23 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Portland, Oregon

Sue Campbell
March 11, 2019
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Even before the TV show “Portlandia” put the weirdness of Portland, OR, on center stage, it was a much-beloved relocation destination. Boasting great public transportation, beautiful parks and a mild climate, Portland has seen dramatic population growth over the past 20 years. Still, Portland has managed to maintain its unique character.

Here are a few pieces of insider information that’ll help you fit in as soon as you arrive in Portland.

1. Redefine “rain gear.”

Portland Wheel of Fortune

Yes, Vanna, it does rain a lot in Portland.

Locals don’t carry umbrellas or wear rain boots or Gore-Tex. Get a light wool coat, hat and socks. You’ll be all set for the mild winters, and wool will keep you warm even when it’s wet. You’ll need your new rain gear from October through May — at least.

2. Pack your vitamin D.

It’s not the rain that’s depressing, it’s the gray. Your body can’t make vitamin D without sunlight, and your brain can’t be happy without vitamin D. Take it every day once the rains start in October and avoid those winter blahs. But when the sun does come out, you’ll appreciate the stunning views of Mt. Hood towering in the distance.

3. Prepare for a change of pace.

Folks from the East may not prepared for how much slower things move in the Pacific Northwest. For example, expect grocery store check-out lines to move at a snail’s pace, but at least you’ll have a friendly chat with your clerk.

4. Our favorite color is green.

Portland recycling

Recycling is part of the green-friendly culture in Portland.

We’re proud of our sustainability cred — we recycle, up-cycle and compost. And we like to think our numerous parks and green spaces are second to none. Not to mention that the grass stays green all winter. It turns brown in the summer, because we don’t waste water like that.

5. Brake for people.

People here walk everywhere and expect safe passage crossing the street. Drivers are expected to yield, yield and yield some more. When it is too far too walk and too wet to cycle, we are big proponents of our public transportation system called the MAX.

6. Know your quadrants.

Burnside Street divides north and south. The Willamette River divides east and west. Most addresses contain both directions. So, if someone tells you they got a great bowl of ramen on Southeast Hawthorne Street, you know it’s east of the river and south of Burnside.

7. We’re serious about biking.

Portland cycling

Portland is one of the best U.S. cities for cyclists.

Some of our bike lanes actually have passing lanes to accommodate all lf the bike traffic. There’s a bike shop, or two, for every neighborhood, and we have an impressive system of bike paths and shared roadways.

8. Repeat after me.

The name of that river? It’s pronounced Wil-LAM-ette. The accent is on the second syllable. The last syllable is the same as Smurfette.

The name of our beautiful state? It’s OR-UH-GUN. For the love of Pete, don’t say OR-UH-GONE. Lips will purse. Feathers will ruffle.

9. Speaking of feathers, yes, those are chickens you hear.

They squawk when they lay eggs. Many of your new neighbors will tend to their own backyard flocks. Don’t worry about waking up to the sound of roosters crowing; only hens are allowed.

10. I’ll have the salmon.

Oregon salmon

Watching (and eating) salmon is popular in the Portland area.

There are several salmon runs throughout the year in our local rivers. We’re serious about protecting the species, and we’re also serious about eating them. The non-vegetarians, that is.

11. All food philosophies share the table.

“Do you have any dietary restrictions?” is one of the first questions you’ll be asked when you arrive. We’re not mocking you — we want to pick the right restaurant or food cart for you. Whether you prefer to eat vegan, Paleo or gluten-free, or you adore tails and trotters, you’ll find plenty of dining options and dinner companions.

12. We’re macro when it comes to microbreweries.

We have more microbreweries (nearly 60 and counting) than you can drunkenly shake a stick at. As you might imagine, Portland consistently ranks as one of the best — if not the best — craft beer cities in the U.S.

13. And then there’s the wine.

Oregon wine

Oregon’s wine country is south of Portland.

Oregon wine country is just a short drive to the south. Try the Pinot. In all, more than 460 wineries operate in Oregon.

14. We are coffee snobs.

We have almost as many independent coffee roasters as we do microbreweries. There’s a little place in Northwest Portland where the barista chooses your drink for you. Yes, we do go to Starbucks (they’re everywhere), but we feel guilty about it. After all, Travel+Leisure did name us the No. 1 coffee city in America.

15. Some weather scares us.

While we don’t bat an eyelash at steady rain, we tend to freak out over thunderstorms and snow.

16. Cats and dogs are family.

Portland and pets

Portland and pets go together.

Coffee shops here cater to animal lovers who want to bring their pets. We spend a large portion of our income on fancy pet food. You might even see someone bringing a cat to the farmers market. We’re softies like that.

17. We want to needle you.

Portland is home to two schools for the practice of Eastern medicine. It’s just a matter of time before you find yourself lying on an acupuncture table with tiny needles sticking out of you. The sooner you surrender, the more at home you’ll feel here.

18. Ocean, mountain or waterfalls?

The Pacific Ocean is less than a two-hour drive to the west; Mount Hood is about an hour to the southeast. If you don’t like either of those, drive 45 minutes to the northeast, and you’re at the mind-bogglingly beautiful Columbia River Gorge, with its scads of spectacular waterfalls. If nature isn’t your thing, Seattle is less than three hours away.

Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge features several gorgeous waterfalls.

19. Where to head when it’s clear.

When the clouds finally part, head to Washington Park, Council Crest or Mount Tabor Park for views of three mountains: Hood, St. Helens and Adams.

20. We’re nicer than Minnesota nice.

Maybe it’s because so many people choose to live here in their pursuit of happiness, but most people you meet are remarkably genuine and friendly. At least the ones without ironic mustaches.

21. What we lack in professional sports teams we make up for in team spirit!

Portland might only be home to two professional sports teams, and if you aren’t from around here you might have only heard of the one. While we are quite proud of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, it is our professional soccer team that perhaps the most dedicated fan base. If you really want to fit in like a local, get yourself a Portland Timbers jersey stat.

22. Back away from the pump.

Oregon is only one of two states (the other is New Jersey) where it is illegal to pump your own gas. This is frequently a topic of hot-button debate, but our advice is to sit back in your ride and enjoy the perk.

23. Save when you shop!

Speaking of perks, Oregon is also one of the few places in the country where there is zero sales tax. Portland doesn’t impose a local sales tax either. On the flip side, Oregon has one of the highest personal income taxes in the country.

Photo of “Wheel of Fortune” board courtesy of Flickr/Aaron Parecki, photo of recycling station courtesy of Flickr/imelda, photo of cyclists courtesy of Flickr/Katie Thebeau, photo of salmon sign courtesy of Flickr/Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington, wine country photo courtesy of Flickr/Travel Salem, photo of dog and cat courtesy of Flickr/Roger, photo of Columbia River Gorge courtesy of Flickr/Michael Matti

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