I'm 23 years old and from Boston. Should I move to Tulsa, Oklahoma?
June 11, 2013 5:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm 23 years old, from Boston and am considering moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma. What does Tulsa have to offer for young professionals?
posted by mg91289 to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It would be a lot easier to answer this question with some specifics about yourself, what brings you to Tulsa, and what specific concerns you have. Do you have a job offer in Tulsa and want to know if it's as hip and happening as wherever in Boston you live? Do you know anyone else who lives there? Have you ever visited Oklahoma before? Do you drive? Etc.
posted by Sara C. at 5:26 PM on June 11, 2013

In my experience, moving away from family you care about only makes sense if you're moving to the center of your industry and if you'll do good work once you get there. Basically, don't do it unless you thought Tulsa was awesome before you got the job offer.
posted by sninctown at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2013


For love? For work? For the hell of it?

What kind of person are you? What do you like to do for fun?

This question is the equivalent of the OkCupid question, "Hey." Not enough information.

So, OP, what's your deal?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not a shitty town to visit for a couple of days, but I, a fellow Bostonian, wouldn't want to live there. The Philbrook is a nice museum.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:56 PM on June 11, 2013

Response by poster: I was recently offered a job in Tulsa. I do not know anyone who lives there. I would have access to a car. I am very excited about the job prospect, however, I am concerned that Tulsa will not be a fun or exciting place for me to live, especially compared to Boston.

I am open, social, and like new adventures. I am open to exploring new hobbies. As of now, my hobbies include going to concerts, hanging out with friends, exploring new restaurants, playing sports and outdoor activities (hiking, running, yoga, etc). I love meeting new people and trying new things.

What does Tulsa have to offer young professionals regarding music, bars, art, sports,etc.?
posted by mg91289 at 5:56 PM on June 11, 2013

I don't know much about Tulsa (though I have some friends who are FROM Tulsa and who no longer live there, and who would not move back), but let me warn you that moving somewhere where you don't know anyone is really hard. Do not underestimate how hard it is to make friends in a new city - ESPECIALLY a city like Tulsa, which is not exactly a magnet for young people. In NYC or LA or Chicago, sure, you get lots of people moving there from all over the country - and even then it's really hard to meet people. In Tulsa, as in most medium-sized cities, you're going to find that most folks already have connections and social groups set up, and the social scene can be really, really hard to break into.

If the job is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and in a workplace with lots of other people your age, it might be worth it. But it will be hard, and you might be really lonely, especially if you have a strong social circle in Boston.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:09 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

My friends in Oklahoma are really into the music scene in Tulsa. There are a lot of good bar venues for small touring groups. The big name acts go to Oklahoma City.

Downtown has some beautiful buildings. And there are some pretty good museums in the area (the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks is fantastic).

There are things that take getting used to, like people walking around in hunting clothes all the time, and the churches *everywhere*, but there are things for young, hip people to do downtown.

I'll try to scare up the good link I'm not finding about the music stuff.
posted by colin_l at 6:19 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

As it happens, I'm going to OKC this weekend to help my dad celebrate his 93rd birthday. Once he's gone, I'll never set foot in that state again.

posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:20 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This isn't the link I'm thinking of, but it's not bad.

Other things that are pretty cool in Oklahoma - lots of good Vietnamese food and Asian groceries - Oklahoma was a settlement locations for Vietnam war refugees.
posted by colin_l at 6:22 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having never been to Tulsa, I say go for it. You sound like you're ready for an adventure.
posted by aniola at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2013

You can get a lot of the things you want in Tulsa, though maybe at a less frequent rate than in Boston. If the job is a good opportunity for you and will open doors for you elsewhere, then perhaps it makes sense to do it.

One benefit to living there is that in some professions there is less competition. My friend is married to a man who was able to land a job in his early 30s that would have been unthinkable on the West Coast, because there are so many qualified people there. He built up his resume there, and then they moved.

If you love the outdoors there's some lovely country in the area - Tallgrass prairie, lots of parks, lots of lakes.

There are concerts at the Cain's Ballroom, BOK center, and other venues. Google "Tulsa Concerts." There are plenty of bars. Gilcrease and Philbrook museums are nice.

