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Living in Portland Oregon: The Pros and Cons

Our year in Portland is up! After getting back from Kyrgyzstan last week, we hit the ground running. With less than a week left, we packed our things, moved it over to our cousins’ place temporarily, and now, we’re in Miami speaking at Blogalicious (a blogging conference). Once we get back, we’ll take what we can in our sedan, drive to Atlanta to spend time with family and friends, and then explore NYC for the next year.

For the past 4 years, we’ve explored a new city every year, and moving to each city has felt a little like dating. So far the cities we’ve explored were LA, Vegas, San Diego, and Portland.

What it's like living in Portland Oregon: the Pros and Cons //

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Last Updated: June 2, 2020

The Pros & Cons of Living in Portland Oregon

Each city had its share of pros and cons. Ultimately, though, we haven’t felt like we could settle down with any of these cities. Maybe we’re commitment-phobes and afraid to lay down deep roots in one place. Or maybe we just want to pave our own path that just might not look like everyone else’s. I can’t decide, so I’ll say 50/50.

We’ve been keeping ourselves so busy that I don’t think we’ve had much time to process our move. Not that I’m great at processing breakups or any sort of loss. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I’ve processed moving away from Atlanta over 4 years ago.

Anyhow, I digress. All that to say, it always feels bittersweet to leave because there will always be parts of each city that made our stay worthwhile but also parts that made it a living hell. Let’s start with the negatives and end on a positive note. ;)

The Cons of Living in Portland Oregon

1. The Rain and the Snow Storms

This is the biggest con and negates any of the positives for us. Maybe we’re weaksauce, but we couldn’t handle it. I used to love rain… back when we lived in Atlanta and rain wasn’t the norm. After experiencing a year where I forgot what the sun looked like and several snowstorms that shut down the city, I’m okay with being a visitor during the summer.

Keep in mind this year was apparently not a normal year. I’ve heard a few people say it was the wettest or second wettest winter since the weather has been recorded. Others have said it was the worst they’ve seen in over a decade. Either way, the stats are not good. Take a look below:

Typical Weather in Portland Oregon //
What to Wear in Portland Oregon - the basic rules, what we currently wear, seasons and temperatures, how much it rains and snows //

2. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a Real Thing

It’s one thing to find rain annoying, but I already knew I would be in for it when it came to the year-round gloomy weather. It was more surprising to find that Jacob, who is very even-keeled, started feeling lethargic on the daily. No wonder they have a huge coffee culture here.

You really need your uppers. And your Vitamin D. And your sunlamps. I managed just fine with Vitamin D and a healthy dose of anti-depressants. ;) If you can get past these two first, you have a shot at surviving and possibly loving it here.

3. The Heat, No A/C, and Fires

It’s not supposed to get that hot in Portland they said. The buildings, therefore, don’t need AC they said. Well, this year, the AC would have come in very handy. Climate change is real, ya’ll. It was one of the wettest rainy seasons and also one of the driest, hottest summers.

That also led to some of the worst fires Oregon has ever seen. There were weeks they said the air quality was worse than Mexico City. We saw ashes flying around the city and it was eerie.

4. Driving and the Drivers

Portland has one of the slowest paced driving out of anywhere we’ve been. Now that we’re so accustomed to it, when we drive in another city, it feels like people are going super fast. I guess it’s really nice that drivers here yield to bikers and pedestrians, but it’s also stressful as a driver.

Portland roads also make no sense. Sometimes just to get to a spot that should be a mile away, it takes 20 minutes because you have to go all the way around. The roads are also very narrow and there are blind turns everywhere.

I’ve been told the city planner had no intention to build it for drivers. It was built for walking. I don’t know if that’s true, but when you’re driving around Portland, it feels like it.

5. The Food is Not That Good

It’s a self-proclaimed foodie town. I suppose we should cut it some slack because it’s not a major city like NYC or SF or LA. I just know we were disappointed almost every time we tried a place people raved about.

