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Thread: Is the grass greener somewhere else?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Is the grass greener somewhere else?

    As a planner I've always been fascinated about how people perceive various places in America. In talking to people over the years about all sorts of places and how they like living in each I've noticed a common theme: people tend to think that where they live doesn't compare favorably to most other places. This is generally the case even if they haven’t been to Tampa, Phoenix, Boston, or Chicago, or wherever it is. In their mind, whenever it is, its better than here.

    It is true that sometimes perception does reflect reality; Buffalo’s economy has crumbled, Miami traffic is horrendous. Some places get stigmas attached to them. Regions get stigmas, such as the widely propagated notion that all of the jobs in America are heading to the sunbelt, and deserting the northeast and midwest.

    But more often than not these perceptions aren’t reality, or even reflected in popular media. There’s something indistinguishable at work. Something that makes New Englanders wish they lived in Florida and Floridians wish they lived in New England. Or makes L.A. residents profess to you how much they hate it there and how they want to move to Oregon, and vice versa.

    I call it the “grass-is-greener-somewhere-else” mentality, and I must confess, it particularly annoys me because I like where I live (Albany), and I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. What about you? Are you happy where you live or do you think the grass is greener somewhere else?

  2. #2
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    But more often than not these perceptions aren’t reality, or even reflected in popular media.
    Detroit suffers terribly from this. If you believed only half of what you hear you'd believe the town was nothing but a combat zone with massive unemployment, rampant violent crime, and ubiquitous poverty. While there are parts of town that resemble that description, this is by no means an accurate picture of the whole.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  3. #3
    I live in Texas and love it! But of course I've loved other places I've lived................Boston, NH, Washington (state), Ilinois..........Its because every place has something different to offer..........

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I love the suburb of Chicago I live in and metro Chicago in general. I have everything I've always wanted - Major city amenities, walkable locales, a Great Lake, a varied economy where it is easy to be "successful" provided you make an effort, etc.

    I would like easier access to 'wild" natural areas, but really we have dozens of forest preserves throughout Chicagoland that are accessible and are a great subsititute.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Take Green Bay for instance,

    If you like football, Indian casino's, 80's music, bowling, and fishing you live in a paradise!

    If you like Mendlemans kind of amenities "...I have everything I've always wanted - Major city amenities, walkable locales, a Great Lake, a varied economy where it is easy to be "successful" provided you make an effort, etc...." then you are in a heap big world of CRAPOLA! The grass truly WOULD be greener on the other side of somewhere else!

    It would leave a person 2 choices;

    a) Make a stand and try to bring some updated life to the city (ME).

    or

    b) Flee like rats from a sinking ship, 99.99% of young people who want something more than a good long life as a wanna-be towne.


    Fortunately enough, I like it enough to stay and fight. Man, could I tell some stories about the local mentality. Most recently (nativity scene at city hall debacle).
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  6. #6
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    i have more of a "i-wonder-what-color-the-grass-is" mentality. it isn't that places are necessarily better than where i am, i just want to go visit them and see what they are like for myself and decide if maybe i'd like to live there at some point in my life.

    what floored me was a woman who came in for an interview yesterday. she's lived in Boston, DC, and a few other places and claims (although it might've just been for interview points) that our little depressed upstate NY city is her favorite place to live. i guess we need more people like her to help liven up the place.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I live in Central Texas, near Austin, and I'm torn as to whether I like it or want to move out. The Hill Country is beautiful, the weather is (usually) great, the urban environment is a good mix of traditional and non-traditional urban, suburban, rural and small-town elements (better than most other Texas regions and cities). Culturally, though, there seems to be some things lacking. Austin's incredibly trendy (which I am not), an odd mix of liberal and conservative philosophies that I don't understand, and the usual undeservedly-inflated opinion of themselves and their surroundings commons to most Texans. If I were to win the lottery, would I stay here? Probably not. Am I content to live here, possibly even the rest of my life? Perhaps. I guess I'll see what comes.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    As an adult I have lived in the Portland metro area, Bozeman, MT, Greenville, SC and currently Piscataway, NJ.

    I loved Portland, but was beginning to get priced out of the marketplace housing wise. Although it pained me to leave, I did so for South Carolina. This has been by far the best place I have ever lived.

    I hate where I currently live as it is extremely hard economically, the people are umm different, the commutes suck unless you are fortunate to have a job within a 2 mile radius which few do, there is no way I could ever afford to purchase a house there let alone pay the property tax on it, and although there are some charming places in NJ it really is one long suburb that connects NYC and Philadelphia.

