What stereotypes do people hold about Portland, OR?
November 19, 2009 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What common assumptions and stereotypes do people have regarding the city and residents of Portland, Oregon? And regarding Oregon in general? It'd help to know where respondents are from.
posted by thinman to Society & Culture (106 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I'm originally from Seattle, which has a very similar culture and climate. This "You Know From Your Portland..." list is pretty hilariously accurate, in my opinion.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:08 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um...That it's a far nicer, progressive place to live than anywhere in Indiana?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:09 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in DC, and have never been to Portland. I've been told (by other people living in DC) that the city has a large visible homeless population and is expensive to live in. West Coast friends have told me that city is relatively young and hip.
posted by divka at 10:11 AM on November 19, 2009

Progressive, lots of transplants, bike-friendly, a little crunchy-granola, more un/underemployment since a bunch of 20 something college grads who are out of work decide to go move to Portland. I'm originally from MN, now in Denver. The irony does not escape me.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:11 AM on November 19, 2009

That it is made up of primarily the vegan granola crowd and lumberjacks. Nothing against vegan granola people or lumberjacks. I am from Pennsylvania.
posted by bunnycup at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2009

It is full of coffee and microbrew drinking hippies; it rains all the time; nobody can get a job that pays worth a damn and the cost of living is very high. If it weren't for the last three parts, it would be damn near as cool as Asheville, which is where I live, along with all the other coffee and microbrew drinking hippies working at underpaid jobs and struggling with a ridiculously high cost of living.

In other words, it's our west coast sister city, except for the part where it's 10 times bigger than we are.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've never traveled any further north on the west coast than San Francisco. If someone surveyed me on what assumptions I'd have from someone from Portland, Oregon, I'd guess that perhaps they were more environmentally conscious than myself. Probably were on the liberal side of politics, and maybe worked or knew someone who worked for Nike. Maybe they liked doing outdoorsy stuff?

I live in Arkansas, grew up in Virginia.
posted by Atreides at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2009

They wear a lot of fleece and sensible shoes and they ride bikes, unless they drive hybrids or Subarus. They eat really good food, mostly sustainable and local. Their eyeglasses are ironic.

I am from the Bay Area and I have actually been to Portland and all my Portland friends do fit the above stereotypes except for the ones with perfect vision, so I share these with love.
posted by padraigin at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2009

Over Educated, under employed, green, weed. -- Greetings from Southern CA.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

That it's a really progressive city, good urban fabric (not cut up with highways/blight), compact, and with a good range of higher-end jobs in creative/tech industries. The people themselves are similarly progressive and well-educated, and like riding bikes. These are just stereotypes though, of course, and I expect that lots of people/places aren't actually like that.

I'm from northern England, never been to Portland, but am going soon (so I'm sure I'll adjust my views accordingly).
posted by Sova at 10:15 AM on November 19, 2009

Having briefly lived in Portland, I can only say that 1. Powell's Books is fucking great, 2. Yeah, there's a lot of weed, and 3. There's also a lot of goddamn fucking bridges. I have never gotten so lost so consistently in all my life.
posted by Skot at 10:16 AM on November 19, 2009

That it is almost entirely white. (I'm a British person on the US east coast.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:17 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

People that dress like they are in Weezer.

Also, everyone on etsy lives there.
posted by fire&wings at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2009 [17 favorites]

I've often been told that people from Portland/Oregon are really laid-back; one time that was followed shortly by saying that maybe by "are laid-back", they really meant "smoke a lot of pot."
I think the impression among by friends is that it's filled with hip young liberals.
(I grew up in Oregon and have mostly been living in MN/WI for the last six years)
posted by Vibrissa at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2009

I think Oregon = Portland in most out of stater's minds. Also: hippies, trees, and rain.
posted by goodnight moon at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2009

There's a lot of comic-book creators and people on fixed-gear bikes. Everything is very organic/ crunchy-granola/ Stuff White People Like-y. Southern California here.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:19 AM on November 19, 2009

That its the most awesome city ever? Where incredible coffee and beer and pot and vegan food abound? That its citizens are educated bike riders who all work for non-profits? Where left is the new center? Where everything is locally made? Where suits are considered ridiculous and flannel and hiking boots are the typical dress code? Where quality of life is good and the pace is perfect?

Of course, I'm biased. I live in Portland.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:22 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

They drink a lot of coffee there, don't they?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2009

Oh, and Portland is pretty much a different country from the rest of the state.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2009

Portland is like a college town for people who just finished college. Instead of going to class they go to their jobs at cafes and bookstores. They still have tight social networks and they still party and drink and have a lot of fun and they still don't really have much of a sense of what they're going to do with their lives but that's not really something to worry about.

From Vancouver BC, been to Portland a few times and have a soft spot for it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Never been to Portland, but its reputation as expensive, over-educated, un-/under-employed, hip, young, liberal, white, and pot-addled precedes it.

Grew up in PA, college in GA/TN, interlude in NYC, live in IN.
posted by valkyryn at 10:26 AM on November 19, 2009

Outdoorsy types who buy local organic handmade things and are members of co-ops and ride their bicycles everywhere in the misty rain. The younger generations have Master's degrees in French Literature or Russian Art but work at Starbucks, the older generations are more traditional small town folk with blue collar jobs.

