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August 9, 2011 7:02 PM   Subscribe

I want to move to New Orleans in December/January. I will be a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree. I don't know anyone who lives there. I'm looking for any advice or encouragement. Where should I live? What are the job prospect like and where should I work? If you've ever moved somewhere you really weren't familiar with, what advice do you wish someone had given you?

I'm a lady in my late 20s. I've lived on my own before but never where I didn't know anyone. I have no husband, boyfriend, children, or pets, so I can pretty much live anywhere. Although I've been there a couple of times as a tourist, I'm not hugely familiar with the city. There's no real reason for me to be in New Orleans, but it's been my dream for many years to live there. Unfortunately, I don't quite know how to get started going about that.

Any advice or thoughts are appreciated. I'm particularly interested in advice on establishing myself with regard to living and working in a new city.
posted by alittlecloser to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is a very big topic. I actually did this thirty years ago and I'm still here, so it lived up to my hopes. It is also not easy to live here but it is magical. The practical questions are the place to start and I'd like to answer as many questions as I can. Do you know what part of town you want to live in or where you are going to work (hospital or other)? There is precious little public transportation and, while it is convenient to drive, parking is difficult in some areas. How much space and what type of housing will you be looking for? I'd also like to offer to exchange emails with you in case you think of more questions or want a continuing e-conversation about this.
posted by Anitanola at 8:07 PM on August 9, 2011

To actually try to answer your question, I'd start to occasionally follow the local papers online, the weekly Gambit and the online daily Times Picayune. Look at Craig's list. When you are interested in a location, check it out on Google Earth to get a better feel for what the neighborhoods look like.

Generally, the part of the city that didn't flood is called "the sliver by the river" and includes the French Quarter and the crescent of uptown stretching to the parish line. The two private universities Tulane and Loyola are in this uptown arc, surrounded by various uptown neighborhoods. The antique and boutique shopping presence is strong in this crescent; the zoo and Audubon Park are here. Here also are the beautiful houses built for the Americans who settled upriver from the French Quarter. Downriver from the Quarter, the French and creole people built the Faubourg Marigny, the first subdivision, which is populated today by a host of creative professionals as well as "starving artists" (and musicians). Usually young people interested in the flavor of the city choose the French Quarter (hugely expensive) or someplace in the uptown crescent or the Marigny. Others have bought and renovated in the MidCity and City Park areas. Some people find they cannot deal with the city proper and prefer the relative safety and, to my mind, relatively soulless Jefferson Parish.

One strategy might be to find a shortish term rental until you are settled in a job and know more about where you want to live.

Please do contact me if you like.
posted by Anitanola at 8:41 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Come live in Algiers (suburb of New Orleans.) We didn't flood during Katrina, there are 2 hospitals in Jefferson Parish (which is next door), West Jefferson Medical Center and Ochsner Medical Center – West Bank.
The big problem will be where will you live. Algiers has some apartment complexes but to be honest if you can afford it I would look into buying a house or even renting one. There are 3 houses on my street which are rentals.
We are across the river so you will need a car to get around but you can park in Algiers Point and take the Canal Street ferry to get downtown.
Anyway, you need to really do some research and decide where you want to live and where the crime is etc. so yeah look online.
posted by govtdrone at 4:26 AM on August 10, 2011

in general "moving-to-a-city-where-you-don't-know-anyone" terms, be prepared for the stretch of loneliness that often comes between the time you get settled and the time you start to make friends. when i moved away from everyone, i neglected to get involved with groups of people who shared my interests for a while, because i didn't think about the fact that i would actively need to make friends. the result was that i was lonely for a long time. my advice: be sure to get involved and make some friendly connections with locals, and cultivate a solitary activity or hobby that you really enjoy.
posted by woodvine at 7:47 AM on August 10, 2011

Can't answer anything about nursing or New Orleans, but I did move out to Montana by myself, not knowing anyone, not even having seen the town I was moving to.

Things that helped:
1. Study a map of the city. Every day. New Orleans is not on a grid pattern, the streets don't run N/S/E/W and IIRC it doesn't have numbered streets. It will be tough to get the feel of it.
2. Make your own map of the city. Get to know where the things are that are important to you. The hospitals, I guess, the stores you typically shop at, perhaps the post office and the library. You can do this on Google maps very easily.
3. I moved before the internet was popular, so I subscribed to the physical newspaper and had it mailed to me. You can read it online, of course. See if specific neighborhoods have their own newspaper.
4. This sounds strange, but get ahold of a physical copy of the Yellow Pages. It will give you a good insight into what type of businesses exist.
5. Find online forums about New Orleans where you can read about the goings on and chitchat with people. Skip newspaper comments.
6. Join a book club, which is almost always more about socializing and less about reading.
7. Take a fun class - cooking, perhaps? Anything that will bring you into contact with people you'd like to be friends with.
posted by desjardins at 8:47 AM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

As far as job prospects, they might be good for you in the long run. There are several medical facilities (Methodist in New Orleans East, the new VA complex, and Lindy Boggs in Mid-City [reopening as a nursing home/small hospital, allegedly], to name three that I know of) that are in various stages of construction/rebuilding. However, none of these will be ready for probably at least 2 to 5 years. Short term, I don't know anything about the job market for nurses.

