Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

Ah, seems like only yesterday I was writing about what it was like to live in Dallas, Texas. One year later here I am, in the heart of the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon. While the vibe of the Pacific Northwest is a much better match for my lifestyle and values, not everything is perfect. Here are my thoughts on Portland after two months in the city of roses:

1 – Is Portland like the TV show Portlandia?

Yes. Very much so.

This is doubly true for my particular neighborhood (east of downtown). Most restaurants are very vocal and transparent about where their produce and meat comes from; there are cute boutique shops on every corner that sell the most random stuff (including bird-stamped goods), and I’ve been in not one, but two feminist book stores within walking distance. And it’s only been two months!

2 – The never ending nightmare of Portland rain and gloom is real

Imagine this dreary sky everyday all day. For three weeks. Ugh.

Remember how I was always complaining about sunny days? Well, you’re going to slap me now because I’m going to moan about the lack of sunshine.

When I first moved here, Portland had no sunshine for three weeks straight. This is not hyperbole. The sun did not even peek through the clouds for one hour within that 24 day period. It was dreary, grey overcast with intermittent rain from sunrise to sunset for three weeks.

While the nonstop rain and gloom can be a downer, I’m starting to notice the mental and physical effects on me. My health has declined since moving here, and I honestly think it’s the lack of sunshine (aka vitamin D). Time to stock up.

3 – The natural beauty here is out of this world

But oh man, when the sun comes out… Portland is a jewel. It’s almost like I died in the nonstop rain showers and then somehow made it to heaven, because the flowers, forests, mountains and rivers of Portland truly sparkle in the summer sun.

I missed (the lack of) the great outdoors in Texas, and let’s say Portland over-delivers on this front. I’ll hands down say this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, much less lived in. Within a one hour drive I can escape into a green sea of forests, sail on a boat into the Columbia Gorge, and scale a mountain (or two). Oh yes, the rocky coastline of Oregon is only 1.5 hours away by car (and is even accessible by public transit!).

I love the green!
Multnomah Falls

Oh, and it’s not just the national and state parks that are worthwhile… even walks through the local neighborhood rival some of the best public gardens I’ve ever seen in the US. People here are serious about their gardens and it definitely shows. Walking down a street in a typical Portland neighborhood will assault you with a rainbow of colors and smells, with sidewalks that brim with year-round flowers, green vegetation, and trees galore (even the roundabouts here have trees in them!).

4 – People here care about self-maintenance, their local community and the environment

It’s obvious to see that Portlandians care about their community. There’s a local event happening in my neighborhood almost everyday. The public schools here are not only safe and adequate, but they even offer foreign language immersion (public Japanese and Chinese elementary schools are within a stone’s throw of my house). The streets of Portland are sparkling clean for US standards, and I’m constantly seeing locals and other volunteers picking up garbage in my neck of the woods, in downtown and beyond. If you go to downtown Portland, you’ll be shocked by just how clean (and quiet) it is.

Almost translucent water here pictured above from the hike I did today…
Beautiful fireworks from the rose festival

The locals also care about physical and mental well-being. People here read, they enroll in local pottery and poetry classes, they garden, they do yoga and meditation, they bike, they even have Irish line dancing lessons for all to join. I enrolled in a French class thinking I’d be the only young person in a room full of retirees, but was pleasantly surprised to find that all my classmates were around my age. Whenever I go to a coffee shop, I always find somebody jotting down notes or writing prose in a real, paper notebook. Whether it’s a poem, a diary entry, a biography or a short story; people here take the time to actually write down their thoughts. It’s a phenomenon I haven’t seen in many other places.

Finally, locals here are very environmentally conscious. People here compost for God’s sake, and we have compost garbage bins that the county picks up every week. I haven’t done such hardcore garbage-separating-recycling duty since my days in Japan, and it feels great.

5 – It’s the Most European Place on the West Coast

Portland feels like a socialist, European country in so many ways.