I live in Minnesota. I base my stereotypes on which of my friends sigh dreamily and say how much they would LOVE to live in Oregon (all of my hippie friends, pretty much).
posted by castlebravo at 10:26 AM on November 19, 2009

I'm from California, having lived both in north and south. The stereotypes I'm hearing about here match what I've always heard and thought about Portland residents. Laid back, lots of pot, intellectual liberal types, and creative types. Tree huggers, hikers, bicyclists, and granola eaters, as well. Not that any of these are bad, necessarily, just what I have heard. I've only been to Portland twice - and I simply drove straight through. So none of the sterotypes I've heard about have been verified by any personal experiences, and is likely untrue and/or exaggerated.

I considered moving to Oregon, though not to Portland, and was told by a lot of people that Oregonians in general don't much like Californians. My home state has its own share of stereotypes, many not flattering. During my research into possible places to live in Oregon, Portland was mentioned as one place in that state where a Californian could be accepted, because of the large amount of transplants there.
posted by routergirl at 10:28 AM on November 19, 2009

Portland = Hipsters. (I, personally, like hipsters).

Portland is where people from L.A. who would have moved to Austin 10 years ago move now.

(I'm from L.A.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:30 AM on November 19, 2009

It's white, it's wet, it's stoned, and the rednecks don't have accent. People seem to love the shit out of doughnuts.

Moved to Eugene from North Carolina five months ago.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:33 AM on November 19, 2009

My stereotype of Portland is that it's a city of people really good at fooling themselves.

It's supposed to be progressive and liberal and future-oriented and artsy.

Instead it's shadow corporate, slightly racist and mostly libertarian. Future-oriented? Everything looks run-down and hammered by bad weather. And if by "artsy," you mean "heroin-addicted," then yeah, it's artsy.

/hello from Seattle by way of Southern California
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:33 AM on November 19, 2009 [7 favorites]

I lived in Seattle in the nineties and Portland was known as sort of a smaller Seattle that was funner to hang out in but more impossible to get a job in. Then Seattle got their second new sports statium and I moved back east and now Portland is the one place I would move on the west coast if I didn't have a zillion reasons to live here. It's like my fifth home away from home. I think of coffee and comics and wonderful friends who have been able to afford to buy houses. I also think of homebodies [in that 'smokes a lot of pot" way] where it's hard to get people to go out and do things.

It reminds me a lot of some of the aspects of New England [the DIY culture, the dressing down, the beards] without some of the other aspects [the sort of academic old school "how many generations has your family been here", the neighborly care aspect, the lack of traffic aspect]. I haven't lived in th Pac NW in years, but if I went back, I would go back to Portland.
posted by jessamyn at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2009

Pot + Birkenstocks / Rain = Portland
posted by milarepa at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2009

They don't like people from California, and the cops actively pull over speeders who have out-of-state license plates. And I can't pump my own gas.

I grew up in Northern California.
posted by muddgirl at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

North Carolinian on East Coast, visited Portland 9 years ago to see someone I am still acquainted with.

I agree with most of the above assessments (crunchy, slightly racist, etc). Here is my extra note:

When I was visiting, I was told by the proprietor of a dance hall that I "sound too cosmopolitan" to be from North Carolina, in quite an incredulous manner. That was kind of the tone of my visit -- mild to complete surprise that a North Carolininan was walking among them like Real People do, instead of drawling about the Bible and NASCAR in the voice of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

The friend I was visiting grew up in the South, but converted to that anti-Southerner point of view almost like it was a rite of initiation. Other aspects of my friend's social group: lots of pot, not a lot of alcohol, really ugly hippie clothing, vague and poorly-thought out spiritual or astrological beliefs, camping trips, shocking lack of exposure to most "minorities", and idealization of open relationships.

My friend currently works in the field of green transportation technology, by the way.
posted by Coatlicue at 10:54 AM on November 19, 2009

That it has good coffee. Don't get me wrong, I *love* Portland but on a recent trip the much-hyped coffee (I'm looking at you, Stumptown) was a huge disappointment.

Stereotype that I found to be true: 20something, vegan, fixed-gear-bike riding men with mustaches. And the women who love them.
posted by chez shoes at 10:54 AM on November 19, 2009

Perspective from Minnesota: Portland is scenic, earthy-crunchy, artistic, suspicious of The Man.
posted by lakeroon at 10:55 AM on November 19, 2009

Oh and to answer where I'm from - Los Angeles by way of San Francisco and Seattle. And I've heard the stereotypes re: PDX in each of those places.
posted by chez shoes at 10:56 AM on November 19, 2009

Anecdote: Two days ago I was driving my blue Prius down SE 48th, paused at a stop sign and was about to turn right when a woman opened my passenger door, started to get in, and said: "Oh my god! I'm so sorry! I thought you were my friend, who has the exact same car!" Then I drove away as another blue Prius swerved in to pick her up.
posted by lisa g at 10:56 AM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]

On the jokey side I usually assume they won't let you in without a tattoo or piercing and you have to look like you just woke up from a three week paint huffing bender.

