I should have done my homework...
Where to start. I haven't noticed a groundswell of anti-outsider sentiment because everyone is from somewhere else. Anecdotally (based on license plates I've seen) it does seem like the bulk of transplants are climate refugees fleeing from the frigid NE and Ohio. The irony of climate refugees fleeing to coastal Florida is not lost on me.
I mention the number of transplants you'll find here because how you feel about Tampa (and Florida in general) depends on where you're moving from. I suppose if you shoveled snow in 28-degree weather for 4-5 months of each year, then Tampa may look like Valhalla. I relocated from a beautiful and temperate part of the country to Tampa for work. Generally, I find Tampa charmless and in many ways, I feel like I stepped back into 1986. Here's why:
1. Florida has some of the most aggressive drivers I have ever encountered. Weaving in an out of traffic at 30 mph over the speed limit, each time within 18 inches of your bumper. No signaling. Refusal to let you merge. Odd traffic control (making left-hand turns across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic zooming toward you at 50mph). Florida has some of the worst pedestrian safety in the country. It also has more uninsured drivers than any other state, a big problem with wrong-way drivers, and some of the highest car insurance premiums in the country (mine went up 40%). I wouldn't think about riding a bike here or even walking in parts of Tampa. I spent my first 3 months in near tears whenever I had to get in the car, which is important because...
2. You will have to drive everywhere. Tampa and surrounding areas do not have much in the way of mass transit. You will be in your car all the time, and much of what is interesting (parts of downtown, the beaches, St. Pete) is a 45-minute drive away. I had a friend visit me from my hometown and every time we wanted to go somewhere, we'd punch it into Waze and it was always 45-60 minutes away in what I have already mentioned are stressful driving conditions even under the best circumstances.
3. What isn't from1986 is the cost of renting. Buying is cheaper than renting and housing prices are a bargain here compared to many parts of the country. I didn't want to buy until I was sure I wanted to stay long term. Renting is not inexpensive and Florida has few tenant protections that you may enjoy in other more progressive states. A decent and safe 1 bedroom apartment in one of the many huge apartment complexes that dot this area will cost you at minimum $1,200 a month, plus nonrefundable pet deposits of $300-$400 each and pet rent (despite paying aforementioned deposits) of $20-$40 per month. I should have done my research a bit more carefully since this is easily obtainable info. As it turns out, I moved from a higher cost geography and took a large pay cut, but because of my relatively low fixed costs in my hometown, my monthly living expenses have actually edged up. Again, this depends on what you're used to. Do your research because the pay here isn't all that great.
4. Tampa is not a progressive city. There is a general lack of environmental awareness that befuddles me considering it's a state surrounded by water. For example, my garbage collector offers bi-weekly curbside recycling, but I had to provide my own containers and very, very few of my neighbors participate in this. I am from a part of the country where reduce/reuse is a way of life. I'm treated like an exotic creature for bringing my own bags to the grocery store. Piggybacking on this lack of environmental awareness is the general weirdness that is Florida. When I jokingly asked my cable installer if he had any advice for a new FL resident and he responded by telling me to buy a gun.
5. Tampa suburbs. Suburbs anywhere tend to be uninteresting places, but in Tampa, factor this by x10. I live in a suburb that doesn't have a downtown but is a confluence of highways lined with chain restaurants, outlet malls, and gated communities. You can get concerts in Tampa and Orlando, but other smaller cultural happenings are hard to find (smaller artists, bookstore readings, independent movies, small coffee shops, etc.)
6. Florida is a transient place. I've met a lot of people who moved here because they had great memories of summer vacations in Florida when they were growing up. I get it - nostalgia is powerful. Some move here and love it. A lot don't. Living in Florida is a little like living in Las Vegas - lots of people cycling in and out. That has an impact on how invested people feel in their local community.
7. The weather. Yeah, it's hotter than Hades from April through September. Surprisingly, this didn't bother me all that much. I have AC at home and at work and am generally not an outdoorsy person. If you want to be outside at 5 pm in August then you are in for a big surprise. I posted a photo of a summer downpour on my Facebook feed and one of my hometown friends mentioned how "refreshing" that would be. Uhh, no. There is nothing refreshing about warm rain when it's 95 degrees outside. Side note - FL landlords are not required to provide AC to tenants. Heat, yes. AC, no. Most do because they want to get their place rented. There are people that live here without AC but I don't know how they do it.
My advice is likely relevant for people who value the same things that I do. Really examine those values before you move to a new city and consider how you live your life on a daily basis. Sure, the beaches are beautiful, but will you go every weekend or even monthly (the answer is probably not). What is your commute going to be like? Can you easily live your values here, whatever those may be (ie leaving a small environmental footprint, being able to support small businesses, etc.)
Allizon | Land O Lakes, FL