Easy isn’t it? Sometimes not so much.
„I don’t fit in here“ – What it’s like to move to a city for a job that we don’t really like.
For a great job or for studies, we often have to move to a different city. But what if we simply don’t feel comfortable in that city?
This won’t be my home.
A new job, a new city, a new life – it sounds exciting at first. But what if shortly after our arrival, we start longing for the day when we can leave this city behind? Such a time can certainly help us grow and contribute to self-discovery: How do we deal with suddenly being all alone? How well can we commit to something that doesn’t make us happy? And above all, what positive aspects can we draw from such a situation?
I want to spark a discussion with my contribution. Not every city touches our hearts. So, how do we best handle it when, for purely rational reasons, we are bound to a city that thousands of others might like, but it never really feels right for us?
A fresh start?
Due to my profession, I have moved more than ten times – I have traveled extensively in my private life – and I quickly and decisively know what I need to be happy and connected to a place in a big city, a small town, in Germany, or even abroad. And this city where I currently live just doesn’t have it – at least not for me.
Almost everything feels uncomfortable, it’s constricting, I sigh, and yet I’ve been walking these streets, shops, and offices with a perpetual smile for what feels like ten years. This city and its people are not to blame for being completely wrong for me. Even though I associate this city with a handful of truly beloved people, beautiful experiences, and things I have had the opportunity to discover in the past year and a half, these 18 months feel like years.
Learning what you want – and what you don’t.
Still, this experience is very important: I can define more and more confidently what I don’t want here, for example. This is crucial for my personal development. I genuinely consider it a gift. There’s a wise quote:
„I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life. They have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.“
And that’s how it is for me here. In a city that shows me multiple times a day – and very clearly – that it’s just not right for me, and that I belong somewhere completely different. I’m from Baden, and as the slogan for the local wine proclaims, „spoiled by the sun.“ I used to like rain a lot. For example, there was nothing I liked more than jogging in the rain and then taking a hot shower. But here, I can’t stand even seeing rain in the weather forecast, let alone feeling it on my skin and smelling it. Rain smells different in Baden, Paris, and Buxtehude.
No love song.
No, this is certainly not a love letter to this economically thriving city in the Rhineland. I leave that to others. Living in the right city feels a bit like being in the right relationship: the right partner can do no wrong, and the wrong one can do no right. Some people prefer strawberry ice cream to chocolate, choose pasta over french fries, or prefer sparkling water to champagne. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
We are different, and my opinion of this city is therefore entirely subjective and based on my own feelings. For someone else, there may be another city or village that they hardly have anything positive to say about. For someone else, it might be entirely incomprehensible how much I love one or two cities in Baden. It’s solely about the feeling of having to be in a city or any place that we don’t like, for purely practical reasons.
I don’t belong here.
The feeling of being in the wrong place is something many of us are familiar with. And this feeling cannot be talked away by others, nor can they convince us that the city is beautiful. Living in the wrong place is a bit like being stuck in a bad relationship: we know the other person, we know it doesn’t (anymore) fit, but we still stay, for more rational reasons. Even well-intentioned comments like, „But you two are such a great match!“ from friends won’t change how we feel. We know what should and shouldn’t be, and sooner or later, we leave.
At least, when we find ourselves „in the wrong place but still staying,“ we’re not playing with emotions. This city doesn’t care at all whether I’m here or not. One day, a newcomer or someone already here will be enriched by my sweet apartment, and I’ll be gone. If you want to understand what makes my heart beat, spend a week in Baden-Baden or book a weekend in a romantic corner of Paris.
I like my apartment here as my cozy home. And I also like that I don’t like the city, allowing me to focus fully on myself, a few select contacts, and above all, my career and future plans. To be happy getting from point A to point B every day, I indulge in memories of other cities as I stroll along the streets here. Yes, I stroll. Often in high heels, rarely in ballet flats, and never in boat shoes or sports shoes that are so typical here. My Russian and posh-inspired footwear walks on the pavement of a sporty West German city, while my thoughts wander elsewhere.
Regarding Paris, I say that I’m in a long-distance relationship with that city. London is my affair. Moscow is beautiful in winter. My friend lives in Baden. So, while I think about all these wonderful cities, I tell myself, quite maturely, that I can mature here and take the good with me.
I’m not really here anymore.
However, there is a problem: I no longer engage with this place. I tried for a while but eventually gave up. Metaphorically speaking, my second foot is no longer on this ground. It is now firmly planted in my flowery past, in cities of my everyday escapes, or already in my rosy future, which will be somewhere else.
Nevertheless, my smile is genuine because it’s for the people here, who are not to blame for me feeling like an Englishman in New York. An alien wearing the wrong shoes. A sun-soaked creature who ended up in the rain. But my other foot, my heart, is missing, and that’s why I squeal with joy when I know that every evening brings one day closer to when I won’t be here anymore.
How do we best handle it?
Do you think we can reconcile with a place or people when we know that a situation will soon be in the past? How can we feel like we’re shortening our time in a place by doing something meaningful? Will I ever regret leaving this city in months or a year?
The notice period for my apartment is only one week, and that alone is a reason for me to stay. Just knowing that I could leave almost overnight makes me so content that I haven’t left yet. And maybe that’s the art of it after all?
Wrote this article 2018 as I lived for three years in Düsseldorf:
A friend once told me that it doesn’t matter where we live because we’re the same person, no matter where we are. I know better – for me: for me it does! and same with countries and people.
Sometimes it’s easy to let go because you’ve seen, tried and had everything, and it’s time for something new, for the next two decades and more.
Only take jobs in and for the U.S.