Ever since I left New York almost three (!) years ago, I find myself able to look at the cities I visit as an evaluation, considering whether or not I can or cannot live there. I was once an incredibly stubborn New Yorker, thinking there was no place else on the planet for me. Now, I must admit, this may still be true, but at least, I am far more adaptable now in terms of where I can live.
When I left New York the first time, it was to go to college in Boston. How I hated it at first. I couldn’t help finding something to complain about. In Boston, I was so annoyed with how small it was, how early the subway closed, how early the restaurants closed, how early the bars closed (seeing a trend here?), etc. I thought, I would never move here. Of course, almost four years later, when I finally left Boston, I found myself in tears, and wondering how I might go back!
Now in Hong Kong, I’ve learned I have a much higher tolerance for all sorts of things, and I also have learned that I can move for short-term or perhaps better put, not-long-term stays. There is a lot to learn from such stays, and I certainly do not regret my move to Hong Kong, where I readily admit that I’ve learned vast amounts about law, politics, new perspectives, other cultures and people, and of course, myself. Staying put in New York would never have gotten me that far in the same amount of time, and I am grateful for that.
So as I was saying, when I visit someplace different, I think to myself – could I live here? I used to think that I had three must-haves: (1) city, (2) good public transport, (3) close to the water, and (4) a good Chinatown (note, not just any ol’ Chinatown, but a good one!). Unfortunately, (4) has put a lot of cities off the grid, but I am willing to be more flexible, especially where it comes to not-long-term stays, and hey, 3 out of 4 ain’t half bad (literally!).
Chicago just might suit me in those terms (as well as Boston and DC – but do note, they all do not have item (4)). I find the different neighborhoods charming, and absolutely love the vibrant culture scene, but one thing I noticed while walking along the streets of Old Town and Gold Coast was the lack of variety in terms of restaurants. Block after block I encountered places like “Carmine’s” or “Mamma Mia’s”, Western bakeries, and sports bars – your basic typical American stuff. I saw one Thai place, but it seemed very fusiony (as in it was altered to suit Mid-western tastes), and on a tourism pamphlet saw a recommended “Thai – sushi restaurant” (sorry, you can’t just put two incredibly different Asian cuisines together so casually in my opinion). Now Chicago definitely has a growing and very competitive foodie scene, with some of the country’s best restaurants, and innovative food. Also, there are all the ethnic ‘hoods – Greektown, Chinatown (I suppose), Ukraine town, etc.
But I have to admit, I imagine that living in such a bland food world would be limiting to me. I like just stepping out to try the newest (fill in the blank) restaurant, and while I do love me my American favorites, I don’t feel complete without that sort of worldly variety. It made me realize that is one of the big reasons that makes New York so great to me.
But could I live in Chicago? I’d say yes. Not for the long-term (especially given it’s famously cold winters), but certainly for some short-term. (especially since it is a short 2-hour flight to New York) What does short-term mean? Well, I said I’d live in Hong Kong for the short-term, and here we are fast approaching three years! I suppose that’s still short-term.