I'd like to live in Provistonfansisco
June 24, 2013 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Can you compare living in Boston with living in Providence?

I've lived in Somerville/Cambridge/JP/Boston for most of the last 20 years. I have a lot of friends here, but most are in the suburbs/marriage/kids/house/career mode (I'm 37) and there's a lot less hanging out then there used to be. Additionally, I look around the city and I can't say it's very asthetically pleasing. I like going to Walden Pond (45 minutes thereabouts driving time), and I have had a really nice experience at two sailing clubs I'm a member of (Community Boating and Courageous Sailing). I love a couple of bars in town (Druid and Toad). I like the MFA and the Gardner. And the McKim building at the BPL.

Otherwise, most of the city is wasted on me. I feel as though it's difficult to get out of and go anywhere. Getting around, even without traffic, is pretty painful. Everything is expensive, housing is stressful and getting more so. Having my own place is not possible for me at this point, but the neighborhood I like best (Inman Square) has limited apartments. Having lived here for many years, I can't really compare personalities of people to other cities, but I'm ok with the thesis that for whatever reason, people are mildly less friendly or open in Boston. I also have no interest in Boston sports, whatsoever, and as I get older I find people talk about it even more (this week has been painful).

My current contract is over, I put all my stuff into storage and I'm going to move onto a sailboat for the summer. I'll need to find a job for the fall, but let's assume that it's pretty easy for me to find work (I'm in medicine and I'm in a good position right now). The boat's in Newport, RI right now. I find it really beautiful down there. I've spent some time in Providence and every time I go I find the vibe really lovely and powerful.

I don't want to look through rose colored glasses. So I'm wondering if anyone could compare the two cities. Physically I think Providence is straight up beautiful. There seems to be a really lovely creative vibe there. People I met seem a bit more relaxed and friendly. But I don't really have anything concrete to say about it.

I can sort of relocate at will based on getting a job, so I'd like to take a chance on trying a new place when I get back if I can.

Thoughts? Thanks!
posted by sully75 to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live in Inman Square and now I live in Providence.

Some pros:

-Rent is much, much cheaper. Lots of well-maintained historic buildings with ridiculous amounts of space at maybe 1/2 of what they would rent for in the Boston area, especially in the areas you'd probably find desirable (Federal Hill, the Armory).
-Eating is much cheaper and, generally, better. Lots of restaurants with locally sourced ingredients and very talented chefs. A year round farmer's market with seafood, and in the summer a large number of markets and CSAs.
-Easy to get around; bike anywhere in the city in less than 20 minutes, drive anywhere in less. It's also walkable and, to a lesser extent, busable.
-Easy to get to "nature" (the ocean state and whatnot)

Some cons:

-Having a car is considerably more expensive if you switch to RI plates, due to higher insurance rates, a city excise tax on any owned vehicles, and slightly pricier gas.
-There is more crime in Providence than in Cambridge/Somerville/etc. More boarded up buildings, occasional gun violence in many neighborhoods, petty theft. Varies, of course, by neighborhood, but something to be aware of when apartment searching.

I really, really prefer Providence.
posted by munyeca at 8:56 AM on June 24, 2013

I grew up in RI and lived in Cambridge for a few years in my early 20's. I'm now in SF, so my info is not completely up to date. But FWIW, I love Providence! It's small and charming, but surprisingly lively. There's a good music and art scene (due in part to RISD), lots of good restaurants, and plenty of old architecture. If you're into hiking, your options are relatively limited, but there are good walks and the East Bay bike trail, and obviously plenty of water sports. I do think people from RI tend to stay in RI more than other places, so I wonder if that makes it harder to break into a social scene and make friends as a newcomer adult. I don't know that it's a problem, but it would be good to hear from some folks who have moved there. That said, it really doesn't have a reputation as a snobby or cold town.
posted by pompelmo at 9:29 AM on June 24, 2013

I moved from Inman Square (I worked at the 1369 and drank at the Druid all the time!) to Providence way back in 1998. Providence was orders of magnitude cheaper, and the relaxed, artsy vibe was true. It's got a small-town feel to it, and communities are very close-knit and cohesive. I didn't totally love it, mostly because I moved there to be closer to a guy and not because I myself really wanted to go there, but I remember it fondly.

That said, once your sailboat isn't hanging out in Newport for the summer to entice them, your friends from Boston will never, ever come visit. There may as well be a moat full of alligators dug all around 128 keeping people in. No matter how often you say, "But seriously, it's only an hour's drive door-to-door! There's also a train!", every time you want to hang out you'll have to go to them.
posted by jesourie at 9:35 AM on June 24, 2013

It might depend on what you do for a living, too, which is worth considering. Rhodey's economy is simply smaller, though there's plenty of .edu jobs.

Just outside of Providence there are plenty of places to hike or camp or paddle or geocache -- which is a fine way to get to know the area better! Having a car is at least as important here as it is in Boston because there's much less public transport. There is good music and lots of restaurants, though fewer cultural attractions overall. There's a good tech scene (from what I have seen), plenty of good coffee, and of course AS220 is awesome. And there's good beer in the area, too.

I lived in Boston from 1990 to 1996, and then in Norwood for four or five more years, and now I live in a suburb of Providence; I have also acquired a bunch of kids in that time. :7) So my interests may no longer align perfectly with yours. That said, Providence is a neat place.

Is it better than Boston? Well, let me say this: when we were looking for a hospital this spring to have a procedure done, I told my wife that the Providence hospitals would be just fine... Except that we have the Boston hospitals to compare them to -- at which point, why would you stay down here? And I find myself thinking that same idea about a lot of stuff. *shrug*

It would all be easier if you had family or friends here: a LOT of stuff in Rhode Island seems to pivot on who you know or where you grew up. [N.b.: I am not from here, but my wife is, so I had a ready-made network when we moved here.] Give it a try, nothing's permanent, right?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2013

Your general impression of Providence seems accurate-- Providence is artsy (you said you like the MFA) -- it has some of the most diverse architecture around and also has RISD. There are some decent state parks nearby, and Newport is fairly close. Like Boston, it is home to many universities, though Boston probably has a more highly educated population on average. There are some nice neighborhoods in Providence... The Fox Point neighborhood is pretty charming, as is the East Side (it seems like lots of people in medicine live there); I believe those areas have relatively lower crime rates. Sure, they are more expensive to live in as well, but should be affordable compared to Boston.

The drawback of Providence, in my opinion, is that you pretty much have to go to Boston or NY (about three hours by car) to fly out. There's Southwest Airlines which can help, but as a whole it can be annoying. Providence also doesn't allow overnight street parking, which might be good for safety but can be a hassle as well (although this policy affects visitors far more than residents, of course).

I haven't lived in Boston, so I can't really compare the two. Since it's only a train ride away, I imagine you could still easily stay in touch with your friends in Boston. :) (But like jesourie said above, it's probably more likely that you'll visit Boston instead of your Boston friends visiting you.)
posted by gemutlichkeit at 2:47 PM on June 26, 2013

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