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!
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.
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.
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)
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!