(I was part of a fantastic social group there, which I found easily).
posted by bunderful at 6:28 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

P.S. Be sure to find a regular volunteer gig or other social group right off the bat.
posted by aniola at 6:28 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

23 year olds should move everywhere they can! It's character building to start fresh. The worst case scenario is you hate it, but learning why you hate it will be invaluable. Go for it!!!
posted by katypickle at 6:50 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have never been to Tulsa, but one of the things that's different about living in a city the size of Tulsa (and far from other places) vs. a city of the size of Boston (and close to other places) is that culture is participatory in a city like Tulsa. In Boston you can go watch a concert chorale every night of the week. In Tulsa, there will probably be a concert chorale group that puts on four concerts a year. If you think there should be more chorale music, you're going to need to find a group to sing in. Or found one. If the city is just DYING for an adult Quidditch league, you go down to the rec center and you tell them you want to start one. They'll help you!

The great thing about this is that you can be a partner in a law firm and also concertmaster in the local symphony. (I know that guy!) Or an HVAC repairman who runs an AMAZING open-air summer concert series of indie and prog rock bands. Or a housewife who runs a bellydancing group. I know all those people. If you're a talented amateur at something, you can play in the big leagues in a small city like that. Maybe just bit parts in community theater, but you get to do the real deal. Rising stars come around doing "cornstock" theater in the summer and local actors get to work with them, which is really neat when then they fly out to see them on Broadway a few years later. The local symphony brings in famous guest artists for two-night events, and you could be a reasonably talented amateur violaist and maybe play last chair and get to meet Yo-yo Ma and play with him.

The downside is, you will not find your desires and tastes catered to every night of the week, and you do have to work for it. You can't just expect to find six cultural events this weekend that appeal to you, like you can in a city the size of Boston. There is simply LESS of everything. Over time you get similar variety, but there may only be one underwater basketweaving seminar ever two years, instead of one every weekend.

On the plus side, there being less going on means you go out to the Ren Faire at the state fairground on the weekend it's in town, just to check it out because there's nothing else really happening, and you see EVERYONE YOU KNOW, because it's the only thing going on! People are more willing to try new and different things because, hey, the only thing on this Saturday night is public-invited star gazing at the university's telescope, so why not? And not only does it turn out to be surprisingly fun, but you run into 12 people you know, two of whom it tuns out are avid stargazers and have this whole area of nerdery you never knew about before!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

You're 23 and now is the time to try new things! Go, try it and learn a lot. Get experience, do a good job. If you hate it you can leave in a year. And you will have another year of experience in your field.
posted by Lescha at 7:20 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having lost my mid-twenties to this sort of nice sounding faraway mid-sized city because of what sounded like a great career opportunity, I have to emphatically agree with goodbyewaffles. I'm sure Tulsa is a wonderful place full of interesting things to do but you'll have to decide how you feel about doing them by yourself because there's a good chance that will be your only option. Tulsans are probably hitting up the Philbrook Museum with the same friends they've had since high school or the families they've started rather than seeing how many Yankee strangers they can strike up conversations with.

If you are a member of a church that is well represented there then you'll have that going for you at least, but otherwise you are going to have to work your ass off to try to make friends and there is no assurance that your efforts will ever be successful. And if they aren't, and you find yourself alone and miserable, it's going to be quite difficult to reverse your decision and move back to Boston. Finding a new job nowadays is nearly impossible in the best of circumstances without the added difficulty of being located thousands of miles away from your prospective employers.

Before moving to Tulsa or any place like that I would research the sort of activities, events, clubs, etc. that you think you will pursue when you arrive and make sure these things actually exist. If you think you are going to volunteer, determine exactly what your volunteering options are rather than assuming that something will materialize once you get there. If you can't find anything now then you probably won't be able to find anything when you're there. I tried my damnedest to volunteer in my Mid-Sized City and unless I wanted to teach English to prisoners, which I really didn't, I was going to have to make the long drive to Nearby Actual Big City, just as I did for most things I wanted to do. Believe me, that gets old very fast.