Every other city we visited or lived in had a handful of places we will miss. Here, I felt like I could take it or leave it. The two we do recommend every time, though, are Nong’s and PDX Sliders.

6. Outwardly Inclusive but Inwardly Exclusive Attitudes

No, the more is not the merrier! For a city that prides itself on being inclusive and has black lives matter posters everywhere, they sure don’t act like it when it affects their lives. One example is if you’re an out of towner, they really don’t want you here. If you’re from California, keep it on the DL because they especially hate Californians. I’ve also noticed this sense of entitlement to the city if you happened to live just a year or two longer than someone else. They want to keep everything to themselves. “Portland used to be better before XYZ moved in”. It makes me wonder if they think black lives matter, do they even know any? Have they ever tried to build actual bridges and relationships with people that don’t look like themselves? I haven’t seen it yet. Portland isn’t exactly a diverse city. I think they aim to be and it has gotten better over time (or a lot better considering their racist history), but we still get some strange looks around town. If you visit other parts of Oregon, don’t be surprised if you face occasional racism. There are some mean old white ladies out there. P.S. This isn’t every single person in the city. I imagine there are plenty of nice folks that just keep quiet and it’s just the ones that are loud often get noticed more. From our experience as a whole, it doesn’t feel like a welcoming, inclusive city they try to portray.

7. It's Inconvenient to Travel Out of Portland

This only applies to you if you happen to travel a lot, but it’s so hard to get direct flights. Layovers are never fun. Half the time you’re worried you’ll miss your flight and the other half you’re trying to figure out how to keep yourself busy at the airport. The worst is when you’re having to run to your next gate.

The Pros of Living in Portland Oregon

1. Adventure is a Lifestyle not an Activity

If you ever want to feel unadventurous, move to Portland. Living here has pushed us to be more adventurous. Before moving here, hiking was a fun activity, sometimes an item off my bucket list, or what you have to do to get to an amazing photography spot.

People here actually #liveoutdoors. It’s not that fake you-didn’t-camp-here stuff. They can get off a packrafting trip, then go on a climbing trip, then hop onto another backpacking trip. No bigs. I’m going to miss having so many outdoorsy people around me.

This was us on a backpacking trip where we bailed. The fires and smog made all the mountain views hazy, and we didn’t think it was worth it without the epic mountain views. Our other friends said, “it’s going to be smoggy whether I stay inside or go outside and I’d rather be outside.”

What it's Like Living in Portland Oregon - The Pros and Cons //

2. Everything is so Green

We had friends visit from out of town, and they could not stop talking about the trees and the moss. The trees are beautiful, and on top of that, people really care about the environment. It can be taken to the extreme, but it’s nice to see people care.

Hoyt Arboretum (25 Free Things to Do in Portland Oregon) //

3. Proximity to the Outdoors

Our favorite part of living in Portland was how close it was to get outdoors. A half hour drive takes you to amazing hikes, waterfalls, and vistas (although it’s a bit further now because of recent fires). A few hours in either direction takes you to vastly different landscapes.

To the west, you have a dramatic and rocky coast. To the east, you find more desert landscapes and spots that feel like you’re on a different planet.

Though it’s rare to have clear days, I will miss having Hood as our backdrop. We could even see it from our living room window and got excited any time it decided to show itself.

How to Find the Best Views in Portland Oregon //

4. Our Church & Community

When we hop from city to city, it’s hard to want to dig in and get involved in a community. Even if the general vibe of the city is unwelcoming, you can always find your people. Some places you need to dig deeper. Luckily we had a couple friends in Portland who introduced us to a church and climbing friends, which made it incredibly easy for us to make friends.

If you ever decide to move to Portland, check out the Groves Church and if you want to give climbing a shot, we’ll also have to introduce you to our friends. We can’t imagine the year without meeting these awesome folks.

5. It's Easy to Get Around

Everything is 10 minutes away. We started thinking anything over 5 minutes was far away. The norm in Atlanta and LA is 30 minutes, and if you add traffic, you could be sitting out there for hours. Even the airport makes going through checkpoints so much easier.

