Will I go bonkers in Raleigh?
November 8, 2008 4:41 PM   Subscribe

What are you knowin' about North Carolina? I am a big city girl with a potential life-changing job opportunity in NC (triangle area) and I'm flying out next week for an interview and to check out the area. What should I look for?

I'll be honest, the idea of moving to North Carolina is making me feel funny in my tummy, and not necessarily in the good way. I am a 31 year old single professional lady in a creative industry. While I am very focused on my career, I am also focused on living my life to the fullest. I like having a lot of friends, I am a musician, and a verrrryyyyy wide variety of interests.

I also struggle with feeling bored, isolated and lonely if I'm too far away from the bright lights of the city. I live alone in Los Angeles (I grew up here), in an arty neighborhood, but sometimes feel disconnected and isolated just because of the car culture in this city. I lived previously in Boston and flowered and blossomed like I had never imagined I could when I was there -- I loved the vibrance of a dense, small city.

I have a tendency to get very depressed, holed up in my own head, anxiously mentally screaming at myself, when I spend too much time alone. On the other side, I get antsy, frustrated and unpleasant if not given enough alone time to do all of the weird things I like to do when I'm alone (try on all of my clothes; shadowbox in my living room; write songs; play video games in my unmentionables; listen to Slayer at high volume; sing into my hairbrush in front of a mirror, whatever) -- so roommates are kind of right out.

I am single but I do like to date, and I'm open to the idea of a long term relationship. I won't die if I spend the next few years single, but I'd rather not.

As far as interests go, I am a big fan of music, live and otherwise, particularly punk rock, alt country, etc, but have a really varied taste in music. I like going to art galleries, I like fun/divey bars, I loooove Karaoke with a good group. I love boxing; I'm training with a private trainer now, rather passionately. I also like Yoga and Pilates a lot. I am not particularly outdoorsy, but I think I could get into it. I'm politically active and like to spend time volunteering, either for political endeavors or just to help out my community (homeless shelters, old folks homes, etc).

I would say I'm absolutely at my happiest when I can spend a lot of time alone amongst strangers, or in a group of friends. I make friends easily, but have only ever lived in cities. If I had it my way, I'd be looking at a job opportunity in a dense city like Boston, Chicago or NYC, someplace with solid public transportation and a large variety of people. I love to walk around my neighborhood with a place in mind to wind up. I love meandering around listening to my iPod and waving and smiling at people. Can I do that in NC?

The job is in the Triangle area, in a suburb between Raleigh and Durham. To narrow it down, here are some questions I have:

1.) What sorts of areas should I check out when I am in town? I will be there from Monday to Wednesday.

2.) Could I live in a more "exciting" part of town, like Chapel Hill (I've heard it's cool) and still easily commute to a job in the suburbs?

3.) I am very worried about going absolutely crazy with a slower pace of life. I don't know if this is rational or not -- can you suggest things I should do that are sort of like "everyday triangle life" that might help me get an idea?
posted by pazazygeek to Travel & Transportation around Raleigh, NC (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have only been to the area once and normally live on another continent. I would recommend having a look around downtown Raleigh and maybe going to see and talk to some of the people who have studios and galleries in the Artspace visual arts center.
posted by rongorongo at 4:55 PM on November 8, 2008

Best answer: I live in Morrisville, right outside of RTP. I commute to Chapel Hill every day for school. If you like artsy community Carrboro around the Weaver Street area is pretty vibrant. Carrboro is like a small suburbish type part of Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill is really a college town, so if you live in the areas near the school you'll encounter a lot of people and a pretty vibrant night life. Franklin Street is a biggie for Chapel Hill night life. One caveat of living in Chapel Hill and commuting east, like to RTP, Morrisville, Cary or Raleigh, is traffic. Traffic on the highways (I-40, 54 and 55) can be a nightmare in this area.

I've also lived in both Cary and Raleigh. Neither really have a really "tight" community, but if you do the legwork, there are definitely pockets of activity. There are a ton of museums and galleries in downtown Raleigh and there's even some sort of art gallery tour on friday nights. Artspace was mentioned above and it's definitely an awesome place to meet people too. And you'll get lots of cool exhibits at all the colleges around here too, like there was an El Greco exhibit on at Duke recently. Again, living in Cary or Raleigh and commuting west will give you the same sort of traffic concerns.

So, to summarize.

1) Check out Carrboro while you're here. It sounds like it is right up your alley as far as community/privacy balance. Panzanella is supposed to be a pretty good restaurant there. Also, go to www.indyweek.com to check out local happenings during your stay. They have a pretty comprehensive local events calendar.

2) All commutes here suck. But it's worth it so that you don't get stuck living in Morrisville, which is not fun. (No offense, Morrisville!)

3) The triangle area isn't terribly "front porches and sweet tea" southern living. It has a pretty vibrant local arts and music scene. You should have no problem finding people and places that jive with you. But it's certainly not LA or Boston, so ymmv.
posted by ailouros08 at 5:38 PM on November 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'll come back and answer this more fully when I've had some rest. Actually, just memail me if you want more.

