10 things people deal with in the city that people in the suburbs don’t understand

A summer evening in New York City's Central Park.

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A summer evening in New York City’s Central Park.
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

  • City living often offers an easy commute to work, 24-hour food options, and a never-ending list of things to do – all at a very high cost.
  • Urbanites eventually learn to adapt to the sights, sounds, and smells of cities and accept things that would drive those residing in the suburbs crazy – like insane rent prices and garbage everywhere.
  • Here are the things that people deal with in the city that those in the suburbs don’t understand.

For many people, living in the city means an easy commute to work, around-the-clock food options, and a way of life where nothing is really that far out of reach. But there’s a price to pay for all that goodness, and well, it’s high – both in numerical figures and casual everyday annoyances.

As someone who lives in New York, I’ve adapted to the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, so the city in all of its natural glory took some getting used to. There used to be green grass, fresh air, and even stars at night.

City annoyances certainly bother me sometimes, but I’ve accepted that the city life can’t be glamorous 100% of the time. But when out-of-towners come to visit, I’m reminded of those dis pleasures, and they can be difficult to defend.

Here are 10 things city-dwellers deal with that could make suburbanites cringe:


1. You spend WHAT on rent?

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New Yorkers have roommates way past college, while many suburbanites can afford to live by themselves if they choose.
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Tupungato/Shutterstock

Personal finance experts often say that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of what you earn onrent and utilities. According to the United States Census Bureau, the median income in Manhattan is $75,513. That means someone earning that much shouldn’t spend more than about $1,880 on rent.

But renting a good apartment for less than $2,000 in Manhattan is a proverbial unicorn. That’s why New Yorkers have roommates way past college while many suburbanites can afford to live by themselves if they choose.


2. Garbage is the perfume of the city

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In the suburbs, people store it in their garages or in cans until it gets picked up, unlike urban areas.
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Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock

When my husband first moved to New York from Chicago, he catalogued every time he saw a pile of trash bags on the street with a photo as a joke. While the photos have dwindled, the garbage is most definitely still there.

But in the suburbs? People store it in their garages or in cans until it gets picked up, like civilized humans.


3. We don’t melt in the rain

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In the city we walk everywhere, even in the rain.
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joyfull/Shutterstock

We walk everywhere, even in the rain. If there’s even one raindrop, hailing a cab or getting an Uber or Lyft is virtually impossible. We’ve also learned not to stand at the corner waiting for the light, because you don’t want to get splashed by a passing car.

The luxury of having your own vehicle and barely spending a moment outside in the rain is a novelty for those not in the city.


4. Groceries, and everything else, cost an arm and a leg

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Food items are much cheaper in the suburbs.
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Bodnar Taras/Shutterstock

Was that a $6.99 box of cereal I just purchased? Better enjoy them, it’s dinner for a week. Suburbanites can get cereal for less than half that price from a local store likeWegmans.


5. Sirens become white noise

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We city folk are lullabied to sleep by the sound of sirens.
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Alex_Alekseev/Shutterstock

We city folk are lullabied to sleep by the sound of sirens. When we talk to family on the phone, we have to repeat that, “No, that ambulance is NOT driving through our apartment,” as they listen to the sound of chirping birds and other suburban wildlife.


6. Laundry is a punishment

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For many city people, washing clothing involves lugging an overstuffed bin to the communal laundry room in the basement or down the street to a laundromat.
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Pung/Shutterstock

Sure, it’s a chore for everyone. But for many city people it involves lugging an overstuffed bin to the communal laundry room in the basement or down the street to a laundromat. Suburbanites might cringe when we mix colors and whites because there’s only one machine.

Sometimes it’s enough that you’d rather go shopping for new clothes.


7. A long walk is like a game of Frogger

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Walking in the city is like a real-life version of Frogger, where you’ll need to avoid steam stacks, street grates, and bikers.
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sashk0/Shutterstock

Remember the 1981 arcade game Frogger, when you had to avoid cars and jump on logs to make it out safe?

Walking in the city is like a real-life version of Frogger, where you’ll need to avoid steam stacks, street grates, smokers, and masses of other humans.


8. You can buy anything at any hour

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Pizza at 3 a.m.? Why not? It’s available everywhere.
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ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Pizza at 3 a.m.? Ice cream for breakfast? Why not? It’s always available somewhere.

While we have the opportunity to eat whatever and whenever we want, suburbanites have to strategically plan the day, making sure to get their order in before the shop closes.


9. We know public transportation etiquette

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Standing on the subway without touching the poles is an art.
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Media Whalestock/Shutterstock

Standing on the subway without touching the poles is an art, and so is not talking to anyone. Sometimes we have our headphones in just so no one talks to us. Those in the suburbs might consider this strange, or rude, but it’s common knowledge for city travelers.


10. Going to the grocery store requires methodical thinking

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Grocery shopping is a strategic calculation of what you can carry without breaking an arm on the walk home.
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William Perugin/Shutterstock

In the city, a trip to the store is not fun a game of Supermarket Sweep. It’s a strategic calculation of what you can carry without breaking an arm on the walk home.

That full shopping cart suburbanites love to load up on Sundays? Not possible for us. It wouldn’t fit in the store’s tiny aisles anyway.