Big city living vs small city living, similarities and differences

I grew up – a very long time ago – 38 miles from New York City.  My Dad and all the others dads left the suburbs by carpool or train every morning and commuted into the “City” to work, every weekday. The moms and the kids sometimes went into the City for special occasions, like Broadway shows, Radio City Music Hall, Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, and shopping expeditions for things that the suburban malls of those early years might not have.  Or just because a trip to the fancy stores on 5th Avenue was a very special mother-daughter bonding experience. For me, a big city meant the Big Apple. How was I to know that NYC wasn’t just any old big American city, it was a very big, very special world city.

Because I loved NYC and my young, idealistic vision of what a big city was (compared to suburban living), I chose to go to university in a big city.  And since I loved cold weather, too, I made an unusual choice as far as everyone was concerned at the time; I chose to attend McGill University in Montreal. In another country! I embraced Montreal just as I had embraced NYC.  I loved its mountain, historic Old Montreal, and its charm and bilingualism.  I loved just walking its streets.  When my husband and I moved to London for 2 years after various graduations, before settling back in Canada, we embraced everything about that big world city: its history, its amazing cultural offerings, and its parks. And we fully expected to come back to live in Montreal, or at least Toronto. What else would one expect? We were big city people.

But, as we all know, life has a funny way of changing your plans and expectations.  Instead, much to our astonishment, we found ourselves in the small, tucked-away city of Fredericton, New Brunswick. In 1970. 52 years ago. And, after initially expecting to move back to a “city” within a few years, we found ourselves thriving in this much smaller place. Thriving in a way I’m not sure we would have done had we moved back to a bigger place. We would have been perfectly happy, for sure, but we would have missed a lot.  We wouldn’t have spent 9 years farming, only a 15-minute drive from town and work, for one thing. We would have missed the incredibly strong sense of community one gets when living in a smaller place. We would have missed feeling part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are grateful for every day that we live here.

And now it turns out that others are recognizing the specialness of Fredericton as well. Drumroll, please.  Vancouver’s Resonance Consulting has just announced their rankings of the 10 best small cities in Canada for 2022, and look who’s #9!

  1. Victoria, BC
  2. Kelowna, BC
  3. Kingston, Ontario
  4. Niagara Falls, Ontario
  5. Waterloo, Ontario
  6. North Vancouver, BC
  7. Burlington, Ontario
  8. Guelph, Ontario
  9. Fredericton, New Brunswick
  10. Lethbridge, Alberta


To create the list, Resonance used 6 different categories to evaluate the offerings of each pick of cities with a population under 200,000:

  • Place (natural and built environment)
  • Product (attractions and major institutions)
  • Programming (arts, culture, entertainment and culinary scene)
  • People (immigration rate and diversity)
  • Prosperity (employment and corporate landscape)
  • Promotion (online recommendations and recognition)

Interestingly, Fredericton is the only city in the Atlantic region to make the list. And our population is one of the smallest of these small cities. Some of you might also be interested to know that our real estate prices are probably something like ½ to ¼ of the prices of most of these other cities. And our airport is only a 15-minute drive from downtown. So if you’re looking to move, you might want to give Fredericton some thought!

Living here we don’t get to Broadway, but we do have a top notch Playhouse that brings in shows, performances, orchestras, and ballets throughout the year. Plus an annual Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.  Plus a world class art gallery and vibrant arts scene. One of our shout-outs was that when Leonard Cohen was planning his final world tour, he came to Fredericton a week before his first show, rehearsed at our Playhouse, walked around town without attracting too much attention, and then started his world tour right here. Right here, in little old Fredericton! It. Was. Incredible.

And, like most cities, even NYC and Toronto, we get our fair share of wildlife stopping by.  Just this past week a young moose decided to take a stroll down our main North American “mall street” and was given full marks for navigating one of our new round-abouts better than some of our local drivers!


