We moved here in the summer of 2016 from out of state with high hopes and for all the right reasons > job, family (my husband, a Penn State grad, was born & raised in the greater York area & most of his very large family have remained in the area) and eventually retirement.
Salary > My husband left a high level administrative job in education to work in a similar position in Harrisburg. He is receiving 1/3 the salary he made in another state. A significant adjustment considering the cost of living is much higher here in Central PA than we anticipated.
Taxes > Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the nation. Property taxes are crippling. We are charged an additional tax because my husband commutes from Mechanicsburg to Harrisburg.
Housing > Much higher than expected. In the fall of 2016 we purchased a 'to be built' home on less than 1/4 acre lot for $425,000.00. We had hoped to purchase a less expensive, older home but the housing market's inventory was extremely low. After working so hard on our previous home in order to make it marketable to sell we were shocked that so many of the homes we looked at in Mechanicsburg had no upgrades and 'curb appeal'. I could be wrong but what we observed people seem to sell older homes 'as is'.
Jobs & Economy > wages are extremely low. We've watched major retail stores close just since our arrival 14 months ago. The Macy's @ the Capitol City Mall is running on reduced hours. I realize this phenomenon is occurring nationwide to some extent but it seems particularly ominous here in Central PA.
Quality of Life > Rural. People are really into bowling here. There are parks with unpaved trails. We drive to where we walk as it is rare to find neighborhoods with their own paved trails or nearby recreation trails for bicycling, walking or running, etc. Because of this I see many people walking & bicycling on country roads. I would NEVER feel safe doing this for this reason > DANGEROUS drivers!
I have lived and driven all over the world. I have driven in all of the major urban areas in the U.S. For the first time ever I have received the middle finger on several occasions from drivers in this area. I realize everyone considers their neck of the woods as having the worst drivers but honestly these truly are the worst I have encountered. These people are very aggressive and DANGEROUS. Another first for me > a sign on the local 581 highway > "Beware of Aggressive Drivers!". I am not making that up! So don't take my word for it!
Education > We are recent empty nesters so this will be second hand > Cumberland county school district seems very solid. Penn State rules the world here and there is Messiah College (private) & the Harrisburg Area Community College system (HACC).
Retail Shopping > Capitol City Mall has basic stores. The Sears just closed down & was replaced by a Dick's. I've heard rumors J.C. Penney's will close. Mechanicsburg & Harrisburg areas have most retail stores BUT their inventory is lacking. I.E. > a Target will not have as much to choose from as a Target in a more populated suburban area.
Grocery > PATHETIC! We try to eat organic, non-GMO and are forced to drive to Baltimore, Columbia, MD or Rockville, MD for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. NOTHING equivalent in the entire greater Harrisburg area. (The Wegmans everyone recommends is basically a pricey, dimly lit Safeway with occasional healthy choices, and really GRUMPY sales people).
Dining > Restaurants are mostly 'Bar & Grille' or 'Pizza & Subs' > fat, sodium & CARBS!
Healthcare > All the physicians recommended to us are no longer accepting new patients. The area has grown in population yet the Physician to patient ratio here is abysmal. So we are stuck going to Urgent Care for our medical issues. And if you are hoping for holistic doctors (M.D.'s), forget it. Virtually non-existent. We found 1 near Hershey who charges through the nose, only accepts cash and has a waiting list for PHONE consultations in the several months category. My husband & I have both had skin cancer. I called Hershey for a Dermatologist appt. & was told I couldn't see a Doctor > only hospital Residents > & I am a melanoma survivor.
Activities & Amenities > I honestly don't know what people do here. In our neighborhood people walk their dogs but in the winter they disappear! (I honestly don't know what they do with their dogs during those long winter months? Diapers? Depends?) I see a lot of people driving on Carlisle Pike (the shopping strip) going to Chick-fil-A and sitting in parking lots in their cars. I guess it's Penn State football or watching sports @ home in their basements. At least that's what my husband's family does. I am bored out of my mind and very lonely.
People > Cold, unfriendly. They don't seem interest in 'outsiders'. (Many of them are generations of families who have lived in the same community and have adult friends they knew in High School.)
Extremely tight family dynamics (which is a GOOD thing, don't get me wrong). But these family bonds make it very hard for outsiders.
Churches > I wish the grocery options, healthcare, salaries and friendliness was as plentiful as the churches. There are churches everywhere and every denomination!
I don't think we are going to last much longer here. Looking to sell our home next spring and get out of Dodge. My husband, a PA native, is ready to move on to a more friendly state. For those of us who have lived in many different places I guess home only exists in our memories.
Joyce | Mechanicsburg, PA