City and country life
Town mouse or country mouse?
Everyone has their own idea of the best place to live. Goethe.de/kultur asked four people why they have chosen to live in the countryside or in the city.
By Tonio Postel
Silvia Schuth, 42, grew up in Haselünne in Emsland. She moved to Cologne to continue her education, and has lived there with her husband and two children for 22 years.
I moved to Cologne right after graduating high school. My husband and I both grew up in the country and for a while, we considered moving back there with the children. My husband had even started looking for a new job. But I'm glad we decided against it. I like city life better because we have everything within easy reach - work, the cinema, the gym, restaurants and cafés. The boys ride their bikes to the football club and we are just twelve minutes by tram from the central train station. Cologne just has a lot more to offer. When we visit my mother in Haselünne, we enjoy the big house and garden, and the children like spending a week with their grandmother in the country during the holidays. But I would get bored. I also like the anonymity of the big city sometimes. In a small town, you feel obligated to get together for every birthday and other life events, which would be too much for me. I think I’d rather stay in the city even when I’m old. It will be easier to get around if I have to use a walker or depend on a care service.
Stefan Gieren, 38, freelance screenwriter and film producer, moved with his wife and five children from Hamburg to Wendland, where they renovated an old farmhouse.
We decided to leave the city because our 65-square-metre apartment in the Grindel district just got too small. We would have had to pay over 2,000 euros a month for a large enough flat in Hamburg. In Lemgow here in Lower Saxony, a village of around 100 people, we bought a 120-square-metre house for 30,000 euros and renovated it ourselves. Both my wife and I grew up in the country and we wanted the same for our children. Life is simpler here with no noise or pollution, and no dangerous traffic. There are animals, meadows and forests. The closest supermarket is four kilometres away and the nearest town with a railway station is thirteen kilometres. We really like living in the village, and our neighbours are great. Many have chosen alternative lifestyles or live in communes. We get food through a “solidarity-based agriculture” system: co-op members pay what they can for locally grown organic foods. The community comes together to make up for any losses. It works really well.
Magdalena Müller, 89, has always lived in the Cologne district of Vingst.
I was born here in the city and this is where I want to stay. I like knowing all my neighbours and the local shops. Some of my old school friends still live here and we meet up regularly. I sometimes go out to dinner or to an exhibition with my daughter and granddaughters. The infrastructure is really well organized with bakeries, pharmacies, doctors and public transport all in easy walking distance. So it is still easy for me to get around. I can’t imagine living in the country, it would be too monotonous. And everything is so far apart; I’d need a driver’s license. I really like living here, even if some things have gotten worse. They set up a scrap yard right around the corner and the train runs past my apartment, which is really noisy. It’s also too bad that so many small shops have gone out of business. But this city has a lot of parks and green spaces, like the small woods with nice benches nearby.
Jochen Strach, 45, tennis coach from Biberach near Offenburg, returned to his home town after six years in Hamburg.
After six years in Hamburg, I was really ready to go home to Baden-Württemberg. I never felt at home in the big city. The Hamburg weather was too cold, and the people were rather cool too. In a village, people say hello to you on the street; they smile and stop for a chat. I really like that. And I missed the mountains and being outdoors. Life in the city was too hectic, too loud, with too much traffic and not enough parking spaces. In the city, there is all this pressure to succeed. Village life is more relaxed. But it was easier to find work as a tennis coach in Hamburg. There are a lot more clubs and the children come on their own and want to learn. Here you have to talk them into it. Hamburg kids are stressed because they have too many hobbies and not enough free time. Out here in the country, kids have a free afternoon sometimes. I might consider living in a small town like Freiburg. I have small-town roots, and that's where I belong.