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Alright, here we’re gonna to the topic of urbanization, which is, you know, something so big and sounds so scary. So why don’t we help our listeners and tell what does it actually mean? So what is it? What is urbanization?
I guess urbanization is just the concept of cities developing and expanding in size, and the consequences that are associated with this expansion.
Good definition actually, yeah.
So but, since, you know, it would be a little bit boring to just talk about how cities grow and what processes it involves, so why don’t we talk about our experiences living in different places. And I wanna ask you – what kind of places have you lived in? Big cities, megacities, villages, rural areas, so what’s your life experience like?
So I think I’ve never lived like in a really big city, it’s always been 1 million, 1 million and a half, 2 million of population, so and its like Novosibirsk basically, or even smaller. For example, Edinburgh, it was 500 000 of population or around that number. Yeah, that’s it. I’ve never lived in a big city. Like, megacities, like that.
Not really I think actually.
Alright. Ben, what about you?
I’ve only, well, until recently, I’ve only lived in big-big-big cities.
Oh, so for you it’s like, you know, a life getting quieter, fewer people.
Well, kind of. It’s nicer. Last year I lived in Vegas and this year now I live in Novosibirsk, which are both comparable in size.
Wait, Vegas doesn’t have that many people, does it?
It’s 1.5 million people I believe. So, it’s sizeable, but it’s not London, it’s not New York or anything like that but previously I have experience living in huge cities, and yeah.
So how many people live in London right now? It’s like 5 million people?
Well it depends if you talk about central London or if you’re talking about greater London in general. So in greater London you have to incorporate all these satellite towns, so the towns in which only rail lines are served.
How many people would that be? How many people do you think?
So greater London itself is about 9 million people, but if you incorporate… So you have this road called the M25, which is the main ring road which circles London the city of London. And if you incorporate everything within there maybe it’s 11 million, possibly more. It’s big.
Yeah. M25 which is the main ring…
I think this road was showed in a Good Omens tv show as…
It’s like the hell road, because it’s always jammed and everything.
What’s the show? Great almonds?
Good Omens. Alright, I’ve never heard of this.
It’s based on the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman,
You should watch it, it’s so fun.
The show is so good actually, the actors are just fantastic, seriously. So so good.
It has… You know, there is a risk of us just moving to the topic of tv shows again. Okay, we’re better… We should control ourselves Natalie.
Cause give us the freedom, we can easily…
Yup. Yup. Anyhoo, 11 million people in greater London. Wow.
Yeah. And what’s the smallest area that you’ve lived in? Maybe villages… Has there ever been a village, rural area?
I’ve lived in Bristol, that has around 400 000 people, so it’s kinda like comparable to Edinburgh.
Anyway, I’ve loved Bristol, it’s such a fun place.
I have a question. Would you say that it’s a city then or a town?
It’s a city, technically it is.
So it’s called the city of Bristol. The council or the government that runs Bristol is called the city of Bristol.
Cause I think in Russia if it’s 500 000, 400 000 we would rather call it a town.
Yeah, probably. But again, if it’s more than one million, it’s already a city.
Actually, you know, I was thinking about that, and I think we should define, like, how we are defining a big city. From which point of view – of a European person or an Asian person? Because if we speak from the point of view of a Chinese person, like 1.5 million of population it’s… it’s a village.
I mean, it’s a small city. It’s a town, okay. Yeah, 1 million of population it’s a village.
Cause I would say that if a place has 1 million people, then it’s a city. Everything less might be, well, depends, if it has 900 000 maybe it’s a city. Well, relatively small city. But if it’s like 600 000 and less then I would call that a town. And then a village, what would be a village?
Less than 10 thousand, not, 10 thousand, be less than 5 000.
I would even say 10-15 I would say.
Something like that. Alright, cause I am from Yakutsk, which is… I think at the time that I was living there it was 250 000 people, so it felt… Of course it was a town, sometimes it felt live a village because everybody knew everybody. It was impossible to hide anything. Honestly, you wanna go out with somebody – the whole town knows it.
Oh my god. I can’t imagine that, really, I’ve never lived in a small…
You can imagine – 250 000 people. Minus, you know, little kids, under let’s say 10. Then you have old people, okay, this is also a different category. People around your age – there aren’t that many. And you know, in a small town you don’t say ‘I don’t know this person’. You say ‘Yeah, I know but I’ve never met them’. So cause, you know, in this way you know everybody. Yeah.
Yeah, gossip flies around small places.
Oh yeah, so fast. So fast. But then I moved to Novosibirsk, which at that time…. I mean now it’s probably around 2 million people. 1.9-1.8.
I guess. I haven’t checked.
I think 11 years ago it was more like 1.5, 1.6 maybe. And it seemed huge to me. The whole idea of having to take some bus and go somewhere, you know. You need to buy gifts for New year, you have to actually spend like 40 minutes going to the center. Unbelievable! And traffic jams? Oh that’s what it is? Didn’t like that.
Oh so you didn’t have any traffic jams in Yakutsk?
No cause it’s a small town. Yakutsk is a small town, so not really. They say that now more people have cars, so yeah, there are some traffic jams. But I had never experienced anything like that before I moved here. So to me Novosibirsk was just huge!
Well I read somewhere that Novosibirsk is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Exactly. Because it’s only one hundred and…
Yes. So this is why it is in the Guinness record book and it has the same, let’s say, rate of growth as Chicago did, so that’s why it’s called Siberian Chicago.