On the serious side, I tend to think of Portlanders as young, hip, outdoorsy, bike-riding, fleece-wearing types who are generally environmentally conscious. Friendly people but who also look down on non-Portlanders as being a bunch of Hummer-driving, polluting, ass-backwards conservatives who wouldn't know beer or indi-rock if it smacked us in the head.

Most of the stereotypes I have of Portlanders and Portland are positive ones, which is weird when I think of it because if you asked me to list stereotypes of pretty much anywhere else in the US I would give you negative ones. Huh.

I've never been there but I have at least five or six friends and/or acquaintances who have all contributed to these beliefs.

I'm from Boston and have always lived here.
posted by bondcliff at 10:57 AM on November 19, 2009

I live in Madison, WI. I think that if you're a certain kind of near-east-side post-grad hipster-type here, living in Portland is pretty much your dream. Or you know 28 people who live there, or used to live there. Or you'll only listen to bands from Portland. They're sort of our aspirational city (except that I really don't think I'd want to live there).

I never hear about anyone living there and doing anything substantive. Between what I hear/see in media and what I know of the other people I've met (or friends of friends) it sounds like a lot of creative limbo. Bands move out there and share a house, only to break up and/or never actually get around to recording that next album. People move out there to visit their sister, and she's just sort of working in a coffee house. And that's fine for some people, but when you start to see a pattern of NOTHING HAPPENING, it all seems very lotus-eatery to me.

Of course, they say that about Madison, too.
posted by Madamina at 10:59 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

From Seattle, living in Seattle.

Both Portland & Seattle have lots of hipsters and granola lovers. We're both green, counter-culture, outdoorsy, and cliquey - often to a fault. The difference is that Seattle wishes it was a world-class city (so is dirtier and taller), while Portland is happy with fostering a small-town vibe (so is cleaner and shorter).
posted by whycurious at 10:59 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

They wear socks with their birkenstocks.
posted by gaspode at 11:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eastside Portlanders are white, 20- and 30-something beardy hipster guys on fixies and white, 20- and 30-something crafty hipster women on old Schwinn cruisers. They drink PBR and Stumptown coffee, buy most of their clothes at thrift and vintage stores, work at relatively low-paying jobs that do not take advantage of their college degrees, and live in rental houses with a bunch of other people just like the. The guys are all in bands, and the women have cats, chickens, or both.

Westside Portlanders are white, 20- and 30-something fleece-and-softshell-wearing yuppie guys in BMWs and white, 20- and 30-something fleece-and-softshell-wearing yuppie women in Subarus. They drink microbrews and Starbucks coffee, buy moist of their clothes at REI and boutiques in the Pearl, work at relatively high-paying jobs in tech, apparel, or media, and live in condos that they own. The guys used to be in bands but aren't any more, and the women have handbags that cost as much as a month's share of the rent in a hipster house in North Portland.

(Please note that I do not consider either "hipster" or "yuppie" to be a pejorative. I am or have been both of these things.)

Suburban Portlanders are just like people in the suburbs everywhere, except they're more likely to wear fleece and softshell.

Eugene is full of stoner hippies, stoner frat boys, and stoner stoners.

Oregonians outside of the Eugene - Portland I5 corridor are all farmers, ranchers or loggers and hate everyone who lives in the I-5 corridor.

Obviously, there are as many (or more) exceptions to these descriptions as there are people who fit them, but you asked for stereotypes and I gave you stereotypes. I do not intend to denigrate anyone with these descriptions.

Please note also that my perceptions are likely influenced by the fact that I, y'know, live in Portland. On the east side. With cats. And chickens. But I have a media job and I've never been in a band.
posted by dersins at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2009 [16 favorites]

It's almost impossible to get/keep a good job in Portland, it's half hippies, half bums, and half douchebag posers from the suburbs. It's really expensive. Lots of people are really under-employed (if they have a steady job), under-stimulated, and are really miserable at heart, but they make themselves happy with the good food/beverages and other stuff mentioned above.

The weather is miserable nine months out of the year, but the other three months make up for it where they can. Seasonal Affective Disorder is rampant and under-diagnosed. Lots of people exercise pretty hard as a result, and that makes all the beer and good food possible.

When people decide to make something of themselves, they generally leave the area. The people who have left are generally cooler to me than the people who are still there, who (with a few exceptions) seem immature and self-absorbed to me.

I am, admittedly, biased. I moved from Oregon to Texas three and a half years ago and have stayed in touch a lot and visited many people. I think there are many, MANY cooler places in the world than Portland -- but the people who still live there have to think it's the center of middle earth or they'll kill themselves.
posted by SpecialK at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2009

Oh, and Portland is pretty much a different country from the rest of the state.

As Stephen Colbert calls it, "California's Canada."
posted by bondcliff at 11:05 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

Portland -
Hipsters. Lots of hipsters. Generally not actually from Oregon.
Excellent choice of restaurants. You can find just about anything somewhere.
Sprawl-ish, but to be fair, that's mostly the suburbs.
Decent transit.
Crappy freeway.
Slightly too far away.

Oregon -
A Midwestern state that got lost (except for Portland).
Nice people.
Not nearly as rainy as is made out.
Severe lack of National Parks.
Bigger than you might think.
Closes early.
Too many Californians.

