Things you should know before relocating to Oklaho
I moved to Oklahoma City last summer for a great job offer. I moved from an east coast city that I loved very much but could never find quality employment in. I was aware that OKC has a rather negative image nationally as far as cities go but I thought to myself how bad could it really be?
First, before I get into my main points, I want to mention the good about OKC. First of all, things seem to be improving here. Though this city is well behind most others its size in terms of amenities and things to do, it offers more than most people think it does. There is more to OKC than country music and rodeos, despite common myth. The city's formely dead downtown is coming to life as new condos, townhouses, and apartments get built. The city is starting to develop the bones of somewhere that may actually be cool to live someday. The Bricktown Canal, though artificial, is a pretty neat attraction. Other entertainment districts are starting to sprout up in neighborhoods surrounding downtown. If you are used to a larger city you may be underwhelmed but compared to where OKC once was, things are really coming along. OKC is a city that is really slowly but surely coming back to life. Plus, OKCitians are generally very proud of their city and most of them have the desire to see it progress. Many other cities with similar image problems don't have that advantage. Another thing I want to mention is though its a conservative city, you don't have to be a right wing, Glenn Beck extremist to live here. There ARE liberals in OKC, believe it or not.
Also, OKC has one of the best economies of any large city in the country right now, combined with the lowest cost of living for any place its size. With the right job, you can really live like a king here compared to other places.
Now, on to my main points. While I can definitely understand people liking OKC and wish I could embrace it myself, it hasn't been a good fit for me. I advise anybody considering a move to OKC to consider these things.
1. This is a family oriented city. One of the first things I noticed when moving here is how I stick out like a sore thumb being in my late twenties and not yet married with kids. If you are single, there are much better places to live. While I am under impression that this is a fun city for college aged youth, if you get too high in your 20s and don't get married it can be a real problem socially. Because of this, I have had extreme difficulty making friends here and still spend most nights alone.
2. This is not a beautiful city. Though things are definitely improving in this department, the lack of natural beauty as well as the climate that prevents a lot of plant growth have dealt the city a bad hand in terms of aesthetic beauty. OKC isn't alone in this aspect, but other cities seem to have made up for it with stricter building codes and landscaping. Until recently, there wasn't much of this in OKC, leaving much of the city to feel like a dusty truck stop somewhere in the Texas panhandle.
3. The weather is extreme. Though F5 tornadoes don't occur every year, they are continually a threat and must be at the back of everyone's minds every spring. Summers tend to be brutal and dry and winters, while milder than in the Midwest, are a little too cold for comfort. That leaves only a few months out of the year with placid weather.
4. The culture here is decisively blue collar. Though more and more educated people are ending up in OKC and this is one negative I expect to change eventually, for decades OKC had severe brain drain in which most educated people left for other cities. That still shows itself loud and clear in the culture here. People as a whole don't look highly on intellectualism or high culture. This is a very conformist place and I have found it difficult to be at any way different from the local social norm. Maybe I just haven't found my niche yet, but this has been my experience. Supposedly there are a lot more cultural events starting to happen so maybe this is changing, as expected with the recent influx of more educated transplants.
5. Lack of natural beauty. Sorry, no beaches or mountains. No tall trees. You can decent outdoor recreation in about a two hour drive in most directions from OKC.
6. Retail is mindbogglingly lacking. Not much upscale retail to be found here. Tulsa about an hour to the northeast has quite a bit and Dallas, three hours south, has everything you could want, but OKC is hardly a shoppers paradise on the high end of the spectrum. This doesn't really affect me as much but I thought I would mention it since a lot of transplants seem to take issue with this. What has been the most surprising for me is the lack of everyday amenities, such as quality grocery stores. There are a few, such as one Whole Foods and a few Sprouts, and one called Uptown Grocery in Edmond, but there are no major national chains or even quality local chains in OKC. In most of the city, you are stuck with the Super Wal-Mart or a store called "Crest" which is a little better than Wal-Mart but still very basic and lacks the variety of a good solid grocery store that you will find in other cities.
7. The liquor laws. I am sure you have probably heard about this if you are seriously thinking about relocating to Oklahoma, but this state has probably the most backwards liquor laws in the entire country. Grocery stores and convenience stores can ONLY sell beer up to 3.2% alcohol by volume. This pretty much limits it to big-name domestics. You won't find craft beer or wine at the local grocery store. Liquor stores on the other hand can sell anything but they cannot sell cold beer (government is afraid people will chug it in the car) and must close at 9PM and on Sundays. Overall you can work around these laws, but its another added inconvenience to living in Oklahoma vs living elsewhere.
Bottom line, I would have a hard time recommending just anyone move to OKC. I would say the best way to summarize it is its great for families or if you have roots here AND can deal with the negatives listed above. Singles over the age of 25 or so should probably look elsewhere. Depending on your demographic and your lifestyle, you will either love this city or it will suck the life out of you. I personally want to like OKC and don't want to go through the hassle of moving again but I don't know if I'll ever be able to have the life I want in this city given my circumstances. Take my review with a grain of salt as this is just one opinion from one guy on the Internet.