    Me thinks we will be coming back to SC next year when I graduate. Now about a job......
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  9. #9
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    Take Green Bay for instance,

    If you like football, Indian casino's, 80's music, bowling, and fishing you live in a paradise!

    If you like Mendlemans kind of amenities "...I have everything I've always wanted - Major city amenities, walkable locales, a Great Lake, a varied economy where it is easy to be "successful" provided you make an effort, etc...." then you are in a heap big world of CRAPOLA! The grass truly WOULD be greener on the other side of somewhere else!

    It would leave a person 2 choices;

    a) Make a stand and try to bring some updated life to the city (ME).

    or

    b) Flee like rats from a sinking ship, 99.99% of young people who want something more than a good long life as a wanna-be towne.


    Fortunately enough, I like it enough to stay and fight. Man, could I tell some stories about the local mentality. Most recently (nativity scene at city hall debacle).
    My wife and I loved GB when we lived there 84-88. Of course we were young, still practically newlyweds, childless, working and making a decent living. . .and I don't hunt, fish or bowl (I toss a mean curling stone, though).

    Now that you mention it, that nativity scene in front of 100 N Jeff was pretty weird.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I've lived for various periods of time in Germany, SW Michigan, SE Michigan, Georgia, Iowa, Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas. I've lived in the country and in major urban areas. Maybe it's just me but I've found things that I liked about all of them and things that I've disliked about all of them. I think that my lack of really strong family ties or friendships lets me adapt to my surroundings and appreciate who and what are there without looking back.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I'm sort of fascinated by this subject. People used to be forced to move to different areas because of unemployment or starvation - now its almost a right of passage.

    Should you be stuck in some hellhole just because your great-grandfather found a job opportunity there in 1918? Or are you a crybaby who overestimates the value of other places comprable to yours?

    The more I travel to other places (which still hasn't been much) the more I appreciate where I am now despite its problems.

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Much of the Buffalo area really doesn't seem that much different than more prosperous cities in the Great Lakes region and upper eastern Midwest.

    Still, if you travel beyond the remaining bohemian, old-money and stable city neighborhoods, and the more affluent northeastern and southeastern suburbs, Buffalo is very much a Rust-Belt city.

    Yes, every city has working class suburbs, but it seems like a far larger percentage of suburban Buffalo neighborhoods are working and lower-middle class than the suburbs of other North American cities. Buffalo doesn't really have the wide swaths of solid upper-middle class suburbia that are the norm for most cities in the US and Canada. There's no ultra-exclusive suburbs; even someone of modest means can easily buy a house in the most prestigious Zip codes of Amherst, Clarence, Orchard Park or East Aurora.

    Yes, every other city has remnants of the time before the rise of the service economy and outsourcing, with disused and underutilized industrial buildings and sites. However, in the Buffalo area, it's really hard to avoid such scenes, especially since many of those older factories can be found in the middle of otherwise non-industrial neighborhoods, sited before the adoption of zoning laws in the 1920s.

    Buffalo always seems like it's the last city on board with trends in urban development or amenities; no lifestyle centers in the region, few upscale chain stores, the first dog park opened just this year, no public skate parks, no architectural regulations in any zoning codes in the area, no coordinated wayfinding signage, no access management requirements anywhere in the region, limited selection of ethnic cuisine, no weekly alternative newspaper, and so on. The boosters will say it's the lack of such amenities that keeps Buffalo "real" and "authentic" and "genuine". Still, in conversations with those originally from Buffalo who have lived outside of the area, a common theme is "Why doesn't Buffalo have that too?"

    There seems to be an ignorance of the importance of the "details" in the Buffalo area, even in the most prosperous suburbs. It's hard to explain, but it goes beyond the rusted railroad bridges and highway overpasses. Curbs are often filled with weeds, even along the busiest roads. Medians are seldom landscaped, and those that are are usually neglected. Street name signage is inconsistent. Some area municipal Web sites look like Geocities pages from 1997, and the rest aren't really anything you would find in even the least discriminating Web design gallery. All this is in spite of the highest property taxes in the nation.

    So, what does Buffalo have that other cities don't? Interesting, if unhealthy local cuisine; some very affordable drool-worthy pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods; and a quite respectable nightlife, arts scene and high cultural scene for a city its size. It's easier on the eyes than many a Southern boomtown.

