Can a Northerner Find Retirement Happiness in the South: Part 2

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Note: This is Part 2 in a series. Part 1, “Can a Yankee Find Happiness in the South”, came out in 2010 and has generated an amazing 241 comments so far. The topic continues to be of interest: there have already been 52 comments made so far this year!

January 26, 2015 — It is an important question for every snowbird considering a big move in retirement: will you be happy in your new location and culture? Part 1 explored the pros and cons our many members from the northeast face as they head south for retirement – often seeking warmer weather, lower costs, and fewer taxes. Here in Part 2 we will summarize the Comments made to the original article, which contained a great deal of helpful advice and suggestions.

Caution about stereotypes
One of the dangers of an article like this is that it brings out folks who like to organize people and cultures into stereotypes (which in many cases we had to delete). We will not print comments that we feel are insulting or overly generalize. Fortunately there are many more thoughtful and caring people than not; we think you will find a wealth of helpful information and insight here. Above all else, if you are considering changing regions in retirement, go and spend some time there yourself. These are just other people’s opinions – your experience might be completely different!

Summary
Positive vs. Negative Count

We tried to count how many commenters to the orginal article were positive about their retirement move to the south vs. those who regretted it. On balance, a distinct majority were happy about their decision to retire to the south.

Those who are enjoying their southern retirements like the warm weather, the relaxed atmosphere/friendly people, and the lower costs. Positive experiences were reported in cities as well as smaller towns. People who moved to towns/cities or active adult communities where there are many retirees from other areas tended to be more universally satisfied.

Those who wished they could have stayed in the northeast or somewhere else cite problems such as the heat and humidity, unwelcoming people, and traffic and development. Religion and politics were a stumbling block for others, who felt they stuck out from their new neighbors, who were often more conservative than they.

Observations:
The next sections of this article contain excerpts from the actual comments made by our members that illustrate different experiences and opinions on their southern retirements. They include some recommendations about places to consider – and to avoid. Our apologies if your Comments weren’t selected – there were so many good ones we didn’t have room for them all.

Transplant communities
Yet, there are communities in the South with transplants from all over, and I believe those communities are far more accepting of people with different views, different religions, different ideas. I also think people from the North have a much greater chance of fitting into those communities and being happy. (mrgoodwx)

Heat and humidity
Another consideration has to do with the climate. I think my wife and I would struggle with the heat and humidity that we knew as the norm when we were kids. Generally, the farther one goes into the deep south, the longer period of the year one will experience with no breaks from the oppressive heat and humidity.(mrgoodwx)

Rural vs Urban
However, having lived in a rural town of the north during my youth, I didn’t find the cultural shock so unexpected. I think rural to rural and urban to urban will be fairly level playing fields. (BarbaraT)

For those who think other regions are perfect
New England small towns (not) so great either —
Think twice about moving to a small town in New England – unless you were born here and still have family “history” in town, you will always be from “away” and never fully assimilated into the community. The cities are more of a melting pot but steer clear of rural areas or small towns. It sound like this is true in many other areas of the country as well! For us, we ARE going to retire in the South, in a gated community where folks are from all over the country and just want to enjoy their retirement years without the political or religious bantering that goes on in small towns (Sandy Z)

Advice for people contemplating retiring south
Do yourselves a favor and spend at least one extended vacation in the south BEFORE you buy! (HE Flaherty)

The best advice I can offer is embrace the differences! Learn about the culture in your new home and don’t expect things to be like they were “back home”. We moved from MI to SC last June and are loving our new home and life! We have made lots of new friends in our 55+ community which has people from all over. (Kathy)

But nevertheless, wherever you are, go out and mingle, discover, get to know people. Southerners are like people everywhere. Northerners talk behind your back just as they do down south, with the exception that here, it ends with a “bless their heart”. You find the good with the bad, you find highly intelligent and industrious people right next to those who haven’t seen a bar of soap in a while and let the world go by. (Godsgirl)

