In college one of my favorite professors told me I was the most sophisticated person he’d ever met from such a small town. It seemed like a bit of back-handed compliment but since moving to an urban area I’ve come to understand a bit more of what he meant & why he said that. In any case, just a few days after moving to Raleigh in the summer of 2012 I sat down & wrote out a list of differences I had noticed since moving to NC. I called it The NC Learning Curve & posted it on my Facebook. Since then I’ve revisited that list & realized that most of the things I mentioned had more to do with moving to an urban area rather than simply moving to NC. Over the past almost two years that we’ve been here in Raleigh, I’ve been amazed at how quickly I’ve adapted to living in a city of over 400,000 people & in a county with one million people. It’s definitely been an adjustment, but honestly it’s not been nearly as hard as one might expect considering I grew up in a town with a few thousand people, in a county with 4 stop-lights (we have 5 now!) and one high school. For some reason over the past few weeks I keep having random thoughts in which I stop & realize how much I really have changed since moving here. Maybe I shouldn’t say how much I have changed because it’s not like living in an urban area has really changed who I am as a person. But it has changed the experiences I have & how I react to them.
As an aside, if you grew up in an urban or suburban area, you will probably think all of the things I mention here are just normal. But if you grew up or currently reside in a rural area you will probably understand exactly what I’m saying.
- In my hometown & again in the NRV (where I attended college & lived for the first year post graduation) seeing a BMW, Jaguar, or Mercedes was cause to stare. In Raleigh these are all a dime a dozen. I can often spot a BMW before I even see the logo because there is just a certain look to those cars that I have learned to recognize. When we first moved here, I remember being shocked that there was a Mazarati dealership here. Now that I’ve seen some of the mansions around here, I’m not so surprised.
- One of my favorite parts of this city is its multiculturalism. It’s impossible to go to the grocery store or really any public place without encountering people from multiple ethnicities & cultures. It’s very common to hear Spanish, Chinese, or other languages while out in public. I love it.
- As a consequence of the above, ethnic restaurants abound here. It’s nothing like NYC or other major urban centers I’m sure, but you’ll have no trouble finding Mediterranean, Greek, Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, or Indian restaurants around here. There’s even a new German restaurant in Cary, just outside Raleigh.
- On the topic of restaurants, I’m pretty sure I could live here for the rest of my life & never eat at every restaurant in this city. The choices are endless. My husband & I have found at least a dozen local restaurants that we love but the possibility of trying something new is always fun too.
- Again on the topic of multiculturalism I now work with people literally from all over the world (& so does my husband). We love it. Depending on who’s working, there are some nights when I am in the minority as a white female. Considering nursing is still a profession very much dominated by white females (about 75% of RNs are white from the statistics I’ve seen recently), this is pretty significant. The awesome thing is that we all get along very well & learn from each other on a daily basis.
- Multiculturalism doesn’t just encompass people from other countries. One of the first things I noticed about Raleigh is that so few people you meet here are actually FROM Raleigh. Everyone seems to be from somewhere else & this again makes for a very interesting & diverse city. Of the dozens of people I work with, only a handful actually grew up in this area. Not only are many of my coworkers from other countries but many are also from the Chicago area, other places in the Midwest, New York, Florida, etc. The same is true for our neighbors in our community.
- Perhaps because of the multiculturalism here, interracial dating seems to be very common. Overall I’m sure most couples in this area are still of the same race, but it is very normal to see interracial couples, especially among younger people here. I find this very encouraging.
- A tell-tale sign you’re from a rural area is when you say “We’re going to THE WalMart.” I used to say this all the time because there was only one WalMart & until 2-3 years ago it was a good 20 minutes away. In Raleigh there are WalMarts on top of WalMarts. I rarely go to them anymore to be honest, but I can think of at least 4 within about 15 miles of our house. And Best Buy? Good lord, we have probably 8 within 20 minutes of each other (if the traffic isn’t bad). This is very convenient when a new rock album that I want to purchase comes out because even if only half of the stores are carrying that album I can still find it without too much trouble.
- I pass 5 Wells Fargos on the way to work which is all of a 12 mile journey. Three of them are on the same road. I also pass at least 4 McDonalds, & 2 of them are on the same road.
- Dentists & chiropractors must grow on trees around here. They are EVERYWHERE.
- Seeing trash on the side of the road is a rarity. This used to the norm anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I didn’t even realize how bad it was till we moved here & I realized the conspicuous absence of said trash.