People care about the food they eat. All food comes from local farms and the quality of the restaurants have been astounding (I have yet to eat a bad meal here). The bakeries here are on par with Europe and (gasp) within walking distance. Plus, just like Europeans, Portlandians are serious about their beer, coffee and wine.

BTW… best donuts ever.
A perfectly baked cake made in French fashion, with a rare glass of rose wine… all within a 20 min walking distance
I went to this cafe and died… the tea was exquisite, the food superb, and the flower in this photo was REAL

Public transit here is the best on the West coast (I feel the readers from the Bay Area loading up their ammunition for the comments section, but hear me out). There’s not only a street car and light rail here, but there’s also an extremely convenient and dependable bus system–and get this, it’s sparkling clean and not only crazy homeless people ride it! Similar to Europe, Portland has implemented a public transit system for the people that actually works.

And finally, people here don’t chase ambition or money. Portlandians care about quality of life (as noted above) and this is quite obvious from the state of the local economy. I’m constantly scratching my head in wonder at how all of the young people here support themselves on what seems like bar/server/barista wages. Aside from Nike, Intel and a handful of other large companies, there isn’t much industry here for the locals to thrive in… and that seems totally fine with them.

People who live in Portland don’t want to climb up the corporate ladder. People move to Portland to escape just that: they want to have a stress-free job that pays just enough to support their lifestyle of coffee, books and the occasional beer. The pace of life here is slow and thoughtful, considerate and mellow, reflective and liberated.

Like the locals, I’m enjoying the libations…

For me, this is good and bad. Luckily I get to keep working remote in Portland, but moving up at my company is going to be hard as someone who can’t rise the ranks alongside my co-workers in New York. Hopping to another job will be hard, as industry in Portland is, well, non-existent. I’ve met many people my own age and, when we start talking about the jobs situation, it’s downright depressing. I’ve met many fellow millennials who are working temp jobs or living on a salary of $35,000 or below.

Again, this aligns with Europe: you don’t move to Europe to make money, just like you don’t move to Portland to get rich–you go for the boost in quality of life.

While this is definitely my mantra, I’d much rather live in actual Europe than the rainy American counterpart. However, as my husband’s job and my personal circumstances force us to stay US-bound for the time being, I guess I can’t complain.

In Summary

I am so much happier in Portland, OR than Dallas, TX. Let’s just say when I left the Dallas airport I flipped off the city, said good riddance, got on the plane and swore I would never return. As I wrote in my previous posts, Dallas was rough for me.

However, by no means was Dallas a bad city. In fact, I constantly tell people it’s a great place to relocate because it allows young people to thrive. Dallas (and Texas in general) hits that sweet spot that many American cities just don’t have anymore: low cost of living coupled with great pay. It just wasn’t for me.

So far I am enjoying Portland much more than Dallas, although I am worried about my future career and health. Oh well. Here’s hoping the vitamin D works!

18 thoughts on “Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

  1. Take the OHSU gondola, and walk and bike all the bridges you can. Bicycle the entirety of the urban trail system–in pieces. Longer term goal: Research the Missoula floods and road trip to see as many related sites as you can. The book Cadillac Desert will also have some great information on the Columbia River’s system of dams.

    1. Todd! So great to hear from you! Did you used to live in Portland? Because you sur eknow a lot ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I haven’t heard about the OHSU gondola, but I heard it’s a must. I’m going to note that book and get it for future reading, and also very interested in the Missoula floods… sounds like quite a niche topic. I love the bike accessibility here, getting a proper bike is on my top 10 “must do” items in the next few months. Very excited to get out and explore the city and nature on two wheels!

      How’s life on the Kodo?

  2. I grew in southwest Washington about 90 minutes from Portland. I actually never returned to Washington state due to the weather. I cannot stand the long rainy days and the lack of sun. That is why I like Saigon :-). Best of luck in Portland.

