Moving to Charlotte NC
October 3, 2011 6:11 AM   Subscribe

New Englander moving to Charlotte, NC for boyfriend's new job. Tell me why I will love it.

For whatever reasons (fear of new things, irrational Yankee prejudice) I'm feeling pretty apprehensive about this move. I have lived in MA or abroad all my life. I am a liberal feminist and Boston is pretty much my ideal city in terms of walkability/public transport, access to green spaces, lots of theater, etc. I would probably be excited to be moving to Asheville, even though it's still very far from my family, because it seems more like my kind of place. But then, I don't really know much about Charlotte yet. Please help me get psyched to live there. I want to really give the city a chance. What places/experiences should I check out? What is great about Charlotte? What's great about the South? How can I find my fellow weirdos?
posted by chaiminda to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The pace of life is much slower in NC than you are accustomed to. It may annoy you at first, but once you become accustomed to it you will likely love it. Despite the right wing politics and religion you will find the people in NC incredibly welcoming and friendly. We moved there (Durham) for grad school many years ago from southern California, stayed 7 years and were devastated when we had to leave for New England. (which we also loved until the cold weather finally chased us out. Relax, have fun, be'll see.
posted by txmon at 6:26 AM on October 3, 2011

NoDa is fun, they have gallery crawls and such. Check out the Common Market, and all the things near it. I bought my girlfriend a painting of a bird made of butterfly wings at a place called House of Africa, so surely keep an eye out for that. Don't live there without a car. What part of town are you moving into?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:50 AM on October 3, 2011

Oh, I see that you are thinking about other things. Move to Chapel Hill! The bus is free here, and the concert lineups are fantastic. Asheville is nice if you have a job lined up and live downtown.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:52 AM on October 3, 2011

Range of interesting accents, amazing barbeque, fast-growing city with a beautiful and accessible light-rail, easy to navigate (485 forms a circle around the city as a whole) but beware of sometimes disproportionately horrible traffic. You can buy beer in convenience stores and wine in supermarkets, not sure if MA has laws against this.

Weather stays warm much longer than in the north, rarely snows. Thunderstorms, especially in the summer, constantly. This can be a plus or a minus, depending on how cool you think t-storms are.

Bout a 6 hour drive to the outer banks, or less if you want to go to one of the less popular beaches. 4 hours to Atlanta and the wonderful Georgia aquarium.

The people may be more friendly than you'd find on average in Boston. YMMV.

I always identified as a northerner but living in Charlotte for a few years made me less jaded in my views towards the south, and I somehow learned to like country music. Just be open minded?

All that said, Charlotte's a very northern city for being in the South, and I doubt you'll see many appreciable differences in day-to-day life.
posted by MangyCarface at 6:59 AM on October 3, 2011

Response by poster: Great advice so far, thanks!

I do not want to have a car. My bf's job is in Gastonia (that's why we want to live in Charlotte) so he'll be using my car; I'd rather rely on public transit--people are not wild about CATS and LYNX I take it? We're looking for a place uptown or to the west, so his commute won't be too long and I'll have shorter bus rides to get around. Of course if I get a job that requires a car he'll have to buy one of his own :)

On preview--everyone seems to have a different opinion on the transit system, but maybe this is down to car culture--I've never had a car and I don't like relying on them, so sitting on a bus for an hour a day is not a big deal to me.
posted by chaiminda at 7:01 AM on October 3, 2011

First off, NC is becoming more and more progressive, due in no small part to liberal feminist Yankees such as yourself. Politically it's still on the tipping point, but by current GOP standards for a Southern state, it's enthusiastically embracing socialism. For instance, at last polling a majority of people don't support the gay marriage ban that their legislature is clamoring for (their state govt is about 10 years behind the times, averaged out), and they went for Obama in 2008. FWIW, I actually think of Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro as more progressive cities than Asheville. Sure, it's got a lot of hippies and it has that mountain air, but I feel sometimes like it's more like southern VA than NC when I visit.

