My husband and I are from *small* towns. I use that word loosely. His hometown has a population of about 1,200, and mine has about 10,000. Small is clearly relative. However, both are small when you compare them to Chicago’s population of 2.7 million.
So we sat down and discussed what we found to be the biggest differences between our *small* hometowns and our new home in the city!
Prior to living in the city, I drove everywhere. We quickly learned how to use the ‘L’ once we moved downtown. Andrew takes it to work most mornings since the nearest station is only about a seven minute walk away. We don’t drive in the city because A) it takes longer to go short distances, and B) parking is hard to find, not to mention expensive. We have street parking at our apartment, but are required to have a sticker in the window, and it has to be updated daily with the date and time.
2. Grocery Shopping
The most affordable and conveniently located store to us is Jewel Osco, about 3/4 of a mile away. At most, if not all, stores in Chicago, they charge you $0.07 per bag you use, unless you bring your own. Then we heard about thing called InstaCart. We now have our groceries delivered to our door, and we save money doing it.
Distance is another relative reference in the city. You can walk or take public transit efficiently to most places. We are within blocks of some of the most exciting commodities in Chicago. The Second City (a popular comedy theatre), Lincoln Park, North Avenue Beach, Walgreens, grocery/convenience stores, many florists, coffee shops, and restaurants are all about 1/4 of a mile from us.
4. Time Value
With the two of us officially starting full-time jobs, we value our time together instead of being stuck in traffic a lot more than we did. Andrew takes public transit to work, but I generally work from home. Sitting in an hour and a half of traffic each morning and evening makes you wonder what better things you could be doing with your time.
In a location we don’t know as well as we know our hometowns, we always have our heads on a swivel. It’s important to be aware of our surroundings everywhere, but in an unknown city surrounded by millions I am a heck of a lot more aware.
There are so many different mindsets, appearances, beliefs, and practices that are very eye opening in the city. Andrew and I have both mentioned that we moved out of our hometowns to surround ourselves with more open-minded individuals. Chicago is just the place to hit that reset button.
7. Things To Do
The list of Chicago events and festivals is endless. Like most smaller towns, there are several annual festivals, or occasional concerts, but in the city there is something going on somewhere every night, or every weekend at the very least. A few of our favorite live music locations include Bub City and Andy’s Jazz Club. Other popular festivals/events include The Second City, Lollapalooza, and the Chicago Air and Water Show.
Everything in the city is very close together, so not many people have yards or large properties. The lack of space generates creativity to make use of the space you do have. Our tiny studio has what we like to call a tink (both a toilet and sink, see photos in my studio post), as well as high ceilings with tall shelving units. To make up for missing lawn space, many places have rooftop pools or garden areas that have beautiful views of the city and Lake Michigan!
9. Food Options
Within less than a mile of our apartment, we have choices of pub food, Chinese food, Middle Eastern food, several pizza places, gelato/ice cream, and I could go on. There are all different types and styles ranging from appetizers, meals, desserts, and beverages. Not a single place has the same decor or theme, and most have daily deals AND a happy hour. Many restaurants (at least in Old Town) have a different set of specials each day of the week, plus happy hour specials on weekday evenings. Both usually include food and cocktails.
Even small towns have neighborhoods, but not like Chicago. Since Chicago is so massive, neighborhoods have names to help identify which region of the city is being referred to. Some well known neighborhoods you may have heard of are Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, and River North.
I grew up on Lake Michigan, so having a beach and access to water was not something I found abnormal once we moved to Chicago. Andrew on the other hand did not grow up on a body of water, so being blocks away from North Avenue Beach was a new convenience for him.