A metropolis like Panama City or Paris or Montevideo has its advantages. In large, cosmopolitan communities, you have a wealth of choice in restaurants, museums, and parks. The hospitals tend to be better, the cultural offerings more varied.
But a big city has its downsides, too. It can be loud, frenetic, disorganized. You may gain a measure of anonymity you enjoy, but it can be difficult to meet your neighbors and make friends.
A small town, at the other extreme, can provide you space to spread out and the opportunity to really integrate. But the “fish bowl” effect is not imagined. A place can be too small.
There exists, however, a tantalizing middle ground. I’m talking about “second cities,” those mid-sized communities all over the world (often university towns), where you can get what you need in well-stocked shops, enjoy concerts and lectures, benefit from modern conveniences like good internet access and top-notch medical care, and dine in your choice of restaurants and cafes.
At the same time, they often offer easy access to the outdoors, life tends to be lived more slowly, and prices for everything from food to transportation to real estate are typically lower than they are in a capital city.
For the December issue of International Living magazine, we focused on the “second cities” where you can have the best of both: all the amenities of the city but with the affordability and freedom of living in a small town. In a place like David, Panama, for instance, you’re in a rural community of 85,000—not too small, not too big—there’s a lovely town square, modern shopping centers and four hospitals.
In five alluring towns we know an hour outside of Paris, you’ve got easy access to the city, but you can trade its intensity for the slower, more affordable pace of small-town living. On the beach in Florianopolis, Brazil, you gain the chic appeal of Rio but with the charm of old-world Europe.
Editor’s Note: Point is: a “second city” needn’t be your fallback. For many folks, these communities offer a first-rate choice for good living abroad. You’ll find plenty of them in December’s issue… Subscribe right now to read all about them.