What should a NJ boy know about moving to Florida?
June 20, 2004 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Well, my family is moving from sunny NJ to Fort Lauderdale, FL (or to be more accurate, the suburbs of it) later this year, and I'll soon be spending a week or so there scoping the area out to see if I want to join them. Is there anything in particular I should keep an eye out for or try out, both for this area specifically and when looking at a potential move in general? Is there anything different or particular that a NJ boy might not know about, good or bad?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher to Travel & Transportation around Fort Lauderdale, FL (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have anything specific about florida, but I'd never want to move there ... way too many retired people. When you're looking at a place to live (i.e house/neighbourhood/apartment complex), make sure you drive there at night at least once, park your car, and roll down your window a bit. It's surprising how some neighbourhoods change at nite. Also watch the body language of the residents ... there was an apartment complex that I was thinking of moving into, because it was right on public transit and otherwise kicked ass, but I did that and noticed that when women got off the train alone, they grabbed their purse in both hands, put their heads down, and practically ran from the train to their apartment. I found out later that there was a lot of crime there, esp assult/rape, and that's not something that the apartment salespeople or realtors are gonna tell you.
posted by SpecialK at 9:41 PM on June 20, 2004

It's kind of a secret, but Florida really *is* in The South.
posted by interrobang at 9:53 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: It's kind of a secret, but Florida really *is* in The South.

Good point. Followup to my orig. Question then: In an area like Ft. Lauderdale (which I assume, possibly wrongly, to be a bit more city-like and younger than average,) would someone like me, pretty active in liberal causes, fit in? Would there be groups to join and such? I don't require my neighbors to think how I think, but I wouldn't want to be the one decent white guy in 1960's Selma, you know?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:58 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: um.. pretend I said that last part less inflammatorily. (sorry)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:24 PM on June 20, 2004

Do you really want to move someplace more hot and humid than Jersey? Make sure your name doesn't match any fellons anywhere, or they won't let you vote.
posted by Goofyy at 11:01 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: To somewhat steer it back, I liked SpecialK's advice about body language. Makes sense.

Was wondering more specifically if there are any good parks, or natural highlights, good fun points of interest worth checking out, lifestyle more or less laid back, etc.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:02 AM on June 21, 2004

Best answer: Here are my sweeping generalizations about South Florida, based on having lived there (Fort Lauderdale area) about five years, in the late eighties and early nineties. Maybe it's different now, who knows:

1. South Florida is NOT anything like "The South." It is much more like a weird combination of New Jersey and Central America. Most of the anglo people you meet will be transplants from the NY/NJ area.

2. These people moved there because the most important thing in their life was that the weather be sunny and warm. This implies a certain shallowness. One way this plays out is that cultural opportunities can be somewhat limited. To a person in their 20s this will mean that if you go down there looking for clubs where interesting bands play, or a lot of funky bookstores, you will be disappointed. South Florida gets left off a lot of tour itineraries. There are exceptions, of course. Fort Lauderdale (downtown) is as good a place to be as any down there, in this regard.

3. On the other hand, there is a bit of a focus on attractive body types. A topless club will never be more than a 10-minute drive away. You may even be near a topless check-cashing store or donut shop, and certainly will encounter the ubiquitous roadside hotdog stand staffed by a woman with large breasts in a bikini. S. Fla is a bit on the sleazy side that way.

4. There are a lot of gated communities, meaning that you can drive around very populous middle-class residential areas for a significant amount of time without seeing the front of a house or a lawn, just a lot of high walls. This gets disconcerting after a while.

5. What you will see driving around those areas are strip malls, anchored by a Publix or Albertson's, and with every storefront featuring the same signage: glowing red letters.

6. There are no hills, or trees that are not plam trees. The landscape can be monotonous that way.

7. There are a lot of older retired people with active minds and a lot of time on their hands. They are aggressive litigators, not to mention shoppers. Do not get in the express line with one or two too many items and expect to sneak under the radar.

8. To quote one of your NJ neighbors in a context that was wholly unintended, S. Florida highways are filled with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive. Meaning, 85-year old women who can barely see over the dash, propelling two tons of steel down the highway at heart-stopping speeds. Often, the heart that stops is theirs. Driving can be scary down there.

9. South Florida is one of the most racially segregated places in the U.S. You will go weeks with the only African Americans you see being day-laborer landscape crews. VERY depressing.

10. S. Florida is home to more than its share of scam artists and money-obsessed individuals.

11. You will meet a lot of nice people. For all of 1-10 above, there is a lack of snobbishness, pretense and class-ism that I found very refreshing. I made more lifetime friends in the time I was down there than just about anywhere I've ever lived.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:30 AM on June 21, 2004 [2 favorites]

One thing you need to know about...Palmetto bugs. They are enormous roaches that crunch and pop loudly when stepped on. They are found in the cleanest of houses.

Actually, Florida is roach heaven for the smaller species as well. All I am saying is that the monthly exterminator is a necessity and not a luxury.

And in reference to what was written up thread, the coastal areas of Florida are mostly transplanted Northerners and such, while the Floridian interior is, indeed, South.

Hope you like living in a blast furnace part of the year. And don't forget your sweater....workplaces, churches, restaurants, they all have air conditioning set to Arctic and you will be COLD.
posted by konolia at 4:13 AM on June 21, 2004

There is a saying in Florida that the further north you go, the further south you are. In other words, the very south of FL is pretty liberal - Key West, Miami, even FLL, but as you head north it gets... well, what you'd think of as stereotypically southern.