6. No Sales Tax

Not that we do a ton of shopping, but it’s going to feel a little painful shopping for things outside of Oregon when we got so used to paying no sales tax.

7. The Summers Really Are the Best

I know I said this year’s heat was brutal with no A/C, but in comparison to any other places we’ve lived (even SoCal), the summers are nice. It’s so nice, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the pain of winter.

It’s often compared to why people keep having babies because you forget about the pain and sleepless nights. When mid-summer came around for me too, I started thinking maybe I could give Portland another year. Well, if you can last the entire rainy season, you really earned that glorious summer.

P.S Just make sure you get a place with A/C.

Ultimately, we love Portland as a city to visit, and I’m sure the natives will appreciate that we’re not staying for good.

Tell me Would you move to a city like Portland? What are some pros and cons of where you live? 

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Kimberley

    I have a question: where did you find that graph about cloud cover/precipitation?

    You guys totally nailed it: the effect of no sun, the nativism, the weird insularity, the lack of diversity. I’m also leaving this year. (And I’ll miss the summers, the flowers, the Gorge, Mt Hood, the hikes, New Seasons, and the friends I’ve made. I actually think there’s some great food in Portland, but completely agree that the reputation as a food destination is kinda overblown.)

    1. jacob

      It was from the western regional climate center. We still miss the summers there!

  2. verajay

    My daughter and her cousin just returned from Portland,and she said she loved it. She found other blacks there one who moved from the Bronx to Portland! They had white room mates, who she said were very welcoming and friendly. She wants to go back. Oh we’re from Brooklyn N.Y.

    1. Jen

      I’m so happy to hear this!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Neil Bradley

    Hello! Born and raised in PDX. Good list, but I’d like to make a few tweaks to it:

    * Who told you that AC isn’t necessary? We’ve had AC in our homes since the 70s and while it’s only necessary a few weeks out of the year, it’s definitely a must have!

    * The fires of 2017 near PDX (Eagle Creek fire) were caused by arson (and in 2018 with the Substation fire), so they are unusual. That’s an anomaly, not a regular summer thing in the Portland/Vancouver area.

    * I’d disagree with the assertion that the food isn’t all that good (and yes, I’ve been to larger cities and other countries to compare/contrast). If you were getting advice from people “raving” about a restaurant, they’re probably more a “food hipster” than an actual foodie – someone who ties their identity to how obscure the place is. They are everywhere in Portland, sadly. For example, I’ve heard for years that Pok Pok is awesome. I went there once and hated everything about it. But there are plenty of other Thai, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Tex Mex, etc… restaurants everywhere in the Portland/Vancouver area to satisfy you. Ensure you get more than one recommendation for a particular ethnicity or style of food. If you can’t, you may be talking to a food hipster.

    Some other pros:

    * Beautiful forests (when they aren’t on fire ;-) )

    * Mt. Hood, and the whole Cascade range

    * Columbia River gorge.

    * Portland International Raceway within the city limits, if that’s your thing.

    * Legal cannabis!

    * Green. Everywhere. And clean air. This is a huge upside to the rain. I’ll take this over dead and decaying “sunny all the time” regions like California and Arizona.

    Other cons:

    * Pedestrians here are the rudest, most entitled and passive/aggressive you’ll see ANYWHERE, largely due to dangerous pedestrian right of way laws.

    * Homelessness. Several years of homeless-catering policies on behalf of the past PDX mayors have turned it into a destination for migratory transients.

    * The protesters. They protest everything. Protesting used to mean something. Now it’s basically a temper tantrum, and people and property get hurt.

    * If you’re reasonably well off and/or successful, don’t move here. You’ll be resented for it. The default assumption is that if you’re financially successful, you’ve screwed someone over to get it. I drive a nice car – I’ve been spat on by bystanders on street corners – completely unprovked and called a “rich asshole” (and I dress like a complete slob), and have had periodic intentional damage done to my property.

