Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Don't Move to Miami, Plain and Simple.

"What's it like living in Miami?"

Since moving here over a year ago, I've heard this question numerous times.

Do you want the real answer? If so, read on my friend, read on.


I woke up this morning to an email alert from Blogger about a new comment (seen below) on an old blog post:
How's it going in miami. I'm the random dude from NC who stumbled onto your blog and commented occasionally last year. Just saw this bookmark and thought I'd see how your experience has gone and how your opinion has evolved.

Do you still like Miami? Are you jaded on it like so many message board posters seem to become?

For several years now I have experienced and ongoing fascination with Miami. Not sure whether I want to live there, but it continues to intrigue me. Problem is I have a good career in nc. My wife does, too. Since the great majority of online opinions on living in Miami area pretty simplistic and shallow, it's pretty tough to form a meaningful opinion on whether an eventual move is even worth considering. But your posts are generally insightful. I hope you get notification of this comment and post an update on your experience after having been there quite a while now.

What's it like to live in Miami?

Wherever shall I begin...

Miami is not the city I thought it would be. I moved to Miami, expecting it to be like a North American Buenos Aires. This blog was started years ago when I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a year long study abroad. I resurrected the blog when I graduated college and decided to move to Miami.

Miami is a wonderful place to visit. Coming down for a week in the middle of a cold winter would be great. You can go to the beach all day, eat a great dinner, and then stay up all night partying and watch the sun rise over the ocean. However, living here is another story. The culture shock I have experienced from moving from Minnesota to Miami is 10 times the culture shock from when I moved to Buenos Aires. 

The only thing that Miami and Buenos Aires have in common is that they both speak Spanish as their first language. Beyond that, as you'd say in spanish, "las dos ciudades tienen nada que ver", meaning something along the lines of "the two cities have nothing to do with one another."

Miami has jaded me. I'm not the same person I was when I moved down here. I'll explain.

I read the forums and blogs before I came to Miami and told myself that I would have a different experience. I'd break the usual "Miami sucks" mindset that most out-of-towners have and find a group of great young people to hang out with. Well, approaching my one-year anniversary with the city, I can tell you that I have 100% turned into the jaded out-of-towner who moved to Miami for a change of pace, and now dearly misses where I'm from.

I'm not impressed with fast cars, fake breasts, ungodly big watches, and snobby attitudes. Some people come to Miami and fall in love with it. It's all about flash, money, and perceived status. Coming from the Midwest, none of these values were instilled on me by my parents, and I'm glad they never were. Someone driving a Ferrari in Miami doesn't mean they're a successful person, it just means that they've either saved up the money to rent it for a day and pay the $5000 to appear rich, or they don't get enough attention in their daily life, so they purchased a car they most likely can't afford.

In Minneapolis, if you saw someone driving a Porsche, it was a BIG deal. I probably saw one or two per year, so when I did see one, it was really cool. The person was probably very successful in their life. Down here, I don't even blink when I see a sports car anymore. I can sit on my balcony on any given night and watch, at a minimum, 2 Lamborghini, 3 Ferrari, 5 Maserati, and uncountable Porsche drive by. How many of the people driving them can afford them? Few I'm sure.

I met a Spanish woman who worked for a Spanish bank in the Brickell neighborhood. She also lived down there. We were talking about where I was from and what I was doing in Miami and she told me, slightly paraphrasing, "Don't fall into this lifestyle. I have a secretary that drives a BMW, she can't afford it! I pay her wage, I know how much she makes. I know she can't afford to drive that car!"

When people first come to Miami, they assume everyone is wealthy. That is not the case. Yes, there are some very wealthy foreigners who use Miami as a base of operations. However, in my opinion, the majority of the wealth is just front, or in my words, "All flash, no cash." I could easily drive a Porsche in Miami, if I took out an insanely unwise 10-year loan. However, I was raised in a place where it didn't matter what type of car you drove. The richest family in my hometown drove a new Suburban. Your social status didn't revolve around the car you drove. Here, it's different. People would rather have a car they can't afford, but appear to be wealthy, than drive a car they can afford and make the monthly payments. As my friends and I joke, we've always wanted to yell at some of the douschier guys in Miami, "Hey, why don't you sell your BMW and use the money to move out of your mom's basement."

