Which City is Best for Me? How I Find the Best Place to Live

Today, I am not happy with where I live.

Truth be told, I never really wanted to come here to Beijing at all, except for traveling and sightseeing, but having a unique career opportunity created a chance I didn’t want to regret later. It seems, however, that the usual thing happened: while there were moments of uniqueness and connections for possible future value, all in all it has been a plodding, repetitive, slow, unchallenging, frustrating, and miserable time for me over the last nine months.

It seems that, like my hometown in Louisiana, as well as my life in the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Taicang, life in Beijing is most definitely not for me.

So what’s the answer to my question—to your question—which city is the best for me? The best city for us is the one which meets our practical needs, primary desires, provides an acceptable level of overall safety, and has outlets for our preferred career choices or past times. Figuring out how to find the best place to live takes a bit of time, research, and patience. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach and is subjective, based on the person and his or her needs and desires.

Which City Is the Best for Me?

The best city for me, or you, is the one that:

  1. Meets your practical needs
  2. Primary or base desires
  3. Provides acceptable levels of overall safety
  4. Has outlets and options for career and/or past times

How Can I Find the Best Place to Live?

I’m not the “expert” on finding the best city for living. I can’t tell you right now that I love where I am and what I’m doing, and that I’ve reached the pinnacle of my goal after years of grueling searching and seeking, that I’m now amazingly able to reveal to you as a guru from the mountaintop. Honestly, I am still in the thick of trying to find my own “slice of heaven” so to speak, and because it’s on my mind, I decided to write this article to help myself and, hopefully, you.

From the time I was a child until now, I can remember moving from place/home to another almost 30 times. Since February of 2013, I’ve been living in Asia and have moved 8 times over the past 6.5 years – and will be moving again to Tokyo in just a few months. While each place has its benefits and drawbacks, I never quite managed to find the simultaneous combination of elements mentioned above. What I realized is that simply “following your dream” doesn’t make any sense by itself – more is needed. What is that “more?” Let’s take a look at each of the four main points, starting with practical needs.

1.      The Best City for You Meets Practical Needs – Both Public and Individual

The first thing you should consider when choosing the best city for you is how well it can meet practical needs for daily life and basic necessities. This may or may not be obvious to you but must not be overlooked; if we do not mention, consider, and discuss this point, then it could be all too easy to glance over it too lightly and wind up disillusioned with the “dream city” we decided on a whim to whisk our families off to.

The second “need” is that of the individual, because I am not you and you are not that girl who won’t stop staring at me from the corner (or are you?). The point is that while we all have a few basic, similar life needs, there are numerous differences which you would be wise to consider before you jaunt off to any particular city.

General Practical Needs

A city with good, quick, and reliable access to consumables, clothes, food, drink, transportation, basic healthcare, work opportunities, affordable housing, and acceptable schools is more like the baseline standard for an acceptable place to settle-down. This is probably not something you need to do as much digging on if you’re staying within your state/province, or even your own country, but some effort is still recommended if not required when considering a different area or larger city.

If you are looking to move to another country, then the above practical considerations become a much, much bigger deal. You should definitely spend more time to research the targeted city, country, and areas of which you are considering, and it should be easy enough to get a wide variety of opinions from people who’ve already done what you’re thinking about doing.

Tip: be sure to not get hung up on just one person’s opinion of a place. Some cities or countries may seem to have more than a few negative vloggers who are either there and don’t want to be, or don’t recommend going, or are trying to leave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t a good match for you. Spend good time finding the most balanced, overall view you can.

2.      The Best City for You Meets Your Primary or Base Desires

As far as your unique desires and needs are concerned, this is where even the city itself, if not the area, can become really important. I’m not talking about “dreams, aspirations, goals,” or larger issues like that – I’ll discuss that below. The focus here is more connected to what you might call “comforts,” or things that, while not 100% necessary for life, are definitely necessary in your heart for complete happiness.

An example could be that you really want to be somewhere with good access to foreign or import supermarkets. If you’re from a larger city, then you might overlook this aspect by accident and then be disappointed after you’ve already committed and moved. This type of occurrence is especially high when you move out of your country.

I’ve met more than a few foreigners in Asia who are stuck on the local KFC, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut because they didn’t think about their location too much when they moved over and accepted a job. There are some nice things about a smaller city in Asia, but access to foreign style foods isn’t typically one of them!

