Best cities for single men looking for a fresh start?
February 8, 2012 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Where is the best city for a single male software developer to start over? (Excluding DC, which is where I am now)

I'm in my late 20's and I really feel like I need a change in my life. I'm barely content with my job, and kinda miserable with regards to my social life. I've been in the DC-area my whole life (grew up in the suburbs, now in Bethesda), and I'm at a point where I wonder if the reason I'm not happy is at least a little bit because of this city/area. Perhaps I've given DC a long enough shot. Maybe I don't belong here. Maybe I belong somewhere else. I'm trying to figure out what my best options might be.

I work for one of the defense/federal government contractors and have a security clearance. The DC area coupled with a clearance is great for job security, but really it feels secure as jail sometimes. And looking for jobs is a bit depressing, since all the jobs seem the same. I'd just be swapping one contractor with another. And people seem to put so much value on clearances that it makes me afraid to move elsewhere and risk losing it, which adds to that feeling of being "trapped".

Then there's my social life. I think I could put up with how I feel about work if my social life was more satisfying, but it's not. I've been trying and struggling to make more friends, despite being here my whole life. I've been trying pretty hard for the past few years. The few I do have are also locals and are no help in expanding my social circle. I feel like I'm in a rut. It just seems so tough here despite the fact that there's wave after wave of new young people moving here each year. Maybe it really is just the people this city attracts that I'm not compatible with. In a city this large I know there must be people I'm more in tune with somewhere out here, but I'm not finding them.

And then there's my social life when it comes to women and dating. I had typed something up, but decided to delete it cause it sounded too bitter. Basically it's the same as above. I don't think I connect well with the types of women that are drawn to DC. Honestly though, I am rather shy and introverted which I know makes it tough to make friends and meet women (and I know this is the crux of my problem... but I've read a ton of posts about this type of thing and I think I'm doing the right kind of stuff... or at least that I'm on the right track). Over the past few years I've been working pretty hard to break out of my shell, but I have very little to show for it. Been doing the OKCupid thing, which hasn't been very successful and has been pretty demoralizing. Needless to say, I'm not doing so well in this department.

So I really want to go somewhere else and try starting over. I know Silicon Valley/San Francisco is a great market for tech, but from what I've heard, it doesn't seem to be so great for single males since that's the largest demographic (sausage-fest?). And I've seen some of those lists in men's magazines, but I don't know how reliable they really are since they list many of the CA cities which I've heard are more male dominated.

I'm looking for cities:
(1) that have a good market for software developers
(2) where I can live the "city life" - somewhere with good public transportation where living car-free would be a reasonable option
(3) plenty of opportunities/activities for making friends and rebooting my social life
(4) good opportunities to meet women (attractiveness, personality, and good female to male ratio),
(5) plenty of activities - e.g. I like playing soccer, adult kickball seems to be a popular way to meet people nowadays, meetups (I've never made any friends from these, but I'll keep trying), or dance classes (something I've recently picked up in my quest to break out of my shell)

I know DC is supposedly great for most of these, but I'm not very happy here. Anyway, I'm thinking of, but not limiting myself to, the following US cities:

  - good tech scene, supposedly developers are in demand?
  - women out number men
  - great food/culture
* Austin - I don't know anything about Austin other than I hear it's great and they have SXSW
* Atlanta - Again, don't know much about it, but I've heard good things
* San Diego - loved it as a visitor, but living there might be different
  - Amazing weather
  - I could probably leverage my clearance since there's a big Navy/DoD presence there
  - I don't think I could get by without a car though
  - No ideal how the social or dating scene is like there (I think I heard it can be tough)

These cities seem to have pretty good tech/developer markets, and sound like a good place for a young-ish single male to enjoy life. Am I crazy to think changing cities will make me happy? Can I really leave the only place I've ever lived and leave behind the few friends and family that I have? Can restarting from scratch really work for me?
posted by villafoyager to Society & Culture (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
San Francisco or environs (Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, etc.) are not on your list? Is there a reason why?
posted by rtha at 4:37 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