Basically, avoid Cary, Raleigh, and other bedroom communities like the plague. They don't sound like they fit your personality too well. Chapel Hill, while super-liberal, can be a bit stuffy; people there are pretty monied.

You want either:
Durham (there are a number of neighborhoods that will do right by you, but run them by someone before you sign a lease)

I live in Durham and love it. I live near Duke and work in downtown Raleigh. My commute is 25 miles against traffic, so it takes me just 30 minutes door to door on a typical day. Carrboro or Chapel Hill towards Raleigh in the a.m. starts out with bad traffic which then dissipates when 40 hits the Durham Freeway (Hwy 147). It would be probably 10-20 minutes longer for me to get to Raleigh from CH or Carrboro depending on where my beginning point would be.

Just don't live to the East of your job. Heavy a.m. traffic is going West on 40 in the a.m. and East in the p.m.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:26 PM on November 8, 2008

Best answer: Let me just say first off that, if your standards are LA and Boston, you will find Durham and Raleigh completely unlivable. Completely. I will speak mostly for Chapel Hill.

The people who will tell you that the Triangle is a great place to live come in a few flavors.
a) Those who have never lived anywhere else
b) Those who do not like the big city
c) Those with families who just want to live in the suburbs

Aas someone who grew up there and has since lived many other places, Chapel Hill and Carrboro (they are essentially the same place) are talked about as arty-funky-liberal communities because the only things to compare them to are Durham and Fayetteville. Franklin street is "cool", but it's only cool because there's fuckin' nothing within twenty miles. Shoot, I'll say, fifty, a hundred, two fifty, before you get to DC and Baltimore.

In a similar vein, Chapel Hill is only "diverse" because the rest of the state isn't. Most of the people there are yuppies fleeing the frigid north or college kids (UNC has something absurd like 20k kids when the actual population of the town is only about 50-60k), and you will not find the mix of cultures and people that you would in a "real" city. At all.

Don't like car culture, I see? Not much you can do about it. Chapel Hill's city buses are free, but they don't really go anywhere - it's literally impossible to get from anywhere in Chapel Hill to anywhere in Durham or Raleigh via public transportation (they want to put some light rail commuter trains in, but that'll take years upon years because everyone has a death grip on their cars).

There are redeeming qualities about the Triangle, but they are only redeeming because the rest of the South sucks. I know some people that absolutely love it, but they all have some cultural connection to the place.

The weather is fantastic though, and you're only two or three hours from both the beach and the mountains. You too may grow to love it, but if you're actually a big city person I seriously doubt it. That better be a goddamned amazing job.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:38 PM on November 8, 2008 [5 favorites]

Man, that came off WAY harsher than I intended it. Like I said, some people love the Triangle, and I don't fault them for it. It's just not for me, and from what you've said, not for you either.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:45 PM on November 8, 2008

I lived in Chapel Hill and worked in Carrboro (for the past two years, although I moved away in August for school), so I can't speak to the traffic/commuting issues that you might face if you're working in Cary or somewhere. But there are wonderful things about living in the Triangle (especially in what used to be my corner of it), and it's certainly worth exploring. Wander around downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill--there's about a mile between the two, and it's easily walkable or you can hop on a bus. Look around Weaver Street and go to the Orange County Social Club for a beer. Talk to the friendly OCSC bartenders about what it's like to live there. Explore downtown Durham, which is wonderful (and more affordable than CH/Carrboro).

Basically, of course the area won't compare to Boston, but there is very much a sense of friendly, warm, creative community to be found there. There's also really good food, excellent live music, and (within areas of the Triangle, if not between them) great bike paths. It was just a very easy and very pleasant place to live. One thing, though--if you move to Chapel Hill or Carrboro, try to live at the top of the hill rather than at the bottom. It makes for flatter biking, and you'll be closer to the good stuff.
posted by paleography at 9:20 PM on November 8, 2008

I have a tendency to get very depressed, holed up in my own head, anxiously mentally screaming at myself
oh, you're a copywriter! don't worry, it happens to all creatives.

in a suburb between Raleigh and Durham
winston-salem perhaps? a company beginning with M?*

I ask the second question because whether you feel at home doesn't really depend on the area. you can be the happiest person in the most miserable place on earth and vice versa, it depends on who you know there. (I am a creative and have done the job move to LA, NYC, Chicago, London and am about to do it again and I hope you'll trust me on this one.) finding a few cool people at the place you're about to start working at would give you an "in" more quickly.

the question isn't how the area is going to be, it's how you can find the people you'd like to hang out with as quickly as possible. it's where should I go once there. (consider meetup.com, that site is vanilla-flavored crack when you're new to an area.)

*that would make this a very small world
posted by krautland at 12:21 AM on November 9, 2008

I moved to Los Angeles 4+ years ago from NC. I didn't live in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill area but spent a lot of time going to see bands there in college (at Cat's Cradle and GO Studios in Carrboro). I would totally move back to NC in a heartbeat if I felt I had the same opportunities that I do here, but I also lived there for 15 years so I kind of know the lay of the land. Though to be totally honest, I have spent time in Chicago and Boston and I would most likely to one of those places, for the reasons you stated, before I moved back to NC. There's almost nowhere in NC you could get around solely on public transportation, and it is definitely not a high-density place. It's definitely one of the more cosmopolitan areas in the south, but you have to remember "the south" also includes Alabama. borkingchikapa's analysis is fair enough.

in a suburb between Raleigh and Durham
winston-salem perhaps?

