Should we move to Portland (OR) or the Twin Cities?
May 23, 2016 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Mid-twenties, starting "professional" careers. Details under the fold.

My boyfriend and I currently live in Chicago. We're both in our mid-20s, with Master's degrees (his in social science, mine in computer science). We like Chicago pretty well, but we've been here for about a decade and will soon be free of academic obligations. (We want to move, Chicago is nice, but we've never been in love with it.)

I'm a junior app developer, he works in publishing/sales but is not committed to a career path. From his interests and work patterns I could see him eventually ending up in government or education, maybe law, but that's his thing he's working out. I'm not sure what the "tech" market is like in either city, or the job market in general, but I have heard that Portland is tough.

Despite both growing up in the Midwest, we've spent a week in Portland visiting, but no time in the Twin Cities that was particularly "vacation-like." (Mostly traveling through, or going somewhere very specific, like a Twins game.) I think it seems like a really pleasant city, but it's hard to tell if people might get bored there. Neither of us is super outdoorsy, but we like having the outdoors. The Twin Cities is close-ish to my family, which is a big plus, especially as we get closer to our maybe-having-kids years.

We thought Portland was a blast, but we were staying in a boutique hotel downtown (on someone else's dime), wining and dining. I had a lot of great food and really enjoyed the down-to-earth vibe; I felt like there was more "excellence" around me than in the Twin Cities, if that's a thing. (No offense! It might just be hiding where I don't go.) I encountered more new/exciting things in Portland, but then again, the whole West Coast was new to me. Everyone seems nice in both places. (I grew up around passive-aggressive Minnesota nice and I'm fine with it.) Portland seems like a difficult place to live, in terms of finding affordable housing, but I don't know how much that stratifies by class.

I think both cities have great public transit. The problem here is that they both seem really similar, with some specific tradeoffs: harder to "live" affordably in Portland but more exciting, easier to live in the Twin Cities but maybe more anodyne. Portland seems like it has a much more active, relevant arts scene, which is cool, but since I am just an ex-poet and not so much an artist this might not be that big of a thing. We do like to feel like we're part of an "alive" scene, for lack of a better word (I'm worried the Twin Cities will not feel like this). We like theater, eating really really good food, politics, poetry, and comics, we like attending readings and talks from thinkers and critics, but we don't care so much about local music. (We like to see acts we know when they pass through town, but rarely check out local acts.) Portland seems like a place where it's easier to make friends if you have the typical ~underground~ interests of 20-somethings, whereas the Twin Cities are a bit more remote and mainstream and maybe tough to make friends in if you're new there.

I'm considering a PhD and he's considering law school but that's all a few years down the road, we'd like to change things up for now while we're not tied to any specific place. My current job has a natural ending point coming up so we're kind of just spitballing at this point. For us, I think we both really like the West Coast vibe (and the proximity to many West Coast cities we've never visited, which is most of them besides Seattle and very briefly, San Francisco), but we also really value the idea of living closer to family. I know you can't make that choice for us, but it would be good to know what the experience of living in both cities is like so we can make an intelligent choice.
posted by stoneandstar to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
 
The weather in the Twin Cities is way more extreme, particularly the winters. If you've been fine in Chicago, you're probably OK, but if escaping cold is on your list of things to do, make that a factor.
posted by Candleman at 2:39 PM on May 23, 2016


Maybe I'm more risk-averse than you are, but when my now-wife and I were deciding between two cities, we applied to jobs in both of them and went with the city with the best job offers. I don't regret that approach.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:41 PM on May 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


We thought Portland was a blast, but we were staying in a boutique hotel downtown (on someone else's dime), wining and dining

So, this is kind of a red flag to me; this was Portland, but it was not Portland. I've had this experience in several places in our fair country. Portland has some serious disneyland districts that are completely unaffordable to live in for even a middle-class family. There are some amazing, amazing neighborhoods out there, but they're quite prohibitively expensive. That's not to say you still don't visit them...but where we live, we have to constantly deal with drug crime, prostitution, burglaries, etc. And our neighborhood is quite 'up-and-coming' with prices that outstrip that status. You should try to, within your budget, examine where you'd actually be able to live in both a best case and worst case scenario. If you're even more able, go back for another visit to investigate if you'd like to live there.