And then when I moved to Boston… So, just like London, Boston itself might be not that big, well, although compared to London it’s tiny, it’s a tiny baby, because it’s 600 000 people.
But you also have Cambridge as well, so you have Boston and Cambridge. Is it one city or is it two cities?
It’s two cities. So Boston and Cambridge are two cities but you know, we have Boston, then we have greater Boston, which, you know, includes all these cities and towns like Cambridge, Medford, Waltham and all those.
And greater Boston area is 6 million people. And I lived in two towns. The first year I lived in Waltham which is 50 thousand people, and then I moved to Wellesley which is less than 30 thousand people, it’s just… It’s literally… You have nothing. You have one coffee shop. Okay-okay, two.
Sorry. Two supermarkets, which are way too expensive for you to go to.
So where did you buy groceries?
Well, I had to, you know, sometimes to go to those expensive supermarkets and really count what I’m buying, you know. I’m like okay, not that, that’s too expensive. But if you have anyone with a car, you can ask them to drive you to a supermarket which is like 15 minute ride away, maybe more.
But it’s a highway, so you can’t rally walk there. Well, you can through some neighboring towns, but it would take 2 hours and a half one way, so I was not ready for that. So yeah, so it’s basically just fancy boutiques, so not much to do. Every time you want to do something fun you have to go to a bigger city. And given that the fare was…
So what would you do for fun on the weekend?
Just go to a big city, I guess.
Well yeah, I would go to Boston. And when it was the semester time, we had a shuttle which was like 3 dollars one way. So it is affordable. But during the breaks, spring break, fall break, there were no shuttles, so you could only take the train, the commuter rail, and it was 8.50 one way. God I hated that.
So I guess this is like one of the biggest disadvantages of a big city or a big area like that. It’s very expensive transport.
Oh it’s crazy. Like in London you pay… Like I used to work in a hotel in central London and I’d live in this place called Streatham which is south-west, south-east London. Not south-east, south-west London. And just to get the train everyday cost me 8 pounds every day.
So it’s what, 800 rubles. I Mean it adds up every day, so if you work 5-6 days a week, then you’re spending…
That’s crazy. Cause I remember seeing, again, so, people who take the commuter rail to go to Boston to work, so they can live in towns depending on the zone. So if you live closer to Boston, you pay less. The further you go, the more expensive that is.
So and I lived in Zone 3 out of 6, so it was 8.50 one way. So and you can buy, you know, what is it? Like a pass, an unlimited pass. And it was like $400 per month.
That’s crazy. And if you have a car, you have to pay for gas, and then the parking rate in the center of Boston is like $12 per hour, and if you want to have this pass for a month it’s also like $400-500. This is insane. So, yeah, I think this is one of the reasons why people don’t really want to live in huge cities, or, you know, in..
What I love about Novosibirsk is how the metro is 25 rubles and it’s such…
Since like February or the end of January I think.
I haven’t been there for like a while I guess.
Yeah, of course, compared to other places it’s not that much.
So in London the cheap cost, just within one zone, costs 2.40 one way. So it’s almost ten times the price of transportation here in Novosibirsk.
Actually transportation is pretty cheap in Russia. Especially, like…
Compared to, let’s say, Europe and everything, yeah. Absolutely, it’s affordable, it’s affordable. So and actually what do you think about Novosibirsk from the point of view of urbanization? So do you think it’s a logically-built city? What do you think about the transport?
I like it because I was born here, so…
Yeah, so you’re a little bit biased right now.
But wait, you’ve lived in other places as well, so you can compare them in terms of structure.
I think it’s pretty… It’s not as bad, you know. You can just go places easily. Of course there are some traffic jams…
Okay there is a lot of traffic. But I think it’s pretty good in terms of, you know, moving around and… I guess, for me, because I don’t move around as much, you know.
Ben, that would be interesting to hear what you think.
Yeah, I’ve only been here for 2.5 months, but so far I love this place. You just have everything you need in such a relatively small space. I mean, it’s obviously a big city, but a relatively small space. You have malls, you have, yeah, you have attractions.
You have bars, restaurants, everything you need, and if you live in the Центральный district, you can just walk everywhere.
Yeah it’s very walkable. Natalie, wait, do you live close to the subway station?
Not really, it’s like maybe 20-minutes walk, something like that. So I never walk actually, I just take a bus or something like that. Or taxi, or taxi. Actually, I would like to speak about taxis in Novosibirsk.
Oh my god, I love taxis here, they’re so cheap. I’m like, they’re affordable.
Right? Right? This is also, yeah, one thing… Well, even though Novosibirsk is considered to be a big city in Russia, yet the taxi prices are, again, yes, they’re affordable.
Yeah, they’re much lower than in Moscow, say, or Saint Petersburg.
I’ve got a little side question – do you tip in taxis in Novosibirsk or not?
Well, the app, Yandex taxi, gives you the opportunity to tip, and it has options like 5%, 10% and like 5-7-10, something like that. But it’s not a necessity, so usually people don’t. You know…
I do sometimes, when the driver was particularly nice, or he or she did something like really nice. In this case yes.
Cause I once gave the driver an extra hundred rubles, cause it was like… It’s like 1 pound, so I thought alright, let’s just give him an extra hundred rubles, and he was looking at me really grateful and I thought okay, it’s just a little…
But yeah, you shouldn’t be counting in pounds in Novosibirsk.
Otherwise you’re like, everything is like so so cheap.