I don't mean to hate on Tulsa but having been through this sort of experience, I will never again move to a place where I don't know anyone unless it's a big city where I'm not the only one on my own. I found it almost effortless to make friends in Nearby Actual Big City, where I eventually moved, which told me that the problem wasn't really me but is just the way that mid-sized cities are.
posted by ctab at 7:56 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Tulsa. The music scene is awesome... for a town that size. Nothing like what you're used to in Boston. You will need a car to get around. You will probably find it difficult to meet people unless you do it through church. There are some great art museums but not much of an "art scene". For sports- the University of Tulsa has a terrible football team. I think there's a hockey team and a minor league baseball team. No one got excited about sports when I lived there except high school football, which is practically a religion.

Everyone I know who still lives there and is a young professional is already married and has kids or is trying to have kids.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.
posted by entropyiswinning at 8:37 PM on June 11, 2013

Tulsa is not a crappy small city where you have to make your own fun -- don't believe coastal hype about the middle of the country. Also, Tulsa has changed radically in just the 4 years I've lived in OK, very much for the better.

It's a lively small city with an up-and-coming arts scene, a great music scene, increasingly good food, and generally more stuff to do than you can think of. My interests skew high-art, and Tulsa has excellent ballet, opera, art museums, galleries, etc. My friends' interests skew indie music and they're always out. I am 35, but I teach college students (and I'm single, so I tend to hang out with people younger than me in this state) and they all seem to find plenty to do all over, including in Tulsa. I live an hour away from Tulsa and I generally find reasons to make that drive once every couple of weeks -- admittedly, I go to OKC more.

The renovation of the Brady District and Guthrie Green (and this week, the opening of the Philbrook Downtown) has been receiving national attention, google them to get a sense of what's happening. There are also both older and more avant-garde aspects of the Tulsa art scene.

Generally, there's a huge range of bars from beer halls to upscale wine bars so everyone I know has places they like, no matter where they are from.

Tulsa is on the right side of the state for gorgeous outdoors activities, especially hiking and boating of various sorts.

My boyfriend just moved from Boston to OKC and he has found, over three weeks, that his coworkers have gone out of their way to get him involved socially -- we're a friendly state! And I've actually had trouble seeing him because he's so busy :p I moved here from San Francisco, via Michigan, and have loved almost everything about Oklahoma except the politics.

If you get into the art or music scenes then you will automatically have a community, no church necessary. Keep in mind that people commenting that "everyone they know in Tulsa either has or is trying to have kids" means that they aren't actually familiar with the large segment of the population that is actively trying not to have kids! Yes, people marry and reproduce younger here, statistically, but there are plenty of people your age and a decade-plus older (including me!) who are emphatically not going down that road -- I only have one close friend with a child, and I promise I have more than one friend.

This is kind of rambling because it is 2:30am, but feel free to memail me with questions if you like.
posted by obliquicity at 12:33 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

You are going to have some culture shock and have to adjust to some things moving to Tulsa. Same would happen moving to Denver, Seattle, or San Francisco. It could well be a total disaster, wherever you move.

Not moving to stay in contact with where you grew up isn't going to ever be a disaster. You could watch all the changes as they grow slowly like mold, creeping along. I'm the guy who stayed home, but for my time in the Navy.

Really like many have said now is the time to adventure and explore.Oklahoma in my limited experience, is a place really about traditional values. Its about being a part of the tribe. Dissent in ideas or culture gets dealt with like one would deal with a rabid dog, dissenters are likely to just be shot. I'm saying here, don't be a standout dissenter in Oklahoma, its my real advice. Oklahoma folk are kind, good people, and in many ways pure. I trust them, but you wouldn't want to be a stand out activist for something way outside general community values, imo. Really, OK is the reddest state of the union. If you are humble about whatever your position is they might listen. Best to be apolitical or conservative in Oklahoma though, imo. Especially as a newcomer
posted by logonym at 12:50 AM on June 12, 2013

I grew up in Tulsa, moved away for about 10 years, and moved back a few years ago. A lot has changed in even the few years I've been back, and I think a lot of the answers here reflect information that is out of date. Obliquicity's answer matches most closely my experience of living in Tulsa.

There has been a massive downtown renaissance recently, spurred largely by Guthrie Green, the move of the minor league baseball team to the new Drillers Stadium, and the opening of the Woody Guthrie Center, all in the Brady Arts District. These have joined an already-lively downtown bar scene that includes, among others, the ultra-hipster bicycle bar Soundpony (where you can catch local and national bands most nights of the week, for free), Valkyrie (home of craft cocktails), Chimera (vegan and omni coffeeshop/gastropub), and Cain's Ballroom (legendary music venue where indie/midsized bands usually play).