Huh? Winston-Salem is nowhere near Raleigh or Durham.
posted by lovetragedy at 1:21 AM on November 9, 2008

Huh? Winston-Salem is nowhere near Raleigh or Durham.
ah, okay.
posted by krautland at 3:35 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: I live in Durham (right around the corner from Stewriffic) and love it. It is not a big city, but we have galleries and music and artsy movies and ethnic food and weird little coffeeshops and funky bars. Our own local culture is living in former mill houses and converted tobacco warehouses and eating local organic food and going to Bulls games. Public transportation from the downtown/Duke area of Durham to RTP is quite possible, depending on which company you'll be working for. If you like more "upscale" things, you might prefer Chapel Hill/Carrboro or South Durham, but as others have said they will both require more driving.

There have been a ton of AskMeFi questions over the years about the Triangle:

Where to live in Raleigh
What to do in the Triangle
Romantic weekends in Central NC
Where to live in Durham
Hiking in NC
posted by hydropsyche at 5:32 AM on November 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is a good thread, too.

Also, there's a good local blogging scene. Obviously, I know Durham best, so I'd recommend Bull City Rising which covers politics mostly while Carpe Durham which does local restaurants.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:32 AM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

My brother lives in Raleigh. He lives in a housing development surrounded by a million other housing developments. When I visit, he takes me to a chain restaurant in a shopping center, then we go back to the housing development. I hate visiting my brother.

I have a friend who lives in Raleigh. When I visit her, she takes me to funky shops and unusual restaurants and we do cool things. I love visiting my friend.

So what I'm saying is: the Raleigh you live in depends on you.
posted by acrasis at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The South is a weird place, and Southerners are weird people. We are often less open than others in letting people get to know us personally, but polite and friendly to everyone. I have met people from other parts of the country who assume that there is no depth behind our politeness, that once we are being nice to them we are "friends." This is a mistake, and I think it's part of what makes it hard for people to relocate here from elsewhere. You should expect to spend a little bit of effort befriending people; the folks you meet in pursuit of the "night life" are probably not going to be as representative of the area as you might find elsewhere.

The Triangle area doesn't have "cultural events" in the same quantity as NYC/LA, either. This isn't because the people are uncultured, which is the common stereotype--it's because the entire population of North Carolina is about nine million spread across a state that's 560 miles long. The density just can't support anything akin to the events in NYC/LA. If you are used to going to the theatre every week, you'll go nuts.

All of that said, I think you can find people you like and things you like to do anywhere you go; it just takes some work.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

As a North Carolina resident, I keep trying to favorite sonic meat machine's answer over and over, but it will only let me do it one freaking time.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:41 PM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've written in most of those threads mentioned above. Check them out. Don't come with baggage of OMGWHEREAMILIVING. It's cheap which means there are TONS of people doing amazing things, with a quality of life that they couldn't afford to do elsewhere. Fantastic nonprofits, run by all sorts of people. Amazing local music scene. Great house parties, dinner parties, gardens, bike rides. No, it's not LA or Boston. If you come whining about that fact, it'll get you NOWHERE with the locals and the crappyness of the place will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you let yourself be.

We did just go blue, afterall. People worked their ASSES off for that victory. Which is more than I can say about most of the self-interested hipsters in LA, who are now whining about the post-prop8 failure. Almost everyone I know is politically involved at various levels and time-commitments. The South is a fascinating place, and this doesn't even really count as the deep south.

If you think the area doesn't have tons of yoga, pilates, boxing, arts communities, volunteering, diverse and ACTIVE music scene, wandering routes, friendly people, good food, and folks with time to make and develop new friendships, you'll be shocked.

I think you'll look back on this post in a year and laugh about who was actually sheltered.
posted by barnone at 2:23 PM on November 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I went to college in Greensboro (part of NC's Triad as opposed to the Triangle where you are looking), and I was surprised by how much I liked living there, I actually moved away after graduation in part because I knew if I stayed I would be there the rest of my life, that is how comfortable it is.

You are used to big cities, and frankly NC does not really have any, but it does have a unique charm among southern states, and is the only neighbor of my homeland (VA) that I do not look down upon. NC has a specific charm, the people seem friendlier, the climate is nicer, and there is a surprising amount of stuff to do there if you are willing to look. Other have mentioned the fantastic farmers markets, but no one has really pointed out what an awesome art scene NC has in general. Seagrove NC, is the only place in the United States where the default occupation for kids growing up is to become and artisan potter, Greensboro, Carboro and Raleigh all have nice gallery scenes, and There are about 50 colleges (gross exaggeration) in that area of NC. There are good airports, and the local venue Cat's Cradle gets suprisingly good musical acts coming through.

Also, you can easily have great BBQ with nice folks, and see some bull riding, and monster trucks!

If that is your cup of tea...
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2008

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