I think we in general, we don’t have this culture of tipping as widespread as it is in other countries. Cause let’s say in the US if you can’t tip at least 15% you just don’t go to a place.
If you can’t afford it – don’t go to a restaurant! That’s it! End of story! Well, because of the way that waiters are getting paid.
Cause they don’t get the minimum wage which is now $14 in Boston area. They get $4 or $5, and the rest they only get form the tips. In Novosibirsk it’s not really the case. But I love it how you both like the city and find it so logical.
Well, I.. Okay, so there are of course some disadvantages and advantages. So of course, yes, we have great public transport system, meaning we have the buses, the subway, the trams, the trolleys , everything. But at the same time I used to live in Шлюз which is well, 25km away from Novosibirsk, well, the center of Novosibirsk.
So I got really tired of spending almost two hours to get to the center, so 1 hour and a half to get to work, one hour and a half to get back. Compared to Moscow of course, that would be amazing. Just one hour and a half. But for Novosibirsk – no. It’s so tiring. And in the morning I was lucky, I was lucky cause I lived at the final stop, so meaning the bus, you know, started the way on my stop.
So you got to take a seat actually.
Exactly. But I also would take this, you know, маршрутка, which means that I was able to actually take a seat, but there were people who couldn’t even get inside. So they had to wait for the next one, you know, out there, in the cold. So I’m pretty sure something could be done with that if…
Yeah, so I still think we don’t’ have enough, and then the traffic jam problem is just crazy. But at the same time so Novosibirsk has two banks, and there are only three bridges now as far as I know. It’s three, four?
So, some bridges. So and there’s one of them which is the main one which is being used by thousands of cars every day that hasn’t been repaired for the last 80 years.
But they have to, cause it’s on the brink of collapsing.
Yeah that won’t be very nice if it breaks in a Siberian winter.
But how can you? You can’t just, you know, basically, start repairing it, and close it for several months. How are people going to get from one bank to another if they are drivers?
00:18:08 N: So you have to build more bridges first.
Exactly. So and that’s just absolutely impossible to do right now. Well, I know that they are building a new bridge, but… So this is a problem. Well, Ben is going to probably find out in the summer, but do you remember the lovely smell of the pig farm in the summer?
Wait, were you here in the summer Natalie? When did you come back?
No, I came back like in August.
Of a pig farm. Really, you come outside and you smell… smells.
Cause there’s a pig farm not far…
And I remember we had a podcast about something with Mike and he’s like yeah I have a question, what the hell is that? I’m like yup, that’s exactly what you think it is.
So in the summer I know obviously in Russian cities they turn off the hot water for two weeks to repair the pipes. So we’re gonna have no hot water and no showers and pig farm smell. This is gonna be fun.
Welcome to mother Russia! But I mean look, after that whatever inconvenience you might have in other countries becomes such a minor inconvenience! So it’s nothing, really.
You know, this rough experience that gives you, you know, makes you tougher kind of.
Well at least we have running water, at least we have that.
It’s cold, it’s still water.
Who was it… Was it? Yeah I think it was Mike who said a true Siberian man can take his showers cold.
So and one more thing that I would like to add about Novosibirsk is that you know how a lot of cities, especially in Europe I think – they were built according to certain plan, like urban planning. But in Novosibirsk we have what is called in-fill, so basically when the building or something is built, you know…
Absolutely, so the buildings just pop up randomly, what does that mean? That means that there’s absolutely no infrastructure.
There’s no zoning, because in America the zoning is very strict, I mean… Maybe not so much in Boston, I’m not sure about Boston, but in America you have industrial zoning, you have residential zoning, then you have commercial zoning.
And the great thing about Europe, so for instance if you go to Amsterdam, so you see houses above shops, you see, yeah. Everything is blended in together, whereas in America everything is much more separated.
But Novosibirsk is a very random city in this way. So because let’s say they wanted to build, let’s say, three block of flats. Maybe, maybe, if you’re lucky, they are gonna build, you know, some kind of a supermarket and a school. But then you have a lot of space that is, you know, empty.
But it’s not enough to build the whole block, so they just build one building and most likely it’s gonna be office building. Sometimes a block of flats. But okay, you have, let’s say, 600 people living in there. Some of them have children, but children have no school to go to.
So ugh, that’s absolutely illogical, very often and absolutely is illogical. And then some neighborhoods, I used to live in one of them, and the numeration of the buildings was crazy, cause it was 7, 9, 15, 39 and 52.
Sometimes it’s impossible to find a building.
You walk around this, and you’re just – where is it? It’s crazy.
Ugh, yeah. I mean, it’s walkable, Novosibirsk. It’s lovely, it’s walkable, I can’t say it’s the most beautiful, because it was never supposed to be beautiful. It was built as an industrial point at the middle of Trans-Siberian, so, you know. Yeah, but.
It has its problems, it has its good sides of course. I mean, the amount of places to eat is fantastic.
Oh my god, so many, So many coffee places, different coffee shops, cafes. Oh god.
So, why don’t we talk then about first about big cities. So, what are good and bad sides of living in a big city?
Well, let’s start with the good sides. So the good sides is of course you have access to all sorts of attractions and yeah. Clubs, bars, whatever you like to do. You have that access at your fingertips. You can meet people. Well, fairly easily, but in other ways you can’t meet people because people are moving in and out of the city all the time.
So, yeah, and it depending on if you like traveling, you can access airports. So for instance if you live in London it’s great cause you have an airport which connects to almost anywhere you like in the world. So these are the main advantages of cities – attractions and potential travel.
