Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Post: Joe's Miami P.O.V.

It has been a very busy month since Thanksgiving!  We've been to San Fransisco and back.  I've been swamped at work with helping students register and scheduling for Summer and Fall of 2013.  I also had two friends purchase from my Etsy store (thanks E and A!) so I was working on their orders and shipping those out.  I was able to do a little freelance work  to help out a local woman start up a very cool business (which I will tell you more about later).  On top of all of that, I was scrambling to make/buy/send gifts for our families back home.  J and I have also been taking some very serious steps to get ourselves out of Miami and on to our new adventure.  I will write more about San Fransisco when I get a chance, but for now, I asked J to write a guest post to give you his take on life in Miami:

This is Joe, Becca's husband (I think I am referred to as "J" in this blog even though I don't care if she uses my name). Becca asked me to do a blog post about Miami from my perspective, hopefully I don't repeat anything:

My view of Miami is different than Becca's because I came down here with a distinct purpose: my grad school appointment was already set and I literally began classes the day that we arrived. It's much different arriving at a new place with a built-in network of people sharing similar interests (i.e. grad students who can bond by telling stories of long hours of studying and research). In addition, our grad school (like any other) is made up of people form all over the place, so most of us share the same general beliefs about Miami (that is, we don't really like it). There is of course a stronger Florida and Caribbean influence than other places, but even most of the Floridians are from other places (often Ft. Lauderdale) which are entirely different than Miami. As they say, "The best part about Miami is how close it is to the United States!"

Now, saying we don't really like Miami might seem wrong to you, especially since I am writing this with the windows open on Christmas day and nice 75 degree breeze blowing in and you are probably freezing your butt off somewhere up north for the next 4 months. So I might say to you, come down and visit us, and I'll prove to you what this place is really like. However, you will probably end up liking it because Miami knows how to treat its tourists and you will have a great time seeing all the cool things that Becca has posted pictures of in this blog. It can be a little awkward to be a local going to some of these tourist traps, but our pale white skin and (still persistent) northern accents blend right in. For instance, we went to Fairchild botanic garden yesterday and didn't hear a single word of Spanish for like 3 hours. That is probably a record. Although sometimes the Spanish speakers are tourists also, usually from South America, so they probably feel right at home here. Miami Beach is very culturally diverse, it is popular with both European and South American tourists, and of course also as a spot for wandering 20-somethings to live for a few years.

The day to day experience is much different outside of the beach area. First of all, we have to deal with the traffic, which is definitely the #1 complaint that I hear about Miami. The traffic volume isn't necessarily that bad here, many other big cities are worse and they have made an effort to improve the highways in Florida. The issue is that people drive very poorly. I think there are a number of causes for that--too many BMWs and Mercedes on the road, people chatting with abuela in Cuba on the way to work, and maybe just that Miami tends to wake up late (service economy) and everyone rushes to work around 9:00. Rush hour peaks about 60-90 minutes later here than the Midwest, if you are on the road at 7:30-8 you will have no problems. Other people we have talked to don't like how much Spanish is used here, but it isn't really a big deal to me. I'm a blonde boy so I don't look like I can speak Spanish and almost everyone can speak English even if they don't want to at first.  (Becca is often mistaken for Cuban, go figure.)  Rudeness is definitely a major problem, again that is something that you will rarely see in tourist heavy areas we encounter it all the time in places like Target. Running errands is never a pleasant experience here. At the beginning it was especially bad, now we generally know which places to go to and which to avoid (voicing our opinion with the almighty dollar). It seems like the average person doesn't care, otherwise some of the notoriously bad places wouldn't be in business. Much of the reason they are in business comes down to perspective, if we grew up in Cuba instead of squeaky-clean Milwaukee suburbs, we probably would just be happy to be here too.

As for other interesting observations, I can give you this:

1. In Florida, the farther north you go, the more "Southern" it gets.

2. Florida might be full of old people, but most of them don't live in Miami. This is a very young city, there are lots of people in their 20s and 30s with kids. You have to go west to Naples or north to Palm Beach to find the retirees. Fun fact: Sunrise, FL used to be named "Sunset" but the chamber of commerce must have decided they didn't like the connotation.

3. When the temperature drops below 60 degrees, people dress like there is a blizzard coming. We've lost some of our acclimation to the cold, but not nearly as badly as some people. Usually I wear my sweaters not because I'm cold, but because it's the only time that I can.

4. As a culture, people are very obsessed with image and material things, especially plastic surgery and Mercedes-Benz. The people driving these cars live in the Miami equivalent of West Allis. We have spent way too much time trying to figure out what goes through the mind of some of these people. It clearly does not make them happy if you are wondering, Miami is often ranked as one of the unhappiest cities in the US (and also the least-educated).

So that's a quick review of Miami for you. I hope you don't get a bad impression of the place or think that I can't stand it. I just wanted to give an honest opinion. I do many fun things here in my spare time which Becca has asked me to share in future posts.