The most important message in this blog is do your own homework and figure out what suits you best. But, if anyone does find the perfect place, please let the rest of us know! (Sandie)

Comments from unhappy campers
We decided to move to East Tenn, about 30 miles outside of Knoxville. We like living in a rural area and thought it would be a nice transition. We are very friendly and expected the same from our community but have not found that we are welcomed at all. I have been so upset and although we love the beauty of the surroundings we have decided that this has been a horrible mistake. (PeggyG)

Hurricane insurance on my VERY modest 2/2 house running $4000 a year. We are moving soonest. The choice is either northern rural FL not on the coast or Colorado. The traffic here seems to have doubled just in the last 5 years….gotta get out of this place! (Lorrie)

Info about different locations
We now live in Mt. Airy, NC (11,000 Est. Pop), a community that welcomes retirees and persons seeking a better quality of life style for the experience and talents they bring to the community. (It has…) A caring and friendly attitude towards newcomers, as well as long time residents, (which) makes the community especially attractive for retirement. (PeterL)

I DO NOT RECOMMEND west Tennessee. It has issues – namely, political and racial. (Norma)

Not sure what everyone is calling “North” and “South”, but TN and VA are GREAT places to live. I live in the Winchester, VA area. Very nice, affordable and low price. (Liz)

I have both relatives and friends who live in Asheville. It is a good place for all different types of people. There is a university and lively arts and music scene. No need to worry about not being welcome as long as you are open-minded about differences. (Barbara)

Athens GA is very special. Lived there twice with my job. Many people who transfer there (including my NE friends) never leave if they can help it. Costs can vary by county. Always something interesting going on! (Marsha)

There is a quiet side to the Smokies – and wonderful mountain homes near good roads. Wears Valley – Townsend – Sevierville (is not in the ‘tourist’ mecca) which has a new hospital associated with the University system – and they are building a brand new VA hospital next door. You can be just 15 minutes from town and be ‘alone’ either ‘in’ the mountains (Diane)

I have found that Cleveland, Tennessee gives you the best of climate, beauty and cost of living while still being fairly close to convenience amenities. Plus there is no state tax. (Barbara)

There are only two areas to consider in the state of SC. The first one is Charleston, SC and the second one is Hilton head. (Jack D)

Personally I like Georgetown, SC the best and Columbia, SC second. Columbia, SC has it all. Knoxville, TN is one of the top of places to retire but too big of a city for me. (DeyErmand)

I have relocated from the Twin Cities to Cape Coral, Florida, and I love it here! I never fit in to the culture in Minnesota, not having been born and bred there. (Linda)

Final word
We hope that assembling the gist of so many comments in one place is useful. Please realize that that these are all personal experiences and opinions – there are undoubtedly others who would disagree! We recommend that you read Part 1 and the comments made to it if you have the time. Even though the Comments thread sometimes got derailed, there are many interesting things to be learned from others’ experiences.

For further reading:
Can A Yankee Find Retirement Happiness in the South – Part 1
Dueling Carolinas: Is South or North Carolina the Best for Retirement? (contains links to other regional comparisons)

Comments? We are particularly interested in hearing the experiences of people from other regions who have retired to the south (which is a big region – from Virginia to Texas!). Please do not paint everyone in a region with one brush, or call people names. Nobody has a monopoly on being perfect!



Posted by Admin on January 26th, 2016

26 Comments »

  1. As a Connecticut born and “military brat” raised who has long since been assimilated into southern life (NC), I appreciate the many comments and points-of-view. The most important qualification for making such a move (north to south) is flexibility and willingness to accept change — and potentially to be changed. In my own case, I distinctly remember when I finally realized that indeed, I am a Southerner. It only took me 16 years! And I moved to NC at 14, went to high school and college here, married a native and had a 4-year-old by that time. Obviously, I “accepted” the move long before my assimilation. Clearly, my upbringing helped me be flexible and to accept change. But despite all, I remained a northerner at heart for many, many years. Now I truly have difficulty understanding that “northern” perspective.

