Some might be surprised to hear that I like spending time in big cities. I used to live just outside of New York City for around 5 years, and I loved spending time there. On a recent vacation, I enjoyed exploring Tokyo and Seoul for several days.
As an HSP, you’d think that visiting a big city would be overwhelming. And in some ways, yes, it is. But I also love big cities because you can get lost in a crowd.
Getting lost in a crowd means this:
- There’s often no small talk–people are busy and direct. (well, in NYC anyway.)
- I don’t have to worry about how I look (am I dressed well enough, do I fit in, etc.)
- No one will remember me.
(Notice that I’m talking about visiting a large city; not living in one. That’s different.)
There are so many people rushing to get around, to hustle to the subway, eat lunch, or get to work, that I am inconsequential. I don’t have to worry or ponder my existence because the others in the crowd aren’t paying me any attention; they are focused on themselves. They don’t care about me, and that takes the pressure off.
If I’m not dressed stylishly enough? Who cares! There are plenty of other tourists around anyway. If I’m not sure which way I should be walking, no one notices when I look awkward and confused. And if I ask someone a question, I don’t have to feel self-conscious because they’ll forget about me a moment later.
There’s also a weird comfort about being in a place where I don’t understand the language at all. Let’s say I’m buying a bottle of water at a convenience store in Japan. The checkout person will likely say many words to me in Japanese, but all I have to do is stand there and smile and say “hello” and “thank you” in their language. They know that I’m a foreigner who doesn’t know the language. I hand them the bottle of water and money, act polite, and that’s all I have to do. I don’t have to answer questions or make small talk.
Don’t get me wrong—it would be wonderful to be able to communicate verbally with them. But I can’t. And after a while, since the spoken language means little to me (since I don’t understand it at all) it sort of fades into the background. I wouldn’t want to live like that forever, but it’s interesting for a visit, since it’s soooo different than the normal bombardment of talk, TV, and advertisements.
Of course, there are aspects of big cities that I don’t like. The lack of solitude and peacefulness can be challenging, and things like driving and parking can be very stressful.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of being lost in a crowd? How do you feel about big, busy cities?
…so that explains why I love visiting New York, but would never want to live there! I love the sense of anonymity that being in a crowd gives me. But I could never live where there is a constant “roar” of noise, traffic, etc.
I actually lived in Tokyo for about a year. Well, I actually lived on the outskirts, which was a bit quieter, but I still ventured into main part of the city once in a while. I saw navigating the city as a challenge that gave me a sense of excitement (feel the same way about NYC). As for not really speaking the language, I agree in that I liked that I wasn’t expected to say much or understand much, so people weren’t going to try to talk to me. Also, I couldn’t understand much of what was going on in the news or on other TV shows (well, I could get a sense of what was being said) so I didn’t feel overwhelmed with “information overload.”
wow…I can so relate!! Love my solo travels!
It’s great to hear other people have my particular quirk: I love visiting big cities — especially ones where I don’t speak the language(s)! I live in a very rural area, and also love it out here. It’s that middle ground I have a hard time with… 😉
I’m an HSP introvert, not high sensation seeking, and yet I really enjoy living in the middle of New York City. You’re right that it’s different living in a city vs. visiting, but for me, the difference isn’t what you imply. I have created my own quiet sanctuary in my apartment. When I want calm, peace, even silence, that’s where I stay. When I want one-on-one connection, I have a friend or two over to my apartment. And since I can get anything I want delivered, I never have to go out when I’m not in the mood!
The city also offers infinite opportunities for human connection, from the woman I buy my eggs from every week at the farmer’s market to the wonderful friends I have made over the decades. Garrison Keillor once described it as thousands of villages all piled on top of each other, and I love that description.
Visitors can get a glimpse of these qualities, but I think they are often overwhelmed by the seeming chaos. I was recently in Istanbul, and had that experience: it is fascinating, beautiful, and teeming with activitiy, but it wore me out, since it was all new and strange and I had to work every minute to take it all in. I imagine New York feels that way to visitors, but for me it’s just home, where enough is familiar that I don’t need to actively process it; it becomes part of the background.
For me, the old cliche has it backwards. I say, New York: a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit it.
Living in London I absolutely love getting lost in a sea of people in a rush. I finding exciting but I also love how much anominity it provides me. In the surface it would seem the opposite, but there are so many other things for people to look at other than me that it provides me with a lot of comfort and at the same time excited.
I hear you!! 🙂
For me getting lost in a crowd means something different. When I’m in a large(like thousands of people) crowd, I can sit back, close my eyes and listen. I can feel the ebb and flow of the crowd. It’s like gentle waves on the shore. I just like to let it flow through me. It’s an amazing sensation.
Me too! People always question me when I travel to big cities or even enjoy being down town in my small city of Louisville. I love the city on my terms.
I love being lost in the crowd too! I actually feel restless in a quiet lonely setting. I much enjoy being in the observer mode and notice fun stuff and feel free to enjoy things being offered. I love not understanding the signs in a different language too! Kind of like a permission that I don’t need to understand it 😁 but just let the curious mind appreciate and wander. Love imagining how life is like too for other people in a different country.
I thought you meant actually lost. Yeah, I love feeling all the excitement, bc as an hsp, I can absorb everyone’s excitement energy.
I have been on the hunt to find one word to describe this feeling. The desire to disappear into a crowd and essentially become nobody. Does one exist?