I would also say more opportunities in terms of work.
And very often studying. Well, but mostly work. So more work spaces, offices and whatnot, companies. But what are the bad sides of living in a city?
Well the cost which is insane.
We can stop right here. You know, this is the main one. Cause this crazy.
Crime as well. If you live in London there is actually quite a lot of crime in London. So if you walk, it’s kinda dangerous walking at parks at night or early evening, so gotta be a bit careful in London. If you have a bicycle, it’s gonna get robbed at some point.
Luckily, no. but all of my friends have had their bikes robbed. All of them.
No, I treated my bike like my baby. So, luckily, no. But it happens all the time. And you have expert bike thieves who know everything about bikes and they make a lot of money selling stolen bikes, so.
Yeah, speaking about safety actually. In China they kind of have solved this problem. So they have cameras everywhere, so people are being, you know, careful. And the crime is pretty low there.
Given what kind of punishment they have, you know, I’m not that surprised.
Yeah, China’s safe, you can just walk around.
Exactly. At night, anywhere, literally. It’s really safe. Like Thailand as well, if you don’t speak about tourist places, like, actual just cities where people live. They can just walk at night, nobody will come to you, nobody will rob you, at least I’ve never heard of it, at least where I was living. In Indonesia I think the same, but it might be because of the religion probably.
Yeah whereas if you think about London, New York city – oh god. Oh god, yeah, you gotta be careful in New York city. I have actually, maybe… You must’ve seen this video. Oh, god, what was his name? Andrew something. He’s a stand-up comedian and he said – I live in New York city. I’ve lived in New York city for the last 6 years and every time I go somewhere I am afraid of being mugged.
So and then he said but I have come up with an idea of how to, you know, avoid being mugged. And he said every time I step outside, I fake a Russian accent. He’s like Russians are the scariest white people, they’ve earned it.
It’s classic, seriously, yeah.
Yeah, and I think, well, because at some point I went to New York city but we stayed at Harlem and we only found that out when we’d actually got there. So Harlem is not the best place to go to, so it’s very dangerous and it might be extra dangerous if you happen to be a white-skin person.
So but yeah, actually you know, putting the Russian face kinda helped, like, maybe it’s just us being…
New York had a 20-year patch of safety, so after the, I’d say, the year 2000 New York became a really safe place to live. Then recently it’s been dipping, but in 2000 New York was a horrible…
Even police officers couldn’t do anything.
But the upside of this, because New York used to be actually a very cheap place to live, funnily enough. I don’t know if you know the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, do you know him? He’s this famous street artist, he was big in, yeah, big in the 80s. He died in the late 80s. But he used to rent an apartment for I think it was 80 dollars a month.
Even though he would live amongst all sorts of scary people, I was so really cheap place. And as a result of cheap rent, so many artists lived in New York, it was such a vibrant fun place to live. Despite the fact that you could get stabbed by a crackhead, but…
That’s the risk you’re taking, you’re willing to take.
All that culture came out to that situation, so yeah.
Yeah, whereas now New York city is not the safest place but still, you know, it depends on what part of the city you’re talking about but it’s so damn expensive.
Like, you wanna rent a room and it’s gonna be a thousand and more, depending on the area. So alright, so the price, the safety. What if we talk about rural areas, you know, in contrast. What can be a good side of living in a rural area?
Definitely, yeah. Yeah, big cities we’ve got to mention the pollution. In big cities it’s so high. I remember in China when you… I lived in a small city, 1.5 million of population, kind of a small city, but still.
A village, exactly. And every time you go out, you know, in the morning, you have to check this app where the air quality is kind of checked. And if it’s more than 40 or 50, so you have to wear a mask. Every day, so yeah. And it was a small city, can imagine what it was like…
I remember I had… I have a friend who used to live in Beijing and she was posting, you know, different pics of this app and sometimes it was 100-something and it was like red and I guess what was written was like ‘don’t go outside at all’, but this is so scary.
Yeah, and it says sometimes ‘don’t open the window, stay inside’.
And the rank of, you know, like, lung cancer, all these problems, it’s terrifying.
Yeah, in rural area you have nothing like that, you have fresh air, happy cows, you know, mooing somewhere on the fields.
I have this perfect picture in my head of, you know, living in a small house, somewhere In a village with, I don’t know, my farm probably, something like that. But I understand that if I actually live there, after 5 days I would run from there.
Yeah I was gonna ask are you really…
Crying. Yeah, I won’t be able to…
So you want like a little cottage in rural..
Yeah. But I mean, I only have a perfect picture in my head.
One interesting thing that I remembered. So in Russian apparently коттедж it’s like a big house.
It is a big house, but in English…
In English it’s kinda like aww, small.
Yeah, small, you can picture like a grandma living there or something.
Yeah-yeah. This is why when she’s like I wanna have a cottage, I’m like aw you wanna live in a small house, like, no no no, big one. It’s interesting how this word came into Russian with a totally different meaning.
Actually, what if I ask you – what is your dream accommodation maybe? In what area would you want to live?
Definitely next to a sea. It doesn’t matter again, if it’s like…
Big city, small city, I don’t care.
Yeah, just the sea. But seriously, it’s like, I don’t know, like, I’ve lived next to a sea several times and it was like, in Thailand, in Scotland, in Indonesia. So in Indonesia it was like, I don’t know, 20 minutes walking from the sea, and god, it was also the ocean, I mean, the Indian ocean. It was fantastic.
Maybe you’d like Australia. Maybe.
