There are many benefits to growing up in the city. There are also many benefits to growing up in the countryside. So, which one is better? In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of both locations and help you decide which one is right for you!
Country and City: My Story
I was lucky to grow up in Lancashire, in northwest England, and then spend thirty years living and working in London and Paris.
About three years ago, we moved back to the UK and live in a stunning part of southwest England on the fringes of the Exmoor National Park.
My earliest memories are of roaming freely and playing with my younger brother in the fields and woods. Being an explorer, climbing trees, or catching sticklebacks in the local stream with a jam jar.
As a pre-teenager, it was a life full of fun and adventure.
Every holiday, we’d wend our way down to our grandmother’s small terraced house in Somerset, where she and the family had evacuated during the Second World War.
I remember the wild strawberries we’d pick in her back garden. And the abandoned railway track ran about three hundred yards away after tramping along a lane lined with hedgerows full of blackberries in the summer.
An idyllic childhood? In many ways, it was!
Although country life certainly has its ups and downs, I’m often struck by how rich and varied my experience growing up in the countryside is.
As an older adult looking back now with a different perspective, I see that the memories accumulated in the country are irreplaceable.
Friendships Between Generations
I don’t have any empirical evidence for this. Still, my gut feeling is that there are more intergenerational friendships in the countryside than in the City.
This is partly due to the pace of life and perhaps partially because activities can be shared more easily in the country between generations than in the City.
Even as a pre-teenager, I faced swathes of boredom when living in the countryside.
Which, in a way, was a good thing. Because it forced me to come up with ways of entertaining myself.
It encouraged imagination.
By the time I was a teenager, and by the time I was 17 or 18, I couldn’t wait to get away to the city. This, of course, was not only connected to the fact that I was living in the countryside. A strong desire for independence was probably the main thing.
Living in a place where two buses per day went past our lane and watching a movie in the cinema involved a half-hour drive to the local town didn’t cut it once a teenager.
Teenagers living in the countryside probably have more options than I did. For example, my teenage son spends a lot of time on YouTube learning about cultures and all manner of stuff.
Almost any movie or audiovisual experience is a mouse click away.
This is still not the same as growing up in a place where you can spend hours and hours in a back garden or taking long walks along country lanes.
Connection With Nature and Natural Beauty
One of the most significant advantages of growing up in the countryside is your connection with nature. As a child, this is natural. You don’t think about the beauty around you or what you learn from the wildlife you observe.
Only later does it percolate through your consciousness and impact the decisions you make in your life.
There is the argument that growing up in the City exposes a child to a greater variety of experiences, especially to greater cultural diversity, than you would experience in the countryside. The ideal is to have both worlds in your life. Experience the country at one stage and the City at another.
You will not get the same exposure to different cultures in the countryside.
When I think about it now, there was a sense of wonderment as a child. For example, looking at simple things, fish in the local stream, or leaves swaying in the trees.
I remember being fascinated by this and staring at these things for many minutes on end. I’m not sure that adult life allows the same kind of observation and engagement. Or rather, as an adult, I feel more empowered to apply this kind of observation because I experienced it as a child.
There is a connection between childhood experiences and adult potential.
I did miss out on going to museums, galleries, cinema, and things like that compared to children who grew up in the City. It’s not that I had no experience of these things since now and again we would go down to the Big City and visit these things.
But they were not part of weekly life.
Compared to someone who grew up in the City, this did not reduce my capacity to absorb ideas and emotions in galleries and cinemas today. In the Internet world, I think this distinction has been reduced even more.
As a child, I would not have gotten total value from art galleries and museums. It would not have been wasted. But the real connections and understandings can only come later, with a degree of education and real-world knowledge.
An Introverted World
Growing up in the countryside can encourage introspection or even incline one to become an introvert.
Experiences in nature require a degree of reflection and introversion. Otherwise, you won’t get the most out of them.
It’s also true that this feeds an introverted side in childhood and later life.
London Reality – Suburbs!
In the same way, people can idealize the countryside; I think the same is true for the City.
In reality, many children living in the city live in the suburbs, not in the city center.
Therefore their experience can be spent a lot of time sitting on commuter trains, long bus rides, etc.
As an adult, I remember having to allow hours to do things in the city center. It became a block on doing stuff because of the hassle of getting to the center. In my case, central London.
The sad fact is that once a child reaches the age of 15 and 16, they get into a mill of exams. There is less time and opportunity to engage in all the delights a city can provide. Especially when those two delights are a commuter ride away.
What is lacking for children who grow up in the countryside is losing a city heartbeat. This is hard to articulate, but somehow it is to do with the Feeling for the City.