Now, when it comes to city life, they're all still pretty Southern. That means there's a lot of green space, but it's usually because stuff is far away from each other. Public transportation will be nothing like Boston, but I've never used Charlotte's rail so I can't tell you how that is. Be prepared for witnessing crazy and/or stupid drivers all the time, especially in winter.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:06 AM on October 3, 2011

Charlotte's not as old or dense as Boston, I really would not expect to have the kind of mobilization you do now w/o a car. LYNX is new and clean though, but a big part of why it's great is because of the abundant free parking on the outerlying stops. This may be irrelevant as it's very strictly N/S and not be worth the trip if you're out near gastonia. Speaking of which, you may want to live north of Gastonia relative to 485, because in general there'll be less traffic on the outer loop in the morning/afternoon rush for your bf.
posted by MangyCarface at 7:15 AM on October 3, 2011

(fear of new things, irrational Yankee prejudice)

Since you know that you fear new things and have irrational prejudices, but you don't wish other people ill or intend to hurt them, then you can understand that some people you will encounter in your new home also fear new things & have irrational prejudices. They don't wish you ill or intend to hurt you either.

Charlotte has a small-ish but decent music scene, and like Roanoke VA (where I am), it's a sweet location for roadtrips. There's a ton of stuff to do within a 2- to 5-hour radius. Asheville for sure, Knoxville, the Smoky Mountains, the Crooked Road, Charleston & Savannah SC.
posted by headnsouth at 7:17 AM on October 3, 2011

Not Charlotte-specific, but Garden & Gun magazine got some visibility in a FPP the other day, and I highly recommend it for the restaurant reviews and food articles, as well as the stuff they do on contemporary southern writers and artists.
posted by jquinby at 7:55 AM on October 3, 2011

...and I guess I could have made it Charlotte-specific this way. Happy reading!
posted by jquinby at 7:57 AM on October 3, 2011

You will be weirded out by the apparent deadness of central Charlotte. You will immediately notice the implicit segregation/taboo of The Bus, as found in far too many southern cities. You will need to adjust your sense of distance: what looks walkable on a map may turn out to be a couple miles with no sidewalk; Charlotte-Asheville is not a long journey by southern standards, but it's roughly the same distance as Boston-New Haven. You'll be able to find artsy stuff, but you may find yourself wanting a car just to get to it -- and small-venue bands often skip CLT for Carrboro.

You've got nine months to prepare for the summer.
posted by holgate at 7:57 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I do not want to have a car. My bf's job is in Gastonia (that's why we want to live in Charlotte) so he'll be using my car; I'd rather rely on public transit--people are not wild about CATS and LYNX I take it?

Lynx is great if you live and work close to the line. CATS bus service is okay but can be inconsistent. Not every street has sidewalks. Charlotte is a very (very) car-centric place.

I'm a member of the UU Church of Charlotte. Please do come check us out if you're into that sort of thing - there are plenty of liberal weirdos (though our demographic does skew towards middle-aged and elderly liberal weirdos.)
posted by Daily Alice at 8:41 AM on October 3, 2011

23-year Charlotte resident here. Welcome in advance! Please feel free to MeMail me if there's anything specific I can help with, but here are some reactions to your questions/comments:

Walkability - Others have mentioned it previously, but Charlotte is definitely a car-centric city. Picking a close-in neighborhood like Uptown (the PTB prefer we call it, Center City), South End or Dilworth will be great for charm and access to Lynx, but Lynx only goes in a straight line. Buses are fine if you are going to or through the Center City, but really inefficient if you were to end up working in SouthPark, say, or Ballantyne. Honestly, I think you're going to need a car.

Culture - So much more than there used to be. Nice, new museums bringing in interesting collections. Decent second-run Broadway shows (one or two years after they go out on the road) and several thriving community theater companies. Interesting and eclectic music, although probably not the quantity you're used to in Boston.

Food - Lots and lots of interesting, funky, affordable places to eat. All kinds of cuisine. Some wonderful splurges. A strong and growing network of farmer's markets and CSAs.

What Charlotte is not: Charlotte is NOT Durham, NOT Chapel Hill and NOT Asheville. It's much more corporate, much more churchy, much more conservative. That's not to say that there aren't liberal feminists and Unitarians and weirdos, but this is foremost a business town where the power mostly resides with the Chamber and the Fortune 500s. The Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) has a pretty specific culture centered around the universities, Asheville around the arts and the general mountain vibe. I say that not to scare or discourage you, but to caution you that North Carolina is diverse enough that describing it can be a bit like the parable about the blind men and the elephant.

What's great about it: It's really beautiful here. Trees and parks and greenways, azaleas and magnolias, pansies that can bloom all winter. People are friendly. It's easy to get involved; volunteerism and community service are ingrained in the culture. There is a growing interest in cultivating the "creative class." We have two Apple stores and are getting a Whole Foods. Fall lasts until mid-December. Two and a half hours to the mountains. Three and a half hours to the beach. The National Whitewater Center. The Levine Museum of the New South.

