to breathe

This might sound a little weird … and I completely understand if you don’t get it. Having grown up in a suburban area, these are the kinds of surroundings I’m used to. We spent about a year living in an apartment building when I was still a student and it just didn’t feel right. It’s not about raw floor space; after all our current one-bedroom flat (which is kinda like a big sleepout between two real houses in front and back) is probably about the same size as that apartment. It’s about little things like stepping out your front door and being outside. A little garden. Not having neighbours literally on the other side of the wall/floor/ceiling. That’s what feels right to me, probably because that’s how I was raised. And while we’re on that note … the beach and bush that we like are an easy drive away. I love that.

I was also actually going to say that it’s cheaper out here, but that’s not necessarily true. There’s always a glut of tiny shoebox apartments available for rent in town, but again for that breathing room/lifestyle aspect, we’d pick the suburbs any day. Caveat: I don’t mean the sprawly, soulless type of suburbia where you have to drive for ages to get anywhere – that end of the spectrum sucks – but the good kind, that’s near transport links and shops and parks.

It’s all about balancing and tradeoffs. Commuting is a bit of a pain, but it’s not like I’m not used to it, like every other Aucklander. We’re not after bar hopping, shows, and going to trendy places. Out of the years that I spent working in the suburbs, I can probably count on my fingers the number of times we ventured into town in our own time. CBD living doesn’t interest us (at least not with the CBD in its current state, for all the progress it’s made in the last decade). I love working in town, but am happy to go home to suburbia.

12 thoughts on “Why I love living in the suburbs

  1. I love living in the suburbs. I lived in downtown Chicago when I was younger, and I go back often to visit and I just know that city life is not for me.

  2. I live in Newmarket at the moment and don’t mind it since the Domain is so close if I want some greenery, I work and go to the Gym in Newmarket so it works out quite well for me but I do often miss my home town (Wanganui) and how relaxed it is compared to the inner city which is what I imagine the outer suburbs of Auckland to be like.

  3. I hate the suburbs HOWEVER I’m talking about suburbs in America. They are so bland. I do, however, live in a neighborhood that is about 10 minutes from downtown has a great park, public transit access, bars, restaurants, but not overrun with people, it also has a very chilled out feeling to it. You’re right though that some of the best restaurants are found a little further from the city center (cheaper too).

  4. Ah, greenery! That would be bliss!

    If I could drive to work and have a parking spot that didn’t cost anything, I would SO be living in the ‘burbs and drive-commuting. That will never happen, though–work has no free carparks and is in the middle of the CBD. With housing prices nearly the same in the close ‘burbs as in the CBD, I’m kind of stuck. I cannot afford to own a car AND pay for work parking, so therefore I live in the CBD, where owning a car is not only unnecessary, but kind of a hindrance due to the lack of parking.

    Living in the ‘burbs and commuting to work by bus could work, but then I am adding busfare to my costs. And I’d probably need a car anyway, to do my grocery shopping, etc.

    Nearly 6 years without a car…and counting. I miss driving A LOT, but I guess my carbon footprint thanks me!!

  5. I’ve done both and each has its charms. I suppose it really depends on the particular city though. Here in New York, it would be a huge pain trying to find parking and dealing with the traffic any time I went into the center if I lived out in the suburbs. Of course, people make it work. In other cities, it’s not nearly this extreme.

  6. I prefer the suburbs personally and I love to see lots of green space and waterfront that is accessible. Where I live now, I have that all including the free ferry and express shuttle buses to Manhattan whenever I want to indulge in the fast pace world and exciting world of Manhattan.

  7. I live in what is technically the subarbs, in a century old neighborhood with loads of character and just 5 miles from downtown. I’d say it’s the best of both worlds. I love being close to the city, but I also really like coming home to our quiet neighborhood. I agree, it’s all about balancing!

  8. I’m not a downtown person for the reasons you listed. But at the same time I definitely like finding a balance. Rural is definitely NOT my thing. :)

  9. We live in the suburbs and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love raising my kids in a place where they room to play and ride their bikes. I also like the fact that we have more space and a bigger place since we live outside of the city.

  10. I can definitely see myself eventually moving back to suburbia when I start a family, but right now I really enjoy city life! But I definitely don’t want to raise kids in a city apartment without a yard or room to breathe.

  11. These are the reasons why I live in the suburbs! It might not as easy to get to places
    in the suburbs compared to in the city, but I think the pros of living in the suburbs
    beat the pros of living in the city. I lived in the city when I was still in college, and
    I couldn’t wait to get back to the suburbs because it was so cramped!

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