Author Topic: Potential relocation: East Coast --> Midwest - can you share your experience?  (Read 1861 times)

mrteacher

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My fiance and I (both teachers, late 20s) are considering making the move from the East Coast (Greater Boston - where I grew up) to the Midwest (Western Michigan, Grand Rapids area - where her family lives).

Having dated for several years, I've had a chance to go out and visit her hometown and spend good time in Michigan. I feel like I am able to accurately identify some of the differences between here and there; however, I wanted to see if anyone here has experiences that would be helpful for us to consider. Financially speaking, we would both be taking pay cuts, but there is a comparable drop in cost-of-living, so much so that we might actually be coming out ahead even with the drop -- I'm in the process of running numbers, but this post is more about lived experiences as opposed to financials.   

What is your experience living in Western Michigan? What are the pros/cons? What about the Midwest in general? Have you ever moved from the East Coast to Midwest or vice versa? What was the move like? What sorts of differences in ways-of-life did you notice? Anything in particular that we should be aware of with a (half) cross-country move like this?
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 07:11:14 AM by mrteacher »

MDM

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Have you ever moved from the East Coast to Midwest...?
Yes.

Midwest was much better if you like outdoor activities, because in general it takes less time to get away from concrete-covered ground.

Of course, that stereotypes both places....

dhc

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Have you ever moved from the East Coast to Midwest...?
Yes.

Midwest was much better if you like outdoor activities, because in general it takes less time to get away from concrete-covered ground.

Of course, that stereotypes both places....

This is not true if, like me, you grew up in a rural part of the East Coast and moved to a city in the Midwest. Though it's easy to get out of the city, it's very far to mountains, which is what I miss most (though I suppose it's closer to the larger Western mountains than I ever was before).

You know, on the whole I haven't noticed so many real differences that could really be traced to a region (aside from geography, and closely-related things like the weather - tornadoes aren't fun). Instead, I tend to notice differences about the particular cities/towns I've lived in, and about the individual states (and their politics, for instance). But that's going to vary quite a bit depending on the state, and I wasn't in MA and I'm not in MI, so I can't help you with specifics there.

MDM

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Midwest was much better if you like outdoor activities, because in general it takes less time to get away from concrete-covered ground.
Of course, that stereotypes both places....
This is not true if, like me, you grew up in a rural part of the East Coast and moved to a city in the Midwest.
Exactly.  Stereotypes are sometimes true, but not always.

k-del

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I have lived in west Michigan for the past 15 years.  Michigan is the most expensive state in the US to own a car, yet we have some of the worst roads. The auto insurance system is a ridiculous no-fault system that is just asinine. Other than that, I really like it here. It is a great place to raise a family. You are already used to snow, so I don't have to warn you about that.  And an "outdoorsy" lifestyle is very common and promoted here, so if you like to hunt, fish, ride quads, etc. you will feel right at home.

Actually, please don't move here. They are promoting the Holland and Grand Rapids areas so much, folks are moving here by the carload. It's getting too crowded for my tastes.  ;) 


letthelightin

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We are considering a very similar move in the next year or so (also East Coast to MI, to be closer to my family- DHs family is on the East Coast).

I'll share a bit of my experience, although the caveat is that my experience is mostly with rural northern MI, which could be much different than what it's like in southern MI/Grand Rapids.

I grew up in MI and moved to the East Coast 12 years ago. The most immediate difference I noticed when I moved here is that people here are much more private/less likely to smile and say hi as they pass you on the street. People in MI are friendly and don't mind small talk (although they often love to gossip too). In general, people on the East Coast seem more open minded. The East Coast also has a more "busy" feel to it- like people are in a rush to go here or do that, and there are an unlimited number of things you can do (museums, classes, sports, etc). In MI, life feels a bit more laid back, slow, less rushed. You will likely get stuck in a "traffic jam" behind farm equipment on the roads in MI, people often drive under the speed limit, etc. So if you like the "go go go" feel of the East Coast, that might be quite an adjustment. My DH especially hates driving in MI- his East Coast road rage tends to flare up. :) In MI, I feel like there is less pressure to keep up with the Joneses- having a nice house, or a fancy car, having your kids enrolled in three activities at a time, etc., does not seem to be as celebrated/expected there as it is on the East Coast.