What's not great about it really depends on who you ask, and I want to focus on the positive for now.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:43 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The zoo. You must go to the zoo.

Pro-tip from a yankee who was in the south for 5 years, if you want to head off the have-you-found-salvation conversation - an appropriate answer that ends it fast is "I'm Jewish." You may or may not be, but it stops many prostheletising people in their tracks.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:13 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: As someone who has lived in Gastonia and currently lives in Charlotte, welcome! I got terribly used to good public transit and I regret to inform you that Charlotte doesn't really have it. The buses are late, slow and inconsistent on their best days. According to the CATS website my 5 mile commute on the 11 bus should take 20 minutes and arrive on the evens every 20 minutes, it doesn't. Ever. It arrives whenever it pleases and typically takes 30+ minutes.

On the plus side!

The Blumenthal Theatre has some great shows, I get my fill of $5 Shakespeare there (poor college student!) And some pretty spectacular ballet.

NoDa is pretty awesome, it's more the coffee shop/artsy area, so you should check that out.

If you have any questions feel free to memail me.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2011

Charlotte is "a 20-minute city," as in everything you'll want will likely be about a 20-minute car ride from where you are. That's a very different sense of space in the Northeast, so you'll need a car one way or other.
posted by 5Q7 at 12:37 PM on October 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the advice, folks! I feel more interested in Charlotte but it's good to know the realities of the transportation situation. Maybe I'll see some of you there!
posted by chaiminda at 2:10 PM on October 3, 2011

I'm quite concerned that you'll miss the long winters, freezing rain, ice, snow, wind, and short days. You won't need to wear fashionably thick wool sweaters, heavy wool socks and hair-flattening hats with a flatteringly bulky down jacket. You won't need nearly as much attractive, waxy chapstick, and moisturizer for your dry skin and peeling, cracking nails. Also, you won't have many snow days, or get that fantastic exercise digging your car out of the icy snowbank the plow left behind. There better be some darn fine scenery and culture to make up for all this. If you forget how wonderful new England can be in the winter, send me your address, and I'll send you a postcard in February, the longest month of the year to remind you of winter's many charms. or, I might just deliver it in person.
posted by theora55 at 4:12 PM on October 3, 2011

You will need a car. Sorry!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:17 PM on October 3, 2011

I am cracking up at theora55; good stuff.

I am a native of the area who spent most of my relatively short adulthood in NY...10+ years. I then moved back. I think my vantage point is unique in that when I moved up North, I considered myself "superior" to my oh-so-Parochial natives due to my sophisticated and daring move to the Northeast. The truth is, you'll find, especially at my creaky, ancient, thirty-something age, is that every area, no matter how urbane, has its own parochial biases.

When I moved back, I was initially jarred by the religious and conservative overtones. I felt as though I'd been through a wormhole that deposited me in 1952. It was Pleasantville (not NY; the movie). After all, I'd spent my 20's in NY.

HOWEVER. Now that I am an ancient, decrepit person in my 30's, I am thrilled beyond measure that I moved back to Charlotte. Allow ms to enumerate:

-Cost of living is ridiculously low. You can get a nice house in the city for far less than a crappy hamster cage in the city.
-So much green space and trees.
-People are honestly nice, friendly, and helpful. The quality of life due to the friendly and loving natural nature of the people cannot be overestimated. I felt like I was finally relaxing and enjoying life even with transitory consumer interactions. People are happy! They want you to be happy.
-My husband is a born and raised NYer forced to move here and after initial grousing about bagels, even he loves it. Easy "winters," friendly people, great cost of living, easy lifestyle, beach is 3 hours away, everyone talks to you in line, lots of athletic groups (tri, running, etc.), very healthy lifestyle.
-Tons of women head-of-households. You'd be surprised.

You need a car.
You will not feel like you are in a major city and feel "out of it," but I predict your happiness at our easygoing lifestyle will cancel that out.
posted by Punctual at 8:15 PM on October 3, 2011

I am so sorry, but I am on a fucking iPad and I cannot see my edit box in full so I could not complete my answer. I wish you the best with your move and memail with ANY questions. I am a feminist professor who lives quite happily and lucratively here!

P.S. Apple fucking pisses me off sometimes, DAMMIT.
posted by Punctual at 8:18 PM on October 3, 2011

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