Rat race in the big city

The effect on the social sphere

21 MARCH 2016,
The big city
The big city

All over the world the allure of living in large and dynamic cities is increasing. Smaller towns and the countryside are experiencing a drain of the young and ambitious, from China all the way to Spain. These are the cities that have made a name for themselves, and they have many exciting things to offer with regards to culture, nightlife, jobs and the amount of potential romantic partners to choose from.

But these large cities are unable to grow indefinitely, and there is a maximum to what they can absorb of young people that want to make a life there and eventually settle. With so many vying for a place to call home within a big city, it is inevitable that things like jobs and housing will grow scarce. And this means that the acquiring of these things becomes ever more important. Even on the dating market, there will only be so many bachelors available when everybody is looking in the same places at the same time.

There are those that found their way: the lucky ones that have a place to rest their heads at night, are doing an internship with a chance of getting a job, or already landed one and experienced that is has not been easy. What is the effect on the mindset of these people that finally managed to fight their way in and find their place among around a million others? Are they comfortable with where they are in their lives and does this feeling last? Is every night a celebration of their success? When many vie for the same things in a place that can only offer them so much, there will be winners and losers. And this is not always a question of who the most ambitious and hardworking person is. Often luck plays a part. An apartment in a city’s center can be bought by an affluent father, and if the parents contribute to their offspring’s finances these kids will have more time to study and have no need to work that much. It gives them a chance to do more internships that have the tendency to not pay very well. For these young people the road to the first ladder of success is less steep.

When you have winners, there are certain to be losers. These are the young that live in a cities’ neglected neighborhoods, still live with their parents at an age where they should have their own place, do not have jobs at all or have ones that do not pay enough and are a pain. These youngsters want as much the same things as the better off ones do: a place to live and a job that pays enough. But for them the road to success is much steeper. They might not know the right people to get their foot in the door somewhere, or do not possess the social skills needed for certain work environments.

Often these haves and have nots live in parallel communities and do not really mix. They might want the same but mostly will not end up in the same place. Their social life takes place in other environments, within the same city, but not in places where they will end up meeting each other. But this rush to the top is within these communities all the same, and it has a certain effect on young people and how they interact with one another.

While Western society is already very individualistic, more family-oriented societies that are also experiencing this rush of young people to the city, are becoming increasingly so. The extended families and neighbors to fall back on that used to live just across the street are not there anymore, and this culture of every man for himself equals that of Western societies. Young people are required to be responsible for their own happiness and success, and if their capacity to do so is not well developed it can be hard catching up. There will always be someone else after the same thing. In the social sphere this can make the mentioning of one’s own failure tricky. Better to speak of success and how fantastic this or that was, and deal with any setbacks personally, lest you become known as a failure. Because your failures will only make your competitor’s motivation greater in this rat race called city life.

This mindset is killing when looking for romance. When you are taught to think of everyone as a competitor 24/7, then it is only natural that this idea creeps into other areas of life. This can make the dating game a pain. The ease with which people are traded in for another, and the standards to which people must adhere to are making it hard for most to find long and lasting romances in big cities. Even when there are so many single people out there. It is like going to the grocery store and having to pick one of twenty kinds of chocolate cookies, which will not make you any happier but will just confuse you. People that champion unlimited choices are mostly not the ones really searching for something. And when everyone is your competitor in other walks of life, the ease to do away with someone when that person is not perfect for that moment in time is very easy.

Big city life is exciting and dynamic, but not everyone will achieve the same degree of success. If only we would acknowledge this to ourselves, us young people could live lives more in line with our own personal journeys.