You might want to think about the long term implications of the move. Will you be ok being away from your family? What about if you have kids? Will your family travel to visit you in MI, or will you have to take trips back to the East Coast to see them? We use most of our vacation time each year to go to MI because my family does not travel. Once we had kids, the "annual pilgrimage" became even more important, because I want my kids to know my family. Unfortunately, this means we don't have the time to take other vacations.

I want to move back to MI to be closer to my family, but I do worry about it because there are a lot of trade-offs (especially in the region where my family lives). There aren't nearly as many job opportunities as there are on the East Coast. Schools are few and far between, so if we want a good school district, we'll be very limited in where we can live. There isn't as much in the way of programs & classes for kids. The selection in grocery stores is much more limited (and often nearly as expensive). You have to drive to get anywhere- not having a car isn't really an option. We are actually considering southern MI/Grand Rapids area as an option to combat some of these, but these are definitely things to consider if you if you will be outside the major metropolitan areas.

On the plus side, I think my kids will spend a lot more time outside. There are some really amazing places to visit in MI, all within a day's drive. I will enjoy not feeling like I have to impress anybody. I can visit my family over a long weekend, instead of trying to pack in a years' worth of missed time with friends and family into one short week. I have been spoiled by the East Coast in many ways, but I imagine the benefits will far outweigh those things I will be missing.

I hope this helps!

mrteacher

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You might want to think about the long term implications of the move. Will you be ok being away from your family? What about if you have kids? Will your family travel to visit you in MI, or will you have to take trips back to the East Coast to see them? We use most of our vacation time each year to go to MI because my family does not travel. Once we had kids, the "annual pilgrimage" became even more important, because I want my kids to know my family. Unfortunately, this means we don't have the time to take other vacations.


This is what I have thought about most. We do want kids. I think that we will travel back East sometimes, and vice versa.

The big thing working in our favor is that we are teachers and have summers to do with what we please. We also have 1.5-2 weeks off at Christmas, spring break, etc. Lots of time to visit and be visited. My fiance and I are also ok with making the MI-->MA drive.

Thanks for the input, everyone!

letthelightin

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I forgot that you mentioned you are both teachers! That will definitely make it easier to schedule visits with family. I've done drives from CT to MI & back quite a few times- it's definitely doable, even with kids. Best of luck to you!

Abe

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The midwest in general is a slower pace than the east coast due to its lower population density (except Chicago). Even in Chicago it's not like NYC or Boston by any stretch. Things are also cheaper overall.

mrteacher

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The midwest in general is a slower pace than the east coast due to its lower population density (except Chicago). Even in Chicago it's not like NYC or Boston by any stretch. Things are also cheaper overall.

I'm definitely looking forward to the slower pace of life and the lower COL.

Do you feel like everything is cheaper? From my experience out in Western Michigan, I feel like even things like beers at a bar are $1-$2 cheaper.

Abe

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For the most part things are cheap. Gas in Chicago in particular is expensive, but that'S due to local regulations. Food and utilities are super cheap.

neverrun

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I'm very familiar with GR, born there and have decent idea of the Education sector as quite a number of family members are/were teachers in the area.  I know the employment market for teachers is decently good with GRPS almost always hiring as the other districts often poach their teachers.  Oh and FYI spring break will be the first full week of April, seriously something like 95%+ of the school districts.

I moved to NYC after college to get a job, now when I visit GR the most annoying thing to me is that drivers do not understand the zipper merge. 

GR is defiantly an interesting changing city.  When I was growing up a nickname that fit it quite well was Bland Rapids, not so now especially with the emerging beer scene which still kind of floors me knowing old GR.  There are some areas that are still kind of bland where the dominate group are the decedents of the Dutch Christian Reformed, while good people they can be kind of clan-ish.  Its the home of Founders and Bells is just down the highway in K-zoo, plus tons of other brewerys if that is of interest.  There are also a decent amount of wineries in the state as well.       

