20 Things to Know Before Moving to Oklahoma City

Nazerene Harris
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Planning a move to OKC?

We can’t wait to have you, but there are few things you should know first.

No doubt related to the migration of millennials and others flocking to OKC, the city’s downtown areas are in the midst of a financial, architectural, social and cultural renaissance.

In the past twenty years Oklahoma City’s Bricktown entertainment district has seen the emergence of  the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, The Bricktown Canal and several restaurants and skyscrapers. Art museums and theaters add to the city’s cultural influencers. Designed after a Spanish village, Oklahoma City’s historic Paseo Arts District offers residents a chance to venture off the beaten track and explore local and unique artwork during its festivals on the first Friday of every month and annually each Memorial Day.

By the way, we have a basketball team and we’ll tell you all about it. Here are 20 more things to know about life in Oklahoma City:

1. Football is a BIG deal.

Every fall in Oklahoma you’ll hear at least one of your favorite music radio stations convert to an almost around the clock high school football play-by-play. High school games are broadcasted on local news stations, radio stations and especially by word of mouth. When it comes to college football, all lightheartedness is tossed out the window: this is serious stuff. You’re either a fan of the orange and black (Oklahoma State University) or of the crimson and cream (The University of Oklahoma). The two schools play each other every season in a square off called Bedlam and while things are kept friendly on the surface, families have been known to shun members for “switching sides.” When it’s time for OU to play The University of Texas in what is known at the “Red River Showdown,” Oklahomans have but one motto: beat Texas.

2. We have a basketball team and we’ll tell you all about it.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder made their debut in 2008 it was known as the move that put Oklahoma “on the map.” Oklahomans tune in or show up for games to watch a good match but also because we know that our state team brings in huge amounts of revenue that trickles down to local levels.

3. We have a stable economy.

In 2008 when the nation felt the first blows of a recession, the lives of most Oklahomans were left relatively unruffled. That year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Oklahoma was one of the states least affected by the national financial crisis. A near decade later, Oklahomans are still benefitting from a stable economy thanks to the natural resources that power our energy and agriculture industries. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate usually falls below the national average and homes can be affordably purchased while their values skyrocket.

4. Millennials love us.

A recent report published by CNBC placed Oklahoma City as the number one city in the nation to start a business and career in during 2017. The ranking was based on population size, unemployment rate, median housing cost, average income and the accessibility to acquiring a business loan. These factors plus the low cost of living in Oklahoma City, make it a haven for millennials on the job hunt.

5. Everything is “hunky dorey”.

On the prowl for a husband? Oklahoma just might be where you’ll find prince charming. In 2012 Time Magazine dubbed Oklahoma City the “manliest” city in the nation based on the ratio of men to women (about equal in Oklahoma) and based on the amount of so called “manly qualities” like the ratio of trucks owned compared to cars, the number of steak houses in the city and the amount of men employed in hard labor fields. Really though, all a girl needs to do is take a look outside in OKC; we might have rather consistent droughts throughout the spring and summer months but all year long, it’s raining men.

6. We are gun friendly.

In 2012 Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, signed an “open carry” bill which allows permitted handgun owners to openly carry their guns in public places. Oklahoma is also a state that has adopted the “stand your ground” law, meaning that people have the right to defend themselves even with deadly force when they face harm in any place they have a legal right to be. According to DemographicData.org, about 43 percent of Oklahoma residents are gun owners. There are close to 70 gun ranges across the state.

7. Take tornado warnings seriously.

Portions of the 1996 blockbuster hit, Twister, starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, were filmed in Wakita, Oklahoma and the little town that sits in the state’s northern region has the official Twister Museum to prove it. Unfortunately, most Oklahomans didn’t have to watch the movie to get an idea of the damage that tornadoes can cause. Oklahoma has an average of 52 tornadoes per year that usually occur between the months of March and June. Local meteorologists (Oklahoma’s version of celebrities) swear that there is a common path tornadoes in the state typically pass through so before choosing where in Oklahoma you’ll reside, you might want to do some research and if necessary, buy proper home insurance and a tornado shelter.

8. It doesn’t always snow, but when it does…

It can get pretty frigid in Oklahoma and while our roads can certainly get slick with ice, on average we have only about one heavy snowfall every two years. For precautionary purposes you can count on a couple of school and work closures each year due to possible hazardous weather.

9. Liquor laws are kinda weird.

Oklahoma’s most recent liquor laws were remnants of the prohibition era. Full strength beer and wine, containing more than 3.2 percent alcohol, could only be sold in liquor stores. That changed last year when Oklahoma voters demanded that full strength wine and beer be sold in grocery stores in addition to liquor stores. The law will go into effect on October 1, 2018. Until then locals will tell you, don’t buy your alcohol at the grocery store.

