Grab your Patagonia fleece, your mustache wax, and your favorite reusable coffee mug. Leave your umbrella at home. Why, you ask? Because we’re headed to Portland Oregon in our latest installment of awesome cities for recent grads. (Anyone who’s spent more than a day in Portland realizes that carrying an umbrella there is just not done. Being damp all the time builds character, okay?)
In recent years, this unassuming Pacific Northwest city has emerged as a hipster haven and burgeoning center of economic growth and artistic expression. We caught up with one recent grad who calls Portland home to discover the ups and downs of life in Stumptown.
Recent grad: Kristen Kohashi
College, major, graduation date: Portland State University, Graphic Design, 2012
What brought you to Portland?
When I changed my major to graphic design, I knew that I also had to change schools. I’m originally from Hawaii, so I wanted to live somewhere on the West Coast, near the Pacific. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew that I wanted to live here in Portland. The city just felt so much cleaner, safer, and nicer than other cities I’ve been to. I grew up in a pretty safe, suburban environment. Portland has a great “city” feel, without the dirt, attitudes, and constant fear of getting mugged.
What do you think the pros and cons are of living in this city?
If you like beer, coffee, biking, or anything hipster, Portland is for you. The public transportation is AMAZING. The cost of living is good. There’s no sales tax. Even in the heart of downtown, it feels pretty safe, clean, and the people are nice. It’s a big city with a small town community vibe. People tend to look out for each other here. It’s a great place to settle down and raise a family. You don’t have to dress to impress or be in a rush all the time. People here are pretty laid back.
Very open and accepting of diversity. The LGBT community in Portland is well and thriving. Feminism, choice, and positive body image are things that are talked about a lot. Dress however you want. We like to say “Keep Portland Weird,” and some of the people here definitely dress to prove it.
Also, Portland summers are fantastic. Perfect weather. Sun, blue skies, light breeze, not too hot, not too dry… perfection. Portland summers will trick even hardened Portlandians into thinking that maybe the weather’s not that bad in the rest of the year.
It really feels like the city is growing. There’s always something being built. There’s a new bridge and a new light rail line coming soon. There are tons of start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Young people are moving here in droves. There isn’t that feeling of stagnation that you get in some other cities — Portland isn’t dying anytime soon.
It’s also a great city for foodies! The food is great.
The rain. It’s not just the water—it’s gray and cold, too. No snow. Just rain. For nine months out of the year. If you’re the type of person whose mood changes with the seasons, Portland’s weather will weigh on you. When you’re not in the middle of a perfect Portland summer, it’s gray. All the time.
The job market can be tough. There are so many young people trying to move to Portland, but they have a hard time finding jobs. There are a lot of unemployed or underemployed college grads.
Lots of homeless. Luckily, they’re generally nicer and less aggressive than in some other cities.
The population downtown is pretty diverse, but the farther away from the city you go, the whiter it gets. There are some pockets of racial diversity, but not much. However, people in Portland are still pretty accepting of other ethnicities.
What should a recent graduate/twentysomething know about living in your city?
It can be tough finding a job as a recent graduate, depending on your major. Tech, healthcare, and manufacturing jobs are all up, but other areas are competitive.
If you love the nightlife, there are a lot of good bars, but not a lot of good dance clubs.
Sometimes, it can be hard to make friends. You really have to go out of your way to get out, join groups, and get involved.
I’ve heard people say that people in Portland are unfriendly and cold. I disagree. People here are nice and genuine. But it’s cold and rainy so they’re not going to be out, looking up, and smiling all the time. If you’re new here, it can be hard work growing your friend group.