I would really, really encourage you to take a more critical look at how you'd be operating day-to-day. I would venture to say that living and operating in Portland is so drastically different than visiting, it ranks right up there with tropical islands.

Don't get me wrong, Portland is mega rad. But if I wasn't born and raised here, we'd probably move. It's a hard place to get a toehold, and the quality of life for the average human is stagnant at best. Portland is experiencing some serious growing pains, and its not necessarily going to get easier to exist here.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:52 PM on May 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm with craven_morhead - Why have you narrowed it down to two places without any offers on the table yet? We never considered Albuquerque until I got a kick ass job offer here, and we couldn't be happier - it's gorgeous and interesting, and a cheap place to live.

There are lots and lots of places all over the country you would probably enjoy - especially if you enjoy your work and opportunities there. On the other hand, I lived in SF for 4 years and was burned out and unhappy because my job was a drag. I'm having a blast here (and enjoyed my time in St Louis) because I have the time and energy to do the things I enjoy.
posted by antimony at 2:55 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


We do like to feel like we're part of an "alive" scene, for lack of a better word (I'm worried the Twin Cities will not feel like this). We like theater, eating really really good food, politics, poetry, and comics, we like attending readings and talks from thinkers and critics,

FWIW, Twin Cities checks all of those boxes, and especially theater. The food scene here has exploded in recent years.

I love Portland. Would never ever dream of moving there without a solid and dependable job offer. That's true for all places, but especially Portland.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:01 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm going to pooh-pooh the Twin Cities. I'm currently in Minnesota on a project, I've also been twice to visit friends and MAN, do I not like the vibe of the place. I'm stranded out in St. Paul and it's a whole lotta nothing. It's every suburban landscape ever.

Now my friend has a townhouse downtown (it's for rent as she's relocated out of state, hit me up if you're interested!) It's an interesting neighborhood with lots of ethnic restaurants and markets, but I'm still not sold.

I am a fan of getting an offer before deciding on a place.

I've never been to Portland, but I understand rents are pretty high there, although the money should be reasonably commensurate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:06 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Lived in the Twin Cities for 6 years (including college) and have loads of friends who stayed and put down roots (ill be back in a couple weeks for a visit, in fact). Would live again.

My impression is that cost of living in portland is ridiculous and getting crazier - MSP has basically everything you could want in a medium sized/smaller city except, and this is a deal breaker for us, the crazy winters.

After being in NYC for a while when we do go back to the TCs they feel kind of small, sure, but i tend to focus on accessibility and affordability. Maybe 5% as many restaurants open up in a given year there in comparison to NYC, but we only eat out so many times a month so what good is it to have loads more options we never can try - similarly with cultural events, there may be far fewer (though there are still lots) but compared to NY getting tickets is never so ridiculous, it feels like people genuinely take advantage of the amenities and opportunities the city affords in a way that appeals to me, were it not for the winters (neither myself nor my spouse grew up with real winters and were not really all that keen on going back to dealing with them). Wages are lower in MSP than on the coasts, but in proportion to the lowered costs of living you come out ahead, in general (my friends make somewhat less than they would for similar jobs in NYC but their homes and lives cost substantially less).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 3:06 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sounds like you are leaning to Portland, so what can a Minneapolitan tell you to change your mind? There a plenty of hipsters and cool kids and art cooperatives and families and parks and interesting people and mass transit and boutique hotels in Minneapolis - St. Paul.

My sister lives in Portland, I live in Minneapolis. She's an artsy hipster, I'm a salaryman with a family. Here are differences after multiple trips.

Housing is more expensive in Portland.
Art stuff is more prevalent in Portland.
Weather is better in Portland.

Lots more schools and academic-y things in Minneapolis.
Much cheaper to live in Minneapolis.
Great job market for educated professionals.

(All things considered, I would not move to Portland proper but I would move to a suburb of Portland as opposed to moving to a suburb of Minneapolis.)
posted by lstanley at 3:07 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Twin Cities is a great place to live but a tough place to move to. Networks are tight-knit and difficult to break in to. Jobs are there, but it's not going to be easy getting in as an outsider. A lot of people's friends circles go back to grade school. It took me years and years after I moved here to actually feel at home.