Outside of the Brady District, there are new restaurants and bars popping up in various other neighborhoods in the city core. Off the top of my head, there's Juniper (listed in Saveur's top 100 restaurants), The Vault (50's themed cocktail-focused restaurant), Elote (locavore Mexican), Tavolo (Italian micro-restaurant by the chef from Juniper), and Fassler Hall (German beer hall). Tulsa is home to the best Indian restaurant I've ever been to anywhere in the U.S., and I've tried a lot. We eat out a lot and have never lacked for interesting options (with the exception that there is no Ethiopian restaurant in Tulsa, to my eternal regret).

Career-wise, Tulsa Young Professionals (Typros) is very active and young people are encouraged to participate in leadership at an early age. Most of the big growth is in the energy/oil and gas sector. It's easy to get involved in community groups or get on boards if that's your thing.

Sports-wise, I don't really know because that's not my bag, but I believe there are lots of amateur leagues to join. The most popular sports in my group of friends are soccer (multiple indoor and outdoor leagues exist) and cycling (often supported by Soundpony). The bike scene is really growing, spurred in part by Tulsa Tough, which was just last weekend. It's basically a 3-day street party centered around urban bike races. I've heard it described as a combination of the Tour de France, Mardi Gras, Halloween, and Oktoberfest. That sounds about right based on my experience. Riverparks is the main area where people run, bike, play rugby, etc. Guthrie Green also offers yoga and outdoor exercise classes in addition to their other activities, but that's pretty new.

As you can see from this braindump, I think Tulsa offers a lot. However, I've lived in Boston too, and I would caution that it's a different kind of town. There's no public transportation to speak of and the sheer density of Boston is lacking in Tulsa, where things are spread out and somewhat homogeneous outside of the downtown area. It's a good place to raise a family because it's cheap, but there are a lot of young people too. More and more Tulsa expatriates are moving back and are shifting the culture towards a more youthful feel. But it will never be a giant city and if you come into it expecting that, you will likely be disappointed. Feel free to message me if you have any other questions. /endtulsaboosterrant
posted by hilaritas at 6:35 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

What are your politics? Oklahoma is a deep, deep red state. Boston is a deep-blue city. Some of the people you run into are going to make assumptions that you are pro-abortion and anti-guns, for example, and some of them will want to cure you of that. How well you get along will depend on your actual politics, and whether your politics are important to you.

Also, you will probably get asked a lot if you're a Christian, which can often mean an evangelical Protestant. Again, your answer will affect what sort of friends you make.
posted by musofire at 6:38 AM on June 12, 2013

I forgot to mention that the food truck scene here has really grown recently. The average night for the 23-year-olds I know would involve grabbing dinner at Lone Wolf, catching a movie at Guthrie Green or an art show at 108 Contemporary or Living Arts, and then dancing all night at Soundpony or Electric Circus. YMMV, but I think it's a good time to be young in Tulsa. Your money goes a long way here and it's easy to make friends.

On preview, I have never once been asked if I am a Christian in Tulsa and I attend rallies and meetings for progressive causes all of the time. This may depend on the crowd you run with, but that generalization about red-state culture doesn't bear much weight in my experience. That said, you will read a lot of stuff in the newspaper about Oklahoma politicians etc. that is incredibly stupid and downright embarrassing. So I suppose those people are out there but a young professional in Tulsa will encounter only a wan shadow of the stereotype if my experience is any guide.
posted by hilaritas at 6:50 AM on June 12, 2013

My experience is fairly similar to that of hilaritas. Grew up here, left for ~11 years, came back a few years ago (although leaving this fall for Grad School). Tulsa definitely seems different now than when I was in high school.

I'm awfully tired tonight and a lot of folks have offered some great links for you, but like others have said, feel free to Me-Mail or e-mail me if you need specific recommendations.

FWIW, I spent three nights out downtown last week (and I live 20 or so minutes away from there) seeing Gogol Bordello at Cain's, then Tulsa Tough (bicycle racing) both Friday and Saturday night. There are plenty of laid-back progressive people here that don't fit the stereotype of white upper-class religious breeders. There are also plenty that do. And they co-exist and intermingle like most any other city.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:18 PM on June 12, 2013

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