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Old 07-09-2011, 11:54 AM
2 posts, read 5,598 times
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Hi, Im new to this forum. I have been reading up on Philadelphia as my husband was just offered a new position that we think is a good next step. We have been in Chicago for about a year for his term position that ends in October. I am a writer for an organization based in DC and am luckily able to work from anywhere.
We have only been to Philly twice and while there it struck us as a reasonable city. The real appeal for us is that it would return us to the East coast. We lived in New York for 11 years and apart from the cost and sometimes the pace, we really loved it. We left for a change and found surprisingly that the Chicago pace and culture are less of a fit than we had hoped and want to go back East, if not New York. I still go out to New York and DC fairly often, but we both are missing the East a great deal. We have not enjoyed Chicago so much, despite it being a very nice city, it hasn't been a cultural fit. We would stay if we had to, but thankfully this position has come through and now we just have to decide if Philadelphia is really for us.
So, I am wondering a few things, since Philadelphia and Chicago are similar in many ways...
1-What we have missed about the east coast is international diversity and culture. We haven't found the people in Chicago to be as interested in travel, foreign language, or from as wide of a variety of backgrounds as in New York and DC. How does Philadelphia fare when it comes to these issues?
2-On a day to day basis, how does safety in Philadelphia play out? We feel marginally less safe in Chicago than New York. We've run in to more incidents on the train, for instance than in the many years we were in New York. I have not felt comfortable running in several parts of the city here. Philadelphia has its challenges I know, but Id love to hear people's experiences/perceptions of safety.
Thanks in advance for any help. We are open to Philly and think it could be a nice entree back East.
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Old 07-09-2011, 01:24 PM
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Hi there, I moved from Chicago (which I love) to New England and am planning to move to Philly. In my research and experience I'd offer the following "outsider" opinion about Philly. While the East Coast seems more 'international' than Chicago I'd think Philly would seem less so than DC or NYC. I think it is a more blue collar city than DC or NYC (not that they don't have blue collar, but they have more white collar as well) and with that I think less inclined to be as jetsetting. Perhaps still moreso than Chicago since it is on the East Coast. As far as safety goes, I never felt unsafe in Chicago. I lived in several North Side neighborhoods. Philly as a city (most seem to think of Center City and nearby being the city) is a lot smaller with a lot of rough areas in it- some blocks are unsafe, some may be safe but undeveloped, some may be fine but next door to unsafe. This makes it more difficult to find the perfect neighborhood. I don't think of NYC like this and I don't know about safety throughout the DC area so I couldn't compare to that. For me there are a lot of areas in Philly that can feel desolate and underdeveloped compared to other cities. If you can afford to live near CC then you will likely feel safe but you may also feel like the safe areas are smaller than those in NYC and Chicago and you will encounter less safe areas more often throughout your day. Still, it's got a different vibe than Chicago and is cheaper than other East Coast cities. Many reasons to consider it.
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:17 PM
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I'm surprised to hear that Chicago, which I figured to be "the" Midwest hub doesn't seem so cosmopolitan in your experience. I can say that while Philly has its share of well-traveled residents, it likely isn't at the level of NYC and DC in that regard, which is to be expected. I would agree with the previous poster that, generally speaking, the neighborhoods in and around Center City are where you are most likely to find people who have the type of vibe you are seeking. As it is, living in Center City (or perhaps due west in University City) may appeal to you for easy access to Amtrak at 30th Street Station.

Regarding safety, I'll paraphrase a post from sometime ago in that one could describe Philly in general terms as a having a very comfortable central core (although you are indeed in the city) that is surrounded by rather challenged neighborhoods until you reach areas close to the suburban border. Generally speaking, you shouldn't have issues while actually riding mass transit. I might exercise above-average street wisdom when, for example, walking through the underpass between the13th and 15th St/City Hall subway stations.

Since you can indeed work from anywhere, I believe you will find Philly to be a relatively affordable and definitely enjoyable alternative to the Capital of the Free World and Capital of "Everything Else".
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:03 PM
Location: Center City
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I will echo the views of the past two posters. In January, we moved here from Houston, which (believe it or not) I find a much more global city. I've been surprised to find that nearly all the folks we meet here are natives of Philly, the suburbs or eastern PA. I get a chuckle when I ask if people are from Philly originally and the response is "Oh no, I grew up in Bucks County."

That said, we moved here intentionally after looking at cities on both coasts. It is a great city and will give you that east coast sensibility you find lacking in Chicago. While I agree with others that you will find DC and NY (and to a lesser extent, even Boston) more cosmopolitan, the folks we've met here are extremely friendly. Also, the cost of living here is much lower than in the other big east coast cities, yet you are only a few hours away by train.

As for safety, we moved to Center City and it, along with the adjacent neighborhoods are very safe (the crime stats prove it). Philly has its share of high crime areas, as does any city, but they are not places most folks who live in CC would need to go.

When seeking a new city to call home, we almost by-passed Philly on our scoping visits, but we're so glad we didn't, because here we are. Ultimately a visit or two should help you determine if it's for you.