If I was a nurse I'd probably want to work in the Touro Infirmary area or at Ocshner Baptist, because they're closest to where I live and I don't have a car. New Orleans is doable without a car, but in my opinion only if you live and work near one of the better public transportation lines, i.e. the Canal Streetcar, St. Charles Streetcar, Magazine St. bus, or Algiers Ferry.

If I was moving here right now, I'd look for apartments in Mid-City, University Area, Irish Channel/Lower Garden District, and the general Uptown area. I live in this neighborhood and I like it because it's close to public transport, groceries, and lots of bars, nightlife, restaurants, etc. Rents are generally lower in this neighborhood than between Magazine St. and St. Charles Ave., but generally not as cheap as elsewhere in the city. Craigslist will give you a good idea of rent prices in different areas of town.

This is just a start...memail me if you want.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2011

Thank you to everyone for all the wonderful responses! I've looked around online to see where I might want to live, but it's nice to hear from people currently in the city. I do have a car, so it wouldn't be necessary for me to rely on public transportation (although I'm not opposed to it. I lived in NYC for three years in college and loved not having a car.)

I would really prefer to work in a hospital, particularly in an ICU or critical care setting, but I'll take what I can get since I'm just starting out. I also enjoy working with the indigent population here in the Galveston/Houston area, and I wouldn't mind continuing to work with higher-need populations. (What I'm trying to nicely say is that I don't have to work at the nicest, fanciest hospital in town and would actually prefer not to.) However, I'm definitely one of those who's coming for the local flavor. I'd like to live in an area that's as close to the heart of the city as I can afford.

I also really appreciated woodvine's response. I moved to Austin a few years ago, and in spite of that city's reputation for being welcoming and endlessly interesting, I was really lonely and bored there for a long time before making friends. It's a good thing to keep in mind.
posted by alittlecloser at 10:38 AM on August 10, 2011

Not For Tourists New Orleans has a good overview of neighborhoods for you to start with. Click the link above the city name for the listing of neighborhoods covered at this site.
posted by Anitanola at 12:18 PM on August 10, 2011

I'd recommend living in Uptown, Garden District or Mid-City (as CheeseLouise said). Those areas have some reasonably-priced apartments and a good amount of people your age. However there are some sketchy landlords and also some neighborhoods go from great to sketchy in a few blocks so I'd ask a local if you have questions about a specific place. Please feel free to memail me if you have questions about a specific place or just further questions in general. Craigslist and are really the two places to look online. However like many cities, you find a lot by just driving around.

If you're looking to work with the indigent population, LSU/University Hospital is probably the place to look. The whole situation is very confusing because their main indigent/trauma center, Charity Hospital, flooded in Katrina so everything is the "LSU Interim Hospital" right now. They're working on this big downtown medical complex for LSU and the VA, but it's taking forever as government projects tend to.

However pretty much any facility in New Orleans is going to have a chunk of low-income/underserved/indigent patients because a huge percentage of the population is undereducated/overworked/underpaid.

Since you have a car, adjacent areas to work are Metairie, the West Bank of Jefferson Parish (Algiers, Gretna, Marrero, etc), and St. Bernard Parish. However definitely live in the city. The North Shore has some hospitals in Slidell, Mandeville and Covington but that's quite a commute. A lot of people commute to the city from those places but I think it's too long of a drive, personally.

For jobs look at Craigslist and, and also the websites for the federal gov't city, state, Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish. Also there is a new site called WorkNola. And of course look on each hospital's website. Oh and if you don't know about, I find that to be the best aggregator for jobs.

I recommend getting on the mailing lists for the Chamber of Commerce because sometimes they have networking events. Also 504ward is an organization aimed at young professionals.

In terms of extracurriculars, I don't know if you're into sports at all, but kickball is pretty big here for some reason. There are at least two leaguesPlayNola.

Umm okay I think that was enough posting for me for now!
posted by radioamy at 4:21 PM on August 10, 2011

Surprisingly (to myself) I think I tend to agree with the person that suggested Algiers. My best friend in college grew up there and I often spent weekends at her father's house in Algiers, and it was about what I would imagine for you. Easy access to the city via the ferry or the bridge, established neighborhoods, community-oriented vibe (which I myself know is important in a neighborhood when you are moving to a city where you don't have a network). You don't have to live there forever, but it would be good to have a solid, neighborly, front-porch home base while you get to know the city and discover from your new friends where the best spots are. I've known healthcare professionals who lived in Metairie, but I personally don't know the area well so others I'm sure can offer better advice on that. I also agree with the person who advised against the North Shore; if you have to drive to the city for work the commute will rapidly start to grate on you, and if you work up there you'll never bother to get into the city during your free time.