San Francisco is wonderful for single men, according to my single male friends. San Jose? Not so much.
posted by ohyouknow at 4:37 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:37 PM on February 8, 2012

Well, NYC is reputedly a magnet for startups now.
posted by scribbler at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm really puzzled why you left San Francisco off the list. It certainly fits all of your criteria. A security clearance probably won't do much there, but it sounds like you don't like the culture of companies that need them, anyway.
posted by zsazsa at 4:44 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You sound a lot like one of my best friends -- or at least, your complaints about the DC are sound a lot like his did.

He wasn't an beltway native, though: he moved to DC at age 27 and did some programming and some business consulting for a business analytics outfit somewhere nearby. He hated it: the work scene was pretty uninspired, and the social scene was much as you describe.

After 18 months, he packed it in and moved to Brooklyn where he got a job programming at a start-up. He got the job through judicious use of twitter hashtags, got noticed by a mover-and/or-shaker in the scene, and things fell into place for him.

He is so much happier in NYC (although mutual friends report that he is in that phase where he doesn't want to go do anything that's not in Williamsberg).

He says that everyone he meets in NYC is a "baller" of some kind or other, and it's apparently really inspiring for him.

Am I crazy to think changing cities will make me happy?

Yes and no. It doesn't sound on the face of it like your problems are things you will bring with you wherever you go. I say move.

Can I really leave the only place I've ever lived and leave behind the few friends and family that I have?

You can. People do it all the time. You are one of the rare ones who has lived in the same place your whole life, and while that's beautiful when it works, there's no point forcing it when it's not working. You can always move back -- your real friends will welcome you back. Anyone who doesn't, isn't.

Can restarting from scratch really work for me?

It works for a lot of people. Seriously, don't overthink this. You throw everything in a u-Haul and try a new city. Give it six months or a year and you'll know. You have so little to lose here: if you do it right, you might even be able to get your old job back if you decide to come back.
posted by gauche at 4:50 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I moved from DC to NYC a few years ago. Like you, I was born, went to college and ended up working in the area. I always felt 'off' living there.

I work in IT (though not as a developer.) It was the right choice for me - I wanted a car-free lifestyle and a big city. I also felt that socially, DC was DEAD. I also spent way too much time in my car and that drove me nuts.

I found that my salary was more here than in DC for the same type of work. I also feel like there are more chances to meet people, take part in things, and generally be out in the world.

I'm female, but I had no problem meeting people here. Dating was a lot of fun and I am in a long-term serious relationship now. I actually found dating here a lot easier than in DC. YMMV.

I was always really active in DC, and that has continued here. Lots of great places to walk, bike and tons of group things. I've played soccer here and had a blast.

My only caveat is that the cost-of-living here is higher than DC. Not by too much, but enough that you'll need to earn a little more to have the same sort of lifestyle you have now. And you may also need to have a roommate.

So yes, I think you can be happy being somewhere else. If you haven't, why don't you take some trips to places you might like to live?

Feel free to memail me if you have specific questions about NYC. I'd be happy to help!
posted by carmenghia at 4:51 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

San Francisco seems like the obvious choice. Companies are hiring. Women outnumber men. The City is walkable, with good public transit.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:55 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup. San Francisco. Live in the city, Oakland, or Berkeley, and write yourself a nifty OKCupid profile.

However: DO NOT LIVE IN SILICON VALLEY. It fails most of your criteria (city life, opportunities to meet interesting women for dating-type purposes, ability to get by carfree) as thoroughly as San Francisco itself meets them.

Some people will recommend Mountain View. Their view of the place is entirely too charitable. The stink of suburbia is all over the place, and Castro Street isn't really all that interesting when you compare it to things in cities instead of to other peninsula/silicon valley suburban downtowns.

