Every day, when I walk or drive around the corner to Main Street, the first thing I see is Raccoon Mountain on the horizon. If I cross Main and continue down one of the side streets, I see Lookout Mountain. I've never had this experience in my everyday life before. The mountains around here are so cute and funny, too, popping up from the relatively flat land surrounding them, like the way little kids draw hills.
Con: August Weather
Apparently, we moved here at the worst possible time. It was about 100 degrees outside every day for two weeks straight. I guess it was worse than usual, but "usual" is still around 90 degrees, and I hate that, too.
Pro: Living in a Place Where People Look Forward to Fall and Winter
People around here talk about fall the way Michigan people talk about spring, as in, "I can't wait 'til fall comes and I can start biking to work, again." I'm hardwired to associate fall with school, increasing darkness and inevitable winter. All of these things still happen here in Chattanooga, except it doesn't get quite as dark and winter doesn't mean staying indoors 90% of the time. Also, I don't care what anyone says, I would much rather deal with extreme heat than extreme cold. Layering is so cumbersome and I really like seeing my bare feet outside of the shower without risking pneumonia.
Con: Everyone Assumes You're Christian
This is not new to me, but I can totally feel my Jewish friend J's* frustration when she said, "Maybe I don't want to have a 'blessed' day." That happened to me all the time when I was living in Detroit, so as culture shock goes, it doesn't register quite as high as other Chattanoogan idiosyncrasies. Plus, being (very) white makes it easy for this atheist to pass. I'm sure it sucks a lot harder if you wear a hijab or a turban, but of course I don't see that so much around here.
And lots of 'em! Not just Monarchs! Will work on getting photos.
Con: Almost Everyone is a Republican
Obviously, moving from Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County to a place where the primary election seals the Republican winners is a drastic change. But here's the thing - as much as I got used to living in a so-called bastion of liberalism, Michigan is a swing state and even Ann Arbor isn't as thoroughly liberal as this region is conservative. Ann Arbor is a very wealthy town, which means it has its share of Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate, Rick Snyder. And for those Ann Arborites who are aware of the rest of Michigan (granted, not many), they know that you cannot assume a person's political persuasion, which may change from election to election. Not so in these parts. I don't know what I'm going to do this election day. I mean, I know my vote will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture, but I would still feel really yucky bestowing it upon this guy.
Pro: A Tight Network of Local Businesses
I thought that the "buy local" movement wouldn't be as big here as it is in Michigan, if only because the economic situation in Chattanooga isn't as desperate ("If I can just get this upstart tea cozy business moving then maybe I won't lose my home! Oh, and I have such a passion for knitting tea cozies.") Most of the Chatt businesses I've shopped have been restaurants, but I've noticed that just about all of them use products from local vendors, including breads and buns from the bakery where I work, pork products from the sausage-maker next door, and greens from the guy who sold me a $2 bag of spring mix at the farmer's market. In fact, just about every vendor I've encountered at the market does some wholesale business within this region. And it's nice for a change to hear these vendors complain about overwork and exhaustion instead of lost revenue and foreclosure.
Con: New York Prices for Food Snobs
Dan put it well, "Being poor is cheap here but being middle class is really expensive." The most common grocery stores in Chattanooga are Bi-Lo (the name really says it all) and Food Lion, which some clever online person referred to as "The Shitty Kitty".
These stores are sucky and gross, but cheap. Then there are a couple Publix, which is touted as some great option, but it's really just a Kroger with a superiority complex. Their meat is conventionally weird and questionable, but also expensive. Organic options are few and very pricey. They don't offer many local options, either. And then, there's Greenlife. Greenlife is the place where you can buy anything organic and some (but not many) things local... if you're okay with never owning property or having children. In all of Ann Arbor, there is no grocery store as expensive as Greenlife. And get this - Whole Foods recently purchased Greenlife, which means that some of their prices will actually be lowered. Excuse me?! This is insanity. When we were nearly charged $14 for five heirloom tomatoes, Dan and I made a pact that we will never shop for produce at Greenlife again. Fortunately, there are some great farmer's markets and a pretty good Mexican grocery store nearby. I'm trying to narrow our grocery shopping to two or three locations but it's going to take a lot of strategy and research to make it work year round.
Pro: Simple Social Skills Abound
When you make eye contact with a passing driver, they wave. If you see someone walking toward you on the sidewalk, they smile and maybe say, "Hello". People start conversations with, "How are you, today?" and end with, "Have a nice day." I like these little niceties. It helps a shy person like me get acclimated to a strange new place. The thing I miss most about Michigan is talking with my friends. Granted, most of these everyday interactions I've had in Chattanooga pass without any real discussion, but it's still nice to have those social moments. They're sort of likes conversational appetizers, and sometimes those lead to a main course.
*Yes, we made friends! We're very excited.