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Do you live in a low-status city?

My friend, Carol, lives in Amsterdam, a bit more than two hours from Groningen, where I live. She used to live in Assen, which is only 20 minutes away. Yet I see her much more often now than I did then.

Groningen central train station
Groningen central train station

Cities have status. I didn’t realize this until Carol moved away. When she lived in Assen, I’m not sure you could even have called us friends. We saw each other from time to time, but generally only at various group events or dinner parties. I only visited her in Assen once; otherwise, she came here.

When she moved, the relationship between our two cities shifted. While Groningen has higher status than Assen, Amsterdam has much higher status than Groningen.

So now she never comes here. I go see her.

Because of this city status shift, our relationship has shifted.

I love to spend a day or two in Amsterdam from time to time. So each time I go there, I contact her and we go to lunch together or go shopping or take a walk, and we talk and talk and talk.

And I’ve learned, since she moved, that Carol is a great listener. She’s someone who sees through what you’re saying and cuts through to what’s really happening underneath the words. She’s become a real friend. (And a great photographer as well; here’s a link to her website, if you’re interested!)

Assen isn’t bad. It’s a small town and not very exciting, I would say. But, to tell the truth, I’ve never spent any significant amount of time there, so I don’t really know.

Groninger Museum: a post-modern landmark
Groninger Museum: a post-modern landmark

Groningen isn’t a bad place either, by any means. It’s a small city, about 200,000 people. The population is young, on average, because of the excellent university that’s the city’s biggest employer. It has everything a city needs in terms of shopping, culture, and so on. There’s a world-class modern art museum, some lovely older districts, and a bicycle-friendly traffic-free center.

But Amsterdam … that’s in a whole different league. People come from all over the world to see that incredibly special city. People from Groningen go to Amsterdam for shows, shopping, sightseeing, events … everything.

When Carol lived in Assen, Groningen was the higher-status city. So our contact, such as it was, took place in Groningen. Now that she lives in Amsterdam, our contact only happens there. The higher-status city wins.

This extends to other friends as well. I’ve lived in Groningen for 17 years but only had a handful of visits from overseas friends. They do come here to Europe – some live here in Europe – but expecting them to travel this far off-the-beaten-tourist-track is just too much to ask.

It used to bother me that people would visit, say, Brussels, or Paris, or Berlin, and not come here to visit me. But since Carol moved to Amsterdam, I’ve come to understand: I live in a low-status city, and I have to be the one to travel.

old and new in Rotterdam
old and new in Rotterdam

So when friends travel anywhere nearby, I go meet them there, if my schedule allows. Yesterday I took the train to Rotterdam to meet a childhood friend and his wife who were there for a conference (Thanks for a lovely day, Jeff and Dana!).

I’ve never explored Rotterdam before. I enjoyed their company, along with a pleasant stroll around an old section of the city called Delfshaven, which I’d never seen before.

a view of Delfshaven
a view of Delfshaven

So what’s not to like? Living in a low-status city has its perks.

Do you live in a low-status city? Do you travel to see friends in higher-status cities? Does it bother you that they don’t come visit you at home? Leave a comment below, and please share this post!

4 Comments

  • Lori

    May 4, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I don’t think that’s true around here (in Massachusetts USA). I have friends in Somerville, Massachusetts, for example, that I visit way more often than they visit Acton, and I’m pretty sure Acton would be considered the “higher status” city (town). (Maybe that depends on what you value the most highly – being closer to Boston vs. being a more affluent community and having better schools? – and maybe a million other factors on either side of the balance scale….) Somerville definitely has more restaurants and movie theaters and shopping, but we’re not usually taking advantage of any of those things during our visits. “Who visits who” in my life usually just depends on who wants to host (some of us take turns pretty regularly), whether or not one of us has cat allergies (since we have a cat), or for whom the travel is easier, e.g., the friend has 5 kids so it’s an ordeal to bundle them and their things into the car. 😉 I have a friend in Arlington, Massachusetts, who I always visit because she doesn’t drive and has health issues that make it hard for her to get out. Offhand I can’t think of anyone around here that i visit (or who visits me) because one of our towns ranks over the other. Maybe it’s more a European thing than an American thing?

    Reply
    • rachel75

      May 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Maybe it is. Though I would see Somerville as higher-status because of all that you listed: fun stuff to do and its proximity to Boston. Thanks for commenting here!

      Reply
  • Delia @ Blog Formatting

    May 7, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Interesting discussion, Rachel! I can see it both ways, traveling to a smaller city or to a bigger city to see a friend 🙂 It would depend on the time I have and if that fits my schedule, but I don’t think it would matter otherwise 🙂

    Reply
    • rachel75

      May 11, 2014 at 11:29 am

      True. It depends on the situation and your ability to travel. But I make the effort more for a higher status city. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply

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