Last edited by Pine to Vine; 07-09-2011 at 04:11 PM..
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Old 07-10-2011, 07:41 AM
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Thank you all for your helpful feedback.
I know that Philly won't be New York/DC and that is fine, we just want something with a different sensibility than Chicago in terms of culture and diversity and community than what we have found in Chicago. In Chicago we have found largely people from the midwest who are interested in sports and popular media/entertainment culture. That is absolutely fine, and we don't look down on that. We however have just not fit into that paradigm. In DC and New York we found people that were more like us in terms of interest in things like current world events, policy/politics, travel, etc. I have certainly met some of those types of people in Chicago but they were somewhat difficult to find. We have also not found people as friendly as expected/touted in the midwest. Oddly enough, it has seemed to be quite snobby. We have tried to connect with some people in our neighborhood and they just are not talkative/responsive. We used to yap with random folks in the street/on the train in New York regularly. We were able to make a lot of friends and aquaintances. I don't know what is so different here.
We had really hoped to be in Chicago for the long haul and have enjoyed the lower cost of living, but in the end the trade off has not been worth it for us. We guess we'd really rather be out East.
I plan to visit Philadelphia again on my way back from a trip to New York in August. We have only been twice, I will go this time with a different eye to see how it looks in terms of living there. The position he may accept is very good and that figures in heavily as well, of course. We don't want to assume something equal/better will come along in New York (which is really the only other place we think we'd go at this point).
Thank you and I welcome any other thoughts.
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Old 07-10-2011, 11:36 AM
Location: back in Philadelphia!
3,251 posts, read 4,732,941 times
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Originally Posted by jm02 View Post
I get a chuckle when I ask if people are from Philly originally and the response is "Oh no, I grew up in Bucks County."
Haha SO true! Philadelphians split hairs big time between city & the various suburbs. I'm originally from Philly (city), and even though I know better I still catch myself getting on people's cases if they say they're from Philly but theyre "really" from some suburb.
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Old 07-10-2011, 06:50 PM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
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I'm keeping in brief. Philly is safe enough. I've been through enough of Chicago to say this - at its cleanest, Chicago is cleaner & at it's grimiest, Philly and Chicago tie. Public transit is different in Philly, if you live in a suburb you ride regional rail which is very clean and well run. If you commute with the kids on the subway, you will have an incident eventually. Summer nights can get a bit rough in some popular neighborhoods (old city, south st.) but it's not bad per se.

The last year has seen a spate of flash-mob type events, which I've read also happened in Chicago, so no difference there.

I do think Philly benefits from having so much history and such a large educational community. One definite plus versus Chicago is the variety of micro-brews that are local. We compete directly with Portland for best beer, city, IMO.
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:40 AM
Location: Boston Metrowest (via the Philly area)
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I agree with the general sentiment of the other posters. I think you can find plenty of intellectual/travel-oriented social circles in Philadelphia and the surrounding area, but it's really hard for any city to compete with uber-cosmopolitan cities like New York and DC. Also, we'd be lying if we said if the city didn't have its fair share of marginal neighborhoods, but there are plenty of areas where you'll be able to feel safe with a sensible understanding of your surroundings.

In terms of your search scope, I'd stick to areas such as Rittenhouse Square, Society Hill and University City (around Penn). Chestnut Hill, too, if you don't mind living in an outer-neighborhood of the city. These are areas where you're very likely to find the the social scene you're looking for.

As a general note, you're definitely going to find a much better cost-of-living here in Philadelphia than New York. Also, if you do need to satiate that NYC desire, it really isn't more than a couple hours away; and only a little bit longer to DC. While some communities of Philadelphians are known for being rather parochial, I can say with complete honesty that I have never met a Philadelphian that wasn't affable, genuine and non-pretentious.

Good luck, and I hope you're able to find what you're looking for in Philly.

Last edited by Duderino; 07-11-2011 at 11:53 AM..
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:55 AM
Location: NY-NJ-Philly looks down at SF and laughs at the hippies
1,152 posts, read 1,016,936 times
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You are not sold on Philadelphia completely, but are in love with New York. So, I have a suggestion for you. Did you ever think about living in New Jersey? Your husband could commute into Philadelphia for work and geographically you could live in a town between New York and Philadelphia.

I am originally from New Jersey and am thinking about moving to Chicago or Philadelphia. Here is a thread I started and it's currently active. You should read through it and maybe you could get some tips.

Chicago MSA vs Philadelphia MSA: Most bang for your buck?
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:15 PM
Location: Williamsport PA
108 posts, read 197,966 times
Reputation: 100
I don't live in Philadelphia but I've been exploring the city extensively because I may move there some day (like when the economy collapses). Philadelphia has a Chinatown neighborhood which makes it seem more international. The Philadelphia International Airport and the Amtrak station are convenient if you like to travel. I noticed a large Vietnamese shopping plaza in South Philly near the Italian Market. And I've read that the Indian population is growing. Philadelphia is also crawling with tourists from many nations. The many universities also attract students from around the world.
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