    1. Wow, no way!!! Yes, Washington and Oregon are very similar in weather and… it’s a bummer. I don’t blame you for running away to Saigon. My cousin lives there and he wouldn’t leave it for the world (and man, I would stay just for the food).

      Thanks for the comment!!

  3. Hi Maryโ€”Portland def sounds like it has some aspects of Berlin, Germany where I recently relocated. Great quality of life but not great for career advancement unless youโ€™re in tech startups or anything tech-related. Happy for now though. Thanks for sharing your candid comments on the ups and downs of moving to a new place!

    1. Hey Anna! Yes, I heard the same thing about Berlin from others. One of my friends lives there and he works in tech and, while he is quite successful there, he said the stress from the job is really killing him (it is a tech start-up). How are you liking Berlin?

      Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate your comments and reading the posts!

  4. That waterfall! That food! Oh, I am jealous. But not about the lack of sunshine. We went weeks without very little and I realized how depressing it can be.

    I had a friend with kids move to Portland and she moved back within a year. She found the schools very insular and cliquish — hard for her and her girls to break into. But they might have been further out in the suburbs.

    Community composting sounds so good. Andy and I have to do our own pile.

    1. Yeah, just come for a summer vacation and I think that should hit the spot ๐Ÿ˜‰ Get that greenery and nature while the sun is out!

      I can see how the schools can be cliquish. I heard there has been backlash here against all of the new ‘outsiders’ that are moving in. I’m hesitant to tell people I moved from California, as I usually get the death stare in response. Seems like many Californians are starting to invade Portland and call it home.

      Composting is great!!! I have to buy special composting bags, but totally worth it. Major props to you and Andy for composting!!! I watched some cooking TV show about how this chef used composting to cook?? It was kinda disturbing but also really cool. Composting is the way to go!

  5. Love all the pics! All the best living in the new city. Looking forward to more stories about it. Btw what flavors r those donuts?

  6. Portland sounds very nice, I think I wouldn’t mind the lack of sun, as I am used to not seeing it the whole winter thanks to pollution, hahaha. At least the air is clean there!

    That fall with the bridge in the middle looks AMAZING.

  7. Portland is a beautiful city with great food, neighborhoods, and parks. I lived in Eugene for 2 years, then PDX for 2, moved back to Hawaii for 2, and then decided to give PDX another chance for 2 more years. So in total, I was in the NW for 6 years.

    Spring is my favorite time, and it’s funny when the sun does come out, folks suddenly get friendly and say HI as you walk by. Hahahahhaa.

    I’m convinced nobody works because coffee shops are always busy. I remember thinking, “doesn’t anyone have a job around here?” ๐Ÿ˜› Portlandia is magic. Enjoy your new home. I’m sure it is amazing to discover a new place, be with your husband again, and have a good job! You deserve it.

  8. Hello! I found one of your articles because I am trying to decide between taking a Chinese or Japanese language class. Your thoughts on it were interesting and gave me a couple things to consider. I closed down the tab, but later went to my history to see if I could find your page again only to see you just moved to Portland! Very cool ๐Ÿ™‚ I moved here in 2013 and have considered moving away due to all the rain, but the times I have gone out of state I always feel so relieved when the plane touches back on Portland soil. I do love it here! Anyway, I’d like to suggest a great tea shop in NW Portland in case you haven’t already been. It’s called Qi Fine teas. They serve Chinese tea gongfu style, plus it’ll give you a chance to use your Mandarin with Ivy and James! My partner is there often and I will probably start going more often now that I finished school.

    1. Hello Bodhi!

      Nice to meet a fellow Portlandian! The longer I’m here th elonger I love it (which is definitely not what I can say about Dallas). I do admit, though, the long stretches without sun are quite brutal!

      I will definitely check out Qi Fine teas!!! I love gonfu style cha. If you happen to see me in there please say hi ๐Ÿ™‚

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