The grass is always greener.
A cliche saying, but it wouldn't be cliche if it didn't have some merit.
It's easy to dream about living in a certain city or country. But that––and moving there, as expensive as it may be––is the easy part. The hard part is forging a life of some kind.
After Redditor Iseethetrain asked the online community, "People who fetishized a city or country, like NYC or Japan, and then actually took a leap of faith to move there, how has your opinion changed since?" plenty weighed in with their experiences.
As we expected, they're total eye-openers.
"I studied French for a long time..."
Paris, France. I studied French for a long time and eventually moved here to do my master's degree. I do love the city itself - always something to do, amazing museums/art/culture/architecture - and even though like all cities it can be crowded/dirty sometimes, I still enjoy it. The thing that gets me is how hard it is to get to know and become friends with the French (Parisians in particular).
They are perfectly polite but if I didn't have a strong foreign student friend community here it would be much more difficult. There are always exceptions of course - I have a handful of good French friends - but a big factor in why I don't think I can stay in Paris in the long term to settle down (maybe somewhere else in France would be better) is that the coldness can really wear you down. That, and also the bureaucracy. It's unreal.
"I definitely see how city life..."Giphy
I dreamed of living in NYC as a teen. I was drawn to the theater, the fashion, the excitement. Now I've been living in NYC for about 13 years, basically my entire adult life, and I still love it but my appreciation has changed. A lot of the things that initially attracted me require lots of money, but I've discovered so many new things and met so many wonderful people that I don't miss the loss of that fantasy. I still feel a thrill when I go running over one of the bridges and see the skyline. I love not driving, and being able to find practically any food or specialty shop I want. I am very plugged into the arts here and love to go to live music, readings, lectures, art shows, and performances, so many of which can be enjoyed for little or no money!
I definitely see how city life doesn't appeal to many people but whenever I think of leaving I can't imagine anywhere I might like better.
"I'm a small town Midwesterner..."
I'm a small town Midwesterner who really romanticized California (particularly coastal California.) I had the opportunity to move there right after college and it was probably one of the best decisions I'd ever made.
Things I liked: the weather was always perfect (even on rainy days, the temperature was still mild.) There was always something to do. There were so many different beaches and I never got tired of seeing the ocean. I did more hiking in the first year I lived there than I'd ever done in my home state. Lots of good shows and music around the Santa Cruz and SF area. SO MANY GOOD RESTAURANTS. Plus, it felt good to go back to my tiny town and tell people I moved to California.
Things I disliked: It's expensive. The traffic is as bad as they say. There also seems to be an air of ignorance with (not all, but some) people native to the area. For instance, when I told people I was from Iowa, someone asked if we had electricity and running water, another person chimed in that they had a cousin who lived in Montana (which is no where even close to Iowa,) and most people had no idea where to even find Iowa on a map. When you're from a fly over state, you automatically learn which are the "superior" states because they get a lot of coverage in media and entertainment.
"I know for those born and raised in the system..."
Seoul, South Korea!
It's my first experience in a big city, and I'm not disappointed! Public transportation is great, food is amazing... i eat a lot of Japanese food here tbh. Depending on where you are in the city, night life is crazy. And i find the older parts of the city to be absolutely beautiful. I know for those born and raised in the system it's a whole different story, but for a 20 year old foreign student, i can say it's not half bad. As far as the negatives go however, the lack of nature can be hugely depressing, i pay $400 a month for a 50 sq ft room, dining alone can be difficult, and there's always trash everywhere in the streets. Honestly though I think i had a decent grip on reality before coming here. People expect these places to be like an Instagram-esque dream world. But at the end of the day, it's just another place you wake up, do your groceries and pay your bills in. All that fun real life stuff.
"Rather weird country to obsess about..."q
It was Finland for me. Rather weird country to obsess about, but I started learning the language in high school and fell in love with the culture. Went there for an exchange and was shocked at how close to paradise it was! Beautiful nature, friendly and helpful people, good-quality food and more humane pace of life. It helped that I lived with a wonderful host family in a small town - the people you meet are a huge part of your experience in a place. Best part was getting to learn more Finnish!
Tl;dr Finland was exactly what I fantasized it would be.
"I had a several month long gap..."
Not as popular but Greece. My maternal grandparents are Greek. It's a big loud friendly group and had been my entire life.
I had a several month long gap before grad school and a great aunt willing to house me so I moved to Patras. The first few weeks were wonderful I did all the tourist things then I realized how forced all of it was. You can't just ever have a friend over it has to be a major production. The food was wonderful but every contractor or small business I interacted with took it at a point of pride to tack on added fees or try to scam me. I was stolen from multiple times. The older people particularly the men had no personal boundaries at all and their wives would hand wave off anything. Everything public that wasn't intended for tourists was falling to pieces. It was just very sad considering how proud I had been of my Greek roots until then.
