Skip to main content

4 Reasons to Choose a Smaller City When Moving Abroad

Hannah is a freelance writer from Wollongong, Australia, who enjoys exploring the world around her through food and travel.

Deciding to move abroad is a big deal. There are countless unknowns, especially if it is your first time. So, when faced with the choice of which city to move to, it is easy to consider the capital or biggest city in each country the best choice. And why not? It will probably have the best infrastructure, the most people who speak the same language as you and perhaps you may already know someone who lives there.

Although these are all great reasons to choose the big city there are also a lot of reasons why the smaller and lesser-known cities might be worth considering as well. So, when you open your laptop and jump online to begin your job or apartment hunt, consider these reasons to vary your location choices.

1. They're More Authentic

It is commonly known that the streets of Paris are lined with cafés and restaurants, some may be ultra-authentic, but many are there just to make a buck out of unsuspecting tourists.

What may be lesser known, however, is that the city of Lyon, France’s third-largest city, is considered a foodie capital of the world. This means that if you choose to live in Paris, you will undoubtedly be able to find authentic French cuisine, but you may need to try many not-so-authentic places along the way, which will probably put a strain on your spare time and your wallet.

If you choose a lesser-known city like Lyon to live in, you will have countless authentic French flavours at your fingertips for breakfast, lunch and dinner with less chance of those pesky tourist traps. This is similar in other cities like Valencia in Spain which is considered the birthplace of Paella or Popayan in Columbia which was named a Unesco City of Gastronomy in 2005.

Food isn’t the only thing that may be more authentic, with fewer international chain stores you’re more likely to shop in a market for your products and as these cities usually have fewer foreigners living in them you’re more likely to spend your time with locals. The benefit of this is that you will probably be required to speak the native language, giving you better opportunities to learn it and you may even get invited into their homes to experience true local life.


2. There Are More Opportunities

More people usually means more jobs, but does it guarantee better jobs? Not necessarily. When Matt, a fellow traveller, decided to move to Japan as an English teacher, Tokyo was, of course, the first place he began searching.

“What I found,” says Matt, “was that there were plenty of jobs, but the pay wasn't that appealing or the hours didn't look that great.” It was only when Matt decided to change it up and search for a position in the city of Nagoya, just under three hours on the fast train from Tokyo and a population of around three million people, did he find more luck. “I managed to find positions that were paying better and with fewer hours.”

Matt’s luck could be attributed to the fact that smaller cities are often lesser-known; therefore, fewer foreigners are moving to them, meaning less competition and employers who are keener to get staff in and, in turn, offering better bonuses like pay or hours. But these weren’t the only bonus' Matt found for himself.

“I ended up getting a job teaching English at a University; I didn't think it would be possible, seeing as though I had only taught children before. It helped my career massively as now I can apply for adult teaching jobs in other countries as well.”

3. You Can Save Money

It’s not just the chance of better pay that is a financial benefit of getting away from the capital. Often the cost of living in the smaller or lesser-known cities can be remarkably lower.

According to Numbeo, a “crowd-sourced global database of reported consumer prices”, rent prices in Beijing, China are 88% higher than in the city of Guangzhou, China. With an estimated population of 15 million people, Guangzhou is no small rural village meaning that you can still live the metropolis life without necessarily paying metropolis prices.

Another example is in South Korea, Seoul a well-loved city by many travellers, is not necessarily an expensive choice, but in Busan, South Korea’s second-biggest city, groceries are estimated to be 20% cheaper and restaurants 5% less, meaning more Won in your pocket to keep funding your travel dreams.

Another unexpected financial bonus of choosing the smaller cities is the lack of home temptations. When you are miles away from familiarity it is common to want to seek home comforts. Apart from the fact that if you choose a burger over bulgogi, you are less likely to have authentic experiences but also your wallet will suffer.

Local food is pretty much always cheaper than foreign food, and the same goes for products bought in supermarkets and grocery stores. Often the smaller and lesser-known cities have fewer of the chains and products that you know and love stopping you from giving in to temptation and buying them every day but still enough that when you really need them, they’re there.


4. You Can Learn About Yourself

It only takes a google search to confirm that many of us learn the most about ourselves in times of uncertainty, and moving abroad, although thrilling, is often filled with moments of change. Moving to big cities may be a way to ease this uncertainty because there is usually more support for foreigners, but this might also hinder you from learning about yourself.

You already know the tastes you love from home; why not learn about the tastes you love in this new location. You probably already have lots of friends who speak the same language as you, so why not meet some people who do not. It’s far from impossible to do this in the big cities but the smaller, lesser-known cities afford you less opportunity to shy from challenges and, in turn, allow you more opportunity to learn about who you truly are.

What's the Catch?

Like most endeavours, there are always going to be cons to the pros. In the case of choosing the lesser-known cities, even though there are many great reasons to pick them as your place to live, there are also some things you may need to consider when making the final decision.

One thing to take into consideration is that not all of these cities are home to international airports. This doesn't sound like a big deal but when you want to fly home to visit family or take some of your vacation time to visit another country you may find yourself having to travel a few extra hours or take a domestic flight first. It just means that you might need to factor in an extra day of travel when making plans or checking which cities your local airport flies directly to before deciding where to spend your holiday time.

The other disadvantage some face is that with fewer foreigners in these cities, it may be harder to find social groups with similar interests and tastes as yours. But just like the international airport situation, this too can be overcome.

Take some language classes to make it easier to connect with locals, use message boards and social media sites to find ex-pat groups in your area; even if their interests are not always the same as yours, you never know who you might bond with and who they may be able to introduce you to.

The most important thing to take away, though, is that if you approach this opportunity with an open mind and wide eyes, you are bound to have countless amazing experiences regardless of where you live.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Hannah Castelli