Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


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What's it like to live in Pittsburgh?

What is it like to live in Pittsburgh, PA?

I moved to Pittsburgh last year for my graduate studies. It grew on me very, very fast. I didn’t know anyone here, and none of the people I know ever visited Pittsburgh. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I had lived in Los Angeles a few years back and naturally anticipated that Pittsburgh would have a much lower quality of life, and thus I lowered my standards accordingly.

My flight from Chicago to Pittsburgh landed at around 11am on August 10th, 2019. I did not get enough sleep that night. I looked out the window having mixed feelings of how adventurous it is to move to a new city that you’ve never visited before. My only concern at the time wasn’t that I wanted to love it, I simply didn’t want to hate it. I just wanted it to be decent enough for me to tolerate for the next 2 years and graduate.

I walked out of the plane and into the sunny, unusually colorful terminal of the airport. I look up and there was a picture of a farm that said “there once was a farm”, I walk again for about 20 feet and find another picture of the airport that said “..that turned into an airport.” I think that was my first experience of Pittsburgh humor. It felt like an uncommon way of welcoming, one that I had never experienced before.

The city was empty, my Uber driver was the only car parked on the curb of the arrivals area. He wasn’t in a good mood, I was tired, and there wasn’t anything “special”, but considering all of the above, the vibe was amazing. It felt calm, peaceful. It reminded me a lot of Wisteria Lane on a good day. Seeing the streets of Pittsburgh for the first time, I didn’t know that exhausted and happy could overlap.

What is it like to live in Pittsburgh, PA?

As in any place, there are pluses and minuses.

On the plus side:

  • friendly people
  • long history with a lot of aspects of the town reflecting that
  • Condensed downtown (one of the few areas where you can walk/bike from the suburbs to downtown)
  • Amazing geography (hills, rivers, forests, lakes); more bridges than any other city in the world (yep, we passed Venice)
  • medical care — long history (Salk was here) and excellent
  • university culture (bunches of colleges), leading to high-tech environment
  • tightly-knit communities, without cliquishness — Kids still march in parades on holidays — and get candy from firetrucks
  • Fall — the display of colors is amazing
  • Sports — Steelers football, Pirates baseball, Penguins hocky, Riverhounds soccer, PIT or Duquesne basketball, (Jerseys are considered acceptable wear to church, and during playoffs, by the pastor)
  • Cost of living — quite modest compared to many cities with all of the above

On the minus side:

  • Roads - pot-holed, frequently under construction early spring - late fall, not rectilinear (most used to be game trails), often two that meet on a map won’t in real world (see “geography” and “bridges” above).
  • Mass transit — it mostly isn’t, except really close to downtown
  • Pollution (air, water, some ground)
  • Mine subsidence (how your home becomes a hole in the ground)
  • Job offerings limited, but improving
  • Food — lots of immigrant communities, not much good ethnic food (maybe Polish or Italian)
  • Airport: it was world-class, once
  • Politics: A dead Democrat could beat any Republican
  • Ice storms: we don’t get hurricanes or mass snow-storms, but a quarter inch of ice will mess you up. The salt they spread to deal with ice doesn’t help your car much, either.
  • February: The month the temps don’t get UP to freezing.

What is it like to live in Pittsburgh, PA?

Heaven, I mean, not always, but it’s pretty great. Ton’s of affordable, beautiful, old houses, extensive parkland with trails, ample greenspace, bike lanes, windy roads, and stunning views at EVERY turn. Lots of young people in the city, maybe not so much outside of it, no reason to leave the city really… Great Cafes, (try commonplace coffee), unique hotels (the Ace, Mansions On Fifth, and whatever that big one downtown is called), tons of universities, some brick streets, and a sizable population f good people (matched with some really bad ones to be honest).

Grey skies are common here, but there is sun often enough. Lots of cool cars if you know where to look. I like the rain, but if you don’t well… Perhaps this place isn’t for you. Summer is utopian, warm beautiful weather, Fall is beautiful (Maple Trees), winter is refreshing at first, but, yeah, gets old about January first, maybe earlier, and Spring is great. Takes about two years to get to know people here, but once you do it’s like you know everybody. Eatings good to, even for vegans. Excessive amounts of bubble tea. Great place, but not for everybody.

People who moved to Pittsburgh in the last 5-10 years, would you do it again?

I moved here 5 and 1/2 years ago. I grew up in central PA, and went to college and worked in Boston before moving here. If money wasn't a factor in the equation I would 100% move back to Boston. But since money is always a factor I would make the choice again to move to Pittsburgh. I think Pittsburgh resides in this weird space where its not as dense and doesn't have as good as transit as your typical east coast city(Boston, NYC, Philly, DC) but still more dense than almost all midwest and southern cities. You have similar size areas like Columbus, Nashville, Raleigh growing at a healthy rate and I can only deduce that we are competing less with these suburban sprawl cities and are instead competing more with the east coast cities. I like the more compact city and Pittsburgh is certainly the most cost friendly among them. In addition to that we have many amenities that exceed the population of our city from the former glory days as well as having great access to outdoor recreation, specifically for me whitewater. My wife and I are in the process of buying a house and having a family thus setting our roots down here for the foreseeable future.