10 Signs You're Living in the Wrong City

It was a Monday morning and I felt completely ashamed.

I’d been living in New York City for a year and half, and while I’d had my share of good days and bad days, this was not a day to be on my bad side. I’d forgotten my umbrella, and on the 0.6 mile walk to the 6 train, I’d stepped into a puddle, ruined my nylons and flats and gotten my laptop bag soaked, all before even reaching the clogged, slippery subway station. So when a woman pushed me onto the flooded street with her stroller, I wasn’t exactly feeling forgiving.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, but I kept my mouth shut. New York had become a prison to me, and if I wasn’t careful, I’d verbally take that out on a well-meaning mother. I realized then that NYC had turned me into the absolute worst version of myself, a girl who walked/yelled/talked in her sleep every single night, ignored all strangers out of fear, allowed emotionally abusive finance guys to stomp all over her, and couldn’t shrug off an honest mistake.

Some thrive in cities like NYC, but I was a mess there, and that’s why it’s so good to have a mellow existence in sunny Los Angeles now. Traffic is a soul-sucker for many, but to me, anything is better than being sandwiched, harassed or groped on the New York subway. I knew pretty early on that Manhattan was the wrong place for me, and here’s how to figure out if you should switch cities as well.

10. You’re always uncomfortable or dressed wrong.

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Rainy day and you have no boots? Hot day and you’re bundled up? Snowy day and you don’t have the right clothes to keep you cozy? If you’re always uncomfortable or failing to properly groom yourself, you either need a new wardrobe or to find a city with different attire demands.

9. You hate the weather.

It’s too hot and humid in the summer, too cold and uninspiring in the winter. If you’re constantly at war with the outdoors (and this isn’t the same as simply being unprepared for it), find a city that works for your preferences.

8. You always want to get away.


We could all use a vacation here and there, but if you always want to leave town and cry when it’s time to return home, you’re probably not that happy where you are.

7. Everything angers or upsets you.

Long lines at the grocery store? Traffic jams on the roads? Perverse cat callers in the street? If every annoying aspect of life breaks your spirit, chances are, you’re not in a healthy environment for your needs. When you’re in a city you love, the negatives don’t ruin your day, but in a place that’s not right for you, they’re further confirmation that you must escape.

6. You blame all of your problems on the city.

When things go awry, you don’t say “shit happens.” You fault your city for being unlivable and unforgiving. Certain places, like New York and Los Angeles, lend themselves to ample living challenges of all sorts, and if you can’t put up with them, you belong elsewhere.

5. You don’t fit in with the culture.

If you want a busy, nonstop work culture, big cities like D.C., New York and Chicago will keep you energized and constantly hustling. For a more laid back city, you could check out Portland, Boulder or Austin. If you’re at odds with the way your city operates, you either have to change your tune or go somewhere that fits with your lifestyle.

4. It doesn’t offer your favorite food.

I used to dream about burritos and Mexican cuisine in NYC, which has great pizza but a lot of sorry excuses for tacos. I personally cannot live without good Mexican food, so moving back to the West Coast was a good decision on my part. If you don’t want to be far away from your favorite types of food, don’t reside somewhere that doesn’t sell it.

3. You hate the transportation situation.

If you despise public transit, don’t live in a city that’s run by a metro system. If you’re the opposite and don’t like getting behind the wheel, driving cities wouldn’t be for you.

2. The benefits don’t outweigh the downsides.

Every city has its flaws, but if the good stuff doesn’t make up for the bad, you need to find a city that’s going to bring you more happiness.

1. You’re always wondering what the heck you’re doing with your life.

No matter what you end up doing, this city isn’t going to help get you there. Relocate to a place that will.

Do you have anything else to add? Share in the comments section.


Featured images and GIFs via Tumblr, WordPressMoots and ShutterStock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=613388155 Rachel Horner

    Thank you so so so much for this. I have been trying to properly articulate why I am so passionate about moving from NYC to LA and you really put my thoughts into words for me.

    • Laura Donovan

      Thank you :) You’re all so kind!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007571050401 Shi No Megami Sama

      I’m contemplating the same thing. This really puts it in perspective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=669645438 Jessica Villani

    This is an awesome and heart-felt piece I’ve just read. Thank you. I’ve always felt to be living in the wrong place, but for now, it’s my job that helps me survive. But is life only about surviving? I don’t think so. I’m getting my butt outta here ASAP.
    <3 Glad you're finally happy where you are now ^_^


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1059632064 Gregg Condon

    Great article, and I couldn’t agree more. I used to know so many people who complained about EVERYTHING in Southern California. Hate it that much? Then leave.
    Sure, there are things here that, as a life-long Californian, annoy me. But I’ve now moved out of the city and am just close enough to get to a concert, theme park or Hockey game once in awhile but far enough where I don’t get annoyed so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000945704436 Nicolette van der Drift