I lived one year in Tallahassee (in the north) and it was absolute hell. Beautiful, but horribly racist. I also lived in Tampa (middle of the state, west coast) for 3 years, which was much, much better. I used to say that the only thing wrong with Tampa is that it's in Florida. What Flanders said above is mostly true - they don't call it the state of 'the newly wed and the nearly dead' for nothing. The weather isn't nearly as nice as you'd think - you can barely set foot outside during the summer because it's just too humid. The heat is one thing, but the humidity is horrible. And don't expect to be very intellectually challenged. But it IS cheap. I'm still kicking myself for not buying a gorgeous two-story house by a river in an up-and-coming part of Tampa for $60K. Hardwood floors and everything. Damn.
posted by widdershins at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2004

There's not too much southern about most of South Florida, except for grits at breakfast (don't be shy, they're great), and an occasional non southern accented use of "y'all". Davie in Broward county still somewhat "horse country" and has a more rural feel.

Unlike most of NJ, the area of a city or neighborhood in South Florida can be a state of mind. "Ft. Lauderdale" can mean to some people anything east of Weston (a planned community just east of the Everglades). Beware of this when dealing with realtors, or people who say something is "20 minutes away" because they probably mean "...at 4 AM" and not "...when you're stuck in traffic outside Broward Mall wondering if you will make it to the beach that day".

With some exceptions, I'd go for saying "what stupidsexyFlanders said", but... item 9 (segregation) is not true throughout South Florida at all. You'll find many neighborhoods that are extremely multi-racial, altough that goes more for Miami-Dade than parts of Broward. Beware of generalizations about South Florida because it's a pretty diverse place both in terms of the people and the different focuses and interests in communities.
Also, his item 2 has some notable exceptions, but, yes, you won't be stumbling over antiquarian and used bookstores like you would in, say, NYC.

If you were treated like "B and T" as a jersey boy on your trips into NYC, you'll experience some of that disdain from some of the very same transplanted/vacationing NYC people on your analogous trips down to Miami and Miami Beach, so perhaps that experience will come to be oddly reassuring? :)

Depending on the part of Greater Ft. Lauderdale you live in and especially how much you plan to do a lot of visiting, shopping, or business in Miami-Dade county, learning Spanish might be a good idea.
Enjoy your move and keep us posted on how it goes!
posted by Stoatfarm at 9:08 AM on June 21, 2004

Parkland is rich whitewashed zero-lot suburbia of the worst sort - STAY AWAY from any car with a "P.H.O." (Parkland Homeowners' Assoc.) sticker. Coral Springs, where I grew up, is so obsessed with projecting a squeakyclean image they won't allow billboards; its McDonald's is (IIRC) the only one without the golden-arches sign in the country.

Really great stuff to do in the area is mostly related to the surrounding habitats - snorkeling in Pennekamp State Park, airboating Everglades and thereabouts, diving in Keys whenever you can make the trip.
posted by casarkos at 9:32 AM on June 21, 2004

Response by poster: some really great and appreciated advice here, thanks
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:08 PM on June 21, 2004

Best answer: Palm Beach and south are NOT the south! It's totally NY/NJ transplants, or their children (like me), and lots of old people. Flanders did a great job, but I wanted to add a few things.

I did not find it a mentally stimulating place. (The education system is not great.) I'm sure there are spots/people that are, but in general, when growing up it seemed like a shallow place. That was just my impression though.

It is a very casual place, the only good thing about it in my opinion, but it might be too casual for some. Ratty t-shirts and shorts, with flip-flops. That's completely acceptable. At least in the older areas (I grew up in Pompano Beach). I felt like a bum when I moved to DC.

And the palmetto bugs -- Konolia forgot to mention that they FLY! I hate those damn things. Pure evil.

Now, the weather. In the summer it pours every afternoon. Then you can't breathe (well, I had a hard time). When it's not raining, it's sunny. Not a nice sunny day, but blinding light sunny. S Florida is mostly pavement, so the sun tends to bounce up. You will need sunglasses! The bad thing about this is your car will get very hot. And there are very few shade trees, so your car WILL be in the sun. Then when you open your car doors (which will have been locked!) you will have to start the car, let the AC run for a few minutes, while you stand outside because it's too damn hot inside. Luckily newer cars don't have those vinyl seats, as those are your worst enemy down there.

The winter weather is great. And that's why it will be full of tourists. And you won't be able to get anywhere because all the tourists must drive because there's no real public transportation system. Plus all the snow-birds will be there. So the roads have twice as many people, and going 2 miles will be very painful.

Oh, and distance is different. I grew up oustide Ft Lauderdale and rarely went to Miami as it was too far away.

And driving is a challenge. You have old people (like mentioned above, they are way confident and don't give a damn about anyone else), then young people (who are the same, but drive on the other end of the spectrum), immigrants who come from countries where they probably didn't drive (and are very hesitant), and tourists who don't know where they're going. If you are a nice driver, you will not get to your destination as you will be taken advantage of constantly. You will not ever pull over to help someone, and if you get stuck on the side of the road you will hope no one pulls over to help you. And try not to cut people off on 95 as it might get you killed. In general, it's a place where you don't trust strangers, and is not a very friendly place (go to the mall and see how many helpful people there are; at least this was the case at Aventura, near where we went to college). So be ready for that.

If you want the beach lifestyle, you'll be looking closer to the ocean and won't get one of those gated communities, unless you do condos. Average houses are not very specail looking from the outside. If you will worry about crime (and are put off by bars on windows which is common in Miami), then either a gated community out to the west, or a condo, will be best.

It's a totally different place, in my opinion. Be sure to stay and check out non-hotel/tourist places to get the real feel of the place. Good luck!
posted by evening at 6:41 PM on June 21, 2004

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