Fish out of water?
June 22, 2008 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Can a liberal, vegetarian, yoga-loving, non-Mormon be happy in Logan Utah?

My husband is considering a job in Logan Utah. I'm really leery of the red state + Mormon combination. On the plus side, I hear it's beautiful there but, I'm afraid that I'll feel like a fish out of water. We're currently living in Tucson which has it's liberal pockets of people. Any comments or insights you have would be appreciated.
posted by TorontoSandy to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by acro at 12:34 PM on June 22, 2008

Probably not. Simply for starters, you're unlikely to be able to find much logistical support for vegetarianism there.

I have a friend who is an ex-Mormon, who even when she was still part of the church and living in Utah felt out of place and ostracized, just because she was somewhat different. She's at best moderately liberal (and I think that with the exception of her pro-GLBT attitudes she's really more of a moderate), not a vegetarian, not into anything new-agey like yoga. Her complaint upon moving to Portland, OR is that she feels like the most conservative person around when she used to feel like the most liberal. You are almost certainly going to feel like a fish out of water there.

Also, I don't really know what the drivers are like in Arizona, but the drivers in Utah are fucking insane. Though my only experience is around Salt Lake; they might not be as bad in Logan.
posted by Caduceus at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2008

My guess is that states like Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana are slowly becoming more open and liberal places to live. They are desirable and beautiful places to live and educated, wealthy, progressive people are moving there from the dying Midwest and over-priced California. So, give it a few years or decades and, sure, it'll be a damn paradise.
posted by billysumday at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2008

I (a kid from Los Angeles) spent my first year of college in Ogden, I left for Sonoma, CA after that because for me it wasn't what I was looking for socially.

Utah is a strange bird, it's gorgeous, the people are terribly friendly (really nice folks), there's a lot going on in the outdoors and in SLC socially. The problem I had (and this may have been just the age range and where I was), that it seemed to me as soon as people found out that I wasn't LDS or interested in becoming LDS, I wasn't worth putting effort in to as far as friendships go. For me there was a problem not with meeting girls, but going out with them when they found out I was unlikely going to turn in to marriage material due to religious reasons. There were of course exceptions, but there's a large community and social life there you generally can't participate in unless you're LDS or on that path, it's just how things were when I was there.

Now, I have a rather large LDS branch of the family, and I do have some friends in Utah still who are LDS. By and large they are all wonderful people, and no different from a strong community with a religious tilt you might find anywhere else in the world (in terms of social views, etc), there's going to be a distribution of viewpoints.

Some companies have moved their operations (and people) in to Utah, creating smaller communities of non LDS affiliated folks and have no problems living in Utah, your mileage may vary in how big these communities/social groups are.
posted by iamabot at 12:53 PM on June 22, 2008

I grew up in SLC in the 70s and 80s. There was a broad and interconnected non-mormon community at the time.

Logan is probably 1/3rd the size than SLC was then and isn't the state capitol (or the center of a world religion) so it's likely to be different. However, Logan is a univeristy town (as your probably know), so that provides an injection of social diversity that you wouldn't expect in a Utah (or Idaho) town of similar size. There is also general migration of people fleeing the high costs of real estate in CA that is shifting the politics of the intermountain west.

How you'd take to it will depend a lot on you. If you are going to be happy having found a pocket of relatively like-minded individuals then you could be happy (a shared identity as outsiders can make that community even tighter). If you'll be overwhelmed by almost always being on the losing side in elections, you might hate it.
posted by Good Brain at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2008

My husband's family is from Logan, so I've been there quite a bit. Logan has 2 CSAs and a natural food store. It may not be a vegetarian Utopia, but you would be fine. There is also a new cafe/bakery that I love called Crumb Bothers. They have amazing chocolate croissants.

While Logan is heavily Mormon, outdoor recreation and Utah State University also bring people there. People who like to rock climb, bike, hike and ski flock to Logan, finding non-LDS friends will be much easier if you participate in any of these activities. I've also found that the majority of faculty at USU are on the liberal end of the stick (at least the ones I've come into contact with).

We consider our area, super liberal western Massachusetts pretty close to heaven, but nearly moved to Logan this year. Logan's biggest problem to me is the winter inversion that sometimes traps smog in the valley.

Feel free to mefimail me if you have any questions
posted by a22lamia at 2:05 PM on June 22, 2008

I have a liberal friend in Logan, Utah and from what she tells me, you should absolutely be very wary. She and her husband tend to keep their own company because everyone is ultra-conservative. They like to drink, so they end up spending time across the border in Idaho on Sundays. When I went there for their wedding, it was easy to see that they have a lot of racist, anti-gay folk there. She broke down crying once in the grocery store because they had no kalamata olives (a favorite of hers from the East Coast) and the woman in front of her had eight screaming kids.

So from what my friend tells me, no don't move to Logan. On the other hand, it's one of the most beautiful places on earth, and my friend lives there, so there's at least one other liberal.
posted by bananafish at 2:07 PM on June 22, 2008

I don't know if you will be happy there, but here are some demographics for you.

Mormon: 80% LDS (higher than the state, 61%, Salt Lake, 50-60%, the US, 1-2%). In 1990, Cache County had the 13th highest percentage of LDS adherents in the country and the 7th highest net numbers.

Republican: 66% registered Republican across the county.

White: 85.4% white. (Tucson's population is ~50% white.)

