Moving from San Francisco to Merced (as, I am not sure if you have heard...I have just done), you find yourself rolling downhill* into one of two basic conversations. Either you have to talk about how much there is in San Francisco that you'll miss in Merced, or you have to express what a relief it is to be away from San Francisco and it's crazy cost of living/traffic/general city-ness. Ideally, you combine the two, but tweak the balance just slightly enough to validate the life choices of whoever you're talking to.
When I feel a little less like just accepting the societal slope though, here are my shocking inner thoughts: I think it is possible to be the kind of person who would want to live in either San Francisco OR Merced, maybe even equally much. Maybe I even am that person. I didn't move here because I hated the cost of living, the traffic, or anything city-ish. I moved here because I thought I might like it here also.
I think it's worthwhile to try to let go a little of the us & them mentality people have about places to live. It's a pretty safe assumption that if you take any location on earth, there is somebody who lives at this very moment loving the snow/the warmth/the bustle/the quiet/the something about that place. And I'd kind of like to be that person. I guess it's also nice to be able to label yourself as a city person or a small town person or whatever, but those kinds of labels are exactly the kind of downhill slope that I'm talking about. And right now, something I seem to be fighting.
For an especially intriguing iteration (I think) of people liking the place they live, see here and here. I probably won't get a chance to really get to know half of the places that I think would be really fascinating places to get to know, but maybe if I just specialize in places in California...
*I think this is a great metaphor, but it's possible that it'll just confuse people. What I mean is that feeling of that place that you always end up if you stop making any effort to be anywhere else...the low point in the tent where you'll inevitably wake up in the morning.