    Reading this article I have to admit that I easily can agree on more than 6 or 7 signs. Not signs to switch cities; but if I want to avoid the weather, food, culture and get rid of the urge to get away I have to move to an entire new country! Somewhere sunny, with excotic food where I can wear actual nice clothes instead of all weather proof practical clothes!! (about the weather; Dutch people are known for complaining about the weather, even if it’s good, so the whole country would constantly move around!! haha)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1064316698 Caroline De Voecht

      Ik herkende helemaal wat je zei, en zag dan dat je van Nederland bent 😀 in België is het niet veel beter 😉 ik droom ervan om in Californië te gaan wonen, of toch ergens waar ik elke dag kleedjes kan dragen! heerlijk!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23806158 Carolina Carson

    This pretty much sums up my feelings about living in San Antonio, TX. I know this city, and the whole state of Texas, have a lot to offer, but I miss my West Coast vibe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=887730260 Naomi Youngman

    This is amazing! I moved from Glasgow to Manchester a year ago and just can’t seem to settle in. I feel each of the points you outlined every day but was sure I was just being stubborn! In fact, I read this article to Boyfriend and he asked if I had written it haha. Thank you so much for this :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1021726300 Ailen Leiva

    My hometown is in the mountains, the snow, the lakes and rivers and forests -the humid, hot and crowded city I’m living at now because of college may be the reason of my crappy mood and constant need of crying for the last few months. People are so rude, and aren’t aware of a single thing that surrounds them, every task at work is getting on my nerves, no matter how little or insignificant… I don’t have enough sandals, or short pants, or money to adapt my wardrobe to weather, my hair is a mess, I can’t sleep well, I have to take a shower two/three times a day, I’m always sweating!! Damn you humidity !! >:|
    I know I need to get away ASAP! Maybe to another country, that would be such an adventure! 😀

    • Laura Donovan

      Get out! when everything pisses you off, it’s time to leave!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1477071527 Olivia Rowe

    I also think where you’re from makes a world of difference. I read that you’re from CA, so it makes sense that you would want to return there – it’s what you’re used to. I moved here a few months ago and it makes me crazy, but I also grew up in a small town on the East Coast. And while I can’t see myself being happy settling there, it’s hard to get used to the major aspects of the city.

    • Laura Donovan

      Totally! Some people would HATE la and find it really toxic but I grew up in CA and that’s what I got used to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569449882 Fiona Taylor

    There is authentic Mexican food in Queens, although not elsewhere in NYC. That said, it doesn’t sound like that knowledge would have been enough!

    • Laura Donovan

      I LOVED Dos Toros in Union Square!!!! That was it though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12450612 Alexandra Coleman

    Now let’s follow this up with an article entitled “What To Do When You Know You’re Living in the Wrong City, But Have No Money or Job Prospects to Help You Relocate to Your Dream Town.”

    Portland is my Mecca, but their employment rate for hiring outsiders is something like 16%.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501101269 Michelle Tiffany Anderson

      Dude you should at least try applying for jobs….if a company is serious about you they will fly you out which means you at least get a visit! I just moved across the country to Seattle from NYC and I don’t have money but I worked really really hard to find a job and make my costs as minimal as possible. Also Portland is the next big city advertising wise and companies are opening third offices there (after NYC and LA) so you should look into it! You never know….don’t get perceived failure get you down!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000101179621 Amanda Nguyen

    I’m a female college student in Toronto, Canada. I think Toronto is a very nice and beautiful city but i’m not really into the big cities. I wanna live in a city that’s not too big, not easy to get lost in downtown and not too multicultural. Don’t get me wrong i’m not racist, i just wanna explore a different side of Canada. Like everyday i don’t see people of different colours any more, when i go to work i pass by lots of old European-style buildings.
    I like a medium-size city, like it’s not too big and vibrant like Toronto but not too small either. And most people are friendly and polite.
    I can’t wait to graduate and move to Ottawa. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a job in Ottawa after graduation. Toronto is a beautiful city but it’s not for me!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503776813 Jessica De La Cruz

      Prefacing a racist comment with, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a racist,” doesn’t make you any less of a racist. Your comment was in really poor taste.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1031763378 Diane Yoder

        Agreed–you are a racist. Good luck with finding someplace to live in Canada that isn’t multicultural. Canada as a country is extremely multicultural in its laws and in its demeanor. let’s hope that forcing you to live with people who are different from you makes you into a more tolerant individual who can appreciate the richness diversity can bring to our lives. It seems to me that you are young and need to grow up a little bit.

