Moving to any new place is a huge decision that warrants lots of research and careful consideration. But moving to one of the country’s biggest, oldest and most important cities? Well, that’s on a whole other level.
It’s important that you don’t just look at salesy or romantic write-ups that sugarcoat everything. No place is perfect, including Chicago. So take the time to learn the plusses and minuses, visit and talk to some locals to get the real lowdown. And if you’re looking for where to start… well, you’re already in the right place.
1. Yes, it is as cold as people say
What you’ve heard isn’t an exaggeration just to make us sound tough. Chicago winters can be truly brutal, with wind chills getting down to double digit negative numbers. If you’re from a place where wind chill isn’t really a thing, you should know that we always talk about temperature and windchill because the latter is what it actually feels like due to the strength of the wind. So, the temperature can be 9 degrees but it feels like -20.
On the upside, this extreme weather does tend to bring people together. Perfect strangers will dig your car out of a snowbank and expect nothing more than a heartfelt thanks; neighbors will shovel and salt each other’s walkways just to be nice; and sometimes a do-gooder will clear a bunch of parking spaces on your block out of the goodness of their heart. This kind of thing makes our communities feel stronger, which is pretty cool.
2. Summers make it worth it
If you’re wondering at this point why people live here at all, then you have to remember that Chicago summers are glorious. The weather is generally pretty awesome from May to September or October. And believe me when I say we take advantage of it while we can. From spring to fall, you can basically live outside thanks to all the amazing street festivals, restaurant patios and outdoor events.It’s tough to be cooped up all winter, but the rest of the year makes up for it.
3. You might be better off without a car
Depending on where you will live and work, you might want to ditch your car. Chicago is lucky to be home to an excellent, comprehensive public transportation system that can take you all over the city without the hassle of parking. Some areas are easier to park in than others, but you should expect to pay hundreds of dollars a month for your own parking spot, unless your rental or home purchase includes it. If you decide not to bring a car, just be sure to look for a home that’s within walking distance of the bus or train you’ll need to get to work.
4. Only one part of the city looks like a big metropolis
In your head, Chicago may be covered in skyscrapers from north to south. In reality, it’s not at all the case. The Loop is like that, but it’s only one area of a huge city. The rest of Chicago is made up of unique, residential neighborhoods where most of the buildings are 2-3 stories high. Of course there are some apartment towers and larger commercial buildings in other areas, but they’re not the norm in most of the city.
5. Our neighborhoods are everything
It’s important to know that neighborhoods are a really big deal to Chicagoans. Since each area is very different, the one you choose to call home can say a lot about you. And though we explore different neighborhoods, our own areas become like a homebase for shopping, eating and socializing. That said, take the time to learn about and see several different neighborhoods before choosing where to live. Start with our neighborhood guide to get a lay of the land.
6. There is, literally, always something fun going on
If Chicago has any problem when it comes to getting out and doing things, it’s that there’s too much to choose from. Whatever you’re into, we’ve got it here – sports, comedy, music, dance, theater, art, beer, games, nature, fine dining, history, animals… this list could go on forever, so we’ll move on. Just rest assured that it’s a wildly diverse city that’s bursting with culture and activities of every type. It’s also good to note that there are lots of social clubs that make it easy to meet new people who like the same things you do.
7. Renting & owning is cheaper than in most major cities
No major city is “cheap” to live in. But when you compare Chicago to the other two biggest cities in the top 3 (New York and Los Angeles), Chicago prices look like a downright bargain. As of April 2019, the average rent for a 2-bedroom Chicago apartment was $1989 compared to $3777 in New York and $3279 in Los Angeles. For buyers, the average Chicago home purchase price is $290K compared to $671,700 in New York and $695,000 in Los Angeles. For first-time homeowners, buying in the other two major US cities is a lot harder than it is here in Chicago.
8. You can travel the world without leaving the city
Thanks to Chicago’s diverse mix of people, you can experience a great deal of authentic foreign cultures without ever leaving the city limits. We have a Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, Greek Town, Little Italy, and areas with high concentration of Mexican, German, Vietnamese and Indian people. In each of these areas, you’ll see signs in other languages, specialty grocery stores and amazing restaurants that proudly serve up authentic cuisine.
9. There’s plenty of nature to enjoy.
For some, living in a city can feel make you a bit claustrophobic. But staying in touch with nature is a lot easier when you live in a city like Chicago, which boasts 600 parks, 70 nature and bird sanctuaries, and 8,800 acres of green space. Oh, and we have a pretty big lake that runs along the whole length of the city – maybe you’ve heard of it? The trails and beaches there are a great place to get a little air and feel like you’ve temporarily escaped the city.
There’s a lot more to know about this great, big city of ours but this should give you some inkling of whether or not you feel you’ll belong here. And if you do decide to make the move, know that the famous Midwestern friendliness is real and you’ll feel at home here in no time.