Probably, but all these, you know, spiders.
Yeah, everything wants to kill you there.
Oh my god. I’m gonna tell you, cause I’m not sure if you guys have listened to… Cause we had a podcast about domestic difficulties, a very fun one. Actually, listeners, if you haven’t listened to this, please do, it was one of my favorite episodes ever.
And in there Mike, who’s Australian, told us about Novosibirsk and living here. And he said there’s one thing that I don’t like and I miss about Australia. I’m like okay, what’s that? Maybe it’s the warmth, you know, the water. He’s like the creatures that get inside.
I’m like are you crazy? He’s like in Novosibirsk I live on the 16th floor and it’s dead. Nobody gets inside. In Australia you get like a possum, a scorpion, a spider, a cockroach – somebody gets into your apartment at least once a week.
And I’m like say thank you that you have nobody in here! No, but he’s like no no, you don’t understand, it gives you life. So yeah.
Yeah, different cities have different insects. I mean, what are insects here in Novosibirsk? Do you have a cockroach? Are there cockroaches here in Novosibirsk?
Yeah there used to be a lot of cockroaches, but now not so many.
Cause in Vegas, when I was living in Vegas, it was horrible. The cockroaches were everywhere, when it was hot in the summer all the cockroaches wanted to come inside because it was so hot outside.
And you’re like stay out of my place!
I had some neighbors who moved out of their apartment, and when you move out, it disturbs the cockroaches.
And they just run, oh god.
Oh god, I can’t live in this place anymore, it’s so bad.
I actually think this is one of the disadvantages… I don’t know, no, but I think of rural area as a place with way more creatures that can get inside. Whereas in a big city…
It depends on what the creatures are though, cause I just hate cockroaches. They are just the worst. I could deal with other things, spiders, whatever, they’re fine. But cockroaches no.
Yeah, I remember in Thailand, like, I went to school and there was this cockroach, it was like around 10cm long probably.
Well Ben you have come to the right place then, cause Siberia, you know, I mean, sometimes, depending n the building, especially if it’s an old building, you might also get cockroaches, but they’re tiny, then you can just, you know, you don’t usually even call some kind of an exterminator, you just buy some chemicals. That’s it. But yeah.
Well I was reading this, no, I was watching this thing about… Cause I was watching how to exterminate cockroaches when I was in Vegas, I wanted to get rid of these horrible pests and I was watching this documentary about New York city, and how New York of course has a big problem with rats and cockroaches.
Oh yeah, oh god, so many rats.
And it’s illegal… There’s this special poison which is now illegal in New York city because it’s so strong that I think it can really mess up, screw up the ecosystem or something. And it’s sold on the black market because it works so well and just kills everything in the apartment.
But the thing with cockroaches is that they evolve, so eventually after 30 years of being exposed to a certain poison they are going to evolve to become super, just give it a few years.
Yeah. I’ve only seen cockroaches twice in the US. One of them was dead, the other one was pretty much alive and in my room which I did not like very much, but yeah.
Well, you know, technically, when we speak about the perfect place to live for us it’s the amount of cold/heat we are ready to bear and the amount or the size of the insects and cockroaches and spiders that we are ready to tolerate.
And the disadvantages probably that we can tolerate.
For Michael that was an advantage because Michael liked the cockroaches.
He’s like yeah, don’t like Siberia very much, too cold, too little life. Yeah, that’s so true, that’s so true. So Ben would you like to live in a big city or a small town?
No, I like mid-sized cities. This is actually the perfect size city, Novosibirsk, in my opinion. My dream is to have a small apartment in a really good location in a mid-size city like Novosibirsk, but I would love to live on…
Well, I already live in a cool place, but I would love to live on Ulitsa Lenina and to have like an apartment there, but a small apartment. And then have a dacha outside of town. That’s my dream.
Small apartment with, you know, soundproof windows.
Not necessarily. I quite like the sound of the traffic, as long as they’re not the horns. I love… Cause I used to…
What about the …. of the motorcycles? Sorry, listeners.
It’s really strange, but I used to live by train tracks, by some train tracks, so I love that sounds so much.
Trains, yeah, I live next to the train track now.
But it’s different. But motorcycles on Lenina and other major cities in Novosibirsk it’s just ugh.
I used to sleep over my friend’s house all the time and he use to live on a really-really busy highroad and for some reason all the traffic just made me sleep so well.
I think it depends on the person and, you know, initially you get used to it. But I think we can say that this is one of the disadvantages of living in a big city – the noise pollution. Cause the noises are so loud, and it’s not only, you know, the traffic itself, it can be the people. Cause if you live in the center in the summer there are lots of crowds and they, you know, have fun, they go drink, they are loud, they shout.
Yeah, definitely. So what about yourself actually? What is your perfect place to live?
I think that I would love to live in a town, but not a village, not like 10-20 thousand people, but like a town or maybe like… Something less than a million people, maybe like 500 000 people, but very close to a big city.
It’s not so far from London, you know.
I was thinking more places like Hoboken for example, in New Jersey, cause New Jersey is only separated by the river from New York city.
So technically it’s a small town, so usually people can get an apartment with a view of the New York city skyline, which is majestic. The taxes are lower than in New York state, so but then 40 minutes on the train you’re on Manhattan.
So this sounds like, you know, something I would like – quiet, not too many people, better air, but at the same time you want any kind of entertainment, you wanna go to, I don’t know, to a Broadway show – you don’t need to spend 4 hours, you know, driving from Boston to New York city for example.