    • Erin

      I know what you mean. Saying you’d rather live somewhere that’s not as multicultural is perfectly acceptable, I don’t know why people are calling you racist. I’m with you, I’m not a fan of Toronto either and think Ottawa is beautiful. I also am in love with Calgary, Calgary and Ottawa are probably my favourite cities. Hope you can find a job in Ottawa!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705403741 Anna Garbutt

    honestly i’d be happy moving to any kind of city. i live in a rural area where the nearest village with a shop is a mile away and the nearest town is seven miles away. all my friends live way away from me, and i have to plan extensively if i want to go out on the town with my friends because i’d either have to drive and therefore not drink, or find somewhere to crash for the night. also the town is a cultural black hole with nothing to do in it. the theatre was closed down, as were the local tiny music venues. there are hardly any jobs, which sucks for a job seeker like me. i’d like to just be able to decide on a whim to go out for the night, or walk down the road to a shop and be home again within 15 minutes, instead of the 20 minute walk i have to do just to get to the shop. i just hate living where i do. there’s nothing worth being here for and i need to get out as far away as i can.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1031763378 Diane Yoder

      Anna, I feel your pain. I live in a rural area where the nearest largest city is about 3 to 4 hours away in all four directions. Prices for everyday things like milk and bread are through the roof, and I do not fit in with the population at all. I came out here to teach, but am looking forward to relocating soon and getting back to fresh produce, milk that doesn’t cost 6,00 a gallon, and people who accept that there are other viewpoints other than their own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003967299962 Konstanza Torrealba

    OMG, I totally agree, all the sings! I’m not actually happy in my city… But I can’t move for a couple of years. BUT I give myself encouragement thinking that if I could be positive and just a little bit happy here, I can do it wherever I go, and that makes me feel better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501101269 Michelle Tiffany Anderson

    NYC kind of lost its luster for me when I got bed bugs. So happy to be in Seattle now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001689603356 Elyse Nadine

    Definitely some good points… but I would say this. I moved to London, UK a couple years ago and I HATED everything about it. The cold, damp weather (yuck!), the crowded transit system, people everywhere, no wide open spaces, and hard to get to know people. I was missing Canada like crazy. But I just knew I had to be there and stick it out. So I gave myself a timeline: one year. If, after one year, I still hated it, I would leave. Well, at about the 8 month mark I started to find it bearable, and at about the one year mark I was really starting to fall in love with some of the magic of the city. I started to love the reasons that I moved there in the first place and they started to outweigh the bad!

    So, I would say, in counter point to your article, sometimes you have to give it time. I think when it’s a place so very different that your home and where you’re from, give yourself a deadline and then reevaluate. You might be surprised!

    In the end, I did move back to Canada, and I’m happy I did for financial and career reasons. But I am finding I am missing some of the very things I found difficult about London. Funny that, isn’t it? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1399869982 Jenny Bradley

    I absolutely love this! Everything you said is so true that it’s funny but also, like, oh no, that’s been me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23310944 Kate Bigam

    Great post, Laura. I’ve moved around a lot in the last few years & finally just moved back to my first love, D.C. I felt this way about a few of the places in between, & in the end, it just felt right to be back in the District. Location matters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004567752867 Brooklyn Dot

    So true! I’ve been living in the NJ suburbs for almost 20 years, but now that my kids are grown I’m planning to move back to NYC. I hate driving to work, and having to drive whenever I need anything from any where. Also, I’m single now and life here is a drag if you’re not part of a couple. Maybe I’m idealizing life in NY, but I want to do it again before I’m too old to enjoy it. Looking forward to streets full of people and things to do and good food to eat everywhere you look. Everyone has their happy place. Glad you found yours, Laura! And p.s., you are so right about the Mexican food!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000174810684 Brook E. Smith

    I am currently in a city (more like town or village) I hate, but when I moved here, it was really important I do so because my extensive support system is rooted here. Now I’m ready to leave. While I have a plan and know what I want and where I should go, part of me wants to get back to the city I loved and lived in for 12 years. The point: will I be taking a step backward on my journey to go back to a comfy place with no challenges? Is it better to stick with the plan that involves moving somewhere that has everything I want and need but is a little scary because it’s new?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1071199044 Svenja Bauer

    Well I do not agree with some of you…It is not always about what people are used to. For me it is more if you fit in a city or not (cities have characters too)Anyway I am from a small village (yeahh those kinda places where everyone knows everyone) After I finished High School I moved to a very fancy place in Southern Europe. Well I had an amazing year.. But somehow I decided to move again. So I moved to a big city not as big as NYC but still a big city. It turned out horrible. People were so cold and stressed. I did not really find any connections to people. Futhermore is the city just ugly. Everything is grey: the weather, buildings etc So I even decided to quite my studies (well for a while), to leave the city and to find a place where I will feel “comfortable” again.

    Thank you Laura 😀
    PS: Sorry!! I am not a native english speaker 😉

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