Posting from the Willamette (and yes, I can pronounce it) Valley.
posted by madajb at 11:05 AM on November 19, 2009

My experience is the stereotype depends on where you're from:

Out of staters: Portland is a Mecca full of young urban progressives. They have the vague impression that the rest of the state is composed entirely of lumberjacks.

Oregonians who don't live in Portland: Everyone in Portland is either a hipster, homeless, or hopelessly unemployed, or some combination of thereof.
The rest of the state is composed entirely of salt-of-the-earth good folk, except Eugene which is full of hippies.

Portland residents: Portland is the center of the universe. As for the rest of the state, they can't be bothered to form an opinion about places they can't ride to on their fixie.

/Native Oregonian, non-Portlander, with the proud blood of my lumberjack forebearers running in my veins.
posted by TBAcceptor at 11:07 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in Cambridge, MA.

I have not been to Portland, but I imagine it to be similar to Cambridge, only minus the black people and Harvard.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

From New Jersey, originally; now living in Florida. Never been to Oregon.

Portland is: white, idle, wet, crunchy, multiple pairs of socks worn at once with awesomely ugly shoes (I think I got that impression from Sock Dreams), unwashed hair, hipsterish, vegan.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2009

I live in Portland and work in an outer suburb. I love Portland.

Some of the responses here are funny in the context of what some of my coworkers who live in the suburbs say, and what occasional letters to the editor from other non-Portland residents in local newspapers say.

According to them, Portland is a dangerous place, full of gangs of homeless and (gasp!) minorities who beat your average Jane and John McSuburbington with chains and rob them at knife/chain-point. Local government is ruled by corrupt, liberal, pedophile/gay, pro-bike, communist/socialist/fascist robots. They also complain that we spend too much money on schools and not enough on law enforcement and locking people up/throwing away the key/castration.

"It's nice being able to live somewhere I can walk my dog without fearing for my life." - Actually overheard at my workplace.

Another good exchange, when a coworker came to my house:
Them: Do I need to lock my car doors?
Me: Why, because you saw black people on the way here?
Them: Uh, yeah, and Mexicans too.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

First reactions, uncensored:

Rain, blackberries, Trailblazers, liberal, tunnels, marijuana, hiking, the self-cleaning house.

My brain is weird.
posted by rokusan at 11:11 AM on November 19, 2009

I've lived in Portland for about 3 years. Originally from the SW and also lived in WA. When I think of stereotypical Portland I think of bikes, coffee, converse shoes, hybrid cars, glasses, hipsters, skinny jeans, beer, Powells Books, beards, college educated people, volunteers, gardens, vegans, organic food, and just a general attitude about how we are just sooo damn original. We're friendly, but it's difficult to actually be friends with us. In one word, I would describe Portland as "hip". So hip that you will see a bearded man with glasses standing outside Goodwill smoking a cigarette and reading a book....or someone in a coffee shop drinking a hot chocolate reading "Where's Waldo". Also, it is rare to see people dressed nicely...even for work. My co-workers dress like bums and I'm surprised at what people get away with. And yes, I have noticied that some Portlanders can be a bit racist, but I think you see that everywhere.

I really don't think Portland is all that expensive though...
posted by pdx87 at 11:11 AM on November 19, 2009

From UK, lived in a few places in Canada and US, currently living in Seattle, been to Portland a few times in the last couple years.

An artsy, white-as-a-sheet, crunchy-if-slightly-pretentious, a-little-smug-a-little-independent, pot heaven. If you dare to use an umbrella in a rain storm, you'll get funny looks. If you can't grow your own food in your backyard, build your own furniture with your bare hands, or don't ride a fixie, you're one of them. But it's coffee-, bike- and book-friendly, so it's got that if you're into that scene, man.

FWIW, to people who do not live in the Pacific Northwest, many of the same stereotypes also apply to Seattle.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2009

Everyone in Portland is a white guy with dreadlocks playing a djembe in the park.

Am I close?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Portland has a lot of rain, Nordstrom started there as a shoe store. Niketown is/was there, the downtown is very pedestrian friendly. They have a professional basketball team but no NHL. Cost of living is high, real estate prices are outrageous, and you can drive with studded snow tires there.

The library gives bags to carry home books. They do have a lot of bridges, the trees are higher than here in Michigan (where I live now after I graduated from UC Santa Cruz.) Some suburb outside of Portland spawned Tonya Harding. Traffic is terrible. There is a lot of suburban sprawl, it is on the Columbia River. They hate people from California and will ticket speeders with CA plates.

They consider themselves socially liberal but fiscally conservative.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:18 AM on November 19, 2009

I'm in Toronto Canada, and I think my impression is mostly white, granola, "chill"/relaxed.

I've always thought it might be a nice place to live, but I should probably visit first.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2009

And as someone who's lived here for about six years (after growing up in Missouri and spending several years in NYC), I think a lot of the above stereotypes are true -- I know more progressive, coffee-loving, Etsy-site-having, chicken-raising, bike-riding, biodiesel-converting, basement-brewing Kuchinich-idolizing artist/tech-head locavores than I can count.