3. The Best City for You Provides Acceptable, if Not Excellent, Levels of Safety

Again, this may seem obvious, but the truth is that many people overlook certain aspects of the “safety” issue, being concerned with only one or two particular facets of safety in a city or country, without considering others until they’ve already committed.

First, we need to consider which safety issues are most important when choosing a city to live in.

What Safety Issues Should I Consider When Choosing a City or Place to Live?

Would you believe that from the time I was a child, I’ve moved more than 25 times? In my childhood, my parents moved us around a lot for various reasons, mostly related two “the big 2,” meaning money and work (the lack thereof). My dad was a steel worker with no advanced education, so when the manufacturing jobs fled to China, it started us on a type of forced traveling lifestyle as we attempted to go where the work was.

The result was that we often couldn’t afford to stay for long and were kicked out or forced to move more than a few times, and other times we had no choice because my dad’s new job was far away in another city or state. The other result was that I have been exposed to various aspects of life in different cities, which has been further built upon as I’ve lived abroad for almost seven years now.

Safety itself is an issue of which I’ve become familiar, as I’ve moved about and had to deal with my fear directly, and sometimes alone. “Safety” isn’t simply about the absence or low instance of crime – it is much more. I would argue that a safe place, area, city, or country would do well in several areas, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious, such as:

  1. Crime
  2. The Natural Environment
  3. The Manmade Environment
  4. Pollution
  5. Healthcare
  6. Government
Crime – the Primary Safety Consideration when Choosing a Place to Live

Everyone wants to be or at least feel safe where they live, and chief among the safety list above is basic insulation against various forms of crime.

Theft, robbery, burglary, murder, gang activity – the list of offenses is quite long – these are all things we would prefer to stay away from, right? (I hope so!) Just how “safe” is the city you are thinking about moving to? It’s probably just a simple matter of looking up as much info as you can until you’ve got a good grasp on it, but one of the main things to consider is how that city or country style matches up with what you’re used to.

Here’s my own personal example:

When I first moved to China, the city I arrived in was Guangzhou, which is a large city located in the south of China, a short train ride from Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Where I came from, we definitely had some thieves, criminals, and “bad guys” who would seize the right opportunities to relieve you of your stuff (or cash), but Guangzhou took the pickpocketing and thievery to a whole new level.

Within just a couple of months, I was pickpocketed on the subway train more than once, given fake money, and had my brand-new bicycle’s chain cut right in front of a security guard and policeman. Needless to say, the loss of a phone, sunglasses, money, and my bike – under the noses of corrupt policemen and guards – was more than enough to get me angry about China and feel that every place was just like Guangzhou. I left out of anger and swore I wouldn’t come back.

Luckily enough, I calmed down and after a few months between Thailand and Japan, I realized that I should give China another go but move further north this time. I settled into Taicang, located in Jiangsu Province, which is very close to Shanghai. This was more of a small city feel, with a much lower level of thievery and relaxed environment. After spending many years in China, I have still never found any other place to be as bad as Guangzhou when it comes to thieves.

Now, if you are aware of such a phenomenon BEFORE you go to a city like GZ, then you could be ready for it, if only a little. I, sadly, was not, and my friends didn’t warn me (they dropped the ball on several warnings, actually, and it cost me money, time, and trouble as a result). I wouldn’t say that GZ was “dangerous” as in physically dangerous, but for someone who appears to be an easy or weak target, it’s darn possible that someone will try to snatch your bag or pickpocket you. If you can handle it, the be my guest. I’m smarter now than before, but I still have no desire to live in such a place again (Tokyo, anyone?).

The Manmade and Natural Environment, and Pollution

Another thing to consider as it relates to safety is the environment around you. Some of this is just natural and cannot be changed much, if at all, but other things are manmade and may or may not affect you in various ways.

Take the city I live in now, for example: Beijing. It is large, famous, and has many sights to see. There is a rather large community of expat workers here, and it is one of the top two most popular cities in China for foreigners to live and work.

However, while it is not the worst, it is also still notorious for pollution and dust storms. The winds can get really gusty, and with the roads being so dirty – both naturally and due to constant construction – it’s practically a must to be wearing a face mask and some type of eye protection on many days. I drive an electric motorcycle myself, and there is absolutely no way that I can do that without something protecting my face and eyes, in addition to my helmet.

Depending on where you’re thinking about going, part of this safety is the condition of the public space, including bridges, transportation, buildings, roads, etc. Many people don’t think too much about these things unless they’re moving to a 3rd-world country, but if you’re planning on making a place your permanent home, then you should absolutely look into these things.