10. Southern hospitality trumps “Midwest Nice”.

While Oklahoma is considered the Midwest, in addition to being a part of the south, we certainly encompass all that is southern hospitality. My mother-in-law likes to joke that the kindness of Oklahomans can be dangerous on highways when cars slow down to county road speeds  to kindly let cars merge onto the highway, with a nod of the head and a smile of course. In all seriousness, I have lived in five states and two different countries and I have never once come across the genuine kindness that is exemplified in the Sooner State.

11. Everyone knows everyone.

I moved to Oklahoma from Texas six years ago to advance my career in journalism and since that time I have learned that within the state’s media industry: Everybody. Knows. Everybody. Six years, one husband, a baby and a masters degree later, I’ve learned that this truth applies to every industry, neighborhood and school zone in Oklahoma. Just give it a year after you move to Oklahoma and you’re sure to be a part of the circle where reputation makes all the difference.

12. Oklahoma’s history is rich.

Imagine wide open spaces  as far as the eye can see. You’re told that once you hear a fire shot you can race to the land you want and claim it as yours , no down payment, mortgage or contract required. The idea is almost unimaginable today but On April 22, 1889 it was real. Oklahoma’s Land Run of 1889 is taught to Oklahoma school children as part of a local history lesson and some towns even reenact the event on its anniversary. If you’ve never heard of the Great Land Run of 1889 you will once you move to Oklahoma.

13. You’ll need a car.

There are several ways to get around Oklahoma but the one most used by far is your own handy dandy automobile. Oklahoma does offer residents and visitors some public transportation but its usage is not all that common or accessible. An Amtrak station located in downtown OKC will take passengers to and from Fort Worth and Gainesville, Texas while city officials work to improve the Embark city bus system.

14. Teachers pay is low.

Indeed.com reports that the average hourly pay for teachers in Oklahoma is just under $10, which is almost 40 percent below the national average. Teachers often protest at the state’s capitol regarding the low pay and local news reports tell stories of teachers migrating to other states to earn better pay.

15. Oklahoma is a red state.

Oklahoma City has a thriving LGBTQ community and is becoming cosmopolitan more and more each day. Fiscally, socially and politically however, Oklahoma’s population is predominately conservative.

16. Oklahoma isn’t as flat as you think.

Oklahoma’s terrain is the most diverse in the nation with ten ecoregions ranging from prairies and valleys to forests and mountains. If you are a nature enthusiast, don’t overlook Oklahoma. Our state has plenty to offer those who appreciate interesting wildlife, outdoor sports, and captivating scenery like a sun setting over an Oklahoma wheat field or a look up at the Arbuckle Mountains. More than 200 lakes can be found throughout the Sooner state and wildlife ranges from bison to pheasants, deer, wolves and every kind of bird across the Midwest.

17. Farming is good for the land … and the soul.

With 78,000 farms covering about 34 million acres of land, Oklahoma’s farming industry ranks fourth in the nation. According to farmflavor.com, “in 2013, the total value of agricultural exports for the state was an estimated $1.9 billion.” Many farmers harvest winter wheat and use the canola plant as a rotating crop. When the canola crop blooms in the spring it’s a sight that will take your breath away.

18. If you have kids, finding the best school districts is a must.

With roughly 30 percent of Oklahoma households having children under 18 years old residing in them, Oklahomans have reason to value family life. Oklahoma parents, like every other kind, want our children to live in a safe neighborhood and receive the best possible education. Achieving such goals however, requires research and often hard work. Edmond, a city north of Oklahoma City, often tops lists for having the best schools in the state and the best quality of life. The city of Jenks, in Tulsa County, usually comes in second.

19. There are a whole lot of churches.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that Oklahoma made the list for top ten states with the most church attendances. No matter the town or city you live in, in Oklahoma you’ll find a church around the corner. Eighty percent of Oklahomans are Christian with minority religions represented respectfully as well.

20. Eat at Ted’s.

You won’t regret it! I have no idea why there are not more Ted’s restaurants in the United States. There are a few in Kanasas and Missouri but most are right here in Oklahoma and you won’t hear us complain. Coming from Texas, I thought I knew what good Mexican food tasted like. Then I went to Ted’s. The margaritas are good, the food is better and the service really can’t be beat. If you make it to the Sooner State let this be where you celebrate your move!

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Nazerene Harris

Nazarene Iqbal Harris is a journalist who lives in Oklahoma City with her husband, Austin and son, Luke. She is working on publishing her first novel.
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