But of course the reality is more complex, and I don't know anyone who thinks this is completely unique to Portland, or that people everywhere else are dunderheads duped by the Man. And it just takes a scan of comments on the online version of the Oregonian to understand that we've got our fair share of Hummer-driving, non-recycling, bike-hating wingnut birthers here too.

I also sense, even in the few years that I've been here, that the old stereotype of Portlanders being lazy hipster homebodies who aren't serious about their careers is slowly chipping away, for better or worse. The restaurant industry, for one, is attracting people from all over -- and just in the past year the local foodcart scene has TOTALLY boomed. That requires both motivated entrepreneurs and motivated customers.

I'll add that my husband and I are both freelance workers who have the majority of our clients outside of Portland. It's a good place to do that, if that's realistic for you. But people are finding local jobs here, too, though it's still a pretty tough economy.

In short, we know it's not utopia. But we like it anyway.
posted by lisa g at 11:20 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

My only understanding of Portland is from watching Gus Van Sant films, so I picture a lot of teen aged hustlers robbing drug stores in the rain.

But my friends from Seattle tell me that if I like Seattle, I would love Portland.

(I'm from NYC)
posted by cazoo at 11:20 AM on November 19, 2009

I am from Boston. I have an elderly uncle who lives in Portland, OR and I have been there several times to visit him and his girlfriend. I think Portland is a lovely, green, and small city full of liberal non-conformists. My uncle and his girlfriend are both vegans- he's a retired chemistry professor from Reed and she is a retired belly-dance instructor and PETA activitist, and they've been together for decades and never married, and each have their own house but my uncle has rented for his entire life because he's hates the idea of owning property. So they definitely color my impression of Portlanders. The city also has the best bookstore and rose garden around.

As for the rest of Oregon, yeah, lumberjacks and Mount Hood. and a beautiful coastline (Astoria...isn't that where the Goonies was filmed?). Full of libertarians who want to be left alone and don't ask questions, and therefore makes a good hiding place for fugitives.
posted by emd3737 at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hippies. Lots of rain ... and tree-huggers.

I live in Georgia, grew up in TX.
posted by SoulOnIce at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2009

When I did some on-site work in NYC, when several folks in that office found out I lived in Portland, they had the following questions:

"Why? Isn't it just a frozen wasteland?"

"Why would you live there? Is there anything other than Nike there?"

"What would someone DO out there? Is there really anything going on?"
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2009

According to them, Portland is a dangerous place, full of gangs of homeless and (gasp!) minorities who beat your average Jane and John McSuburbington with chains and rob them at knife/chain-point.

I don't know about any of that, but one time we walked out of a gay bar and this bedraggled, barefoot guy, rambling and clearly smacked out of his gourd, eyed us, crossed the street and followed us around and kept asking to talk to us. When we kept walking away, he accused us of not wanting to deal with a "real person". Another time, we were asked for our cell phones by a pair of tall, heavyset guys who also followed us for a block, before we turned the corner.

I don't know what the crime is like, and hopefully I'll never learn, but there are definitely a lot of street people in downtown Portland. Like in any city, some of them undoubtedly will commit crimes, some probably do okay with the missions and other support systems in place there, etc. etc. but there's a contingent of folks who are both mentally ill and homeless in Portland (and Seattle) that I honestly have not seen to anywhere near the same degree in Montreal, New York or Philadelphia. I don't know if that's a fair assessment of how it really is for the Pacific Northwest, but that's just what I've seen, personally.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2009

Portland looks like south Minneapolis and Duluth had a baby.

(from Minneapolis)
posted by COBRA! at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

From Southern California, having visited Portland a few times and now having a friend who lives there:

Portland is a weird mix of progressive folk and do-nothing hipsters. The do-nothing is a problem of the city being a hipster magnet, drawing 20-somethings who are tired of the California life-style, and thus creating a huge supply of relatively intelligent young folks but only so many jobs to go around.

The city itself is really bike-friendly, either by design or because the masses of bikers force it to be so, and has decent public transit. It's a big town that feels small.

Oregonians on the whole hate Californians, insomuch that they fear a mass migration of Californians into Oregon, turning Oregon into nothing more than Northern-Northern Cali, with all the crime and expensive housing you'd assume comes with California.

The state of Oregon is one big lush coniferous forest (though I've heard that the eastern portion is actually a high desert, dry and whatnot, but part of me refuses to believe that).

For me, Oregon is magical and everything I've ever wanted, but with the potential for seasonal depression.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:30 AM on November 19, 2009

I've never been to Oregon and know next to nothing about it or Portland, but here are the impressions I wound up with.

Portland: Like Seattle, but more out of the way. Seattle Jr. "Alternative". Liberal. Bikes. Low key. Cloudy? A quirky show like Northern Exposure could be filmed there. In my blurry, vague, dream impression, there aren't skyscrapers or urban decay. It's all more medium and Carolina-esque. More forested than other towns.

Oregon: forests, rivers, nature, untouched, granola ripening in pods, no people. (if you guys have strip malls and malaise, please just let me keep my forest illusion, OK?)
posted by kookoobirdz at 11:30 AM on November 19, 2009

That it's where alllll the lesbians want to live (from WI)
posted by kthxbi at 11:30 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

My stereotype of Portland is as follows: overpopulated with refugees from white middle class suburbia who espouse progressive vewpoints but can't actually stand to live in cities with people who aren't refugees from white middle class suburbia.