Healthcare – Not always a necessity, but definitely important when the time comes

If the crime is low in your city and the environment is relatively safe, then it’s unlikely that you’ll need to venture to the hospital very often for anything serious. However, if you choose a city which, while generally safe, has no reasonably-skilled hospitals or they aren’t well-located near you, then if you have an accident it could be quite a disaster.

I don’t know about you, but I myself am more of a self-diagnose kind of guy in most things. Apart from acute problems or emergencies, I tend to stay away from the doctors and just trust my instincts with natural treatments, fasting, massage, acupuncture, etc. However, if I were to get into an accident, I would definitely want to know that there is a hospital nearby with a skilled staff on-call 24-7. If you don’t consider having a competently-staffed hospital nearby your future home, then there’s a chance it will come back to bite you later.

You can tack on things like medical insurance/coverage as well, but this could also tie-into the government policies below. I’m personally not for gov having control or say-so in this area, and would rather just handle it privately – but that’s just me.

Government – a very important consideration for the best city to live in

Again, if you are looking to be in a city or country long-term or even permanently, then you should consider the government style, its policies, political parties predominantly in charge, taxes, fees, rights, etc.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve spent the last several years living and working in China and will be moving back to Japan permanently in January. Why am I moving? Glad you asked. The short answer: government BS.

The long answer is that the advancements I wish to make in my life are hindered by the policies here, not the least of which is internet censorship. However, in a more authoritarian or even totalitarian-style system, there is never any guarantee of your rights or even safety, especially if you’re a foreigner. For me, I simply feel that it is no longer a really good time to be in China, but I hope that things will change for the better.

Nevertheless, a country that stomps so heavily on freedom of speech and is against people with contradictory opinions is not really a place I can stay in permanently. Due to the very fact that people here – local or foreign – can get into a good amount of trouble for simply speaking their mind is reason enough for me to consider leaving.

There are other government-related things to consider, such as in the US where some cities are actually doing much better than others. Take for example some of those cities in the northeast which force you to have a licensed contractor for every little thing you want to do to your home, whereas several other states are more open and free, allowing you to do much of the work yourself, barring certain safety concerns such as electrical work. Why is this a safety issue? Well, think about it.

4. The Best City For You has the Best Career For You, as Well as the Best Past Times

It’s easy enough to get a job and have a hobby or hang out with friends. However, if you are asking the question of which city is absolutely the greatest option for you long-term, then you are probably giving stronger consideration to your career and free time than the average bear.

I like to think about my life as a series of steps, paths, and bridges. You could say that it’s sort of like following a map, except that you have to study, research, and build your map before you can actually – and successfully – pilot your way through to where you plan to go. Choosing the best city for your career is an important step in that.

Several people in my family and friend circle back in Louisiana don’t understand why I moved to China to teach English after I finished-up my university studies. They knew that I wanted to make films, and though I’d made a few short films in my hometown, I decided to get out of there and head to Asia. The truth is that I didn’t want to go the traditional route and I also knew a few people who had become disenchanted with the entire “Hollywood” dream. I didn’t want that – I wanted my own way.

The problem is that I didn’t know the exact steps I needed to take to get there, but I did know that I wanted to get out of the US for various reasons, but one of them was that eventually I wanted to live in Japan. I wasn’t happy in my hometown and never planned to return once I got out, but I even decided that staying in the US full-time wasn’t in my heart anymore, either. For personal happiness, I wanted a home and life in Japan, and for career happiness, I wanted to make films.

Today, while I’m still not the owner of my own full-time, professional film production studio, I have definitely managed to map-out a course for my life and career, which has been playing out steadily over the past years. The steps I have aren’t necessarily going to lead me to be an internationally-famous filmmaker – they might – but they are definitely a more solid plan than I’ve had, and will definitely lead me to a place that is much better than where I was before.

Robert Kiyosaki said that “JOB” means “Just Over Broke,” because without a job you are broke, so essentially having a job keeps us from being poor. However, poverty is not simply the absence of money but a mindset, so personal improvement must be made. By identifying the steps which preclude the place you want to be in your life and career, you can, essentially, reverse engineer your personal map to find out what steps, paths, and bridges will help get you there.

As you develop that map from your target back to your feet, then you’ll know which steps you need to take first, and that will definitely help you to find the right city for your next few steps, next few years of steps, or long-term, permanent steps.

Hope this helps you and best of luck in your journey.