But it’s still… The prices are still higher than in other places. So. Yeah, I don’t know, I really wanna be close to a big city, but not in a big city.
Definitely, yeah. I’ll agree.
Cause I love all the fun and the hustle and bustle but if it’s not 24/7. So yeah. Yeah. So and we’ve mentioned and we’ve given the definition to urbanization but is it… Do you think it’s more of a positive or a negative trend?
I think it’s just something that we have to live with. I think it’s kind of…
Yeah, just is. I can’t really… It’s just the result of our post agricultural society I guess.
I recently had an interesting discussion with a student of mine on the topic of do we need rural areas at all? Do we need little villages? Or should we just get rid of them?
Well it depends on access to utilities such as water and internet. So if you have access to internet and water and electricity then you might a well just live in the middle of nowhere.
Well, we talked about… Cause Russian villages very often are very sad places you know, with very bad connection, not only internet connection, sometimes they don’t have internet at all, but phone connection. They do have water and electricity but they don’t have a good hospital, they don’t have a post office, nothing like that.
So and sometimes it is just cheaper and better to move these people into a bigger village or to a small town rather than build a whole hospital there and then find professionals to work in there and whatnot. But I think it’s… I mean this is only about Russia cause it’s a vast place. Whereas I’m pretty sure villages in Europe for example, they are so close to big cities anyway.
That’s why they are so nice, yeah.
Yeah you can just get on the train anywhere from these little villages.
Whereas in here you can take a train, 6 hours later you’re still in Novosibirsk region.
So it’s so huge. Okay. And urbanization involves several processes, so there are such processes as urban development, urban re-development, and urban renewal. Now, can you help the listeners and you know, me maybe with telling the difference between this three? Do you know the difference between…?
Well I guess, I’m just guessing here, I guess urban development is for instance when Novosibirsk was Novonikolaevsk and then it was developed into a realer town I guess.
Okay, so we can say then that urban development is building new places, building whatever that is – buildings, stadiums, facilities, hospitals. Okay, makes sense.
Newer houses maybe. Destroying older houses that are probably not safe. Or maybe that’s renewal actually.
Ah, that is re-development, so when older buildings are demolished and something else is built in their place, that would be re-development. And then renewal is…
Maybe kinda what New York city is going through, I guess. Perhaps.
New York city is going through hell of a lot of processes, you have to be more specific
Well how New York had its own established culture and then people left the city I guess because it became such a violent place. And then they got back.
Well, in a way, renewal is renovation or modernizing things, so basically you add or change or renovate what already exists. So let’s say renovate a house there, fix the pipes over here, so whatever this is.
Actually I have googled it, all the three words and google said that it’s basically almost the same. There isn’t a big difference.
Yeah, they’re all a part of a bigger process which is urbanization. And there are places that do not like urban renewal, for them it’s just easier to just, you know, demolish and build something new or just you know don’t do anything.
And then just leave the city alone.
Well, speaking on the topic of development. What do… Does anyone have an opinion on gentrification? Is this something that you feel is happening here in Novosibirsk or no?
Let’s define gentrification cause this might be the word that not many people are familiar with or some might be unfamiliar.
So some people that… Okay, before I start, so some people feel that gentrification is just a normal thing, it just happens, its when the city becomes nicer and some people, on the other hand, feel that gentrification’s a bad thing. It’s making the city harder to afford. So gentrification essentially just means making a city nicer I guess. Money coming into the city.
But more expensive at the same time. You know, I personally think that it depends on, you know, how… Well, on the level maybe. But in general I think that gentrification is a good thing. Why? Because it inevitably will lead to renewal, to better places, better services for example.
With the rent and other prices. Well, they are going to skyrocket anyway. Since like no matter what we do. They’ll say the reason… Oh it’s caused by gentrification, if not, they’ll say inflation. If not, they will say prices… Well, you know, there’s always a reason, so. But if at the same tie the prices are rising and we have a nicer area.
At least we have some pluses out this.
Yeah. Cause there’s this huge movement in London. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Brixton. Brixton is…
It’s a part of South London, so it’s a really cultural part of south London.
Oh wait, I think I took a trip there when I was going to see Cutty Sark and Greenwich, I think it’s on the way there.
It’s kinda on the way there, I mean it’s further away from the river, but yeah, it’s not far form there. Personally I don’t have a problem with gentrification, I think it’s just city becoming a nicer place. But there’s a lot of people who want to stop money from coming in.
Because it makes the city more expensive. So for instance I used to go to a skater park quite a lot when I was a teenager in London. And all the skaters that I used to know, they are all rebels and they’re like 30 years old and they want to stop rich people form moving into Brixton and making the place an expensive place.
And I mean I don’t really have a problem with it because when rich people move into places that were previously cheaper they are going to hire cleaners, they’re gonna, yeah, they’re gonna bring money into an area. And hopefully make the area better, but a lot of people are stopping new coffee shops from being built, they’re stopping.
Ah, not coffee shops, please.
Well, not even coffee shops, they’re stopping buildings from being built, so expensive new buildings, residential buildings.
But what’s the point? So if you do that, if you stop it, you’re gonna be stuck. If money doesn’t come into your place then who’s going to renovate all the existing buildings?
Who’s going to invest if there’s no reason to? If the investors and people know that the city doesn’t want to evolve, who’s gonna put their money into it? And I don’t think, you know, that government can afford renovating all the neighborhoods, all the buildings.
