Two recent emails from readers are prompting this post. One person asked how Austin compared to the other places I've lived. Another person asked why I liked Austin so much. If you pour over the hundreds of pages I have here you’d probably find the answer, but here it is in shorthand.
I’ve lived in
- Corpus Christi, TX (10 years)
- Charlotte, NC (6 years)
- Winston-Salem, NC (one school year)
- Wilmington, NC (one summer)
- Los Angeles, CA (7 years)
- Paris, France (one semester)
- San Francisco, CA (3 years)
- Austin (as of today, 6.5 years)
Austin vs. Other Places I’ve lived:
- Austin is loads more affordable than LA, San Francisco and Paris. I like that I don’t feel like a pauper here and can afford a decent sized house.
- I love the weather here and was far too cold in North Carolina, San Francisco and Paris. Our summers are less humid than Corpus Christi’s, and can be very brutal compared to any other non-Texas place I’ve lived. I’d prefer a brutal summer to a brutal winter any day, however. And the summer thunderstorms here are amazing. You just don't get them on the west coast like you do here. We don't really get hurricanes or tornadoes, and there's no threat of a tsunami, like there is in San Francisco or LA (not to mention the fact that the San Andreas fault is no where near here).
- There are plenty of fun activities to do here. There is certainly less to do culturally than in LA, San Francisco or Paris, but I also feel that it’s on a much more accessible level in Austin. I often felt overwhelmed with the choices in the larger cities and never really participated in any of them, but in Austin I never get that feeling. I must say here though that as a mother of two young children, I rarely get out anymore unless it’s a family-friendly event, but I like knowing that there’s more if I wanted it.
- Similar to the last one, I love all the outdoor activities here. Last weekend we went camping, and we’re planning a big bike ride around Lady Bird Lake planned for this upcoming weekend. I went camping a lot in California and I’ll admit that the camping there was fantastic, but here it is very family friendly and close by. There are also infinitely more swimming opportunities here than in California. I never got in the ocean before, but here we routinely go to swimming holes, rivers and creek beds in the summer for some fun.
- I like the politics here. For the record, I am a moderate Democrat, but don’t see myself ever voting for a Republican. However, there are some ideas by Republicans that, while I don’t agree with them, I can see some of their points. Texas is by and large a Republican state, but Austin is a liberal city, and I think that creates a great moderate atmosphere where there’s either a healthy discussion or a mutual understanding to not bring up politics. I found San Franciscans to be incredibly narrow-minded in their liberalism with no ability to see the other side’s point of view. I also found the opposite true in North Carolina: I felt like a total outsider as a non-Christian liberal and had to keep my mouth shut while conservative ideas were spoken about as the truth. Here you can never be too sure of your audience and have to be more gentle in expressing your views. Perhaps when you know more members of the other side you are less likely to paint them as crazy bastards?
- People are friendly and down-to-earth here. I had a hard time making friends in NC (but that may have been because I lived there at the height of teen awkwardness), found people from LA to be a bit ego-centric, and people from SF to be rather distant and holier-than-thou. (Or rather, hipper-than-thou). These are very general statements, because I do have a lot of friends in all of those places that I hold very near and dear, but overall I have found it easier to make friends in Austin.
- Austin is very kid-friendly and I enjoy raising my kids here. I didn't have kids anywhere else so I can’t compare it to another city.
- I feel like I have roots here. I’ll admit that I am a 7th generation Texan so this is probably unique to my upbringing. There are tons of transplants in Austin, however, so it seems easy to find people from your homeland and reconnect. Just yesterday I figured out that my neighbor also went to North Carolina School of the Arts (go Fighting Pickles!). My other neighbor went to USC (go Trojans!), so out of my little street with 5 houses on it, two of them are fellow alumni.
- I can't NOT talk about the food. I love food. I love to eat at good restaurants, cook good meals, and shop at foodie stores. There's been a foodie renaissance in Austin in the last couple years and it's enough to keep me completely satisfied. I don't think it totally compares to LA, San Francisco or Paris' food scene, but it's getting very close.
- My general feelings about where I've lived:
- LA, San Francisco, Paris = little fish in a big pond.
- Austin = decent sized fish in a decent sized pond.
- Corpus Christi, Winston-Salem, Wilmington = whale in a puddle.
- Charlotte = stranger in a strange pond.
And just so you don't think I've drunk some Austin kool-aid, here's my negative list:
- We're not close to the beach. It takes about 4 hours to get to Port Aransas. Corpus Christi beats Austin in this one.
- We're not close to the mountains. I hate skiing and snowboarding but my husband misses it. San Francisco beats Austin.
- Summers are scorching. LA has better summer temperatures.
- Allergy sufferers, get ready to take shots. We have allergens year round to pester you.
- Traffic sucks, especially on I-35. It's on par with LA and San Francisco, although it's easier to live somewhere that doesn't have a long commute. My drive home is a breeze, but if you live out in the 'burbs it will be pretty bad.
- Our public transportation isn't the best, but it's showing signs of improvement. San Francisco and Paris beats us here.
- People write me a lot asking about spiders and other creepy crawly things. Yes, we have creepy crawlies.
- Mosquitos are a pain in the summer. I don't really remember them in California.
- Austin is not quite as diverse as other larger cities that I've lived in. People of non-white and non-Hispanic origin might have a harder time finding a community of similar backgrounds. However I have to add that Austin does not fit into the stereotype of the racist South. I find Austin to be a very welcoming community.
- Same goes for the LGBT crowd.
Labels: general austin