    Now assimilation is not necessary to enjoying a new life. But do be aware that, whether north to south, east to west, or the reverse options, you bring so much that affects how and whether you will adjust.

    “Know thyself.” What a wonderful concept! Thanks for the great articles — I hope they will help some find the same kind of happiness I found. And assimilation is not necessary for happiness.

    Rich

    by Rich — January 27, 2016

  2. Hello Rich. Couldn’t agree more with your perspective. Great summary! Once again, empathy and common sense will usually be good guideposts! Cheers, Doc

    by Doc Stickel — January 27, 2016

  3. update: been in WAKE COUNTY NC for 1.5 years now. lots of green, 4 light seasons, things to do, places to go. another adventure. NC now taxes any and all income. big impact on our lifetime planning. some cultural differences are here, that are not your NORMAL SOUTHERN expectations. aggressive drivers are an interesting challenge. new Costco coming in the spring and is near us, finally. GREAT MEDICAL ALL OVER THE COUNTY. found a PICKLE BALL crowd and making connections. probably going to execute PLAN-B due to the NEW STATE INCOME TAXES. do not want to leave, but MONEY MATTERS, force the adult mature decision. NORTH CAROLINA IS BEAUTIFUL!

    by davefh — January 27, 2016

  4. Originally from the northeast we moved around a bit, CO, KY, before settling in FL for 31 years. I made the best of the heat and humidity but I always wanted to retire further north for a more defined change of seasons. Two years ago we settled in the Hilton Head area where we often vacationed. It’s just as hot and humid as FL, it just doesn’t last as long. Many of our neighbors are from FL, VA, MD, NJ and NY. Outside of our community there are cultural differences. We talk about Slow Country Time. Two neighbors are moving, not from the area but the community. Some complain about the winter being too cold to play golf year round and talk of moving further south. Renting is a good option if you don’t know the area you’re moving to well.

    by marjie — January 27, 2016

  5. We have been snowbirds for 14 years. We finally purchased a permanent retirement home in 2015 in The Villages. 90% of the people in our Florida neighborhood were from the north, so not much of a cultural adaptation required, lol. We are not used to this level of density, but the compensation is lots more stuff to do. Most people are quite friendly making a move here easy. We will never, ever live here in the summer. This is now our permanent home, but we will be returning north for a few months each year.

    by PeteL — January 28, 2016

  6. Doc and Rich,
    I always appreciate your common sense approach to issues, and general respect for others. Thanks!

    by ella — January 28, 2016

  7. This came in from GDB, and it is certainly worthy of discussion here. Are there some southerners who retired to the north who could share their experiences with the rest of the group?

    Can a southerner find retirement happiness in the north? I live in Texas but could consider other locales. Pennsylvania, for example, appeals to me.

    by Admin — January 29, 2016

  8. Admin, this deserves a second post in itself so as to not confuse the subjects.

    by Art Bonds — January 30, 2016

  9. My own experience was growing up in the north and moving south for work after college. I have been in Texas for 30 years. Love living in the south. Married a New Orleans girl and she spent some time helping me shed my “Yankee” ways.
    I am now deeply entrenched in southern living. I love the heat and when I have had to travel north for work, it has re-inforced one of the reasons I left. We are now starting to wind down and looking at where to retire. We visited Charleston and Savannah and loved the charm of both cities. We are beach people and have spent time along the Florida panhandle (sugar sand and crystal clear water), especially Pensacola Beach. Love it and think it is the winner.
    I have a couple observations as I have been a school Principal for a long time. When people move, if they have the idea that they are going to create the living environment that they came from, that is an error in logic. When you move, you need to work to assimilate with the culture of the area you are moving to. Coming in with an open mind goes a very long way. As far as temperature in the south, a big complaint I hear is how cold it is up north. As we age, it is harder to stay warm. Doesn’t that make it a good thing to move to a warmer climate?
    I also agree that if you re-locate, moving to a similar area in terms of size is wise. Moving from the big city to a small southern town is a HUGE adjustment. The pace of life will be slower, but isn’t that part of the allure of retirement? Very soon I will be waking up without the aid of an alarm clock. I will get my coffee, put my toes in the sand and read my morning paper. My wife and I will then decide how we want to spend the day. For half the year I can read of snowstorms and cold temps. Happiness is what you make of your situation. Trying to change others just isn’t a way to make yourself happy.