Exactly. It’s not the government’s responsibility to do all of that. I mean, the government’s there to provide a framework, it’s not there to do everything for everyone.
So yeah. Of course, of course, I, you know, as a person who’s thinking about a place that I want to live in, I think that at some moment I’m gonna have a mortgage, you know, and definitely I don’t like the interest rates, I don’t like having to pay thousands of dollars, you know, for 45 years of my life until I probably die and you know. But well, this is the way, unfortunately, this is the way our world works right now.
It’s just mother nature, that’s all it is.
Yeah, well, little is left of mother nature in big cities, but.
Yeah. I agree. So I think this is what happens to Novosibirsk as well. So if we look at different central parts of the city, if you go a little bit further from Krasny prospect, so you’ll see a lot of cool new buildings with expensive flats.
And they used to be, for example, a factory right in the center that produced milk, that was demolished and now they have a cool building which is called milk House and it’s an apartment building. And they’re expensive, they’re cool. But it’s still better than having an old factory over there, let’s be fair. Which is not working.
And if it did, it would be polluting the air right in the center, so.
But the other thing that I should mention is that it’s nice when the city retains its gritty charm, you know, you don’t want everything to be like bubble wrapped and too pristine.
What I love about, for instance, Italy, if you go to Milan, there they keep all the old trams. So you can see all the old trams, they don’t renovate the trams, they just keep them clean. I like that.
But that depends on what exactly we’re talking about, because for example having a factory right in the middle of the city is probably not the best idea, but renovate, well, not renovate. Yeah, renovate, renew the old existing houses, keep them you know, from being demolished, is another thing. So that is history and you know, having lots of smoky pipes is another thing.
Yeah I was gonna say when they actually demolish old buildings, historical buildings, it kinda happened in Novosibirsk I think.
Oh yeah, there were a lot of historical buildings you know, wooden houses, dating back to like 90 years ago, and then they suspiciously, accidentally got.. Well, I’m sorry, not got, but burned down, so there were no problems with the wires until there was a problem with the wires.
And then of course, not long after, there was a new building being built on the territory and at that place. And it is sad. But here are still places that try to keep their history. Not everywhere, but yeah. But some cities do not, let’s say do not evolve, so some cities die out.
So there is an example, well, a situation of urban decay. They turn into ghost towns. Why is that? So what can be the reason for that?
What can… do you have an example?
Yeah, if we speak about Russian villages, there is no work there. But I mean, it’s not urban decay, but it’s village decay.
Can we say that… Oh god, god, god, what’s the city in the north of Russia?
No. Well, I mean, yes, but also there are still quite a lot of people living there, the factories exist. I think it’s Vorkuta which used to be a thriving industrial place with coal mined and whatnot but then later, the coal, basically there was no coal anymore,
so the factories started to close down, people have no job, It’s far from any kind of another city to go to, So and I see that now people not only… Well, they try to sell their apartments. Just take it. We are even ready to pay to you for taking it.
Now I think it’s changing. You can live anywhere, just work you know, online. So.
Fair enough, fair enough. Maybe that’ll stop some cities from… Yeah.
Well in California there’s quite a few of ghost towns. So.
Yeah, there was the gold rush back in the late 1800s and yeah, the early 1900s. So as soon as the gold started, well, not disappearing, there’s still some gold in California. As soon as all that industry started, yeah, becoming less, as soon as the industry started to collapse a little bit, all these ghost towns started to appear, because no one needs to live by these mines anymore.
And I think this is what is happening to Detroit right now, so it’s decaying slowly, because they used to have huge car manufacturing I think companies.
But then the, you know, the interest for American cars has kinda surged, so they chose and they started to prefer European and Japanese cars instead. So thus the industry kinda collapsed there and people had to move out.
And I remember, if I’m not mistaken, so if anyone knows, correct me if I’m wrong, but there was a mayor, so somebody, I think it was the mayor of Detroit, who increased the taxes and made the conditions even worse to live there, so even more people moved out.
So and thus now we have a very dangerous place as a result, with no work, lots of crime. This is sad, this is sad. Because it was a thriving city. It was fantastic at some point, you know, in all its glory.
So this is a message to all mayors, all across the world, please keep our taxes low, we don’t like the high taxes, we wanna live in your city.
So what do you think should be done to these places? To these ghost towns or to towns that are dying, slowly dying?
Make them into a festival town, like this.
Why go to a desert to have a Burning Man every year if you can have it in Detroit?
You can just go away, they’re gonna do the burning, everything part. Yeah, sure.
Make them into rave towns.
I mean, why not, why not.
Actually, I’ve been thinking about all this situation with the pandemic, and now people are just trying to move out of the cities, you know. So they’re just trying to, I don’t know, have their own little house, little cottage, yeah, and just live in the air. What do you think? Is it going to change because of the pandemic?
Well, house prices outside of Los Angeles are soaring right now because everyone is just getting the hell out of Los Angeles.
So yeah, it’s definitely a trend in America. I’m not so sure about the UK, but definitely…
Yeah, it’s happening a little bit as well.
I’m not sure about Russia as such just because, you know, in here rural area or a village is kind of far away. But in the summer though, so I remember in the summer when this pandemic started people, especially in the summer, it was just the beginning, people got so scared, it was just you know, growing and growing and growing.
We didn’t know what to expect, I know a lot of people who moved to their dachas and they got internet there, so they were able to work. And they kinda started to like it. so I think since we’ve moved and we changed the way we work it might lead to people changing the way they live as well.
