A city to suit me?

Most of the recent Plinky prompts haven’t interested me enough to answer, but today’s intrigued me: What city matches your personality?

[Note: I decided to answer here on my blog rather than at Plinky. Last time I answered several prompts, they didn’t post here, as they are supposed to – though they did finally show up here just recently. Plus I’ve found it’s much easier to format and edit my posts here that on Plinky’s site.]

I quickly realized that I had absolutely no idea as to the answer. I have visited several cities, but I don’t know a thing about their “personalities.” So I started Googling. I had been at it quite a while, and had come up with an idea what I was going to post here, before it occurred to me that I might have been misinterpreting the prompt.

When I read it, I thought of “matching” in terms of finding an equivalent. A city would match my personality, I thought, if it had similar characteristics. I tried to think of a city that was quiet, intellectual, creative, fairly conservative, and so forth. Only later did it occur to me that a city “matched” my personality by being a place I would feel at home – complementary rather than similar. (Hmm, is there a city that is good for people who tend to take things literally?)

My personality being what it is, the answer might be the same in either case. A city where I will feel at home will have to be relatively quiet, encourage both intellectual and artistic pursuits, and be fairly conservative. Muscatine does all that quite nicely, I think, but it seemed too much of a pat answer to say my ideal city is where I live right now.

So I Googled. I found a number of quizzes that purport to tell you what city matches your personality. The first one gave me Kansas City as the answer – but failed to indicate whether that was Kansas City, KS or Kansas City, MO. (There is also a Kansas City, OR, but I’m pretty sure it that wasn’t the one it meant.) I’ve never been to either city, so I can’t say whether it would be a good fit or not.

The next quiz gave the result as New York City. Now that is just ridiculous, I think. There are no doubt some characteristics of New York that would suit me, but it is way too big, too noisy, and too expensive to start with, and from what I understand, also too fast-paced and too concerned with status.

The next one said London. Well, I’ve never been there, so I can’t say for sure what it is like, but I’m pretty sure the too big and too noisy apply there also. I decided that the questions these quizzes were asking were too limited, as they were all multiple choice and often didn’t include an answer that fit me.

Then I found a quiz that asked questions with a scale from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree, and the questions seemed much more oriented to personality rather than preferences about city life. I looked forward to seeing the answer. Unfortunately, the page where the answer was supposed to be never came up. After hitting refresh, then trying Back and clicking on the Submit button again, I gave up.

I tried another approach. I Googled “city” and terms such as “quiet” or “intellectual.” Before long I saw an answer in a forum that suggested a college town as a good fit. Of course, college towns are often known as being very liberal, so I tried Googling “college town” and “conservative.” I found an interesting article about conservative college towns, but none of them sounded particularly appealing.

It occurred to me that if I were looking for someplace quiet, away from huge crowds of people, one place to look might be Alaska. Plus I think they tend to be fairly conservative there. So I looked for college towns in Alaska. One place that looked interesting was Wasilla. It sounded vaguely familiar – oh, of course, where Sarah Palin had been mayor. I’ve no strong feelings about Palin one way or the other, but I didn’t feel like choosing the city associated with her as the one that matches my personality.

I’m not sure which city I was looking at when I found a description of it as a “city of contradictions.” I liked that idea, I decided. A city of contradictions would fit me pretty well. Faith and tradition are important to me, but I hated being part of groups where questioning traditional beliefs was not welcomed. I’ve been known as a neatnik but my house is quite a mess these days.

So I tried Googling “city of contradictions.” I suppose, on reflection, it’s no great surprise that the term has been applied to a lot of cities. There is always going to be a mix of old and new, rich and poor, high culture and popular culture, not to mention religious and ethnic differences, and often geographic contrasts as well.

The one I decided I liked best, though, was a blog post about San Sebastián, in northern Spain. It’s small, as cities go, and it’s in Spain – but in the north where it’s not so hot and dry as in Madrid where I lived and studied for most of a year. Being in the Basque region, where there was a good deal of political unrest at the time, it was not included on any of the school-sponsored trips I went on. So I’ve never been there, but it sounds like a great place to visit.

Geographically, it is on the coast but the mountains are not far away. It has the mix of old and new that I enjoyed in other Spanish cities. It is multilingual, the primary languages being Spanish and Basque, but as near as it is to the French border I imagine French is often heard there also.

In terms of religion, I’m sure Catholicism is dominant – this is Spain, after all. And the city is named for Saint Sebastian, a Christian martyr of the third century. But there are also a number of non-Catholic religious groups in the city, including some non-Christian. And there is a university – asking questions and pursuing an intellectual life fit in just fine.

There are many elements of traditional culture. But there are also abundant elements of modern culture – notably a jazz festival, and the San Sebastián International Film Festival. There is great food, from what I’ve read (food isn’t exactly an aspect of one’s personality, but I sure do like eating good food). And Ignatius of Loyola, whose Spiritual Exercises are designed to help the Christian discern Jesus in his life, was born in nearby Azpeitia.

Of course, I don’t have to go all the way to San Sebastián to speak Spanish – there’s quite a population of Mexican immigrants here in Muscatine. It’s small, it has a (community) college, some strong churches, and is fairly conservative. But I’ve got to say that San Sebastián has it beat in terms of geography. I don’t miss beaches (and I have trouble seeing what’s so awesome about the Mississippi River), but I do miss having mountains nearby.

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