But that could be wrong, and I could be an asshole. The only real thing I know is that the people that I know who live in Portland don't know anyone who was born and raised there. And they lie about how often they ride their bikes.
posted by kensington314 at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2009

Great food, great coffee. Weather like Prague in January but less sunny. Soooo smug.
posted by mattholomew at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2009

As a 20-something Portlander, just wanted to make it clear, as one of the only white people living on his block, as someone who is gainfully employed and not in a coffee shop, as someone who rides a bike but not a fixie, as someone who enjoys the great coffee and micro brewed beer but doesn't wear insanely tight pants, big glasses, or have tattoos, that, while not entirely untrue, much of the aforementioned stereotypes are just that.

of course, i am a transplant who moved here for the hype, is in a band, eats a lot of granola and even drinks PBR on occasion, I'm one of the only white guys on my block because I'm part of the gentrifying, i'm over-educated, and i'm a vegan, so, you know, like I said not entirely untrue. ahem....ahem.

DON'T FORGET STRIPPERS! We love our strippers.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

oh, and one more thing, sorry:

posted by Lutoslawski at 11:45 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Huh..I was in Portland for the first time ever earlier this week, and a native asked me that exact question. My response was (a) green, (b) clean, (c) vegan-friendly, (d) lots of bikes. And (e) I had just read about the marijuana diner (or whatever they're calling it).

From DC.
posted by inigo2 at 11:45 AM on November 19, 2009

If you've ever listened to Tom Leykis, you would believe that the city is comprised mostly of fat women, hence his nickname of "Porkland".

(Frankly, he's not one to talk.)
posted by lemonwheel at 11:49 AM on November 19, 2009

My wife and I were recently in D.C. doing what folks do in D.C. (sightseeing some shopping) a lady at a shop invited us to an artists reception at their store and we declined stating "we are just visiting". She asked us where we were from, and after we said Portland she remarked that "we looked very Portland". My wife asked her what that meant and she sad "you know...his beard and you both have glasses". So apparently most Portlanders visiting D.C. don't shave and have poor eyesight.

I also spent all summer working as a bike tour guide and some of the sterotypes I encountered from folks were:
-The amazement at the amount of homelessness esp. homeless youth
-That Portlanders ride bike everywhere (true in the summer)
-We have gazillions of strip clubs
-We drink a ton of coffee and drink lots of expensive micro-brewed beer.
and my favorite : The lack of a "serious" freeway system means we are not a "serious big city".
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 11:49 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Privileged, over educated, coffee driven, vegan And as matholomew said "so smug" and great scenery in parts. West Va. here.
posted by JayRwv at 11:51 AM on November 19, 2009

Isn't it the lack of people that makes Portland not a serious big city? At just over half a million it's a medium-sized city.

Which is not to say anything bad about medium-sized cities. But they do not need huge freeway systems. Do you ever just want to punch people, Asbestos McPinto? About the freeways, I mean?
posted by kensington314 at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2009

I've spent the last thirty minutes trying to figure out what I think of living here and I can't really get it down right. Type type type... delete. Hmm.

Obviously the pot is pretty good. BYO vitamin D. And your hipster-killer of choice for when the unemployment anarchy really heats up.
posted by roygbv at 12:02 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Grew up in Chicago, lived in/very familiar with LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Honolulu.

I think of Portland as San Francisco's country cousin. It's been described to me (and I think I hold the description in my head as well) as full of "hicksters." Like the Mission ran off to have a baby with Seattle. Or maybe the Mission goes to summer camp.

No, I've never been there.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:02 PM on November 19, 2009

Bikes, zines, microbrews, vegans, indie rock bands, REI. It's like Seattle with better architecture, worse views, better public transit, and no jobs.

I'm from Seattle.
posted by matildaben at 12:21 PM on November 19, 2009

I think Dersins has mostly nailed it. People also seem to think if you go far enough east it's full of crazy white trash meth heads. Also everyone here is obsessed with their dogs.

From the UK, now live in (North) Portland. Before I lived visited here my assumptions could be summed up as bikes, beer, books, which still holds true, wit the addition of coffee.
posted by tallus at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2009

Portland: a good place to ride bikes, thinky, strong DIY culture, nice parks and relatively progressive public space planning, underemployment, and hints of a weird, racially segregated gentrification going on outside the core.

From Ireland, and I spent two weeks in Portland and would gladly move there.
posted by carbide at 12:33 PM on November 19, 2009

I have not read them, but Chuck Palahniuk wrote some non-fiction essays about what people are like in Portland.

You can find them in the book Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon
posted by mmmbacon at 12:40 PM on November 19, 2009

Asbestos McPinto just reminded me: when I was up there I got a couple of "You look like you're from Portland" comments too. Me: glasses, waterproof REI jacket, Dansko clogs, small backpack instead of purse, no umbrella despite the rain. So, there you go.
posted by chez shoes at 12:44 PM on November 19, 2009

Portland is the Transgender Capital of the U.S. -- or so I've been told;)

Specifically, it's where folks go to make "the change." I have this upon good authority from friends who've moved there for this express purpose.

