Memphis, Tennessee

Grind City

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What's it like to live in Memphis?

What do you think about living in Memphis, TN?

My husband and I have lived in Bartlett (Memphis suburb) since 2011. We are military transplants who have stayed much longer than we intended and are still looking for our next move.

Memphis suburbs are fine and there are nice/fun areas in Memphis as well (downtown and midtown are my favorites). There are plenty of restaurants, a great zoo, botanical gardens, museums, bars, etc. The problem is how run down the city is. It really does look terrible. Our infrastructure is horrible…we should be called the “Pothole City” and there’s a lot of blight and litter.

As with most larger cities, we have our ghettos and you definitely don’t want to wind up in them. The problem is, they seem to be everywhere…one block is decent, the next is run down. Crime, gangs, and drugs are all problems here as well as poverty. Race is also a big issue here and there are many who will dislike you just because of the color of your skin. This is not true for all by any means but that attitude is definitely expressed by plenty.

I try to make the best of Memphis by enjoying the good and avoiding the bad. With that being said, I would not recommend anyone moving here unless it is for a job that they will truly love or because they want to be near family. Being the type of person who makes the best of any situation would be also be really helpful. This city (and Millington, in my opinion) can be depressing but maybe I feel that way because I miss home (Southern CA).

My hope is that Memphis can be revitalized, cleaned up, prettied up, and maintained because there is so much influential history here especially regarding civil rights and music.

The best advice before moving anywhere is to visit it first…a few times, to really make sure it feels right to you.

What do you think about living in Memphis, TN?

We’ve lived in Memphis since 1989. While it has its problems, Memphis has been very good to my family and me. We enjoy our midtown neighborhood and all the amenities that surround it - Overton Park, Overton Square, Crosstown, good schools and hospitals, a neighborhood with sidewalks, bike lanes, and friendly neighbors. Additionally, Memphis has a very low cost of living compared to other cities of similar size. There is a vibrant music scene with many free concerts at the University of Memphis, Rhodes College, and the Levitt Shell. I’m not sure you could ask for a whole lot more in the way of restaurants in a city this size either. The food selection is great. And if none of that appeals, you can always go watch the sun set over the Mississippi River and be awestruck every time.

Considering moving to Memphis, but am worried about the amount of poverty. Is it that bad?

Good questions! Memphis is a poor city. It is a nice place to live though, especially with your income level.

The upshot, as it were, to the poverty is the low cost of living. Housing stock in Memphis is very cheap compared to the national averages and incredibly cheap if you're moving from a high cost of living area. With a $300,000 a year income and no state income tax you can essentially afford to live just about anywhere in the city you would like. You will be pleasantly surprised that there is something other than poverty in Memphis!

My family doesn't make nearly as much as yours will if your husband accepts this job and we live a very comfortable life. We are able to afford to live in a very nice neighborhood with good public schools (at least through elementary). There are great restaurants and a variety of things to do for fun. On top of that, we are seeing a real explosion in development projects in the downtown and midtown areas. The city is growing, job growth is happening, and Memphis is a better place to live today than it has ever been.

The other side of the coin is the poverty and crime which are very real. People here may disagree with me a bit on this but if you avoid certain areas of town, aren't involved in shady shit, and have a bit of street smarts you are much less likely to be a victim of crime. I grew up here, moved away, and moved back. The only times in my life I've been a victim of crime were while I was living outside of Memphis. Take my experience with a grain of salt.

Can I ask where you're moving from? That may help us understand what your reaction to Memphis may be!

Considering moving to Memphis, but am worried about the amount of poverty. Is it that bad?

I just moved back about 6 months ago after being away from Memphis for 15+ years. It's a completely different town that's up and coming (finally). Racial segregation is still an issue - but is swinging in the right direction. Memphis has a great art community (I hear artists are moving here from Austin because its getting too expensive there), active humanitarian (MIFA among others), cycling, running etc (and even pinball). Tons of stuff to do and be a part of if you look.

We bought in Cooper/Young and love it - it's a good mix of walkable and character. There is beginning to be some new construction and gut renovations in the area so there are things at all budgets. Other good spots are near Overton Park (the daily concert series in the Summer and Fall are a blast) and South Main. I personally would avoid Germantown, Cordova, and Mud Island unless cookie cutter is your thing.

The only thing I miss from our prior location (besides friends) was the breakout food scene DC had. Memphis is not bad and some great things opened this past year.

Where are you coming from? I wouldn't really consider Memphis dangerous.

PROS and CONS of Living in Memphis Tennessee