It also has a good basic infrastructure for biking thanks in large part to a local philanthropist who liked it himself.  I can go 2 miles from my parents place out in the edge of the city and get on a bike path that intercepts with multiple other paths for lots of biking options.  The city has also started to add dedicated lanes to a decent number of city roads.  There is a decent urban, semi-urban, suburban mix although the urban core still lacks some things such as a large grocery store downtown.  I will say while we don't have mountains thanks to the glaciers the state isn't Iowa flat either, plenty of kettles and moraines.  40 minutes to the Lake at Grand Haven and plenty of nature options when you go "up North."

   

chemistk

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I did the opposite a few years back and my wife and I are counting the years until we can reverse that decision.

I grew up 30 minutes from Detroit, so I spent summers all over the state. In 2013 I moved to PA, 2 hours from DC and Philly, so that we could get married and live together while she was in school.

I've been to Lake Michigan every year since I was born, and I would feel wierd if I didn't go. We (my wife and I) fantasize about the day we can live in Western MI. I converted her to MI over East coast beaches/vacations. She's an East coaster born and raised and would drop it all to live in Holland, Ludington, Petoskey, Mackinac, Traverse, etc. etc.

I've yet to meet anyone who ever lived in or visited Western  Michigan who hated it. Most want to go back. I don't have much more of value to add on top of what others here have said other than I'm envious of you!

Being near DC, philly, NY, etc. is nice and those places are great to go, but the QoL out there in western MI is just better.

And yeah I do look at relocating from time to time. My job is just too nice right now. Our consolation is my family is in Michigan so we get chances to get out there.

mrteacher

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Being near DC, philly, NY, etc. is nice and those places are great to go, but the QoL out there in western MI is just better.

Thanks for the response, chemistk.

I'd love if you could expand on what I bolded above. I hear this all the time from Michiganders and Midwesterners in general. I have a sense for some of the more compelling reasons, but I would like to hear what in particular made you say this. 

chemistk

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Being near DC, philly, NY, etc. is nice and those places are great to go, but the QoL out there in western MI is just better.

Thanks for the response, chemistk.

I'd love if you could expand on what I bolded above. I hear this all the time from Michiganders and Midwesterners in general. I have a sense for some of the more compelling reasons, but I would like to hear what in particular made you say this.

It's the pace of things. Ever been to a cottage somewhere and there's a sign hanging that says "go jump in the lake"? Well, most of the towns from South Haven all the way to Mackinac seem to be centered around that philosophy. Lake Michigan is what makes the Quality of Life what it is (at least for me). With the exception of downtown Grand Rapids and Muskegon, the pace of life is just slower. A lot of people (not all) you encounter are nice and laid back, most would rather chit chat for 15 minutes than move to whatever their next task is.

Of course, I'm generalizing Western MI and not the GR area. GR is easily the most cosmopolitan area in Michigan after parts of the Detroit area, but everyone I've met from around there has been wonderful. I mentioned pace of life not being as slow in Muskegon/GR, but compared to NYC/Philly/Boston/DC, it's like molasses.

If you haven't yet, I encourage you to spend a week, weekend, or overnight if that's all you can muster in Holland. Walk up and down 8th street, visit the State Park (or Tunnel Park if the State Park is too crowded), check out some of the quieter neighborhoods. You'll see where I'm coming from. if you've been - then go North! Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Torch Lake...you get the ides.

MDM

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It's in a thread about the Iowa ride (RAGBRAI), but see also A couple of organized rides in Michigan if you are so inclined.

mrteacher

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Thanks for the clarification, chemistk.

Over the few years my fiance have dated, I've spent some time visiting her family and exploring Western Michigan. We've been up to Sleeping Bear dunes, but never Traverse City or several of the other places you mentioned. It's hard to say whether or not I really noticed a difference in life pace -- in part because I was on vacation myself.