I'm from NYC and live in LA, I've visited Portland a few times.

(I'm sure my impression is not the norm, and might not even be true. But there ya go!)
posted by jbenben at 12:58 PM on November 19, 2009

err... by "true," I mean "statistically factual."
posted by jbenben at 1:00 PM on November 19, 2009

you wear beige and aren't too stylish
you work part time jobs or you work from home
it always rains there
you smoke a lot of weed
you ride a bike
you love the internet

posted by kathrineg at 1:06 PM on November 19, 2009

oh and you have multiple piercings or body art.

I don't know how that squares up with the beige/not too stylish part, but hey, they're unfounded stereotypes.
posted by kathrineg at 1:06 PM on November 19, 2009

A wetter version of Austin, but with hard drugs.
posted by spamguy at 1:54 PM on November 19, 2009

I lived in Portland for five years and nth pretty much everything mentioned about Portland.

One thing about Oregon is that Portland is really liberal and much of the rest of the state is pretty conservative, particularly the Eastern part. I think the stereotype of the people out there, at least in Portlanders' minds, is that they're rugged, outdoorsy, Republican or libertarian...homesteads, homeschooling, chainsaw sculptures, etc. Sparsely populated. Mostly I just know eastern Oregon from driving through it, so I make no claim r/e the truth of these, they're just what I remember as being the stereotypes.

(Have lived in NYC for ~5 years now.)
posted by toomuchkatherine at 2:23 PM on November 19, 2009

Well, I live in Portland and I'm a transplant from Virginia. So take my impressions with that grain of salt.


Lots of homelessness and also lots of social services to help homeless folks. (I worked in homeless services for a while when I first moved here and most of the homeless are also transplants - it's a tolerable climate to live outside in and the services are pretty extensive, so they come from other places on purpose to be homeless in Portland.)

Very green/eco friendly.

Open minded to a fault.

Sometimes it's a little too woo-woo for me. I'm a cynic surrounded by sane people who believe (seriously!) in magic and astrology.

Tattoos and body peircings are normative. As is the consumption of weed.

It's easy to be queer in Portland.

Reading is sexy here, so are bikes.

There are tons of strip bars and porn stores. More so than any other place I've ever visited or lived (including military towns). As the name implies, it's a port town. There's also the history of the lumber industry. I think both of these realities have influenced the proliferation and acceptance of the sex industry.

I don't really get the slacker stereotype. Most everyone I know works or is trying to find work. We tend to not "live to work" here but I don't think that makes one a slacker.

We are serious about our coffee here. But I don't think we're any more fond of microbrews and PBR than hipsters everywhere else are. (this could be influenced by the fact that I HATE beer)

The whole vegan/vegetarian vibe is slowly fading back to normal levels. I'm noticing a lot more gluton and dairy free trends recently.
posted by dchrssyr at 3:30 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've personally never been, but among my fellow urban planners who have, they absolutely love the shit out of that place. If you have been a good planner, when you die, you apparently go to Portland. It gets a bit tiresome hearing about it, to be honest. They describe it like they fell asleep while on a hike through a peaceful, mixed-use forest, had a wet dream, and woke up on efficient public transit.

I'm in New Orleans, which for planners is like you put on four nicotine patches before bed, had a wet dream, and woke up on a bar stool.
posted by gordie at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

Bike- and pedestrian-friendly

When visiting there a while back, I was shocked (as a pedestrian) that cars actually stopped for me to cross at a crosswalk where there was NO stop sign or stop light. Here in South Carolina, you'd be run over sure as shit.
posted by ourroute at 3:46 PM on November 19, 2009

Amazing public transportation.

I'm in Seattle, and I've had friends get all misty-eyed when they come back from Portland and reminisce about their travels on the MAX.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:11 PM on November 19, 2009

Seattle resident for over a decade.

For years I have semi-derisively referred to Portland as "Seattle's pierced, tattooed, lesbian older sister." Also, "The alternate-reality Seattle where Boeing and Microsoft don't exist."

There's more of a DIY attitude in Portland than in Seattle in every industry. People do stuff just because they want to. Where the Seattle food scene was driven by a few crazy chefs in the 90s (notably Tom Douglas) the Portland scene is about a lot of people doing a few specific things very, very well.

Flannel never went out of style.

It feels like there are five panhandlers for every one in Seattle.

Since I'm not in the weed crowd, I can't comment on that. But Portland doesn't seem to have a lot of meth; meth in the Northwest seems more of a suburban-rural problem. Heroin, though. I've seen a lot of needles walking through downtown Portland.

The speed limit is lower in Oregon, but everyone drives like a bat out of hell.

There's considerable Seattle and San Francisco envy, but no one would ever say it out loud.

They stole all the good Seattle bands.
posted by dw at 4:51 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

dw wrote: There's considerable Seattle and San Francisco envy, but no one would ever say it out loud.

Ha! I've never met a single Portland-er who envies Seattle, and I've lived here 40 years now. San Francisco may make us a little misty, but Seattle? Hell no.
posted by jdroth at 4:55 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Second the "like Cambridge, MA but without Harvard and MIT." Also with wussy rainy winters, rather than proper snow. I sort of assume it is more likely to be populated by transplants from Madison or Oberlin than the New York/Boston/SF crowd. So, probably heavier on the outdoorsy stuff, and maybe the average kid riding a fixie is a little more hippie/granola rather than techy/hipster.