    by Chris J — February 3, 2016

  10. Great subject and insightful post Chris J! My husband and I have visited much of FL, but never the Pensacola area; now I’d like to do just that.:-) We are life long greater *Bostonians* and though we love much about New England, it’s not financially feasible for us to retire here. Even if it were, winters do not become easier with age! We will most likely land in FL and rent for a year or two before we decide on a particular area, and also to see if we can manage the extreme heat and humidity. I’m hoping a pool will help.:-)

    by Janna — February 3, 2016

  11. Born in the south, moved as child to northern Illinois, then lived in the south again as an adult. I love the south…the food, the culture, the laid back slower pace, the scenery…but I HATE the giant american cockroach also called “the palmetto bug” in the south. They are ugly, creepy, and they are everywhere. I could not seem to get them down to zero in appearances even with powerful poisons sprayed around the house inside and out when I lived in Pensacola, FL. Could not stand it. Had to move north again. But, if I knew a way to rid the south of those ugly suckers….I’d be there in a heartbeat.

    by Bonnie — February 4, 2016

  12. Janna,
    Make sure you check out Pensacola Beach, and not the city of Pensacola. City is nothing special. When you cross the bridge over the inter-coastal to Pensacola Beach it is like crossing into another land. It is a barrier island and narrow. You can view a variety of properties that have either a sound view, a gulf view, or both. While a stand alone house can be found, most are still pretty high in price. Town homes are a great option and many are pretty new. We are not high rise people and Pensacla Beach has some great areas with very little congestion. Good luck, maybe we will end up neighbors!
    Bonnie,
    I understand about the “Palmetto Bugs.” The worst day of your life is the day you find out they have wings and can fly! We found that when we lived in a heavily wooded area we had to deal with more of them. In Florida, they are prevalent in beach areas. When I lived in the north, if you had roaches, you had a very dirty home. In the south, the large roaches are just part of the landscape. If you have the small ones in your home, you have an issue with food and cleanliness.
    I was willing to deal with the occasional roach to escape ice and snow. I show my friends my hands and say “see these, they will never hold a snow shovel again!”

    by Chris J — February 18, 2016

  13. We could not be more impressed and amazed at the hospitality and helpfulness of the people we have met. This is a list of all the kindness extended within 3 weeks of arriving to the new area where we are currently home shopping in TN.
    1. First, people were helpful while we searched for a seasonal rental. We were offered a ridiculously inexpensive rate to stay at a cabin during our 10 week stay.
    2. We were treated to a dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
    3. We were invited to a pot luck dinner and Mardi Gras party.
    4. We were Invited on a river cruise by a couple that recently purchased a 41? boat.
    5.. We were Invited to a BBQ with live music and a house party afterwards.
    6. A nearby couple leaving for a 10 day cruise, gave us the perishables in their refrigerator and their paper delivery to enjoy during their vacation.
    7. Upon finding out that our car broke down, 2 different couples offered us the use of their cars until ours was fixed. Plus, someone offered to help us on the road during the breakdown.
    8. 2 different neighbors gave us their Internet router codes, so we could get online to search for properties.
    9. 2 different couples have lent us magazines, books, movies and concert cd’s to view because there isn’t any tv reception where we are staying. They have also offered us extra warm clothing and blankets if it is too cold for us, and if the heater can’t keep up.
    They can’t seem to help us enough. They offer to pick up anything we might need, as they head out to do their errands.
    Isn’t all this incredible? I’ve probably even forgot some things by now. We feel so profoundly blessed as we search for a permanent home here in SE Tennessee.
    If you are a more private person, you may think that this is too much involvement, however for us at this time, we are extremely grateful for genuine people that really are concerned for their neighborhood..