I can’t know what it is not to have had this as a child, but talking with friends makes it clear that this is part of their existence.
Discovery and Exploration
Growing up in the countryside allowed me to explore and discover. Often alone and frequently with friends. No adults are required!
I can recall adventures in the local woods, rivers, and fields.
More often than not, we would be the ones inventing the games.
The worlds that are created inside a child’s mind are wonderful. The most important thing is the development of curiosity and imagination.
Later, as a teenager, there were the challenges of experiencing adult stuff.
For example, walking two or three miles to a local pub where we can sip a beer without teachers being present. By the time you returned to the school, the alcohol had worn off.
The point was the adventure.
This kind of experience is, of course, shared by City kids. But I think there is more risk in the City than in the countryside. Which acts as a constraint, along with the commuting problem.
Later in life, these adventures propelled me towards a career and life where I traveled extensively, getting into all sorts of experiences and situations. It’s only now, writing this article, that I see that connection very clearly.
A Better Education?
Perhaps it is true that it is easier to access a better education in the City. However, many things feed into educational success.
Not least, health.
Teaching these days is far more than simply the quality of the teachers in a school. The ability to research almost anything and draw connections and insights is at our fingertips.
I never experienced this as a child, where the only resource would be the school library.
Libraries are, of course, a vital resource. The encroachment of the Internet should in no way degrade them; they are essential resources for cities and the countryside.
Not least in terms of fostering a community spirit.
Compared to its City equivalent, the relative lack of cultural diversity in a countryside classroom means less critical thinking and problem-solving.
To a degree, social and analytical skills might also be weaker in countryside children than in children raised in the city. Parents could consider this when choosing a location and lifestyle because it might be possible to construct experiences and trips to account for it.
There are wide variations in the experiences in the countryside and city due to deprivation. If lucky enough to live in a well-off area, deprivation is unlikely to impact childhood experience.
If living in a deprived area, the experience would probably be better in the countryside rather than the City.
The risks are likely to be fewer.
According to recent studies, kids who grow up in countryside areas are more likely to experience upward mobility than those living in city or urban areas. People who grow up in the countryside and move to the City, rather than the other way around, tend to have a higher IQ.
A controversial idea, I know.
Pollution and Health
This is probably obvious, but it becomes less so when you scratch the surface.
Living in the countryside is much better in terms of air quality. But this will change as electric cars become more prevalent and cities focus on net-zero climate change policies.
The evidence seems to support the idea that growing up in the countryside protects you more against asthma and allergies.
One downside can be access to medical services, especially rapid access. This varies significantly from area to area; for example, where we live now has excellent local GP surgeries and medical support.
Growing up in the countryside as a child, I believe you experiment with physical activities more than City children.
I remember climbing high up into trees, which I almost certainly would not have done if I lived in a City. That said, this carried intense risks that I would not do now as an adult.
I recall I climbed up the side of a barn, fell off, and managed to put a nail into my leg. I can remember the expressions of horror as my mother took me to the local surgery to have it removed.
Perhaps it’s fair to say that what we experience earlier helps protect us against later-life risks! Providing we get through them!
Crime, Violence, and Safety
Reading the media, you might think that crime and violence are much more of a problem associated with living in cities.
The evidence is that violent crime has fallen substantially. At least in the UK.
A much more significant risk to physical safety is road traffic accidents. The countryside is almost invariably much more severe than in the City. Not to mention that there is much more chance you will be in a car in the country than in the City.
This is not to say that you should choose the City because of the chance of being in a car! It is simply that the balance of risks is perhaps more complex than might first seem to be the case.
Ecology and Food Awareness
One of the essential things you develop as a child growing up in the countryside is an awareness of the food chain. The sources of food are all around you.
Whether dairy animals, their products, or simple things like picking fruit. This is not to debate whether a vegan lifestyle is more ethical or healthy than a meat-based diet.
Instead, it is a question of awareness based on everyday reality.
I remember we had a rhubarb patch and an elderberry bush in our garden in Lancashire. I still remember these things and treasure them, which says something about the connection you can develop with food sources as a child. Somehow, I feel that this is very important.
What we gained on the ground was lost on the street! I did not experience Pizza Express until I was in London as a young adult. Not as a student – my budget did not allow for it!
Once I started to get an income, things like dining out in pizza places became possible and very enjoyable. Something not easy to attain when living in deep countryside.
Time to Reflect
All of the above is contingent on the specific financial circumstances and location in which you might find yourself. It would be naive to think otherwise.
But I hope that the above article has helped give some points for reflection, which may be helpful if you consider where to live and raise your children.