Oregon I imagine as a rainier, hillier Great Lakes state; maybe conifers instead of maples. Outdoorsy non-hipsters, famers, and lumberjacks populate the state; they are more conservative than Portland but aren't particularly wingnutty. There maybe be rolling Appalachian-like mountains in the eastern part of the state, with some larger ones?

N.b. I have never been to the Northwest at all, so these stereotypes are not even remotely leavened by reality. (I've lived in Boston and two Great Lakes cities.)
posted by ubersturm at 4:56 PM on November 19, 2009

Here's what I know/have assumed about Portland:

1. It's rainy/chilly.

2. Mixed-use architecture is taking over where large-lawn suburban architecture once reigned—and not everyone's happy about that, despite what they'd have you think.

3. There are lots of bikes, with demand so high that bike prices are inflated. People have suggested bike arbitrage between Portland and cities where demand is lower as a potentially lucrative venture.
posted by limeonaire at 5:07 PM on November 19, 2009

Beautiful, outdoorsy, educated, trees, bikes, techy, progressive, green, clean, stoned, good local food, amazing local beer, excellent pinot noir, intel, wet in the winter, perfect but short summers that outsiders don't know about, hills, volcanoes, nike, strippers, white.

Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver all have a lot in common. Very similar cultures, all stunningly beautiful (though Vancouver wins that competition handily... I can't think of ANY city that tops Vancouver's combination of water, trees, glass towers, and snow-capped mountains). Portland is, of course, smaller than the rest and is currently the "hippest" leading to... well, lots of hipsters.

Portland is white... and Asian. While there is some racism, I don't think it is more than most places.

Portland is NOT expensive. That is a load of BS. Is real estate over priced? Yes. Is it more expensive than it was 10 years ago? Yes. But come on, not expensive in the least. Definitely the cheapest city on the west coast and cheaper than any where in the Mid-Atlantic/NE.

Portlanders don't hate Californians... we just wish that hadn't all moved here.

The Portland suburbs are, I imagine, like most suburbs. But a tad more progressive, green, and granola-y (and pot, obviously).

Rural Oregon... well... yeah. There is a surprising amount of white supremacist activity in the eastern parts of the state. 538 actually did an analysis last election that showed Oregon's liberals were the most liberal in the country and Oregon's conservatives were the most conservative. Sounds about ride.

I miss the West Coast.

/grew up in Tigard, OR, just outside of Portland. Lived in the SF Bay Area and currently live in DC.
posted by alaijmw at 5:22 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Oh, right—and I'm from Missouri. The only place I've been on the West Coast is L.A.)
posted by limeonaire at 5:40 PM on November 19, 2009

Portland is NOT expensive. That is a load of BS.

ssh. don't tell them.

Seriously though, as aliajmw notes, Portland is dirt cheap compared to other so-called "magnet" cities. Anyone who thinks it's super expensive, as some in this thread have done, must be from rural Nebraska or something.
posted by dersins at 5:45 PM on November 19, 2009

My thoughts on Portland: Portland has many roses, and is a very healthy city with cloudy (not necessarily always rainy) weather conducive to walking and bike riding. I'm from upstate NY.
posted by batonthefueltank at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2009

Portland is the Big City.

Well, it was the Big City when I was growing up, so it'll always be the Big City to me. I'm from rural Oregon.
posted by liet at 9:43 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm leaving for a Portland visit on Sunday, will be my 3rd time there. I remember the bike lanes and the Subaru station wagons, not too many of those in Cleveland.
This was a good reminder not to bring clothing that's too nice since it will get wet and nobody cares anyway!
posted by greatalleycat at 10:16 PM on November 19, 2009

Trees. I just think trees. And some nice lakes.

And Clyde Drexler.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:47 PM on November 19, 2009

Dirty hippies.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:44 AM on November 20, 2009

There's considerable Seattle and San Francisco envy, but no one would ever say it out loud.

Hmmm, I've yet to meet a single Portlander who has an ounce of envy for Seattle or the Bay area. In fact, I think most Portlanders are thanking god they didn't end up in one of those.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2009

1. Hipsters with bikes, like in Chicago
2. Minneapolis
3. Kind of a closed-off area that will never accept outsiders.
4. Politically correct

-From Connecticut, lived in Virginia 10 years,
1 year in North Carolina, 1 year in Chicago
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:11 PM on November 20, 2009

I've never been to Portland, but lived in Seattle for awhile and am originally from the Northeast US.

My idea of Portland is a city with a big liberal/progressive/creative population, and also a blue collar, conservative population, and that the two are probably pretty segregated. My idea is also that it rains a lot and there are a lot of glum people.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:43 PM on November 21, 2009

From Portland: not glum. I don't know any more glum people here than I did on the east coast; I know far more cheerful and playful people here than I ever have anywhere else.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:06 AM on November 22, 2009

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I saw a guy in the North park blocks - he was dressed as Santa, riding a unicycle, and playing the bagpipes. This didn't strike me as terribly unusual. That kind of sums up Portland for me.
posted by peep at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

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