- One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Raleigh was how NICE everyone is. Whether it’s my patients or their families at the hospital or the employees at Bojangles or the mall, by & large people here are just very nice. It is rare for me to be out in public & see people yelling at their kids, cursing loudly, or generally creating a scene. Despite all the time I spend at stop-lights, I almost never hear people playing loud music in their vehicles. People here dress very nicely also. I don’t necessarily mean everyone wears fancy or expensive clothes, not hardly. I just mean that the vast majority of people I see out in public look like they at least got out of their pajamas & took a good look in the mirror before leaving the house. I’m not trying to call people in other areas trashy or gross. I’m just saying I’ve noticed a difference in the general population since moving here & I think it’s worth noting.
- About 2 weeks after moving to Raleigh we returned to the NRV for a friend’s wedding. I remember getting outside of the city on Interstate 40 & realizing there were only 2 lanes of traffic in each direction. I looked at my husband & said “I cannot believe I’m saying this but it seems so weird to only have 2 lanes going each way. Where are all the other lanes?!” Whereas I used to feel overwhelmed driving on highways with more than 2 lanes, I now feel like this is normal & every time I get on an interstate with only 2 lanes going each way I find myself wondering where all the other lanes are & it takes me a few minutes to adapt.
- I now think it’s normal to pass 2 elementary schools on the same road & to know that there are over a dozen high schools just in Wake County. I now realize why all the kids from the Richmond area at band activities used to look at me like I had 3 heads when I told them my county only had one high school.
- Living in Raleigh I now have the chance to actually attend rock concerts. Country concerts weren’t difficult to find in Roanoke but rock bands rarely played there. If I wanted to go to a major rock concert in VA I’d have to travel a good 4-5 hrs to the NOVA/DC area or VA Beach. Since being in Raleigh I’ve been to 3 rock concerts & seen at least half a dozen of my favorite rock bands. A lot of the biggest concerts still go to Charlotte but even that is only 3 hrs away.
- There are at least 4 major malls within 25 minutes of our house, & they are all much bigger than the mall I grew up going to. Shopping at Crabtree Valley Mall, the biggest one, makes me feel poor. It’s still a little weird for me to know we’re living in an area where (some) people can actually afford to spend $300 on a pair of jeans or shop at Swarovski for jewelry. I realize not all of the stores are of that caliber, but obviously there are enough rich people around here to keep those stores in business. I rarely ever go to the malls here, definitely not on the weekends because they’re much too crowded, but it’s worth nothing that they’re here.
- I can now visit DC/NOVA & not feel completely out of place. The traffic up there is still insane & is the major reason I wouldn’t want to live up there, but at least now I don’t feel so overwhelmed while visiting.
- I still hate crowds which is why Raleigh is perfect for me because it’s an urban area that really feels more like a giant series of suburbs than a true city. In fact I remember the first time I went to the salon I currently use & one of the employees asked me “Don’t you think Raleigh feels so small?” I laughed & said “No, to me it’s huge!” She then went on to explain that she had lived in Chicago for several years before coming to this area, so in light of that I can understand why she might think Raleigh feels small. For me it is still a “big city” but I now understand that it is quite different than many cities of this size & I love it for that.
- The farmers market here is amazing! I can now buy fresh local produce that is actually CHEAPER than the grocery store. Whenever I went to farmers markets in the NRV, they were very expensive which as a college student & later as a new grad nurse meant they were out of my price range. It’s a whole different scenario here. One of our favorite activities from April-October is to go to the farmers market on Saturdays & stock up on produce. There are also lots of plants, crafts, & other assorted products. I love Anders Natural Soaps that are based in Raleigh & are sold at the farmers market. There are also 2 restaurants at the farmers market & they’re both quite good.
Like I said at the beginning, if you grew up in an urban area you probably take a lot of this stuff for granted. But those of you who grew up in rural areas know what a different world it really is. I’m not trying to say that urban areas are inherently better than rural areas. Different strokes for different folks is one of my greatest mottos in life. But I for one am loving the urban/suburban life here in Raleigh & I have to say I’m proud of myself for adapting to the lifestyle here. Coming from such a small town I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment even if it sounds silly to those who have no conception of small-town life. In any case I thought it was interesting to reflect on the changes in my life since moving here. Happy Thursday, everyone!
P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, I do still have a slight Southern accent. Maybe more than slight on certain words, ha! And I still say countrified phrases like “don’t amount to a hill of beans” every once in a while. 🙂