I'm from Seattle, and as such contractually obligated to mention that it's a fantastic place to live. The infamous Seattle Freeze (where you find yourself with a bunch of acquaintances, none of whom open up enough to become friends) is real, but once you fight through it you'll realize that the city as a whole really does skew much smarter and much nicer than the rest of the country. You'd be doing yourself a service if you flew out there and spent a few days in the Capitol Hill neighborhood/the Pike-Pine corridor. If you're into it (and can take nine months a year of monotonous grey weather), move there. If you're not, move to San Francisco.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:59 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I moved from defense contracting in Princeton to Austin 4 years ago. It's been better on lots of fronts, but I'd lived here before.

Austin can be a car-free city, but that will limit your living and working choices. That said, urban life works well here for many people. Austin is, AFAICT, very much a young person's town. Lots of single-people activities and lots of music-related activities. The University brings lots of students which keeps that going.

If you're coming here in a month for SXSW (and it's a great way to see the city and network for jobs here and elsewhere), there's a job fair:
posted by Mad_Carew at 5:01 PM on February 8, 2012

Portland, SF, Seattle, in descending order of usefulness of public transit.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:12 PM on February 8, 2012

Response by poster: OK, looks like I was totally off base with San Francisco. I guess for some reason I was grouping San Francisco with Silicon Valley. A lot of the responses make it sound like a viable choice. Thanks.
posted by villafoyager at 5:13 PM on February 8, 2012

Here is an article that I was recently looking at that talks about cities and growth of technology jobs. Houston is at the top of the 2012 list. I don't know anything else about Houston! In the past I have lived just outside the beltway, however, and I can sympathize about not feeling connected there.
posted by molasses at 5:23 PM on February 8, 2012

Felt the same way about DC, at 25 I moved to Chicago and didn't regret it for a second.
posted by Oktober at 5:35 PM on February 8, 2012

Depending on which neighborhoods you live/work in, you can live without a car in San Diego, especially if you bike or like/don't mind walking moderate (1-2 mile) distances. Public transportation options here are not as good as in SF obviously but are not bad at all. I can get by with driving only when I'm going up to LA or orange county.
posted by under satellites at 5:46 PM on February 8, 2012

Boston? A great walking/transit city, and based on my friends, at least, single women seem to outnumber single men.
posted by cider at 5:48 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our tech community in NYC is in a truly phenomenal place. It's a world class city for the arts, culture and dating. We have more people passing through two train stations every day than SF has residents total -- you're going to find what you're looking for here.
posted by anildash at 6:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your heart is set on leaving DC, and that's cool; it's not for everyone and it might not be for me, either (I'm on the fence). But have you considered living in the District? Maybe on U Street, or H, or Dupont, or whatever it is you can afford and are interested in? Bethesda ain't DC.

Really, a lot of your criteria are met by in the actual district itself. There are lots of social activities going on every night of the week, a car-free existence is totally possible and indeed almost required, particularly in the denser areas of NW (I live in Adams Morgan and do not own a car). More women than men, and your clearance is still important enough to nearly guarantee you a job.

Moving downtown probably doesn't give you a re-boot, or a totally new scene to explore (if you've been here your whole life, there probably isn't a lot you haven't seen/experienced in the city). But worth a shot, especially in this volatile job climate, where your employment is less than certain in other areas of the country.
posted by downing street memo at 6:40 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Austin meets most of your criteria, but it's hot as fuck and probably not doable car-less as a developer. You may be able to score a government job downtown with that security clearance, but you're more likely to end up working in uberboring northwest Austin, where a car is almost definitely necessary.

That said, it has an awesomely geeky tech scene and is pretty great for singles. SXSW is not at all representative of how the city works the rest of the year.
posted by lunalaguna at 6:53 PM on February 8, 2012

I went from DC to NYC to Silicon Valley. I liked DC and NYC.

