Deliberately downsizing when you’re a born and bred townie

English: Auckland Waterfront, New Zealand

English: Auckland Waterfront, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They say San Fran, London, NY, LA, Vancouver etc are the least affordable cities in the world (and yes, Auckland is up there too). Recently, I was talking to someone (Kiwi-born) who’s back in NZ but can’t wait to get back to the States. It was easier to get ahead in LA, he reckons – everything here from housing to cars to food to clothing, in terms of what you get for your money, and in proportion to incomes, is just beyond.

We’re such a nation of travellers. Most of my high school friends are still studying, or have only just graduated. Of my university friends, probably about half have already gone on their OE, while more are planning theirs already. Of those I encounter, usually professionally, the inevitable question comes up as to whether I’ve lived or worked overseas.

It’s a strange divide. Contrast this with the blue-collar types T works and socialises with, who’ll probably never go around the world, and may not have any desire to. The ones (and yes, I’m going to grossly generalise here) who have families, usually young; the ones who struggle along in low-paying work for years, who’ll never reach the highest tax brackets; who have little to no disposable income, or if they do, put it toward smokes, beer, and weed. The ones who, in contrast, make us look positively wealthy, like we have our shit together. Travel is a luxury afforded only to a certain class.

Will I love what I see overseas, and like so many New Zealanders before me, eventually book a one-way flight out? Given that we have one of the highest proportions of expats living overseas (many of whom originally intended to return, but never did), this is quite possible, although would depend largely also on the boy. Or will I come to appreciate what we have here? I’ve really enjoyed Sydney, for example – I can imagine there’d always be something to do here, much like how NYC always seems to have free entertainment on somewhere. But you all know deep down I’m really all about super simple things – baking, the beach, books, while nightlife and bars don’t really register on my radar.

The thing about growing up in the big smoke – I know Auckland is a small city by global standards, but it is the largest we have – is that the bar is set high. It’s all very well to advise us Gen Y-ers priced out of entering the property market to move away from the big centres to areas where houses are a fraction of the price. But that entails a whole change of lifestyle – a reduction in the range and type of work available (as well as lower pay), distance from friends and family, less access to everything from books to ethnic cooking ingredients to films to concerts to museums.

Have any of you lifelong city dwellers made to downsize and slow down in the country?

13 thoughts on “Deliberately downsizing when you’re a born and bred townie

  • Reply addvodka July 10, 2012 at 03:32

    I grew up in a smaller town, and moved into a much bigger city (even the place in which I live right now is a substantially bigger city, and I’m not in Vancouver) but I hope it not to be a permanent thing. I would NEVER want to move back to my hometown, but I love the peace of the more suburban territories.

  • Reply lkrant July 10, 2012 at 09:07

    I downsized about 15 years ago when our children moved out. We moved from one suburb to another, but a little closer in. We like the city life and the services. Everything is close together.

  • Reply halefire323 July 10, 2012 at 10:13

    I moved to a teeny Midwestern town in the US a few years ago. It was quite a shock coming from the suburbs of various larger cities (Cincinnati, Dayton, LA, Anaheim) where I grew up, but once I settled in I found that I quite enjoy it here. I do miss the variety and simplicity of a larger city, but over all my little “Nowheresville” is pretty nice. I would say give it a try. You never know, you might fall in love with a little town somewhere just like I did. 🙂

  • Reply My Broken Coin (@MyBrokenCoin) July 10, 2012 at 13:50

    I grew up in a small apartment in a big city. Now, I live in a small condo in a medium size city. I cannot imagine myself in a house. I never understood why people need four or five bedrooms if there are only two of them. Space is not getting used, therefore it is a waste. Why pay for it when you can travel instead, right? 🙂

  • Reply The Asian Pear July 10, 2012 at 16:23

    I can’t do it. I’m a city girl through and through. Okay, more like suburbian girl… I don’t drive or bike. I like my public transportation just fine. In the country, I’d just be bored and annoyed but the sounds of mother nature. ^__^;

    • Reply belowhermeans July 10, 2012 at 17:00


  • Reply belowhermeans July 10, 2012 at 16:59

    The U.S. city I live in is slightly more affordable than NYC or L.A. but still tight on the budget in terms of what you get for your money renting a place. I see it as worthwhile for my money though, not wanting to be anywhere else. I’ve always wanted to visited Auckland!

    • Reply eemusings July 10, 2012 at 18:05

      If you ever do, you know how to get in touch!!

  • Reply Leigh July 10, 2012 at 19:05

    Until moving to my current city I actually lived in the suburbs all my life. I love being able to walk places, so I think I’m going to stay in the city for awhile. My compromise has been to move to a neighborhood in the city, but not downtown and that has made me so much happier. I’m thankful (?) that I was able to buy a place in the city that was just as affordable as renting and honestly, HOA dues and property taxes aren’t any more expensive than they would be on a condo in the suburbs.

  • Reply liquid July 10, 2012 at 19:51

    I lived in smaller towns and rural areas when I was smaller and now moved to a bigger city like Vancouver. I like the convenience here. People say it’s expensive but there are lots of ways to keep your spending down.

  • Reply LittleFrugalista July 11, 2012 at 12:44

    Why do so many people leave New Zealand?? To me it sounds like paradise and once in a burst of spontaneity, the bf said we should move there for a year. Of course that was short-lived, ha. I would love to take an extended vacation to Australia and New Zealand!

    I guess this comment went on a tangent from your original point, but you know how I feel about small towns from my tweet!

    • Reply eemusings July 12, 2012 at 19:42

      The tradition is to go on your OE (overseas experience) and go work/live abroad for a couple of years – often London (I don’t know if this is common in many other countries – never thought about it before). A lot of people end up never coming back. After all, we’re a really small country and there are opportunities in other countries you’ll never get here. In the US I guess you can just pick up and move to another state. You can’t do that here – so you go to a different country altogether.

  • Reply What’s good weather worth? | NZ Muse October 29, 2012 at 12:43

    […] friends and family, ethnic cuisines, and everything from beaches to parks to bush. And as our biggest city, we take amenities like libraries, concerts and the like for granted. Sure, there’s not a lot […]

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