Portland (& West Coast) vs. New Zealand (Phoenix: homes, job market)
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This is a long shot, but I am wondering if anyone here has lived in New Zealand? I currently live in Wellington, the capital city, and am itching to return to the U.S. after being away for 3 years.
Much of what I've read about Portland, and many other spots along the West Coast of the U.S., sounds like it would be similar to NZ in terms of the weather, political outlooks, geography, etc. These are positives from my perspective and sounds like a good fit for me.
However, in some of the 'why I hate Portland' threads, I see hints of the things I don't like about New Zealand. Specifically, insular and parochial village attitudes. Nepotism? Youth culture run a bit amok? Equal doses 'superiority / inferiority' complex? Passive-Aggressive genes?
The job market here is taking a dive, a bit lagged behind the U.S. but like U.S. film releases it gets here eventually! Anyhow, just trying to strategize about our next move. I have always been keen on the Pacific (N)West - loved Seattle, San Fran, Sacramento, etc. - even got as far up as Anchorage (which is a whole other world!) but hadn't gotten to Portland yet. I hope you'll indulge me in asking some questions of you guys over the coming weeks...
Incidentally, I'm a U.S. citizen, lived in Atlanta from 1988-2005. Originally from the St. Louis area, my childhood was split between there and Phoenix, Arizona. I've traveled a lot in the U.S. and Canada, and some abroad as well. I mention this only to put in context.
San Francisco and Sacramento are decidedly not the Pac NW. Quite different in climate and culture. Just so you know.
Right, that why I put the (N) before West to indicate that I understood I was talking about a larger region that included more than just the Northwest. But admittedly it wasn't very clear. =)
Even so, I'd say that San Fran has a maritime climate wouldn't you? Now as to culture, that is exactly what I am asking about - what are the differences between middle/northern California vs. Oregon and Washington? And is there any truth to the 'issues' that I mentioned in my earlier post regarding culture in Portland?
Hi William -- At the risk of making a broad generalization (but not making a value judgment), I'd say that Portland and a handful of other communities in the PNW (mostly college towns and arts communities) tend to be more liberal, whereas most of the rest of the region tends to be more conservative. Yes, everything mentioned in the "why I hate Portland" threads exists here, but those of us who love Portland see the positives far outweighing the negatives, whereas those who hate Portland see the converse. It all depends on your point of view. If you identify as liberal and prefer life in a smaller city to life in a big city or small town, you'd probably love Portland. It has (for me) more than enough culture and diversity, but it lacks the drawbacks of huge cities. If you identify as conservative, you'd probably hate Portland (or at least spend much of your time grumbling about the REI-wearing, granola-eating, tree-hugging, retro-'60s-hippie liberals).
I've never found nepotism to be a problem, but bear in mind that the recession has hit Portland really hard, and jobs are tough to come by for anyone right now. If you're of a certain age, as I am, youth culture, by defnition, always runs a bit amuck -- unike in our day, when kids respected their elders, ate all their vegetables, walked five miles to school each day (uphill both ways), and listened to wholesome music like Led Zeppelin and disco. Northwesterners do come from reserved Midwestern and Northern European stock, so one person's "polite and friendly" is another's "cold and hard to get to know" (and perhaps passive/agressive). I spent my formative child years in western New York state, so the behavior of Northwesterners is normal to me. My wife is from Hawaii and hugs everyone, and, for a long time, she found Northwesterners to be uptight and aloof. As for a superiority/inferiority complex, every place I've ever lived has had one of those. I don't find Portland to be insular and parochial, but I know that there are subcultures where that kind of attitude exists. I just avoid people like that when I meet them.
Unfortunately, I've never been to New Zealand, but I saw a documentary on it when I was 11 and have been fascinated by the country ever since. Someday, I hope to visit. As you may know, British Columbia (in particular, Vancouver Island) was the other finalist location for the filming of Lord of the Rings. The PNW is equally gorgeous.
By the way, I lived in Atlanta from 1972 to 1997, so maybe we bumped into each other. I didn't hate Atlanta, but I never connected with it as a place. I found that it lacked a distinctive character, even though there was plenty to do. I first moved to Seattle, and while it's a beautiful city, I found that it had Atlanta's drawbacks of traffic, sprawl, and congestion, not to mention a higher cost of living than Portland. After 11 years in Portland, I still love it here.