I used to be a very trusting person. I didn't have to deal with many schiesty people on a daily basis in Minnesota. Most people weren't trying to pull a fast one on me. Here, it's a different story. I feel like everyone has an ulterior motive in their actions. If someone is talking to me about my business, I've come to think that they're internally scheming for a way to take business from me, or just all around trying to pull some con on me. I've given up on trusting people. My good friend from Miami jokes around with me that I'm too friendly/trusting of a person. I think it's sad that locals don't know what it's like to live somewhere where you can actually be nice to people and trust them in your daily doings. It's almost an issue of pride with locals about how hard skinned they are.

However, don't taking trusting and friendly to mean naive. I'm by no means naive. This ain't my first rodeo. I can still tell when someone is trying to pull a fast one on me. I'm not going to fall into the scam of going to cash someone's check because they're having trouble with the ATM, kinda thing. I have street sense when it comes to these issues.

By trusting and friendly, I mean having a conversation with someone and not having to worry that they're somehow figuring out how to make money off you. Now that my business is successful, I can't begin to tell you how many people love to come to me with ideas about how they can help me make more money. Everyone wants a cut of the next guy's success. My question for them, "Where were you three months ago when business was going poorly?" There are so many shady dealings and dealers in Miami that I feel the average citizen has internalized the fact that everyone is trying to scam you.

A good friend of mine recently moved from Miami to Denver, and she commented on how she was initially really weirded out by how friendly everyone was. I feel her pain, and I know it's happening to me too. She said it made her really nervous when people would just talk with her and ask her questions, with genuine interest, about where she was from and what she was doing in Denver. She said she felt really "on guard" because she thought they were somehow trying to scam her or rob her. In reality, they were just being friendly and showing interest in someone else's life story. That does NOT happen in Miami. I had a kid start making conversation with me at Starbucks a few weeks back, and the whole time, I was on edge, just waiting for him to "make his move." Was it going to be to ask to work for me, or tell me he had really good ideas for my company, or something. Nope, he was just interested in talking to me while we drank our respective coffees.

I have a friend who works at the restaurant I worked at for 6 months down here. He's also from Wisconsin, and we always joked around about the vanity of the women in Miami. He's dubbed this city "The Fake Titty City" and its a dead ringer. I didn't know ass implants existed until I moved to Miami. I remember seeing a girl in a bikini in Minneapolis that had breasts implants and being somewhat shocked. Like, "Wow, did you see that girl's boobs?!?" I now think it's strange to see a woman in Miami that has REAL boobs, and normal, not-filled-with-collagen lips. There's natural beauty, and then there is the "Miami 10". This is the term I've coined to describe the women down here that have done everything possible to be considered pretty. Fake boobs, ass implants, face lift, collagen lips, platinum blond hair, etc. The men gawk at them because they're a life-size barbie doll, but under it all they're still not pretty. They've created their "beauty" as opposed to being comfortable with the body/face they were born with.

There is one aspect of Miami that I love, the weather. I've never lived in a place with better climate. It's the middle of January right now and currently sunny and 80 degrees outside. You can't ask for better. I can bike, fish, and be outside year round.

It's probably snowing and miserably cold in Minnesota right now. However, I wouldn't mind being in a St.Paul coffee shop right now, reading a good book, watching the snow fall, and having a good conversation with the stranger sitting next to me. There aren't coffee shops in Miami, only Starbucks. As much as they try to create a great environment, Starbucks can never replace that locally-owned coffee shop with a revolving bookshelf of free-to-read books, a stack of boxes of well-used board games, and some good indie-hipster music in the background.