"It's what we make of it."
Seattle WA. Spent my first 30 years living up and down the eastern seaboard from PA to GA. I was in grad school in SC and inexplicably Seattle just popped in my head one day - no trigger or anything. For the last 6 months of school (2003) it just consumed me - sight unseen I needed to be there. So that's what I did. Got my degree, packed up my car with no job, place to live or contacts and drove to Seattle.
It could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy but it was everything I wanted it to be. The city has changed quite a bit with the Amazon explosion but I'm glad I got to live some "old Seattle". There's still plenty of treasure to be mined. Sure the luster is gone but I have a family now and still love to explore the city with my daughter. All my old haunts are gone but the fun now is finding new haunts! It's what we make of it.
"I wanted to go to New Zealand..."
I wanted to go to New Zealand since I was ten and my best friend moved there, I finally went when I was 25 and got a 1-year working visa. It was awesome, I met my husband there, and saw my old friend again.
It's still great, I would live there if they'd have me!
"It was a great learning experience..."
Portland OR. It was great for a while when the rent was cheap and the house I moved into was still populated by friends.
After 3 years, the last of which all my friends had moved away, I realized that Portland is a really fun city, but also that cities in and of themselves are not for me, and that they are only bearable (for me) with friends.
It was a great learning experience, if you can call having your car stolen and broken into all the time "learning". At the initial cost ($300 a month for a room) it was fantastic. Working 4 days a week and paying all my rent with tips? Golden way to end ones 20's.
It's a great city to visit, and the burbs aren't bad at all, I just got jaded and raw from living downtown. I'd gladly live there again if I had friends around and didn't have to park on the street.
You can only convince yourself that a place is awesome for so long when you're by yourself and stepping over hobo scat and broken auto glass constantly.
"Year later I moved there."
Didn't exactly fetishise it, but I was definitely into Germany. I liked the language, the scenery, the ruins and the idealised view I got of the culture there from DW. When I first travelled there I was there for about 3 weeks and loved everything about it.
Years later I moved there. I really struggled with the language. I could read and write it pretty well, but I had little confidence for speaking and couldn't understand it spoken. Most people spoke good English so there wasn't as much need to use German as I really needed - except for official things.
Taxes were the worst thing in the world. I still have nightmares about trying to sort that. Buying, registering and insuring a car. Renting and then moving out of a property. Setting up and later cancelling utilities. Simply knowing where to go to buy/do things I needed to, especially when so many organisations had no or poorly developed websites. Never got used to speaking on the phone.
When I'd solo travelled before, I had no problem meeting people. As part of a couple this time, locals would rarely strike up conversation with us.
I weirdly missed the level of consumerism I was used to. I like just window shopping or buying random cheap items, but the good places for that were few and far between. Trying to find places to shop for gifts was a nightmare. (I'm sure there are lots of amazing stores for that kind of thing. Just they tended to be quite specialised and not always centered in one place). I couldn't even find a place to buy dish brushes!
Being completely landlocked in the height of summer was a somewhat claustrophobic feeling.
The food was not very varied. Every city had the same small range of cuisines, and any one type of restaurant was like all the others of that type. The cheapest meats were things I don't like, like pork, turkey and fish, and potato (which I hate) was everywhere.
People weren't great at modifying their German for non-native speakers, ime, or at least compared to where I was from that had a lot of ESL immigrants. I was laughed at and pedantically corrected for trying sometimes.
But that is all the bad. There was so much good that directly counters any of the bad.
I loved engaging in the language and learnt a lot.
I respected the more old-fashioned type of consumerism, and as I lived in a small village, got really used to cooking every night. I loved the bike rides past strawberry fields and vineries to get to the supermarket. I liked that nothing was open on a Sunday and everyone just chilled out.
I loved that every one of my house neighbours was friendly, accommodating, helpful, and willing to include us in their traditions.
I loved that people would swim (nude!) in the little river when it was hot.
I love that I couldn't automatically understand every single conversation going on around me. I loved the feeling of understanding something and not even remembering if it was said in English or German.
I love that I survived all the trauma of taxes and contracts.
The secluded ruin on the hill in the forest is my favourite place on earth.
I loved the traditional German restaurant in my village and the amazing inexpensive local wines.
I discovered preparations of pork and fish that I could actually handle eating. And it is thanks to the expense of beef that we started our tradition of steak at Christmas.
I have so many amazing memories, but I would not do it again.