    I think many people leave Buffalo not because they can't find a job there, but because they've been to other cities, and they know the grass is greener. The number of their peers is shrinking in Buffalo, and growing in places like Charlotte and Chicago. They feel like they don't fit in; that Buffalo belongs to the beer-bellied Bills fanatics, and not the young professionals that drive the post-industrial economy and culture of today.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Pretty happen where I am (guess thats why I'm here) and have lived in various areas. I've looked around at other places before and didn't take trhe bait. NC is a good place and fairly convenient to alot of amenities. Are there things I wish were better...well definity but we can strive to have that built (as soon as the economy turns 'round). The biggest thing I wish we had was the old walkable neighborhoods since the ones that are left are not in "good" locations.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  14. #14
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
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    While my traveling adventures are not far and wide, they have been adequate enough to allow me to realize that my past city of residence- Madison, WI really has a lot to offer. While I can talk about its many virtues relative to its greenspace, physical layout, adequate parking, redevelopment projects, multimodal transportation (i.e., bike paths), events, organic food opportunities, kid friendly events, progressive nature, university etc., it does have one major downside. While living there it seemed as though everyone was either married or coupled which at the time did not bode well for a single guy.

    I have to admit that as a kid the grass seemed greener anywhere else other than the sprawling suburbs of Milwaukee. Yet I still know plenty of people who think these burbs are eden. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I like where I live. I like where I grew up too, but there just wasn't much opportunity there for people of my generation. When we moved away from there my husband thought all our hopes and dreams would automatically come true. Well, now he feels like we need to move again (specifically to Wisconsin) for his life to be everything he wants it to be. He definitely has a grass-is-greener mentality problem. I am perfectly happy staying in the village we live in now. Crime is low, schools are good, proximity to bigger cities (Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago) is nice, and lots of dining and shopping is nearby.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TOFB View post
    My wife and I loved GB when we lived there 84-88. Of course we were young, still practically newlyweds, childless, working and making a decent living. . .and I don't hunt, fish or bowl (I toss a mean curling stone, though).

    Now that you mention it, that nativity scene in front of 100 N Jeff was pretty weird.
    Born and raised in GB, I love GB also, thats why I have decided to stay and fight for a better place to live in my own way.

    The nativity scene thing was a case in point for what I am talking about. I was at that city council meeting on unrelated business that night. The discussion on that went about 3.5 to 4 hours in length. The ignorance of third of the population is simply kind of stunning. Jaw dropping! and Awesome in its lack of understanding of even the roots of their own holidays.

    Ask me about it if we ever run into each other. I have so many good stories from that night!

    This is a community where they understand they have a national profile and desperately want to become a real city. Unfortunately, the powers that be have a small town mentality that does more to hinder good living and decision making in an urban area and half the residents are as clueless as the leadership.

    Did you realize that GB had NEVER had ANY kind of holiday display at city hall or the courthouse, EVER? If you were to watch the city council meeting, you would have seen the most torturous gerrymandering of a legal concept with the merest shred of an out of context legal opinion.

    Later, the TV crews went to each of the Alderman's homes to check for decorations. Only half had any decorations up at all, and only 1 had a nativity scene up. Of the 3 alderman that pushed the issue, 0 had a nativity scene and some including the original backer had 0 decorations up. But He is willing to spend legal fees to defend GB from an untenable position.

    To bring this back on track, it is a culture of ignorance that drives away most of the enriching social types that could make a place more livable. With a loss of creativity comes a drain on the community. A smaller community has a smaller percentage of creativity to loose before the grey soulless doom sets in.

    I love GB, they are my people and I am one of them no matter where I go on this planet, I always know what direction points to Lambeau Field, the problem is they have yet to step into the 19th century. I hope to push them to 1984 before I die.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  17. #17
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    They feel like they don't fit in; that Buffalo belongs to the beer-bellied Bills fanatics, and not the young professionals that drive the post-industrial economy and culture of today.
    I think a lot of people in Boston believe that the city belongs to the hard-drinking, crude, irish, blue collar guy that swears allegiance to all things N.E., especially the Red Sox. You'll see a lot of college students and young professionals try to emulate this by drinking excessively (getting "hammad"), emphasizing their Irish heritage (generally by wearing lots of green), and using the accent inappropriately.