My best advice to you is to list the reasons you're unhappy with New Zealand and honestly assess whether you've felt the same way about the other places you've lived. If there are consistent themes, you're likely to encounter them again wherever you move. I had some personal issues that had nothing to do with Atlanta and everything to do wth me, and I brought them with me to Portland. But I worked through them -- and Portland is still a much better fit for me than Atlanta was, because of my interests and attitudes.
Thanks for the reply, it's much appreciated. Not only was it helpful in terms of framing my questions, but it was amusing as well - particularly the comment about youth culture! Indeed, though I am only 39 years old, I am noticing curmudgeonly symptoms starting to set in. To be honest, the way you describe the city (in response to my concerns) sounds like a good fit for me. I'm a mid-westerner-- no-frills and casual demeanor, quite socially liberal, and love granola types (even if I've never exactly fit the mold myself, though I always aspired). Even the mention of REI made me homesick! I still have my membership card somewhere... The climate and geography sound perfect, but I never suspected otherwise.
I know what you mean about superiority/inferiority complex being everywhere. Atlanta had it too. We couldn't have a nice aquarium. Oh no, it had to be "the biggest aquarium in the WORLD...and it has to have 4 whale sharks in it, too!" I got really tired of that kind of "Tooting our own horn" sort of stuff. Lo and behold, I moved to NZ where the citizenry exists in perpetual state of identity-seeking, where every Kiwi inventor/actor/director/athlete is a modern miracle to be celebrated and adored. Yawn.
I take your point about generalising. It's easy to do and I'm certainly guilty. To be fair, the criticisms that I mentioned in relation to NZ are generalisations. Certainly not everyone I meet and work with here exhibits tendencies of nepotism, parochial behaviour, etc. But, over time, you do get sort of a feeling about a place, and start to grasp it's spirit. There are so many things I genuinely love about NZ, but after 3 years here it's pretty clear to me that I'm not a good fit for the culture. That's not to say that I haven't met many, many lovely Kiwis whom I really enjoy and value as friends. But being an American here is problematic at best. While I love New Zealand, I am reminded every day by the people here - sometimes subtle, sometimes like a sledgehammer - that I am not loved back. Come here as a tourist and they love you, but once you live here the knives come out. This is a complex topic and more appropriate on a forum about NZ, so we'll just leave it at "I don't want to live somewhere that I'm not wanted."
Even so, living abroad has actually been a terrific experience and I don't regret it at all. For one thing, it's made me realise how I form strong bonds with the places I live. I really want my next destination to be someplace that I can set down deep roots, and making a positive contribution.
Admittedly, the severity of the relocation to NZ (we had to sell literally everything) and repeating that process again to get back to the U.S. has resulted in me being a bit risk-averse. I'm really trying to research destinations as much as possible, but there are limits to what you can learn before living there. To be honest, I spent a month in NZ in 2005 and thought I had come to get a feel for the country, but I wasn't even close. I was naive. Living in NZ is much, much different than being on a holiday here.
What line of work were you in in Atlanta? From about 1999 on, I worked for Fernbank Museum. As you mentioned, it's a nice enough city overall, but it does lack a certain spirit. I moved there in 1988, just before the boom times and leading up to the 1996 Olympics. Went to college there, finished and got a job...next thing I knew it was 18 years later. Eeek! That's when the early mid-life crisis hit. I swore that I would never live in another place that I didn't feel strongly connected to - and that I wouldn't allow myself to go on auto-pilot like that again.
At any rate, I've babbled enough so will stop now. Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to respond. It's really helpful just to talk these things through with others before making such a big step. And I'll definitely take your advice on making that pros-cons list and really thinking it through.
Oh, and yes Nell - definitely one of the contributing (but previously unmentioned) factors in our desire to move back to the U.S. is isolation. It's such a long way from home, the travel costs are prohibitive to say the least. I've not been home in 3 years.
Funny about the trees in NZ...lots of pine farms here. Pinus radiosa I think it the species, or something along those lines. Every time I see them, it's strange because they are so out of place. Wood is a huge industry in NZ.
When we visited our guide spoke with pride about their pine plantations and how fast they grew.
Husband and I saw major risks... mono-agriculture leaves you vulnerable to infections and infestations that can wipe out an entire species in a matter of months. When we expressed concern we learned that they had the same warning from OSU and were working with them to plant other species (such as fir). My grandfather was a Norwegian from Telemark who owned a sawmill, funny how the experience of ancestors you barely remember comes to the forefront..
I don't know what your profession is but fair warning, museums of all types are laying off staff. The employment market is VERY difficult.
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