City Mouse, Suburban Mouse

A friend's donkey in an exurb of Houston. (To be fair, more country than suburb.) September 2012.

A friend's donkey in an exurb of Houston. (To be fair, more country than suburb.) September 2012.

I've lived in a city since I left for college. Before then, I lived in a far northwest suburb of Houston that, thanks to urban sprawl, is no longer considered (by some) to be all that far.

When I left Houston I planned never to come back. I thought I hated it. Nope.

Turns out I just hate suburbs.

Some people prefer suburbs to city, which seems completely foreign to me. Musing on this, I decided to try to understand their perspective. I even did an on-line search on "advantages of living in the suburbs." Here are the arguments I found (and my counterpoints):

  • You can buy a bigger house in the suburbs. Agreed. However, a bigger house doesn't overcome the negatives of suburbia for me. That said, many people don't need a bigger house. And kids aren't going to wither with smaller or shared bedrooms and play areas. Lots of healthy, hearty kids grow up in cities.

  • The suburbs are great for families. I don't get this one. Why aren't cities good for families? I've seen plenty of happy families living in cities.

  • People are friendly in the suburbs. The only suburb I lived in had people desperate to "keep up with the Joneses." The few that seemed friendly were only superficially so. Just as with suburbanites, city dwellers in some areas are warm and fuzzy—and in some areas, they aren't. Suburbs haven't cornered the market on friendly.

  • You get to know your neighbors in the suburbs. It may depend on the neighborhood, but I've known my neighbors in cities. Actually, I've never lived in as stereotypically neighborhood-y a neighborhood than I live in now (in the city). The neighbors in the suburb where I grew up were positively standoffish.

  • Suburbs have great schools. Not all schools in the suburbs are good ones. And not all the good schools are in suburbs.

  • Your kids can play outside in the suburbs. I rarely see kids playing outside when I'm in the suburbs. The big character-less yards are mostly empty. Growing up, most of us played inside the big houses our parents had moved to the suburbs to buy. I see more kids playing outside in the city. Certainly it has something to do with density--there are more kids, so I will see more kids—but nonetheless, city kids do play outdoors. (This is likely untrue for kids in seriously dangerous neighborhoods, which exist in the city—and in the suburbs.)

  • Crime is lower. Depends on the city neighborhood and depends on the suburb. The city of Houston has some seriously sketchy suburbs—as does the city of Chicago. And London. And all three cities have seriously dangerous urban areas. Crime may be lower in suburbia than in urban areas, but cities are more densely populated. Also, all crimes are not considered equal. Shoplifting is a crime. So is urination in public. I don't endorse either, but just because they likely happen more often in dense areas does not mean that cities are de facto more dangerous.

  • Suburbs are close enough to the city to enjoy its conveniences. If you zoom in to see a play and immediately motor back out, you miss a lot of the city's vibrancy. Of course, if you prefer the suburbs, that may be the point. Or maybe you spend a full day in town on occasion for its diversity and culture. You're still missing out. (This endorsement of suburbs seems more to sway people who weigh living there over living in the country—even farther away from the motley urban crew.)

Are you a suburbanite or citified? What are your arguments for either?