    The difference is that it is seen as cool in Boston and offensive in Buffalo. Maybe Bills fans need to lose some weight in a city promotion effort or something.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I love the Chicago metropolitan area and the state of Illinois and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've lived here all my life so far and intend to stay here the rest of my life. I've got a world class city with world class suburbs right at my fingertips with all the jobs, wealth, and culture I'll ever need, with wide open prairies and beautiful streams right out my back door. And all four seasons as well...there's nothing like the feeling of rebirth and rejuvenation when spring comes, laying in the warm sun in summer, witnessing a fresh snowfall in winter, or taking in all the beatiful colors of the fall foliage.

    Sure, every now and then, I'd love a sunny, warm, tropical place when it's freezing cold or a mild, lakeside cottage up north when it's stifling hot, but that's what traveling/vacations are for.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    I've moved three times and came back three times. I am sure the grass is greener almost anywhere, but this is home so I stay.

    I think a lot of places are nice to visit, but not so nice once you've lived there a while.

  20. #20
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I moved to Vacationland and I have learned that Vacationland is where you vacation, that is, not where you live

    the problem with now living in Vacationland is that you to work every day, do laundry and do all the family life stuff that you did living in a major metro area - the difference is, of course, that when you do want to hike, it's right there, the 9 mile commute I do every day is not on I93 but through Acadia National Pak, and it's alot safer for our kids

    so although I do need my city fix here and there and I do "vacation" elsewhere to get away and relax, I think we made the right choice

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    What about you? Are you happy where you live or do you think the grass is greener somewhere else?
    I currently live in the town I grew up in. I spent my childhood desperately wanting out and managed to spend 20 years mostly anywhere but here. I have lived in Texas, Germany, Kansas, Washington state, Southern California and Northern California. This is a larger city than the last one I lived in out in Cali but most stuff closes down by midnight. I miss my all-night grocery stores. I miss Chipotle's -- organic food at about fast food prices and speed (though Moe's is a decent substitute, it's not organic and it closes earlier). The neighborhood I lived in while staying with my parents doesn't pretend to be walkable: they don't even have sidewalks. My vague impression is that's the norm.

    I have found a situation that currently works well for me: an apartment about 6 minutes from work, 3 minutes from my favorite grocery store, 3 minutes from my bank, etc. But the food here is just not like what I have known in some other places. I can't find some things in the grocery store that I would like to eat and the places to eat just don't compare to stuff I have had available elsewhere. In part because of my medical condition, food is a very big deal to me, so I am not happy with this situation. I also hate the pine pollen. My kids and I would like to live someplace without pine trees.

    I have no idea where I would like to go. It is something I have discussed with my kids for a couple of years. We spent some time driving around, trying to find someplace else we would like. They don't want to live anywhere in the western half of the U.S. None of us wants to live along the Gulf Coast. I don't think I would be able to breathe in the Northeastern U.S. I am running out of places about which to wonder if the grass would be greener.

    Though I will toss this out: When we were around 18 years old, my now ex and I talked about it and he was surprised that I was of the opinion that there was nothing to do here. He had been a military brat and, basically, it turns out that some of the stuff one can do here my parents simply never exposed me to. I have read some things that suggest that people who like where they are get involved in things to do there and actually visit the museums and such and people who don't like where they are generally don't visit any of the things to do where they live and only go to museums and other "tourist attractions" when they travel elsewhere. As a military wife, I made sure we did tourist-y things every place we lived. A lot of military families treat their current duty station as a boring place to be and don't get interested in trying to do the tourist-y things until they get orders for someplace new and suddenly realize that they may never again have the chance. So I do believe that some portion of happiness/unhappiness with a place is self-made (though another portion is probably a matter of "good fit"). I continue to wonder how much of my criticisms of this town are valid and how much are emotional baggage from an unhappy childhood. I have been trying to find things here that work for me. The whole food issue, though, is likely to be a deal breaker for me in the long run. At this point in time, if I could go someplace else, I would.
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 30 Dec 2007 at 11:27 AM.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I have worked in various states, in small communities and in large communities, and except for the different cultures have found that the people are nice where ever I have been.
    I now prefer small organizations in a large metro area. But this is just my personal preference. I have enjoyed the different foods, and the regional expressions. Have also found that cultures can change within 150 miles.

    Spent my formative years in the high plains area in a rural agricultural area of the US,
    Have been very fortunate to be able to work in different areas and meet different people.
    Usually went to a different area because of a chance to advance in my career or followed Mrs Katt because of her chances to advance in her career.

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