A Case For The Underdog City

In just over month, we’ll be boarding our flight back to Canada after 4.5 years in Christchurch. So now is as good a time as any to reflect on our time here in the Garden City and make my case for the underdog, ill-represented city. A large portion of my audience is based overseas, so if you’re thinking of moving to (or even visiting) New Zealand, here’s why I think you should consider Christchurch:

There’s something to be said about big cities with international reputations. You know the places: Paris, New York, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Vancouver, Auckland… the list goes on. They are popular places to live and visit for a reason and are all #blessed in one way or another. It’s easy to see why they receive a lot of attention and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE these cities with all my heart. When Nick and I were planning on moving back to New Zealand, our obvious choice was Auckland. It’s where we met, where we both studied and had plenty of friends, and it’s the business hub of New Zealand with its fair share of opportunity. Instead we chose Christchurch to many people’s dismay.

At that time, Christchurch was still recovering from the earthquakes (and still is) and I remember preparing myself for the worst. To my surprise, I fell in love with the city and grew with it as new businesses popped up around me. Despite being a small-ish city, Christchurch is one of the most dynamic places in the world. I visit Auckland and Wellington semi-regularly and have been to Queenstown more times than I can count. In my opinion, Christchurch, at this moment, is a more interesting place to be. We have some of the most innovative cafés and restaurants in the country and our North Canterbury wineries like Black Estate, Greystone and The Bone Line make New Zealand’s best wine. I’ve written a lot about Christchurch’s merits on an urban scale (have you seen our bike lanes?!) but it’s most appealing for the quality of life you can have here. Buying a house isn’t merely a pipe dream, work-life balance is a reality for most (and definitely way better than anywhere else I’ve lived…) and there are beautiful beaches and hiking trails on our doorstep. It’s really a goldilocks city in that sense. There are issues, of course, which I (and many others) have discussed at length, but won’t get into today.

I was actually inspired to write this blog post after a conversation I had recently. The guy said he would never visit Detroit or Pittsburgh, which I found fascinating. These two rust-belt American cities have negative reputations due to a myriad of reasons including faltering economies. They’re not high on anyone’s travel bucket list, but will end up surprising those who do visit. They’re two of my favourite underdog cities where artists and creatives from New York and Los Angeles flock when they can no longer afford to spend more than half their income on rent.

Christchurch is the definition of an underdog city. It’s been put to the test countless times yet those who visit are continually impressed by the warmth and generosity of its residents. Spend some time talking to any of the young creatives who inhabit this city, and their energy will inspire you. I’ve lived four of the best years of my life here, gaining a sense of community within its central city streets, attending world class festivals, ballets and operas, and perhaps most importantly, connecting with beautiful, likeminded people at every turn.

So, the next time you write off an underdog city, I urge you to give it a second chance.

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