For those of you who have the knowledge, can you speak more specifically about the COL differences between Boston and Western Michigan? Of course I know that the home prices are dramatically different, but what are other key contributing factors to the lower COL in Western Michigan? In what ways do you notice the difference?

neverrun

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Utilities, the Great Lakes have an interesting weather moderation effect making the summers a bit cooler and winters a bit warmer than the surrounding states, a mini-coastal effect.  I will say that my costs on gas and electricity are much less than my electric costs from GA and NY.  However, I don't know if it is because of better efficacy or lower cost.   

On taxes, while higher than the south, they are much lower than the east coast both for income and property taxes.  Sales tax is 6% with no tax on food/medicines.

When it comes to the lower end of goods and groceries, having Meijer's around to compete with Walmart and Target is a huge plus as it is another huge player that helps drive down costs. 

For good quality local food, there was a great farmers market in GR for as long as I can remember, plus tons of U-pick farms farms in the summer.  I know there are other markets around but we went to the GR one.

As far as culture, in part thanks to the families that run Amway and Meijers, it is pretty decent and affordable:  there is Art Prize (free) and several museums, my family's favorite is the Meijer Botanical Gardens and sculpture park which although pricey for one day, family memberships are $90 for the year.  There are minor league sports teams that focus on family friendly pricing; although inflation has occurred and my $3 lawn seats in 1998 now cost $8 for the baseball team. 

Attitude toward entertaining at home.  I think the midwest in general is more accepting of the potluck, or pot luck type events than the east coast.

Outdoors, great bike path network that I mentioned before and a pass to the state parks is an $11 addition to you car registration.  (no cost for bikers)

Travel, sometimes the rates out of GR airport are not all that great but Chicago is 3 hours away and DTW 2 hours making them good alternative options. 

ETA:  Going to the shore likely means that you scored a week at the state park campground vs renting a summer house.

« Last Edit: April 24, 2017, 06:03:19 PM by neverrun »

mrteacher

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Thanks, neverrun!

ChandraNH

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We moved from rural New Hampshire to Kansas City about 9 years ago. 

It was a transition for us, to go from skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, kayaking and beautiful motorcycling roads with everything right out our front door to a less nature-focused environment with a distinct lack of all those things.  But we do love our proximity now to museums, restaurants, getting items that are obscure to New Hampshire (ethnic groceries) at any grocery store. 

What we don't love is the lack of seafood, water (other than rain), ice cream and good hot dogs.  We are an interracial couple and had a lot of mixed-politic/class friends, mostly white, in New Hampshire, people who would drop everything for you and we don't get that sense here, where there is a lot more segregation (voluntary and involuntary) between races, socio-political, sexuality.

Financially, I still work for the company I worked for in New Hampshire and they are Boston-based, so I make more than I would at an employer here.  My group will likely see layoffs in the next 60 days or so, so I'm likely going to see a 30% reduction in pay by taking a local job, but it's also fine due to the MCOL (energy is less, we went from oil heat to electric).  Taxes are higher than they were in NH (which has no state income tax or sales tax but high property tax) here in KS (which has state income, sales and high property tax).  Our insurance rates are higher (auto insurance doubled when we moved here).

Trudie

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Since you are teachers I would suggest that you hop on over to aceyou's journal -- he and his wife are both teachers in Michigan.

I have only traveled on the East Coast, but I think you will find that the transportation network here is car-dependent.  No hopping the train between cities, taking ferries, or puddle-jumpers.  That might be all-right with you, but it's one thing we're hoping to escape when we FIRE.

Most of the differences I see here are urban v. rural.  I grew up in a small city, but the last 14 years have lived in a rural college town.  The town itself is pretty vibrant culturally (the college helps immensely) , but I work in a different even smaller town and experience -- almost daily -- the divide between the rural locals and the transplants.  It's not nasty or ill-intentioned, but I often feel that I am a totally different creature and we all have blinders on about each others' experiences.