But that all depends on your habits as well. Cause I had a choice – to live somewhere in Akademgorodok for example you know, fresh air, fantastic place, absolutely no facilities. So no coffee shops, not enough places to go to. You want to go to a cinema you have to, you know, go to the center, so. Yeah.
Or to live here, right next to the subway station and very close to everything. And I chose the latter just because it’s my habit, I’m so used to going to places, I’m so used to spending my time and working or just reading in a coffee shops. So I couldn’t… I wasn’t ready to give it up.
Do you feel Akademgorodok’s going to develop? Do you think it’s gonna get bigger in size? Do you think there’s gonna be more shops for instance?
It is… I think it is developing now, because they have new places appearing. They have… Two years ago they had the first shopping mall, like real shopping mall with a cinema, with a modern cinema.
There was a shopping mall that was like old and…
No, this is just the mall-mall. But about growing – maybe not too much, because now. Well, have you been there? Have you seen the new university?
No I can’t wait to go there. I have a student who I do Zoom classes with and he, yeah, he says it’s a cool place.
It is, it is. I love it so much.
It’s totally different form Novosibirsk, it’s like…
Even in terms of people, yeah.
It has its special atmosphere. It’s like a little Saint Petersburg.
I used to actually give excursions, some tours to tourists over there. So if you’re ever interested, you know who to call. Who you’re gonna call? Anyhoo, the thing is that after the university was built, people demanded to protect the forest cause a lot of forest was cut down in order to build this huge building.
And now they are not allowed to cut down the forest in order to build buildings. It is protected now. Cause otherwise it wouldn’t be Akademgorodok.
That’s wonderful I think.
This is what makes it fantastic. Of course the apartment prices in general, even in very old houses…
Comparable to Novosibirsk, seriously.
How much a studio apartment would cost there?
I think the same as in the very heart of Novosibirsk, like 25-26 thousand, yeah. But in an old house. So you know, with a lot of, you know… I lived there for a couple of years and I lived in a spider house as I called it. There were always so many spiders, god, and I’m terrified of them.
So I moved out the moment I had to move out and choose another place. I was like yeah, I’m out of there. So yeah. Alright, and so in general we have covered the problems, so let’s just kinda, you know, reiterate. So the problems of big cities are the crime rate which we’ve mentioned.
Yeah. The price in general I would say. Commuting time as well if you live in a big city. What else? I think since we have the cost of accommodation, we can also have the problem of homelessness as it is a huge problem I think in Los Angeles.
Oh, absolutely incredible. It’s just everywhere you go, I mean it’s sad, it’s sad. I mean, yeah, everywhere you go, you just see homeless people. And you feel so bad but you can’t help everyone, cause there are just so many homeless people. But then again the weather does play a role in that.
Oh yeah, they can live outside.
It sounds bad but they can, unlike Novosibirsk, you know.
You can if you really have to. You’ll just die here if you live outside.
And I guess that well, I don’t know about huge cities, but I believe that when there are lots of buildings and everything, you can’t always have enough schools and, you know, places and kindergartens, which means that there is a higher competition maybe.
Or just, you know, the classes being packed with 40-45 people in one room, so yeah. Not enough resources maybe for everyone sometimes. Alright.
Also we forgot to speak about the crowds. So when you go outside there are so many people everywhere. I mean, it feels good sometimes, but I don’t know, for me it’s annoying, really.
I mean, I think it’s a huge problems in places like China, because in here we have almost 2 million people but they’re more like spread evenly.
Yeah, probably, probably.
So you don’t feel this unless you know, in a rush hour in a subway station, then it’s packed, yes. But other… And in their cars in a traffic jam. But in the street I feel like we don’t feel it as much. Cause I remember taking a train from Beijing to Harbin.
I felt so scared. I felt like 5 million people were on that train station, that was scary. Scary.
I just love how in China you have… What is it? The world’s biggest city? Chongqing?
Exactly, nobody even knows of this place.
But it’s the biggest one.
It’s the biggest one that has something like 25 million people.
Yeah I’ve heard about this but I forgot the name.
Yeah, it just… Nobody knows the city.
25? I would be… No no no, no no no.
People everywhere, can you imagine? Huge crowds.
No, I can’t. It sounds like a nightmare. Cause New York city is what? 15 million people, but the only time when you actually feel this and see this 15 million people if you, for some unknown reason, go to Times Square. Cause that’s where 90% of the tourists are.
But if you just go to work, to college or something like that, you don’t see these thousands and millions of people. So it’s more or less spread as well. So I think it depends on the city structure and the amount of people cause. Yeah. Alright, that was fun, that was really fun.
Okay, so that was the BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed urbanization. We talked about our experience of living in big cities and huge cities for some. We saw that none of us actually has lived in a rural area as such. So we talked about the problems that we might face in a big city.
We talked about rural areas and advantages and disadvantages. And we discussed Novosibirsk in much detail. So thank you for listening and remember – if you struggle to understand our conversation, you are always welcome to our website which is Bigappleschool.com/podcast.
You can find full scripts of each episode there, so you can listen and read and it’s very, you know, mobile phone friendly, so don’t be afraid that you’ll have 15 pages of a text – you won’t. So also if you want to get more content which will help you learn English – always welcome to any social media, just find us there – BigAppleSchool.
We have pages on Instagram, Vk, youtube, telegram. Don’t worry, it’s not repeated information, it’s all different everywhere. Alright, so that was Katya and my guests for today were…
Stay tuned and we’ll see you around.