If you're dead-set on non-West Bank locations, I'd personally go with Uptown or Mid-City, depending on what you can afford. As in most reasonably large, old urban cores, things can go from classy to quaint to sketchy to scary in the space of four blocks, so you really have to see the listings in person to know whether it's someplace you'd be comfortable or not.

You didn't really ask about places to work, but I'll throw this in. My mother was a social worker in New Orleans for years and did a stint at Big Charity. It is getting close to 40 years on from that and she STILL tells horror stories about it at family gatherings. (She is not a hothouse flower type of woman by any stretch of the imagination.) This was mainly in the late '70s, but to be honest I can't think of a reason why it would be any better now. However, I wouldn't think that Houston would be that much different, and if you liked working in that arena there then blessings be upon you. You are much needed in New Orleans, that is certain.

Credentials: I don't currently live there but I was born and raised in South Louisiana and spent considerable time in NOLA visiting friends and just doing stuff there as a young adult. I may be back someday; there's a mystique that's hard to shake.
posted by slenderloris at 7:11 PM on August 10, 2011

Starting with a few neighborhoods, The Uptown Messenger covers Uptown, Audubon and University Districts, East Carrollton including the Oak Street corridor and Riverbend. The most photographed neighborhood outside the French Quarter is probably the Garden District, which is worth reading about and seeing for the architecture and ambience.

Three quick links that might interest you professionally include Loyola University School of Nursing and its online Masters and Doctoral programs for RNs, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Library newsletter, and the Common Ground Clinic in Algiers, a part of the city which someone also mentioned as a good place to live. Definitely take the free ferry over to the West Bank and look around Algiers Point. It's the best free tour in the city with wonderful views looking back across the river to Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral.

There are two wonderful old bookshops which thrive in the city. Octavia Books Newsletter is a pdf but you can subscribe at their web site. The other is Maple Street Book Shop housed in two shotguns side by side on Maple Street. Both are fountains and pools of information and erudition as well as being run by the nicest people in the book business anywhere. To segue on to entertainment, The Maple Leaf Bar hosts the nation's oldest poetry reading group, the Everett Maddox Poetry Society, open to all and held in the courtyard every Sunday. For an introduction to the odd way things are named here, the Maple Leaf Bar is on Oak Street and it is a venerable music venue as well. It's a couple of blocks from Carrollton Station, another music venue (live music weekends only) that is named for the actual streetcar barn it faces at Dublin and Willow. Sometimes there are second line parades between the Maple Leaf and Carrollton Station. The Krewe of phunny Phorty Phellows kicks off Mardi Gras season on January sixth with a streetcar ride party that begins at Carrollton Station (the car barn) an continues down St. Charles Avenue.

The only single screen movie house in the city is The Prytania which shows a wonderful mix of first run, foreign, midnight cult, indie, retro and classic films and serves as a party venue, as well. Another eclectic venue is Rock 'N' Bowl. There is bowling, but it's a music venue and a party place. It's something like a Big Lebowski costume party with really good music.

Speaking of music, Offbeat Magazine does a good job of covering the music scene just as Gambit is the place for weekly schedules of entertainment all over the city.

For an overall view of the city, the music and how things are here, I'd highly recommend that you watch the 21 episodes ofTreme. An essential watcher's guide to this work is Dave Walker'sTreme Explained. For knowledgeable discussion, try Back Of Town. Tracking the music in the show is Music Of Treme.

The festival season has not started yet. Summer is mostly a matter of trying to get through August and hurricane season which is most active August and September. Still, this month there is a list of events. A sampling: Satchmo Fest to celebrate Louis Armstrong's birthday; White Linen Night, a traditional gallery stroll through the Warehouse District art galleries with everyone dressed in white linen and looking uber cool; Dirty Linen Night, in which the Royal Street Galleries are similarly strolled--I'm sure the prescribed attire duly mocks the uptown garb; The Red Dress Run in Marigny, which is a bona fide charity run for which all runners must pay their registration fee and wear a red dress, no exceptions. This is a true sampler of what New Orleans does when there is nothing whatsoever going on.

To round out this perfectly terrible month, there is The Air Sex World Championships at One Eyed Jacks, intending, I believe, to promote a startup comedy venue here.

In this city, most of us do hard and sometimes dirty work, but usually people enterprising enough to move here know about that. What New Orleans has to offer, really, is a broad and deep understanding of the care and feeding of people, all kinds of people, which comes from the multigenerational extended families who have always been here and who nurture this culture. There is also a knowledge of how to create fun which is inspired and fueled by the eclectic artistic community that thrives here, grounded by the family spirit around us.

New Orleans needs helping hands but does try to reward everyone who comes here. If you always wanted to celebrate life, stop and smell the roses, sing and dance in the streets, costume and parade, but were too reserved or shy, even as a child, then you can learn here much about how to free your spirit.
posted by Anitanola at 6:29 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

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