Life in the City

Compared to traveling, living in a city is a very different way to experience and understand a city’s style and culture. It’s easy to have a taste of how a city looks like through traveling, but only through living in it could I truly understand what a city means to me and how it affects my lifestyle. I feel lucky to have the chance to live in two cities—Beijing and Providence.

Beijing is my hometown and Providence is the city where I go to college. I find the two cities very different, but how are their differences shaping my lifestyle?

A major difference between a big city and a small one is population.

With a population of over twenty million, Beijing keeps attracting thousands of people from all over China to come here to study, work, and figure out better lives for themselves. During rush hours, you could see people swarming into subways and buses, and the seemingly infinite flow of cars on the streets—What a busy city! No wonder many people complain about the environment and air quality in Beijing. However, living in a big city also means living with many choices—all kinds of restaurants, shopping malls and interesting places to hang out with friends. Sometimes I feel that Beijing is too big and noisy, but it’s a city bustling with life.

In comparison, Providence is a small and quiet city. We usually go to one large shopping mall—Providence Place Mall. Restaurants are relatively smaller and choices are much more limited compared to those in Beijing. I love the peacefulness in Providence because I can go to college free from distractions, but it might be a little too quiet for someone who grew up in a big city. Particularly in winter, when I walk on the street, I could only feel the cold wind but hardly see any passers-by. In Beijing, even though the night arrives much earlier in the winter, I still wouldn’t feel alone walking on a street at 9 p.m.

A big city has its own charm despite its crowdedness. A small city might seem a little monotonous despite its peacefulness. According to the pace of a city, you would think that I should live a busy life in Beijing but a much more peaceful one in Providence? Not really. In fact, I’m far more laid-back when I’m in Beijing than in Providence. I guess it is because no matter where I live, the city’s culture in general only determines a very little part of my life. It is what I actually do while staying in a city that determines what kind of life I’m going to lead.

As for me, because I now go to college in Providence, my daily life is filled with courses, schoolwork and extracurricular activities, so I find life busier even though I live in a smaller city. When I’m in Beijing, it means that I’m back home for break, so I no longer follow a busy schedule but take time to relax and thus my life seems more peaceful in Beijing despite the frantic pace.

Different cities do have different cultures and opportunities. A bigger one provides us with a larger “stage” with more colorful “settings”, and the “stage” that a smaller city provides might looks smaller but simpler and quicker to get to know. However, when it comes down to everyday life, since the “stage” is already there, it is up to us who will decide how we are going “play” on the “stage”.

Fang, Beijing

Fang Guo

Fang is a senior at Brown University. You can contact Fang Guo at