    * I’ll expand on #6 about being outwardly inclusive but inwardly exclusive attitudes. “Inclusive” in Portland means “not white”. If you’re white, you can’t have an opinion on much of anything. And you’ll be told to “check your privilege”.

    * The social justice warriors. I’ve had one person come up to me, completely unprovoked, and tell me that the shirt I was wearing was cultural appropriation. It was a Haka shirt, and little did he know, it was purchased directly from a member of the Maori tribe in New Zealand, so exactly the opposite of cultural appropriation. “You still shouldn’t wear it.” he said.

    * The governor is anti business and anti landlord. She thinks it’s a good idea to tax a business on gross receipts. And the landlord/tenant laws are so tenant biased that it’s basically an FU to anyone who owns rental properties. So I guess that’s a good thing if you’re renting.

    * Entitled drivers. They are indignant, slow, and passive/aggressive, and traffic is terrible almost all the time now.

    It was a far better city 20+ years ago and earlier, and for the first time in my life, have very seriously considered moving out of the area (and the state).

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thank you, Neil. I was not a fan of Pok Pok. I can’t even believe they were able to make another location in New York. I may need to get some food recommendations from you when we go back. If you were to move, where would you go? I hear a lot of people are moving to Bend.

  4. Sandi

    Thank you so much for your insight. I live in the Houston area and am trying to move somewhere else wherein I don’t have to deal with the 100* plus summers, hurricanes, and mosquitos. Portland is on my radar and although I love the rain I do not know if I could handle that much. I figure the mosquitoes are probably bad there because of the rain but other two reasons for me to move are enough. As you said pros and cons about everywhere!

    1. Esther JuLee

      You’re so welcome, Sandi. Surprisingly, there aren’t that many mosquitoes in Portland. Portland has a river but not many still bodies of water. Plus it rains so much, I don’t feel like the mosquitoes have a chance to come out. haha Eastern Oregon, however… watch out for some vicious mosquitoes. You can try to swap them away and they will not budge. Does Houston not get a lot of mosquitoes?

  5. Marioso KitAno

    Don’t forget about one more pro of living in Oregon. Which is Legal Weed.

  6. Vee

    I have been relocated twice; first time within Asia and now residing in SF. I heard many good things about Portland and actually want to see if I can relocate there. I have a trip coming in July but I should have made a trip in winter to experience what you shared in the post.

    Thanks for the helpful post. Would you move to SF someday? I’d love to know your thoughts :)

    1. Esther JuLee

      I’d love to hear your thoughts after you move! I know a lot of people love it and there are aspects of the city that we miss all the time (especially the outdoors). Every city definitely has its share of pros and cons. We’re actually considering SF for next year. What do you think of it?

  7. Denise

    Hi Esther. I’m planning on moving to Portland with my partner and found this article to be true for a lot of cities, including NYC. I was born and raised in NYC and have lived in other places including northern Cali and now I’m residing in Ithaca NY. I gotta give my two cents, with all due respect to your thoughts on Portland. The rain and snow storm: I lived in northern Cali and got a lot of rain but that’s what made the place so lush and beautiful and so green and also made you appreciate the sun when it came through. I did start feeling a little of the SAD effects but upped my Vit. D intake and felt a whole lot better. The fact that it’s so mild helped extremely. Living in the northeast, you get some serious cold and blizzards. And boy, do you get some freezing weather and snow. In Ithaca, it’s no joke. So I personally would have rain and mildness then lots of snow and cold. And as far as heat, you get some serious heat waves in NYC. And with the concrete jungle (NYC is not green, except for very few city parks, it’s concrete and asphalt), plus waiting on a crowded subway platform and train with no A/C during rush hour, can have you daydreaming of greener, cooler pastures. Please don’t get me started on drivers… NYC drivers don’t care if you’re a pregnant woman, they will run you over and keep it moving. With so much traffic and people needing to get to where they need to go, NY drivers don’t have time for anyone. Food? Okay, you may be right, however, I grew up in a household where mama and grandma can hook you up with some deliciousness all day/everyday plus NYC is the place to go for real, authentic food from all over so it beats ANYWHERE. The outwardly inclusive/inwardly exclusiveness? I lived in many “progressive” cities and they’re all full of caca. The fakey-fake, black lives matter, we are all one, exists in almost every wannabe liberal town/city… even NYC. Gentrification has destroyed many neighborhoods in the inner city in NY (I grew up in the inner city) and has pushed out many real NY’ers that made the communities that attracted the hipsters in the first place. Jacked up rent and housing prices is all too real in the NYC. I guess it’s all relative and depends on what you’re looking for, however, I appreciate your insight and experiences! Much luck to you in the NYC!

