I’ve been an Oregonian for seven months now. As a born-and-raised California girl, moving to Portland has been, well, an adjustment. We are loving life in the Pacific Northwest but there are a few things I wish I had known before my boxes were unpacked:
1. The Blinking Yellow Turn Signal
As if driving around a new city isn’t stressful enough, Portland has thrown a curve ball into the standard traffic light. You’re not crazy, the yellow turn signal is blinking. If, like me, you see a yellow light as a bit of a dare, then consider the blinking yellow arrow to be a double-dare; the kind you’d get in grade school when Emily double-dared you to tell Brandon you “like-liked” him. That blinking arrow is your new “Emily.” Do you wait? Do you move towards the center of the intersection? What if the next blink glares red? What if Brandon doesn’t like-like you back? Darn you, Emily.
2. Rain Gear
Everyone talks about the rain in Portland so let’s talk rain gear instead. Moving to Portland from drought-stricken California in January, I was determined to have my oldest suited up for his first day of school. That rainy Monday morning, I had my son in six layers of clothes and boots that were designed by NASA for navigating moon walks. I put the umbrella in his hand and rolled up to school prepared. We learned very quickly that Portlanders are actually immune to rain water. Apparently, a few months after moving here, you don’t even notice the heavenly drops. Also, when the weatherman says “rain today,” that can mean anything from four minutes of mist to six hours of downpour. Needless to say, my kid looked ridiculous for his new school debut.
3. Mommy Juice
Oregon has great wine. This is good. Oregon does not sell liquor in grocery stores. This is not good. If you want a Moscow Mule, you’ll have to find a non-seedy liquor store to get the goods. I have yet to figure out how to navigate this specific shopping trip with three kiddos in tow so, good luck with this one.
4. Oregon Gas Stations
I’d heard tales of Oregon’s rule against pumping your own gas but I didn’t think it was hard and fast. Hear me now, If you attempt to pump your own gas, THEY WILL YELL AT YOU. Can you pump faster? Maybe. Scared to hand your credit card over to some 16-year-old kid wearing a Korn beanie? Too bad. My advice is this: after moving to Portland, find a gas station near you with an attendant you like and become a regular. My guy’s name is Stan and he is great. We chat about the weather and his grandkids while he fills my tank and washes my window. Some days, Stan is the only adult interaction I get before my husband comes home. Find yourself a Stan.
5. Dutch Bros
If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ve moved to the right corner of the country. Portland does coffee well. “Dutch Bros Coffee” is a beloved PNW brand, with quality coffee and cute tulip designs on their drive-thru coffee stands. They also have a fun kids menu (mine love the “Dutch Sodas”). My only warning is this: You will feel your age while waiting at the window for your drink. Sure, the outside of the building looks innocent, but inside it’s a hormone-raging rave of techno, flannels, facial piercings and pretty people too young to vote. Bless their little hipster hearts.
6. You Are Not Alone
In my opinion, the hardest part of moving to Portland isn’t the act of relocating but the settling in after you get there. One of my favorite things about this city is that just about every other person is also a transplant. I can almost guarantee that mom on the other side of the park (also scrolling her phone instead of watching her kids) moved here not that long ago. Be brave. Say hi. You might be surprised at how much you have in common. If nothing else, you can chat about the annoying yellow lights while sipping a chai made by the Dutch Bros’ girl you just awkwardly asked to be your new babysitter.