On the positive side, as a junior app developer you could afford a decent house in a fun and artsy neighborhood, which is pretty unusual for any city in the US. Yes there are a whole lot of suburban landscapes but places like Northeast or Lowertown have a ton of awesome fun stuff going on all the time. Sure Portland might have better neighborhoods, but you couldn't afford them anyway.
posted by miyabo at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2016


Portland seems like a difficult place to live, in terms of finding affordable housing, but I don't know how much that stratifies by class.
Starter homes in "developing" neighborhoods begin at around 300K. Home prices in my neighborhood have grown 19% in the last year. Unbelievably, the rental market is even more unstable right now. Two years ago I paid $1200/month for my house. In September it went up to $1500. At the end of this lease cycle it is going up to $1800.

Affordable housing is a really big deal in Portland right now. It's probably my number 1 anxiety.

(I love portland, I won't willingly move anywhere else, but every day I'm afraid that I'm going to get pushed out of the city whether I want to or not)
posted by lilnublet at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Portland is a really great city to live in, but housing prices are rising asymptotically. If we wanted to buy the house we bought two years ago but at current prices, we would be out of luck.
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:25 PM on May 23, 2016


FWIW, I read that Portland's rental vacancy rate is something like 2%, which is extraordinarily low, and is leading to astronomical rent increases. I don't believe Portland has rent control. Rents are going up 15% per year, and more in some cases.

(This is also happening in Denver and Sacramento, and has of course been the norm in the Bay Area).
posted by cnc at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2016


You mention future education plans a number of times (grad school, law school). The University of Minnesota is a huge research university (about twice the size of Portland State). Moreover, the law school at the UofM is highly ranked (about #20 I believe). The law schools in Oregon are way down the list, if you believe in rankings anyway. You might want to consider that in your decision making.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:00 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


If I knew what I know now, I wouldn't have moved here. Especially if I had another option that I liked just as much. Portland feels like it's bursting at the seams. Great grocery stores, though.
posted by aniola at 5:06 PM on May 23, 2016


I've been in Portland since the late '70s. Even then, Portland was a desirable place to live, though more for the mild climate and the wide variety of environments and outdoors activities within a relatively short distance (beaches, rivers, mountains, deserts, small towns, etc.) than for any sort of scene.

Consequently, the city attracted a disproportionately high percentage of well educated people, particularly in the professions.

Fast forward, and the local papers are still running articles about Portland's highly educated population. New arrivals are apparently no different.

Being un- or underemployed was and is a tradeoff for getting to live in such a wonderful place. The difference between 1977 (or even 1997) and now is that, as others have pointed out, real estate in the pretty, close-in neighborhoods is very expensive.

As for the suburbs, once you leave the central city you're outside the Portland bubble and you could be anywhere in the US: too much traffic, strip malls, national retailers, tract housing, and so on. You'd still have the same mild climate, but you'd be in a cultural desert and it would take a long time to get to and from the urban core.
posted by A. Davey at 5:21 PM on May 23, 2016


It's really hard to unpick citywide changes from my having gotten thirty years older, but I think the actual liveliness and involvement that *made* Seattle and Portland cool are more likely to happen in a less fashionable city with a decent economy than in a big fashionable one in a boom. It's not just the real estate prices, although those wreck... everything, but that when there was less professionalized stuff going on you could be actually involved in your interests, and lots of people were deeply involved in more than one scene, which led to interesting associations.

If you want to be a consumer of culture, I guess the boom city is better because you can pick and choose and the level of polish is a lot higher. But I recommend participation, if you can swing it.
posted by clew at 6:55 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


My impression (I'm from Portland and live near the Twin Cities now, because academia) is that Portland has a stronger tech scene. However, Portland's also more dependent on high tech to support its economy. The dot-com bubble burst hit Portland really hard, in part because Intel is one of the area's largest employers. The city has grown a lot since then, but it's still susceptible to economic boom-and-bust cycles.