  8. Whitney

    I’ve been to Portland a lot in the winter (although I haven’t lived there) but I’ve found the winters to be not bad. I didn’t go this winter though… I guess it depends what you compare it to. I’ve done winter in Michigan, Vermont, Utah, Tennessee, San Diego and Arizona…and of the colder states it’s definitely been the mildest. Utah has sunny winters but cold! And Michigan and Vermont (and even TN where it’s warm) are basically under cloud cover all winter and spring. I’m curious how you’ll like a NY winter. Guess I’ll have to read this post next year.

  9. Devonna

    I just saw your blog. I’m planning on a move from Arizona in the spring of ’18 and Portland was on my radar. I’m accustomed to sunshine of course living in Arizona. I’m done with the desert and need a change. I prefer mild seasons. I don’t believe I would like all that rain. I know my dog would not be happy either. lol! I thank you for helping me make my decision of not moving to Portland. Where oh where should I go!

    1. Esther JuLee

      It’s so tough if you need sunshine. I feel like the people used to that much rain are the ones that grew up in the PNW. You should try maybe visiting for a couple weeks in the winter though to see if you could deal with it. You never know… you may have a higher tolerance than we do. Plus, our rainy season was supposedly the worst in decades.

  10. Eli Saleh

    We moved to Portland from Chicago in November 2016…right before the crazy winter! I was warned about the rain but it definitely took a toll on me. Awesome season for me to learn to ski though! By April/May, we were over the rain and did a trip to Costa Rica. By the time we got back, the weather was amazing! We took advantage of lots of hikes and day trips. I agree with a lot of the points in this post. Proximity to outdoors is great! The ‘Outwardly Inclusive but Inwardly Exclusive Attitudes’ is real though. Making friends has been kind of hard but luckily our good friends moved out here too. We also spend a lot of time in NYC so I’m excited to see your new posts! We used your blog for many of our hikes and day trips…Thank you, thank you! Wish us luck in our second winter in PDX ;)

    1. Esther JuLee

      The hikes out there are what we miss the most!! There are definitely lots of good things there that make it worthwhile, but the rain last year was pretty unbearable haha. Best of luck for your second winter there. I really hope it’s not as bad as the last one.

    2. Katie

      Eli- are you still out there? My husband and I are moving to Portland from Chicago this summer. Any new tips?

  11. TERRA

    One of my best friends lives in Portland and I do love it, but I don’t think I could live there. The weather would make me sad and it always seemed like everyone was trying just a little bit too hard to be their most cool selves. But, I agree with you about the pros – the proximity to the outdoors is awesome and there’s so much to see and explore within such a short distance.

    1. Esther JuLee

      Haha Yeah, I agree that sometimes it can feel like high school all over again, but it also depends on what area you choose to live or hang out in. There are plenty of “normal” areas too. The more we move, the more we learn that every city has its pros and cons, and at some point, we just need to pick a place and accept the flaws. Portland definitely has enough pros that we’ll visit often, but the rain just kills me.

