Don't move here if you have no connections here
I lived in Lincoln in 2018 for an internship. Overall, I wanted to like it, but ended up becoming depressed. But I'll say what I like/admire about it before going into why I disliked it.
Lincoln is affordable, family-oriented community, and remarkably safe for a city its size. Most social events involved family activities and the public schools are pretty good according to parents I talked to. The most "dangerous" communities here are not all that bad. It was so safe I could sit on my porch at 2am in the morning and have no one trying to bother me (and I lived in a so-called dangerous neighborhood). Housing is so cheap that's it's laughable. My rent was 10% of my monthly income (I had a roommate). Another fact is that Lincoln is growing in size and recreational activities. In recent years the city built an entertainment district and apartments downtown.
Why I disliked it:
1.) It's extremely insular. Seriously, if you're not from here or didn't go to school here, I would never recommend it. People can be insular, meaning their social circles largely consist of family and childhood friends and they have little to no interest in expanding it. This comes from the fact that the majority of people who live here were either born and raised here or moved from a small town in Nebraska. They're nice to you, but good luck trying to break into their social circles where people have known each other since high school, sometimes elementary school. At first I thought it was only me, but I encountered folks who had the same experience. Even if you are from here, you can leave for 10 years, come back, and still feel like an outsider. Also, be careful about saying ANYTHING negative about Nebraska. There's a lot of insecurity here. Being from the East Coast, I assume that's why people dislike when I said I didn't like living there. Lastly, because it's essentially a small town, there isn't much anonymity. Depending on you're preference that can be a good thing. But as the person who didn't know anybody, I quickly gained a perception as a "nobody." Thus, people didn't really want to associate with me because it would hurt their image (it's like high school all over again). It only started to gradually change during my last few weeks in the city when people who recognized me started to talk to me more, but it was too late (luckily I was 26).
2.) There are plenty of jobs and unemployment is low, but jobs here don't pay well nor provide many opportunities for social mobility. It's ok if you're in healthcare, law, or any other high-paying profession, but that's it. People love to talk about the 3% unemployment rate, but they don't talk about the quality of the jobs. They darn sure don't talk about the fact that African Americans in Lincoln have a 12% unemployment rate (Latino is nearly 7%). Sometimes I look for jobs in Lincoln in my field out of curiosity and I've seen cities equally affordable that pay way more than jobs here.
3.) There's not a lot of diverse things to do. Yes, there are things to do, but it's really all the same. The urban parks are nice, but they're nothing like City Park in Denver. Looking for a night out in the town? Better like to drink. Seriously, that's all people do. There are a few nightclubs (like 2) but they attract young crowds (not like Nashville where there are clubs and night lounges for mature audiences) and it's the same people every week. Also, Lincoln is one of those city where you can go downtown on Saturday, mid-day, and see nobody. Downtown clears out after 5pm on weekdays. Lastly, the town is only somewhat fun during the spring and summer. Because it gets so cold here in the winters, many people just stay in.
4.) Dating scene sucks (I was 26 when I came). Don't come here single if you're not in college unless you're ok with dating single moms. People settle down by their mid-20s. I did manage to go out on almost a dozen dates, but many of the women had kids or just weren't compatible at least education and jobs wise. There's a lot of black/white couples in the city, but you can tell some locals don't like it. Here's something else people don't talk about. I have never met so many people in open relationships/marriages. I guess because people settle down so early some folks still want to explore. Oh yeah, Omaha is only slightly better in its dating scene.
5.) Lincoln isn't as liberal or nice as it thinks. I encountered a lot of fake smiles, people talking trash behind my back (literally, as if I couldn't even hear them), and racism. As a majority white town with a small minority population, many residents don't encounter people of color in their daily interactions. So I heard many ignorant statements, was suspected of stealing, and presumed to be a criminal. When I first looked for housing, I had one person lie to me after looking up my photograph that they had already got a roommate a few days ago (it was a lie because they updated the ad just a few hours ago). I lived in the most diverse community in the city (and that's not saying much) and even then I was told frequently to stay away from that neighborhood.
6.) Lastly, the food here is just bad. I thought it was just me, but a guy I met said he didn't realize how bad the food was until he started traveling. Most food I ate wasn't seasoned properly or cooked right. The ethnic food here is a joke and you can't even get good local pizza.
Overall, I can see Lincoln's appeal for people from Nebraska. How many of us have lived in a mid-size or large city where most of our family and childhood friends are around? Not many. But if you have no connection here, you'll have a hard time fitting in. It's not impossible, but you really need to have patience and anticipate the sheer difficulty. I wish I knew that before moving there. Nevertheless, there are many place around this great country of ours that are equally affordable, more welcoming, and provide more things to do.
And lastly, the reason why I and some people hate it so much is because of the denial or ignorance of local residents on the downsides of living here. Some people will make it appear that there are absolutely no downsides to Nebraska. I prefer when folks are candid with me. So even if I don't like the place, at least I'm not around people who will act as if something is wrong with me for not liking it. It's called a personal preference.
Gregory | Bloomington, IN