For decades now we have seen a global phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of people are deserting the countryside and moving to the big cities. Its time to take stock. Is life really all that much better in the city? Signs are that indeed a growing number of people are moving back to the rural areas, finding that life out in the backwoods is not so bad after all.
Many young people, fed-up at being unemployed in the big Greek, Spanish or Italian cities are finding contentment by moving to grandparents or long-forgotten aunts and uncles in remote rural villages. There they live easy-going lives cultivating vegetables or picking olives. The trend is catching on elsewhere too.
Even in the much wealthier Germany a growing number of city-slickers are moving to rural communes based on a sustainable and alternative lifestyle. One such village is Sieben Linden http://goo.gl/7LxYxL in a remote part of eastern Germany. The 100 adults and 40 children living there are not bound by any religion or ideology. It is a microcosm of different ideas and people with the common cause to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible, experimenting with natural building materials such as clay and hay or cultivating organic vegetables.
I moved to a mainly farming village, 76 kilometres, southeast of Hamburg some 18 years ago and have never regretted it. I was simply fed-up with the grumpiness, the anonymity, the noise and the stress level in the big city. Some years ago I was shocked to learn that a retired former colleague of mine was found in his Hamburg apartment. He had been lying dead in his armchair for over a year. The janitor only opened the door after neighbour’s complained of a smell in the building during a hot summer!
You could say that the downside of country life is that everybody is minding everyone else’s business. But is that really bad? If my 93-year-old neighbour fails to appear before her favourite window for a day, sure enough I would have people asking me, whether I had seen Ilse and if she is still OK. Most children still have the decency to greet adults or to ask strangers looking for directions, if they can be of assistance. I can get fresh milk from the local farmer and have a chat about local politics. If I need someone to feed the cats, there is always someone to help, and we do the same. Its a natural give-and-take. Of course there are disputes between neighbours here too. This is not paradise. But it is nothing like the vicious acrimony I’ve seen between neighbours in the city over petty things such parking space.
Life in a city, especially in Europe, is exorbitantly expensive. I would not even get a small apartment in Hamburg for the price I paid for my big house and property here. Everything from food, garbage collection to water and electricity costs at least a third more. That adds to the stress to earn enough just to get by. When you are in your early 20s you enjoy the night life, the concerts, the movies and the many other attractions a city has to offer. But the shine wears off. Quality of life cannot be measured only in material terms and an entertainment agenda. This is the illusion of city life. The truth is that most people in the big cities appear to be in a constant rush and are pretty stressed-out, if you ask me. But I would enjoy your opinion on this?