If you move to Portland now, you'll hit the boom part of the cycle. Housing will be incredibly expensive, but you'll be able to find a job in tech to support you. Just remember that the bust may be coming.
posted by yarntheory at 6:58 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Portland has a tough job market, a terrible rental market, wages are not rising as fast as rents, and if you want to get a PhD you almost definitely want to live somewhere else.
posted by hungrytiger at 10:33 PM on May 23, 2016


I'll preface this by saying that I don't know the Twin Cities at all. And I only have 3 years experience of Portland. But I love it - it's a great place to live - food, arts, art, music, cultural-stuff-that-doesn't-have-a-genre-that-I-know-the-name-of. Sure, it's gentrifying, but there is still plenty of real stuff left (my husband is a born-and-bred Portlander so I'm under no illusions). Rents are high (although compared to London - or SF or Seattle - not so much).

The tech job market is good, so you will probably find work easily.

Your husband? Not so much. Not a big publishing industry here. Public sector work? The State Capitol is in Salem, about 50 miles from Portland. Most mid/senior level public sector jobs are based there. The commute isn't so bad in the morning, but is gridlock on the way back (no idea why, it just is). I would not want to commute to Salem from Portland, unless I lived in one of the southern suburbs of Portland. And for me, that would defeat the whole purpose of living in Portland.

So - I'm voting for Portland BUT would recommend that your husband finds a job first (you'll find it far easier). Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 2:38 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here's a website that aims to persuade you to move to the Twin Cities and give you an idea of what it's like: http://makeitmsp.org

The Twin Cities have or are going to soon
have more jobs than people to fill them. There's a strong education sector and we have good restaurants, from more artsy places to international cuisine (lots of immigrants and refugees settle here). The consensus I've heard is it's an awesome place and the cold weather keeps it from exploding.

I've heard it can be hard to make friends but I have tons, mainly not people I grew up with. A lot of it will come down to your attitude and approach.
posted by ramenopres at 5:41 AM on May 24, 2016


I wouldn't actually vote that you move to the Twin Cities, but you've had loads of answers about Portland.

I'm stranded out in St. Paul and it's a whole lotta nothing. It's every suburban landscape ever.

The joke in Minneapolis is that people get married, have kids and move to St Paul. That probably sells St Paul short, but it's definitely distinct from Minneapolis.

We like theater, eating really really good food, politics, poetry, and comics, we like attending readings and talks from thinkers and critics, but we don't care so much about local music. (We like to see acts we know when they pass through town, but rarely check out local acts.) Portland seems like a place where it's easier to make friends if you have the typical ~underground~ interests of 20-somethings, whereas the Twin Cities are a bit more remote and mainstream and maybe tough to make friends in if you're new there.

The first sentence is very much available in Minneapolis. I don't know what "typical underground interests of 20-somethings" means exactly, but I'd hazard that's available, too. (I mean, I'd run into people who are, with a straight face, members of the IWW, and I'm assuming you mean something along the lines of "likes the kind of things 20-somethings on Metafilter talk about".) It is stupidly hard to make friends with Minnesotans. I think just about the only people I knew not from Minnesota who had a bunch of friends from Minnesota were religious.

If either of you are POC, racism is a concern. For context, I'm white, so take me as something of an unreliable reporter. I felt like there was this kind of background noise of racism that got louder and more irritating the longer I was in Minneapolis in a way I hadn't experienced other places. (I grew up splitting time between parents in Chicago and the suburbs, so this is likely ignoring whole heaps of privilege. I don't know if I tune out Chicago's racism because it's always been in my life or if it's so deeply entrenched that people don't say things you'd hear in Minneapolis.) Like... somehow the fact the bus stop downtown used by the buses heading to north Minneapolis is so "crowded" as to need a police presence, unlike any other crowded bus stop downtown. Or I wonder about how my city council district (with its Native American council member) got redistricted to merge with a not-very-adjacent heavily Somali neighborhood just as it looked like there were going to be viable Somali candidates. Then, when a Somali candidate won the DFL endorsement at the caucus (turns out, you can win a caucus by getting your supporters to go, who knew?), the powers that be in the DFL campaigned heavily for the sitting council member and suddenly a bunch of candidates with suspiciously similar names filed. I can't help but suspect redistricting in such a way as to ensure one POC rather than two winning seats was not coincidence, even if they didn't get the guy they wanted.
posted by hoyland at 4:37 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Agree with hoyland. Racism is a thing in MSP, as in much of the US. Hoping it'll get better. There are a lot of wonderful people who don't roll that way, too.

It might not be that much better in Portland. I'd ask around if this is important to you.
posted by ramenopres at 9:31 AM on May 28, 2016


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