I'd say move to NYC. Nothing compares. But it may not matter that much. Wherever you go, there you are.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 7:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify, I don't mean to offend. I'm speaking from experience. Moving wasn't a panacea for me. YMMV. If it's your first move and you're optimistic about it, you should consider it. Get a job lined up first, though.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 7:40 PM on February 8, 2012

Might I recommend Philadelphia? Extremely walkable city, lots of art, culture and great food, and an excellent female/male ratio (15% more women than men in the 2000 census). There are good tech jobs and a start-up culture here as well, although nowhere near as developed as Silicon Valley or NYC. Cost of living is cheaper than San Francisco or NYC (probably cheaper than DC as well). NYC is a $10 bus ride away too. I really enjoyed living in Philly - it was a very manageably sized / priced city, but there was always lots of stuff to do and see (and eat).

And, I don't think you're alone in finding the DC dating environment strange and perhaps not to your liking - there is an interesting dynamic there in that just about everyone is really, really into their jobs.
posted by permiechickie at 7:49 PM on February 8, 2012

OK, looks like I was totally off base with San Francisco. I guess for some reason I was grouping San Francisco with Silicon Valley.

Yeah, despite my mention way up top of Peninsula towns, you don't have to live there, and depending on who you work for, you won't need a car to get to and from work if you live in SF but work in Mountain View (e.g.) because lots of places run shuttle buses.

Data point: I lived in DC for almost nine years, which was about six years longer than I thought I'd be there. Moving to SF at the age of 33 was the Best Thing Ever....well, except for meeting the woman I moved for.
posted by rtha at 8:14 PM on February 8, 2012

Not sure how the commuting by train would be but, Baltimore? I love it there, and it seems to be everything Bethesda is not. Also, what Downing Street Memo said.
posted by cyndigo at 8:22 PM on February 8, 2012

Er and, duh, where I live now ... you might also like Denver/Boulder. There are aerospace/programming opportunities, and it fits a lot of your requirements.
posted by cyndigo at 8:26 PM on February 8, 2012

listen, i'm a DC native too and am or was in a similar situation, fed up with the job and fed up with my social life. but what i did was branch out, and literally get out of my comfort zone. DC really does have a lot to offer everybody. Join some meetup groups, take a salsa class (Barking Dog in Bethesda on Tuesday nights or venture in to Arlington to the Salsa room on Thursday nights). Play ultimate frisbee You will meet people from all walks of life, on all sorts of paths (career and otherwise) you will enlargen your social circle immediately. i'm a chick and when i started dancing salsa or playing ultimate i met a lot of shy, introverted software developer guy types who i thought were awesome. i have so much respect for people stepping out of their comfort zone to learn a few new skills (which are really attractive to the opposite sex) and engage with other people at the same time. Really - you have nothing to lose. I"d say don't leave DC - stay and give it some more time. You have probably family and friends here, don't leave that support network. Or alternatively, if you really want to move, check out jobs in Denver or Boulder, there's government agencies out there and defense contractor work that requires clearances. But in the meantime, really explore all there is to do here in DC and the suburbs of DC, you may surprise yourself. And keep doing OKC. I've had several guy friends meet their match, or at the minimum had a few enjoyable dates. Grow where you are planted (here in the DC area). and if in a year you are in the same place, then up and move, but i swear its a challenge to build a life wherever you go. Why complicate things and have to learn a new city all over again, I say give DC more thought, more of a chance. Good luck.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 8:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I came here to suggest what downing street memo did: maybe you want to leave altogether, but have you thought about moving into the city itself? I really enjoyed living in the district, and didn't have a car just took public transport or taxis.

