Living in a big city or living in a small town?

By Joseph

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As someone who didn't grow up in the US, I've come to realize that each city possesses its own unique charm. Most people tend to gravitate towards areas with ample job opportunities. But what happens when your job doesn't tie you to a specific location? What if you have the freedom to choose where to live?

During my time in the United States, I've lived in the Bay Area, Dallas, and Fayetteville, AR. I typically find accommodation through Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, valuing flexibility over being tied down by a lease.


In the Bay Area, I paid $700 for a tiny room—a space so small it reminded me of my time in Hong Kong. The landlord had cleverly divided a standard bedroom into two, making the rent for a "normal" room in San Mateo approximately $1500. Despite its size, the room's proximity to downtown (just a 7-minute bike ride) convinced me to take it for three months. The house, originally designed for a single family, housed about 12 people, giving it the feel of a hostel. After my short-term lease ended, like many others, I moved on.

In Dallas, my rent was $850 for what was essentially a spacious, empty storage room—twice the size of my previous abode in San Mateo but located in Carrollton, a city designed for drivers, not cyclists. The nearest tennis court was a 20-minute bike ride away. After another three months, I decided to move on.

Fayetteville offered a different pace of life. I signed a year-long lease for a 2B1B apartment at $750 per month, a deal I found on Craigslist. The location was ideal—close to the University and downtown, with a mere 5-minute bike ride to the tennis court, library, and downtown area. Despite the challenging winter snow, Fayetteville presented an intriguing living experience.

Job Opportunity

The luxury of remote work doesn't negate the benefits of understanding your city's job market. For tech professionals like myself, the Bay Area is a goldmine. However, this also translates into high housing costs and a somewhat homogenous demographic. Networking is crucial here.

The job markets in Dallas and Fayetteville couldn't be more different. Dallas boasts a variety of industries, with a strong focus on finance. Fayetteville's economy revolves around the "Big 3": Walmart, Tyson, and J.B. Hunt, along with opportunities at the University—albeit with lower salaries.

I advocate for anti-fragility in job markets. Cities dominated by a single corporation are inherently fragile. Diverse job markets offer greater security and flexibility should your career interests evolve.

House Price

Generally, a city with more job opportunities will have higher housing prices. However, this isn't a universal rule. In the Bay Area, prices are driven up by high demand. In Fayetteville, it's a matter of limited supply, with house prices steadily climbing each year. Dallas, on the other hand, continues to expand outward as developers build more houses.


The people I've met, particularly through tennis, vary greatly from city to city. In San Mateo, my acquaintances worked at tech giants like Stripe, Verkada, and Roblox. Conversations often veered towards stock options—a reflection of the tech-centric community.

Dallas presented a different scene, with many working in finance. The vast city size and reliance on cars made social circles smaller and more niche, like the Korean tennis group I joined.

Fayetteville embodied the college town spirit, with most people I met having ties to the University.

For someone in his 20s, the environment of college town is like living in heaven. You can meet girls around the world, events everywhere, and since the town is small, you can bike or walk and meet people all the time.

The small town vibe meant frequent encounters with acquaintances and a surprisingly high "cute girl index," reminiscent of my experiences in Asian cities like Hong Kong and Taipei.

College town in small city

Where do you envision your ideal home? Where are you considering purchasing a house?

As someone working in tech, I've learned that engineers develop various types of databases to address specific needs. There's always a trade-off; no solution is universally perfect.

This concept also applies to choosing where to live. No place is without its flaws; it's about prioritizing what matters most to you at your current stage in life.

Explore and connect as much as you can in a college town, seize job opportunities and build networks in a major city, and when you're ready to settle down, look for a community with excellent schools and a low crime rate.

I'm eager to hear your thoughts on this topic. Stay tuned for more posts about how making strategic choices about where to live can enhance your fortune.