  12. Mimi mcFadden

    I appreciate this post so much .. I think I commented on one of your Instagram posts when you announced you were originally moving to Portland, and I told you about my similar experience with the nativist mindset and unwelcoming vibe. I could relate with pretty much everything in this post – both the pros and cons – and came to the same conclusion: Portland might be nice for some people (and it can be great to visit) but the cons far outweighed the pros for me… And OMG finally someone who agrees with me that the food is not very good haha. I went to so many recommended restaurants when I was living there too, and was left disappointed almost every time. Anyway, great post as always guys!

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thanks so much, Mimi! I remember you commenting when we were about to me. I’ve heard so many people tell me how unfriendly people in Portland were, that I kept my expectations low. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the nice people in the city, but I don’t know if it’s because it was because my expectations were just THAT low. haha In comparison to LA, though, I would say people are WAAAY nicer. I’m still baffled by how much people love the food. Is it because so many other people say it’s good that everyone gets brainwashed? Or maybe it’s just the health / environmentally friendly / sustainability factor that just outweighs everything else. All I know is we ended up eating at home the majority of the time when we were in PDX and then end up pigging out when we visited other cities. *Shrug*

  13. Catherine Gacad

    I saw the title and was so excited to read this. My time in Portland has been limited, but everything you said feels spot on…like how they hate Californians! I think it’s a bit depressing that, although Portland prides itself on being inclusive, they really are not, and yet Portland is supposed to be so much more cosmopolitan than other parts of the country. Yikes!

    That said, I think about all these people who are lifelong New Yorkers or even San Franciscans and all their friends/network looks exactly like themselves. Zero diversity.

    I love your perspective. Keep it coming!

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thanks, Catherine! :) How long were you in Portland?! When we were living there, it did not feel very cosmopolitan at all. I did love that small town vibe, though, and how it seemed more like a bunch of connected neighborhoods rather than a city. I feel torn because I know you can’t have everything. We’ve lived in enough cities that, I’ve gotten to a point where I almost want all my options in terms of food and entertainment but not deal with the crowds, and hustle and bustle. That’s probably unfair on our part.

      In terms of inclusivity, I still can’t decide what’s worse. Is it worse to not speak up at all? Or is it worse to protest and speak openly about issues that you never intend to actually live or do anything about? And you’re so right that no matter how big of a city you go to, most people will stick to what’s most comfortable. I think this past election, too, has made many of us realize that even if we might have friends that don’t look like ourselves, we primarily surround ourselves with people who think the same way we do. Time to expand our horizons!

  14. Cynthia

    It’s interesting to read your thoughts about this as someone not originally from the PNW. As I’m from Seattle/islands north of Seattle I hear many similar things from people who move there. (and yes… seriously…. telling people you’re from California is the worst thing you could do – haha) I have a few friends that used to live in SEA but had to move back to Portland because they couldn’t handle the weather (we like to refer to it as “neon grey”) and they’re much happier now. So, I suppose it could be worse ;)

    1. Esther JuLee

      I’ve heard all about people writing all over real estate signs that Californians are not welcome. Just glad that we’re not and didn’t have to deal with that hate.. though we did most recently live there. haha We’ll just stick to telling people we’re from Georgia.

      Why is it called neon grey? I actually read that even though Seattle is thought to be the rainier, gloomier city, it’s pretty comparable. Seattle has more rainy days (but only 3 inches more per year) and Portland has more cloudy days. (In case you want to see the data: Everyone says this year was the most brutal for the entire PNW though. I’m wondering if we lived here another year, if we could have handled it. haha I guess we will never know unless we give it another go.

  15. Rachel

    this is SO helpful. i’m always exploring where i want to live next and Portland has been sooorrrrt of on the radar just for the outdoors life. i’m a bit hesitant about the liberal/progressive attitudes though! and good to know about the food bc i’m a big critic as well.

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thanks, Rachel! I’m so glad you found this helpful. I do know everyone has different experiences depending on what neighborhood they live in or what circles they run in, so I would suggest giving it a test run to see how it is for you. :) We have cousins here who’ve lived in Portland for almost a decade and they absolutely love it. Have you visited Portland much?

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