    by caps — February 20, 2016

  14. Oh, to add……
    We haven’t seen one roach here in Eastern TN during any of our visits beginning in 2009.
    We want to get away from all the mosquitoes in MN.

    by caps — February 20, 2016

  15. Caps, what town are you in?

    by Dick — February 21, 2016

  16. We are renting up near Spring City, but we are looking for property closer to Cleveland.

    by caps — February 21, 2016

  17. I have had a difficult time posting from my smart phone while we are traveling, but the WiFi seems to be working really well today.
    I wanted to add this funny (to us) story to this blog…….
    Our first year to Campbell County, the airport manager called us “Yankees.” Being we dared return the next year…….he lovingly changed his label for us to “Mid-westerners!”

    by caps — February 21, 2016

  18. can anyone tell me who either lives in the upcountry of SC or knows for a fact , can palmetto
    bugs be controlled from your house with a chemical spray every 6 months.
    that is what I was told by someone who lives in Greer. spray outside & inside.
    i’m not asking about Fla or anywhere else. planning to move to Simpsonville .
    thanks to anyone who can answer .

    by john v — February 22, 2016

  19. I have lived in South Carolina for nearly ten years. I find the Southerner’s generally friendly but they DO NOT want to make friend with Northerners.
    If relocating here find cities and areas that have substantial Northern influences and people.

    by Ron — February 22, 2016

  20. We lived in Boca Raton FL for three years. The area has marvelous amenities, fabulous private beaches and except for the rude Snowbirds a truly marvelous place.
    Down side is the unbearable heat and humidity from March through November,,, We have a 40 foot boat and kept it docked until October even the water is hot.

    If you can’t take the heat don’t move here

    by Ron — February 22, 2016

  21. My wife and I are considering retiring to northern Florida and are wondering what the area around Tallahassee is like for a retiree.

    by Charles Dickison — February 23, 2016

  22. Hi John V,

    We contracted with a company who comes around several times a year to control these critters. I’ve never had them come into the house as the outside treatments seem to prevent entry. Granules are put down which are supposed to be “safe” for songbirds and wildlife.

    Welcome to South Carolina!

    Fionna

    by Fionna — February 23, 2016

  23. Charles, I live in Tallahassee and have lived here 40+ years. We have four distinct seasons although spring and fall are very short. The summers are very hot and humid and the winters are very mild. We have two universities and a very large community college. FSU offers the Osher Lifetime Learning program and it is quite active. The coast is about an hour’s drive from Tallahassee. If you decide to move here do not live near the universities – the crime rate is very high. The east and northeast parts of town are the safest. The medical care here is very good. There are no 55+ communities but you will find pockets of retired people in the many subdivisions around town. Overall Tallahassee is a good place for a retiree.

    by Cathy W — February 25, 2016

  24. When reading what topretirements.com has to say about Aiken SC, there is a daily burn at the Hitchcock Woods that seems to be going on forever. I was going to visit the Woodside Plantation 55+ community in June but am now hesitant since I have the beginnings of asthma and don’t need an environment that will make it worse. Does anybody live in the community that can verify the burn is in the air.

    by Mike Mozeleski — March 17, 2016

  25. Cathy,

    Thank you so much for your response regarding Tallahassee. My wife and I feel that is the place we’d like to retire to and your life experience there is extremely helpful to us.

    by Charles Dickison — March 18, 2016

  26. Charles,

    You are very welcome! If you have any other questions just let me know.

    by Cathy W — March 19, 2016

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