We are small, but we are New Brunswick’s capital city. We have the rich history of  our Indigenous peoples, and the early French and then British settlers. We have 2 universities, major research laboratories, IBM’s international centre for cybersecurity – brought here when they recognized our homegrown talents, and many locally-founded IT companies. We have become far more culturally diverse over these past 52 years, which I absolutely love, and are home to a vibrant Multicultural Association. We have miles and miles (kms and kms) of trails for walking, running, cycling, and now e-scooters. We have a beautiful river on which to kayak, canoe, and sail. We have excellent winter facilities for hockey, curling, and skating. You name it. And nothing is far away. But, for me, the most valuable commodity of all is that we have such a strong sense of community. Of being there for each other.  Of helping those in need. And I suspect that this is true in most smaller towns and cities.  We moved here by accident rather than design, and it turned out to be a true blessing.


Congratulations, Fredericton, on being named one of Canada’s top 10 small cities. Proud to call you home! ❤

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30 Responses to Big city living vs small city living, similarities and differences

  1. Congratulations, Fredericton! I was born there and spent 25 years growing up, studying and working. Jane is a wonderful ambassador; we are both proud to call Fredericton, home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bernie says:

    I met The Engineer in Calgary (his home) and followed him to Vancouver. We left there to travel for 6 months and I had no desire to return. We picked Saskatoon to go to. He’d never been here, I’d been here twice and thought it was pretty with the river. It had jobs for engineers and nurses and wasn’t too big nor too far from the mountains. I have NEVER regretted moving away from the aforementioned cities. It was just the right size to raise a family, do community work and enjoy the scenic setting. Yes it’s cold in the winter but we are OK with that. Maybe me more so than him as we age. We still ski and hit the mtns. regularly just as I promised him we would. So like you Jane we hit a jackpot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. barryh says:

    Sounds like a great place, Jane!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Linda Sprague says:

    I grew up here and went to McGill to to study music. I would have gladly stayed there after graduation but Greg was packed up, ready to return to Fredericton on my last day of classes. In retrospect, I’m so happy we returned. We’ve lived other places over the years, but we always come badk! It’s such a great place to raise kids and I love how much it’s changed for the better. It’s so much more culturally diverse now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Margaret says:

    Fredericton sounds a great place to live Jane. We spent some time in Toronto and Montreal when visiting family in Vancouver in 1989. Interestingly during a recent discussion about emigrating ( we won’t now!) we said Canada would be our first choice. I identify with your love of cities and aren’t we fortunate in having the best of both worlds living in smaller towns/villages with all their benefits, along with good access to the main attractions of city life of course. 👍🏼😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LA says:

    The moose!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. debscarey says:

    How lovely Jane. I agree that sometimes the unexpected bears wonderful fruit 🙂
    I’m a city girl by nature, Himself is the absolute opposite. So we’ll probably always be somewhere in between, as we are now – even if it’s not our forever place.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Roy McCarthy says:

    You paint a nice picture of your home town Jane. But isn’t it strange how many of us end up settling down in places we’d hardly heard of when we were younger. Some people never move away from their birthplace – and are quite content with that – while others end up elsewhere almost by accident but are pleased with their destinies.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wynne Leon says:

    Wow, congratulations to Fredericton! It sounds so lovely! I’m sometimes wonder about moving to a smaller city for a different pace of life with my kids but having family nearby keeps me here. However, it this country gets any crazier, I’m considering Fredericton! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Having family nearby is a huge positive. And hopefully things will start turning around south of the border before too long. We’re all ready for that reassurance! Of course, you would be most welcome!! 😊


  10. Butterfly says:

    Nice post 🤠

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It may not be so small if it keeps making those kinds of lists! 🙂 It sounds like you have the best of all worlds there, Jane. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sounds like a beautiful city, Jane. I’ve never been to the Atlantic provinces, but maybe one year I’ll get there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jean says:

    Great you both chose the right city to build a life and family together.
    And I noticed my childhood and teen city for …Waterloo is #5. I actually found Waterloo way more interesting than London where the latter I spent 3 yr. at university after transferring from U of W. It is the history of K-W that gives it a very interesting base. My street as you read awhile ago here:

    Liked by 1 person

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