If you’re considering a move to Chicago, chances are you’ve heard plenty of positive feedback. After all, the city has a largely stellar reputation among locals and tourists alike—and for good reason. Stunning architecture, world-class restaurants, a vibrant arts scene, victorious sports teams…Chicago has it all.
If you are a lover of pro sports, Chicago can’t be beat. Whether you choose to root for the Cubs or the White Sox (and yes you have to choose), you’ll never run out of crowded bars to watch the game. Nothing quite beats an afternoon with friends at Wrigley Field, whether you are a baseball fan or not.
If you aren’t into sports there is still a ton to do. Boating on Lake Michigan, strolling the Navy Pier or Millennium Park, or taking a trip to the top of Sears Tower are all unique local experiences that enamor tourists. As local you can enjoy these activities on the regular, and discover even more.
Another plus is that Chicago offers a ton of public transportation options. Whether you ride the CTA, join a bike-sharing program or Uber everywhere, it is fairly easy to get around the city. There are also lots of unique and storied neighborhoods. From the hipster haven that is Wicker Park to Barack Obama’s home base in Hyde Park, Chicago hoods are incredibly unique and diverse.
But, like any other city, it’s not perfect—and it’s not for everyone. And if you’re contemplating a move to the Windy City, it’s worth considering the negative aspects.
1. Winters are long and brutal.
Chicago has many, many positives. Weather is not one of them. Winters here are both long and brutal—and the city reflects it. And thanks to climate change, the city could even see more extreme weather in the coming years. If the polar vortex of 2019 is any indication of things to come, you’ll bear witness to all kinds of fun weather phenomenon such as thermal whiplash, frost quakes and instant frostbite.
School closures, dangerous driving conditions, and temperatures so biting they chill you to the bone are all mainstays of Chicago winters. If you do choose to live in Chicago, you’ll have to decide what’s worse: The weather itself or the fact that you’ll hear “I could never live there, it’s wayyyyy too cold” every time you tell a non-Chicagoan where you live.
2. The traffic is “next level” bad.
To be fair, bad traffic is something you’re bound to find in any big city, but Chicago’s can be next level. In fact, Chicago regularly appears towards the top of lists ranking the worst cities where traffic is concerned. According to a 2017 ranking from Business Insider, Chicagoans spend an average of 26 percent more time than expected to get from place to place in the city. Let that sink in—those are some precious hours you could spend working, (or binge watching shows on Netflix).
3. It is more expensive than you think.
This one may not come as a huge surprise—after all, big cities tend to require big budgets. But while Chicago isn’t like New York City or San Francisco, it’s also not cheap in any way.
From high rent prices and (really) high taxes, to pricey restaurants and exorbitant parking fees, prepare to shell out if you’re making the move to the Windy City. According to PayScale.com, the cost of living in Chicago is 23 percent higher than the national average. Housing costs soar 55 percent above the national average, with transportation costs 26 percent more than the national average. Miami and Dallas are both more affordable options, and a lot warmer too!
4. You are going to eat like a pig.
You’re probably thinking to yourself “but isn’t that a positive?” And while Chicago’s incredible food scene certainly makes life in the city delicious, it may also make it really hard to maintain a consistently healthy diet.
Chicago does things like deep dish pizza, burgers, hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches exceptionally well, so holding on to that willpower can be tough. And as for the food scene’s effect on your wallet? Well, see above.
5. You might live in fear.
Anyone who has ever flipped on the news will tell you: Chicago has seen far, far too many shootings. While crime in the city tends to be heaviest in specific geographic pockets of the metro area, Chicago may not always feel like the safest place in the world. Of course, bad things happen everywhere—but it stands to reason that there are more peaceful cities out there.
6. “Midwestern nice” doesn’t apply.
New Chicago residents may be envisioning that “Midwestern nice” you hear about so often. They likely picture smiling faces on the street, friendly “hellos” from strangers and neighbors who are always available to help in any way. The reality? While you’ll definitely find a lot of nice, friendly people, that quaint notion of niceness isn’t always to be found among the big-city bustle.
Are Chicagoans nice? Sure, for the most part—but the sense of niceness isn’t quite as sweet as what you’ll find in a more slow-paced parts of the Midwest. There’s a sense of anonymity in Chicago sometimes: Chances are, you can live next door to someone without ever knowing his or her name, and you can go weeks at a time without unexpectedly bumping into a familiar face.
For those who have lived in large cities, this won’t be so surprising—but if you’re making the move from a smaller place, it may catch you off guard, especially in light of the “Midwestern nice” reputation.
7. The job market may not be as great as you think.
Does it surprise you that WalletHub’s 2017 ranking of best U.S. cities for job-seekers doesn’t even place Chicago in the top 20? According to this data, other Midwestern cities (like Fort Wayne, Indiana and Minneapolis, Minnesota) are better bets for those who are looking to secure jobs. While Chicago’s workforce represents incredible diversity in terms of industries and functions, plenty of competition means it can be tricky to find a job, especially if you’re fresh out of school.
8. Finding the right neighborhood can be tricky
The truth is, it’s hard to sum up Chicago’s culture because it varies drastically from one neighborhood to another.
Diverse neighborhoods mean lots of variety, but they also make the entire city feel fragmented at times. Figuring out which parts of West Side or South Side are too sketchy for your comfort zone might take a bit of careful research. And you’ll probably mix up Lincoln Square and Logan Square for your first year here.
While many neighborhood choices may be a positive for some, it can be a tough concept for others to grasp—and if you’re not wildly excited by the idea of living in a city that doesn’t always feel totally unified, it’s something to consider.
Need another reason to think twice about moving to Chicago? Your new friends will probably make you take shots of Malört.
But if you can handle that and everything else on the list, then you just might be cut out to become a Chicagoan after all.