So after reading all of this, you're probably wondering, "Why the hell is he still in Miami?" The answer is...soon I'm moving. I've decided on Denver. Also a place known for endless sunshine. I can handle the cold winters, as long as snowboarding and sunny skies await. Plus, people who live in snow and bitter cold temperatures are just better people. A Midwestern wakes up at 6am, shovels their driveway so they can back the car out of the driveway, and still makes it to work by 8am. That says something about a person.

Wow, it felt really good to get these thoughts in writing. Is that the answer you were looking for Dustin?

If Miami has taught me one thing, it has taught me what I DONT want in the next city I call home.

It has taught me that my values are great, my moral compass true, my work ethic envied and that growing up in the Midwest wasn't half bad.



DustinSBranham said...

I actually think that was the answer I was looking for, since you ask. There is a sense within me that if I moved to Miami, I would eventually become jaded just as you have. Life is good in NC, and I'm sure life has taught you (as it has me) that nothing breeds discontentment quite like happiness. So perhaps I know deep down that moving to Miami would be nothing more than an exercise in getting it out of my system. That's what you did. It'd just be a lot easier to learn that lesson the easy way: from someone else.

I do appreciate your candid admission that you thought you'd have a different experience when you moved there, but eventually realized that you, too, wound up jaded by Miami.

Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply. I'll take that one to the bank.

DustinSBranham said...

Oh, and I hope you enjoy Denver. Unlike Miami, nearly everyone I talk to who has spent time in the mile high city has loved it.

Bea said...

Oh how I wish I had found your blog months ago! I moved here from Madison and I've never felt like Miami is home. It's too bad I didn't find this before you left for Denver, but I am happy for you and I'm going to keep reading about your adventures. It'll be like living vicariously though you.

Moving to Miami said...

Wow. Great post indeed. I can understand. I once lived in Denver and you're right. People who live in snow zone are very different. Thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

We've considered moving to Miami, my aunt lived in Coral Gables in the 80s and I miss going down there for the winter. But I'm moving from Atlanta and I'm already jaded, used to horrible drivers and scammers out to make money. And even more used to rude people. I just figured latin culture was better than fake hip hop culture, Apple picking and smash n'grabs which have ruined my hometown. I have two preschool aged children, however, so if a move doesn't work it's not so easy to just pack up and leave again

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this post, but I also have to say... It's slightly irritating how Americans think that Miami is just like any city in "Latin America" (as if you could even lump all those different cultures and countries in Central AND South America together to form the stupid social construct people in the US call "Latin"). I understand there are certain linguistic similarities but that does not always translate to culture, architecture, values, etc. New Zealand isn't "just like" the USA just because English is used in both countries.

Magui said...

HI. Did you move to Denver? How do you like it there?

I am originally from Buenos Aires and have been living in Miami for the last 16 years. I like it because I do triathlons and I have a "different Miami lifestyle" but at the same time I do not like the Miami attitude and the hot as hell weather all year round and I am looking at moving to Denver, Boulder or Colorado Springs, probably preferred on that order but it will be based on what job I end up getting.

I will be in all 3 cities next week for a few interviews.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you. Magui.

Patrick Jones said...

Move to Boulder. It's the perfect city for a healthy person like yourself. You'll find just as many tri athletes and bikers, and a LOT less Miami.

Anonymous said...

Lived in Miami all my life,I'm Hispanic so you'd think I would fit in,NEVER DID!!Moved away a year ago and there's very few things I miss,too many things a sane person will not be able to deal with Miami for too long.The people are the city's biggest issue,they've ruined the city in too many ways to list.The traffic is hell and I have no idea why people keep moving there with how overpriced the housing is.

Anonymous said...

Miami native here. This was a nice place to live 30 years ago when it was supposedly a cocaine war zone. At least you didn't have to wake up at 7 am to be able to get in and out of a grocery store in under an hour. You didn't have to constantly threaten and cajole people into doing their jobs. Miami is a beautiful place populated by an indescribably hideous people.