Also, have you gone to your local metafilter meet ups? I met my now-husband, who does contracting work for the government somewhat similar to yours, at a metafilter meet up at Gazuza lounge in Dupont. I almost didn't go to this meet up because I was tired and am by nature an introvert. Anyway, wherever you wind up, do go to these meet ups -- these are your people! Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:29 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also give my vote for NYC. We sound a little bit alike (age range, introverted, tech industry) but in addition, if you do have friends and family in DC, it really is nice to be close enough to visit. The Bolt Bus, I believe, is four hours and $10-$25 depending on when you book it. And you're nearby other metropolitan areas for a similar deal (Philly, Boston).

Also, the human condition aside, I'm much happier living in NYC than I was elsewhere. I would check off items 1-5 on your list for NYC. However, you're probably going to do that for any major city (though I don't know for sure as I haven't lived in those cities).

So it might be different for you, but for me it comes down to: geographical location (ease of traveling out of the city and what is around worth traveling for [family, other stuff to experience]), relative peace of mind in regards to natural disaster occurrences, the fact that NYC is huge - there's going to be more stuff and more diversity.

As to will moving make you happy? It might! It might not! It might not be a quick fix (at least in the sense of acquiring a social group - but even then you could be surprised). But you know, it doesn't have to be permanent. You're young, relatively unattached, and with marketable skills, why not see what it's like?
posted by lurking_girl at 8:30 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love NYC. It's the city for you. The transit is unmatched. It's just an all-around awesome place to be young, single, and up to have fun. Married with a kid, maybe not so much, but damn I loved being young and single there!

I'm not just talking about dating, either. Friend-wise there seem to be so many smart, interesting, fun people to meet, everywhere you go. It's really wonderful. And people are open to making new friends, no one has the same 10 friends they grew up with--usually they came to NYC because they wanted something new and exciting and interesting, and it shows.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:56 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Easy. Seattle.


(PS -- Security clearance would be great for a job at Boeing, and from what I hear, they're hiring like mad these days...)

(PPS -- New York is fabulous, but for an SDE? I still say Seattle. West Coast at the very least.)
posted by ariela at 9:30 PM on February 8, 2012

Yeah, nthing the things everyone said about San Francisco. It meets all your criteria.
posted by bananafish at 10:34 PM on February 8, 2012

Atlanta or Austin. I picked Atlanta; especially great if you go for the intown neighborhoods. I passed on NYC and SF because they make DC look affordable. Good job market. Dating scene is nothing short of amazing for a single, employed, decent male. Only place we really fall down on is non-existent public transport.

Clearance is very useful here (lots of military bases, Lockheed, huge SIAC facility, etc), but be aware that tying your wagon to clearance oriented jobs means all paths up the ladder lead back to DC.
posted by kjs3 at 11:11 PM on February 8, 2012

Take a look at Portland and Boulder. Both really nice places.
posted by Dansaman at 11:12 PM on February 8, 2012

San Francisco! Great city, lotsa work, and plenty of single women (1/3 of the men are gay). What's not to love?

Oh, and anecdata -- I moved here at 31 to "start over". Two years later, I have my dream job as a senior software engineer in bioinformatics, a girlfriend I'm crazy in love with, and a place in the Mission that people would kill for.

Oh, and the weather's never too cold or too hot.

You should move here!
posted by Afroblanco at 12:59 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pittsburgh is often cited as the most livable city. It has parks, major sports teams, major cultural events (theater, opera, dance...), music festivals (free and otherwise), mountain views, three rivers... and a prosperous software industry as one of the pillars of its economy.

Frankly, not having a car is almost a plus, since newcomers spend at least a year or two learning our bizarre roadways - maps don't do extremely hilly cities justice. We have light rail, buses, Greyhound, and a special "Ultraviolet" bus service for weekend nights.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2012

Oh, and a zoo, aquarium, the National Aviary, a plethora of museums, a cornucopia of young women attending our several universities (who, thanks to the hills, are often quite nice in the leg department!), ....
posted by IAmBroom at 8:45 AM on February 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the suggestions and advice! Even those who suggested staying in DC. It makes me feel like I can't lose either way.
posted by villafoyager at 5:15 PM on February 9, 2012

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