On a personal note, while I loved Moab, I felt like an outsider in even Salt Lake City. I might've eventually been able to find a like-minded community, but it wasn't a place I immediately felt at home. I think it would have been even harder were I trying to fit into the community at large and start a family there (I was just hanging out with the snowboard crowd at the time). There was something about the "mainstream" culture there that I found off-putting, and it was prevalent enough that the city didn't work for me.
posted by salvia at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2008

I meant to note at the end that I haven't been to Logan, though, so I can't speak to whether or not it feels similar to SLC to me.
posted by salvia at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2008

I think as a folks without kids, it may not be that bad, it'll just take more of an effort to find people like you since it's such a small pool. Not all Mormons are conservative, just a large majority. However, I have friends who lived in Park City (which is likely a way more liberal than Logan), for years and moved back east to have kids. They saw to many of their liberal friends' children be socially ostracized at school for not being Mormon.
posted by pokeedog at 2:40 PM on June 22, 2008

And Park City is in the county with the second lowest percentage of LDS members in the state, at only 37%.
posted by salvia at 2:45 PM on June 22, 2008

In my experience, a not-terribly-liberal, meat-eating, yoga-averse Mormon cannot be happy in Logan, Utah, but that could have something to do with the fact that during the brief time that I lived there it was nothing but cowboys and deadheads, and just about nothing else. Are you a deadhead? Because if you are, and if Logan has not changed in the last 15 years, you'll be fine.
posted by The World Famous at 3:28 PM on June 22, 2008

This previous question had a lot of very helpful info about non-Mormons considering moving to Salt Lake. Also touches on other parts of the state and how to deal with being a non-Mormon among Mormon neighbors.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:35 PM on June 22, 2008

Simply for starters, you're unlikely to be able to find much logistical support for vegetarianism there.

I have my doubts about this. There's a good segment of the Utah population that tends to be very health-conscious (LDS and non-LDS). Morally founded vegetarianism is going to be a hard sell and quite possibly mark you as an antagonist in Utah, but talking about health-founded veggie eating will go over just fine, trust me. Yoga, too.

The problem I had (and this may have been just the age range and where I was), that it seemed to me as soon as people found out that I wasn't LDS or interested in becoming LDS, I wasn't worth putting effort in to as far as friendships go.

I'm going to second that this is a potential problem you could run into, in any age range. There are two factors driving this: (a) social life for many Mormons revolves around their families and congregations and (b) many of their overtures outside of this are missionary oriented. Mormons really want to be people who can be social outside of those contexts, who can be friends without an agenda, and some can even pull it off, but for the most part, (a) and (b) are where the habits are.

So.... how does an outsider solve this problem?

Some people can do it by getting involved in other aspects of community life, ones that *aren't* centered on LDS congregations but can cut across the LDS/non-LDS lines. This is where I think the fact that you're vegetarian, and yoga-loving might actually come in handy. Music and arts can be another cross-community cut. And outdoor recreation is *huge* (as it should be, because it's the best reason to live in Utah).

Logan's kindof a toughie to make this call on. In Salt Lake City, I suspect pulling this off would not be hard for most people with any of these interests. Logan? Well, it's a university town, and as such has something of a cultural scene (and if your husband's job is at the University, then I think that may help you find a place in the community more easily). But it's really more of an ag/engineering school than an arts/liberal education school. It has a surprisingly large number of international students (price for quality of education is hard to beat, environment is fairly tame)... but the diversity mostly stops there. And Logan remains relatively small and Cache Valley, where it sits, is still fairly rural, and very Mormon. Music was my thing in Utah, and so I know about organizations like the Bridger Folk Music Society (are those your deadheads TWF?), but I don't know how much you're going to find set up there for your particular interests.

My advice would be to poke around and see if you can make any contacts in town relevant to your interests as you're trying to make this decision. Craigslist isn't big there yet, but it has a Logan section. See if there's a University department related to any interests you've got. Ask the chamber of commerce about related businesses or community organizations. And ask yourself how interested you might be in being a pioneer if not.

I should also mention that a few people manage to participate in social aspects of LDS congregations without buying into the church. This is possible, but difficult to navigate, and I'd say most of the people who do this try it because they're married to a Mormon or have some other family affiliation, or have social values that more or less make them fit in. A small few do this because they're lucky to stumble on enough real friends inside a given congregation that it's worth some of the fish-out-of-waterness.

The final thing I think I'd consider is.... kids. If you have chosen not to have kids, then you may seem ever more out-of-place in this very family oriented culture than if you're liberal, vegetarian, or a yoga enthusiast. On the other hand, if you have chosen to have kids, you'll also face the challenge of helping them fit in, as well as yourself.

All of this *can* work out, people do it, and some of them even like it. You can find the pockets of people who you'll find interesting, friendly, and even liberal. But it won't work out without frustration, and I think you're wise to consider this stuff going in.
posted by weston at 3:54 PM on June 22, 2008

No, I don't think you'd be happy in Logan.

I think you'd fit in just fine in Salt Lake City - there are tons of people who share your interests here, lots of social groups you'd fit into, and less mormons than you'd expect. (50%.) But Logan is about an hour and a half away from Salt Lake City and about 30 years behind as far as liberalism goes.

Put it this way, I wouldn't move to Logan for a job, and I'm pretty happy living in Salt Lake.
posted by mmoncur at 10:59 PM on June 22, 2008

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