The old grey goose ain't what she used to be... - 3/31/2013
I've lived in Chicago all my life. I'm 53 years old. I grew up and was educated here. There was a saying when I was growing up that if you couldn't make it in Chicago, you couldn't make it any where. Well, you cannot say that now. Chicago has changed from a blue to a white collar town. If you are not making at least $100K, all you will be doing is existing. The costs of living has gone through the roof. Rents in decent areas are insance (you're going to need at least two or more roomates and good luck fitting them all into 650 sq. ft.). Crime has gone through the roof and is out of control. You're nickeled and dimed by the City on everything from parking fees, entertainment taxes, food tax, property taxes and any other tax that they can get away with. It has experienced negative population growth because it can no longer be comfortably afforded by the middler working class. The city is no place to raise children because of crime. You even have to watch your back going out in the day time. The "have nots" have gotten desperate for survival and have resorted to robbing, drugs and gangs are still prevailent, random shooting of children. You never have a sense of security. Winters are longer and colder and grayer (at least 6 mos). This is definitely not the Chicago that I grew up with. It does however still have great universities, summer events in the parks, great museums, clubs, restaurants, theater, etc....oh, but you won't have enough money left to do these things after paying rent or a mortgage anyway. Don't even think about living in a nice area in the City and having a car, you're asking for far too much and good luck on parking. Think you're escape the costs by moving to the burbs, think again, the burbs are not that much better as far as rents and mortgages. In a nut shell, it's a rat race.....and welcome to it if you decide to move here. [read more...]
My Town, Chicago - 11/17/2012
My husband and I have lived in Chicago for over 5 years. I always like to describe Chicago to others as having all the amenities and conveniences of a big city with a small town charm.
There are so many things to see and do in the city, but it's not like NYC that seems to never sleep. You have everything from museums, zoos, theater, shopping, sports, restaurants, pubs, bars, etc. There are also many parks and of course the beaches along the lake. Chicago is absolutely amazing in the summer with events going on daily downtown and throughout the neighborhoods like music festivals, food festivals, art festivals, even free dancing classes, movies in the parks, etc. So much to do, you can't ever be bored. Another exciting even is the annual Air & Water Show. The week prior there is so much anticipation downtown as you hear the jets training for the weekend performance. The sound of the jets flying between the skyscrapers is a unique experience. There are also several sports teams including the Bears, Bulls, Black Hawks, Cubs, White Sox. Of course there is a big rivalry here between the Cubs and the Sox, but all in good fun.
Chicago has lots of culture and diversity. I can't even imagine how many countries must be represented here. That is something I love about this city. There are also so many diverse neighborhoods, some that may be dominated by a particular ethnicity, like Chinatown, Greektown, several other Hispanic, Asian, Polish, Indian, neighborhoods. But even there you can still find diversity. The many neighborhoods that surround downtown each have their own vibe and character. If you ever visit, be sure to explore some of the lively neighborhoods and don't just stay downtown.
I have to mention, being an interior designer myself, this city has some of the most beautiful architecture. So many historical landmarks and buildings in the "White City." My favorite part of the city is by Wacker Drive which follows the river that breaks through downtown. I love how the river opens up the view here and enables you to see the surrounding buildings from riverfront to the top floors. As most other cities, you don't get this experience when the buildings are jammed together where your best view is from the sidewalk across the street.
Almost forgot, the public transportation system in the city is great. They have an expansive system for buses, subway train (referred to as the "EL"), and METRA train. I think the majority of the city commutes by public transportation, and it's not just for "low income" as it may be in other cities. You will find well dressed men and women in their work suits on the trains and buses. Also, there are many bikers. The city has done well in developing bike routes and bike lanes on major roads and always working to expand these. Though in a city where the winters are so cold, you have those they call "fair weather bikers" and those like my husband that ride everyday, rain or shine, snow or ice, 90 degrees or 5 degrees outside. Because of the large amount of bike riders, many public office buildings do have indoor bike rooms to lock up your bike for the day.
Now, on the other hand, what I don't like about Chicago is the long cold winters, expenses, and government corruption.
I grew up in VA and my husband in Africa, so naturally we prefer warmer weather. You do have relatively nice falls and springs here, but the winters are just too long and too much for us. In my opinion "winter" is from October to May. During Oct./Nov. you can get some random nice days in the 70s or 60s, but for the most part will be in the 50s, 40s, and 30s. You can even get snow in October, thankfully we missed that this year. With the exception of the blizzard in 2010, the last couple winters have been "mild" as far as weather and snowfall. I can remember in 2008 & 2009 it felt like it snowed every 2 to 3 days for months. Because it never got above freezing, and in some neighborhoods they are not so good about salting the sidewalks, I can remember snow packing on top of snow where it was 6" to a foot thick and it just kept icing over. Not fun when you're walking to the bus/train to and from work. The temperature can also get into the negatives sometimes or a days "high" could be 10 degrees. Don't forget you're in the Windy City so there's always the wind chill factor which makes it feel about 10 degrees colder than it actually is. When we're coming out of winter, we joke around that "You know the winter's bad when the high is 30 degrees and you are looking forward to the "warm" day." Also, most neighborhoods have street parking, so be ready to shovel out your car and don't be surprised when someone steals the spot you spent hours shoveling. I've never seen people use lawn chairs as parking spot savers until I experienced a winter here. So, be ready to love the snow!
Of course, being a big city, Chicago is fairly expensive. Not as high as NYC, but probably right behind it. Housing is expensive and if you want a little bit of land you'll need to move to the suburbs for it. Taxes are high. Property tax very high. I've heard several times on the news that we have the most expensive gas prices in the country. Utilities, groceries, rent, parking, all expensive.
Chicago has a history with corruption in government and politics. I'm sure you've heard about Governor Blagojevich. Enough said. I'm sure you can do research on the corruption in the city.
Safety. Yes, Chicago also has a history with the Mafia and gangs. You will hear about murders, violence and theft weekly on the news. Though, I would say that extreme violence and murders are kept to certain underprivileged neighborhoods. I've lived in several neighborhoods in the city and never had any issues. Though, even in the better neighborhoods, car break-ins are very frequent for street parking. I would say I see automobile glass on the street at least once a week. Just be smart. Don't leave anything of value or that could seem like it might hold something of value visible in your car and you won't have a problem. As long as I've lived, I've kept my car clean of extra junk, never leaving bags, or valuables and have never had a break-in.
There you have it the pros and cons for Chicago, aka Chi-town, The Windy City, The White City. Though we plan to move for warmer climates, I know we won't find another city that compares to this amazing city.