Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank God I'm a country girl

The country or the city? It’s a no-brainer for most families in the Far North but our society does shape our children
My family recently spent a few days in Sydney.
It had been a number of years since we last visited, and the first time for our daughter.
We planned well ahead with flexible itineraries for each day, affordable accommodation in an ideal location in the CBD and budgeted plenty of spending money for food and public transport.
But from the moment my husband and I got on the Airlink train from Sydney airport to the CBD, we felt sick.
(Incidently, my husband and I met each other in London, and any reminder of the Tube gives us flashbacks of feeling like a sardine with our face in someone’s sweaty armpit, and regular delays causing an acute case of claustrophobia.)
Our daughter was thrilled to be on a plane and then a train, and loved the adventure, so we grinned and bared it for her sake.
Each day in the city was a lot of fun, as we saw all the major sights, visited Taronga Zoo and a couple of museums, joined the other tourists on the hop-on/hop-off buses and indulged in various restaurants and cafes whenever we got hungry.
Despite the experience being a positive one, we couldn’t wait to leave. The city is just not for us.

The noise, the traffic, the huge number of people in a perpetual hurry, the pollution, the concrete, it was all too much for us.
I saw many families in Sydney who lived there (school uniforms are a giveaway) and I wondered what sort of upbringing those children have in comparison to my daughter.
From my research, there’s no evidence to suggest that city children are disadvantaged by their environment, and vice versa, no study to show country children are disadvantaged by their isolation.
But they do have different childhoods and certainly different views on the world around them.
There are also stereotypical views of city and country life.
The city is seen as a place of power, greed, wealth, corruption, where people ignore one another, where a sense of community is sacrificed to career and competition, and where crime is common.
The country is seen as a place where community bonds are strong, where people help each other, life is slower, safer and peaceful, and where career is not as important as lifestyle, family and relationships.
On the flip side, the city is more culturally vibrant and buzzing with an endless choice of places to eat, places to see, and ways to be entertained from opera and movies to rock concerts and sporting matches.
The country is viewed as a place that never changes, where ignorance of other cultures and ways of living breeds racism, homophobia and rejection of “outsiders”, where people gossip, and the most interesting thing to talk about is the weather.
Do you agree?
My husband and I were both brought up in the country. We lived in cities in our late twenties, but have an obvious preference (or perhaps bias) for regional Australia as a place to work and bringing up children.
I have met a number of people who have come to Cairns from Sydney or Melbourne, and they plan to stay “only a couple of years” and then go back to the big smoke.
So far, only one couple has actually made the move back south, while the others are still here happily procreating, contributing to the Far North’s economy and loving the tropical lifestyle.
I don’t need to go into details about why it’s great living in the Far North, but I am interested in knowing why people would choose to move.
Is it purely for work, to be closer to family living down south, to increase education choices for their children, for health reasons, or all of the above?
Isolation in the country doesn’t necessarily put children at a disadvantage. When I was at university, our class went on a road trip to rural and remote schools, the kind that have only one teacher.
It was an amazing experience and an eye-opener. The children were extremely mature for their age, very friendly, welcoming and were naturally inquisitive.
They had the same interests as city kids (that is, the fads of the day were the same) and they had an eagerness to learn that I’ve never seen anywhere else. They loved school and they thrived.
In many ways I assume city children mature earlier than their country cousins, and are exposed to a whole range of experiences that broaden their learning.
So, in this debate, I’m sitting on the fence. Country versus city – what’s best for your child?


Anonymous said...

I think there are pros and cons to both city and country. I grew up in Melbourne but am now raising a family in Cairns. I had a wonderful childhood with plenty of opportunities in a city environment. However seeing my children grow up in Cairns is great. No pollution. The climate to be outdoors swimming and playing and the beautiful scenery and moments away from the beach. I would have loved to grow up here too.

Crazy People said...

I hated Cairns when my parents moved here 13 years ago. Having grown up in Sydney and Tokyo I was a big city girl through and through. But once I had my son in London, the beauty of small towns became clear. Clean air/water/playgrounds, small schools, community, safe streets, close parking, no traffic, and affordable living, have so far won out against the lure of the city. A childhood in Australia is a marvelous thing. We're so lucky to be able to give our kids this.

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