It’s officially been one year since I moved to Chicago! Having said goodbye to Los Angeles exactly 365 days ago, I’m celebrating my first anniversary in the Midwest with a week long series here on Visions of Vogue. So let’s kick it off with 10 things I learned after moving to the Windy City.
I don’t know what I was thinking a year ago. In many ways. I was so excited about moving to Chicago that I was also in an intense state of denial about what it all meant. I don’t think there’s a better way to describe my approach to uprooting my entire life than “Hakuna Matata”. I wasn’t worried about anything. In hindsight, this was pretty bold (and very uncharacteristic of me). But it worked out.
After living here for a year, I’ve had some time to reflect. For anyone considering a move to Chicago, take some notes. This list is all the things they don’t tell you before you move. Or maybe they try to tell you and you just can’t comprehend it. Which brings me to my next point. To everyone from the Midwest who tried to explain something to me, I now understand what you meant.
1. It is freaking cold.
I know what you’re thinking (“duh”) but bare with me. So many people tried to tell me how cold it gets here and more than once. But as a California girl, there was no way in hell I was able to comprehend just how cold it would get. Wind chill? Polar vortex? What is that? I learned really quickly. And before you say it, I’m aware that last winter was a “mild” winter but try being from the west coast. In LA, I shivered at a slight breeze in temperatures around 65. In Chicago, I wear 6 layers and own items I never thought I would own (like thermal leggings) just to survive my 10 minute walk to work. I still stop breathing whenever a 30 mph gust of freezing (literally, not figuratively) wind smacks me in the face.
2. Revolving doors or bust.
Almost every building in Chicago has a giant revolving door in front of it. Our apartment building, my office, the market… all of them. Coming from the land of zero revolving doors, I quickly got annoyed at how slow they are to walk through. Not to mention how heavy they are to push around. Sure, there are some efficiencies, like people can go out and in at the same time. And they help tone your arms, chest and legs. But honestly, I miss good old swinging doors.
Side note for guys, if you’re trying to be nice, don’t let the girl go through the revolving door first. Watching her work like a pack horse while you breeze right through isn’t thoughtful. It’s the opposite. Throw everything society tells you out the window and go first.
3. Sidewalks double as patios.
Remember the uninviting sidewalks that used to be caked with snow? Well, come June, they magically become restaurant patios. Doesn’t matter how wide the sidewalk is or where it’s located. All sidewalk area is maximized for the 3 months of the year where the weather is enjoyable. And it’s like the restaurants have a giant group text where they all plan to put out tables and chairs on the same day. You will walk outside one morning, continue on your way to the office just like any other day, and find yourself having to step around a few obstacles that weren’t there yesterday.
4. Meat and potatoes. And carbs.
It’s no secret that Chicago is known for it’s deep dish pizza. But the Chicago cuisine doesn’t extend much beyond my husband’s diet: meat, potatoes, and carbs. Midwesterners love it. They opened the world’s only Nutella cafe in Chicago because “people here love to eat”. Every block has an Italian restaurant or a steakhouse. My first food festival in Chicago was Burger Fest – an event dedicated to beef patties and fried potatoes as you might have guessed. The meat section at our market is bigger (and has more variety) than the fresh produce. And boy can these people eat. It’s downright impressive.
Being vegetarian (and now vegan) is quite the challenge in this city. You also get quite a few looks of confusion when people find out. Not to mention the inevitable “but how do you get your protein?” Sigh. That being said, I’m slowly finding healthy food options here. Stay tuned for a post on that!
5. Everyone will want to talk to you.
In LA, you avoided eye contact and verbal exchanges like the plague. Keeping your head down was the name of the game. I remember checking out at Trader Joe’s my very first week here. The cashier had a full on conversation with me about moving to Chicago, tips on what to do, the best floral shops. If I had had more groceries, we would have known each others life histories by the time I swiped my credit card. People say hi to you in the elevator, talk to you if you’re next to them in any kind of line, and will give passing compliments or ask what your skincare routine is regularly. It’s the weirdest and most endearing thing. Midwesterners are just gold.
6. Eating is an event.
Eating is at the center of most things here in the Midwest. So much so that people make events out of them. Food festivals are life here in the summer months. And so is drinking. Taco/Burger/Tequila Fest? Gourmet Chicago? Take your pick every single weekend. There is always some kind of event going on that you can get into for a minimum fee and is sure to provide a night full of entertainment and a stuffed belly. Food festivals also turn into low key concerts with local bands. Because what’s better than dancing to live bands to help burn off that double fried Oreo you just inhaled?
7. The “beach”.
It’s cute how people refer to the tiny bit of sand at the edge of Lake Michigan as a “beach”. I mean, technically, I suppose it is. But there are no waves, the mile long cement slabs in between patches of sand are weird, and it faces the wrong direction (East instead of West). Not to mention it probably doesn’t go more than 40 feet back from the water before you hit a major road or plant life. I just want to take everyone to California with me and show them the world (a la Aladdin on his magic carpet ride).
Yes, people actually refer to the city and surrounding areas as “Chicagoland”. I thought that was a TV show or a joke at first. But nope. It’s a real thing. The definition of what is included in Chicagoland is also very generous. People that live in Indiana sometimes consider themselves as being from Chicagoland. How can you be from a completely different state and time zone but also be part of Chicago? That makes no sense!
9. Work life balance isn’t a myth.
Back in Los Angeles, it was an unspoken game to see how late people could stay at the office. No one left before 6PM and people often bragged about how late they stayed. Workaholics were more common than waiters wanting to become actors in Hollywood. Here, there is no hesitation to pack up right at 5PM (note the definition of a 9 to 5 is actually reflective of the hours people work in Chicago) if not earlier. Not only that, but almost every company has Summer Fridays or time off on Friday’s between Memorial Day and Labor Day. When you have only 3 months of good weather, you gotta make time to enjoy it right? I’m not complaining.
10. You will see more than you ever thought (you wanted to) on the “L”.
Hailing from the city where everyone drives and no one uses public transportation, taking the train to work on my first day was a wake up call. I smelled no less than 10 people’s BO, I witnessed a very inebriated individual dancing to his own beat, saw someone lick the handrail like it was a popsicle, and was asked if I wanted to buy a used razor blade. I’m surprised no television network has made this the setting of a reality show yet!
That wraps up my first post in this series! I hope you enjoyed it! What was your favorite thing I talked about?