WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT HOUSTON IN MY FIRST YEAR

If you would have told me three years ago, that I would be moving from Toronto, to London, only to fall in love with a Scottish guy that would end up whisking me away to Houston, Texas – I would have no doubt, slapped you in the face and told you to get out of my way.

But in an nutshell, that’s what happened, and here I am. Here I have been? For one year already!

Despite all the times I have packed up and moved to obscure places in the world, this move was by far the most challenging. To mark this one year anniversary, and with just 2 more years left here, I thought I would share what I have observed about Houston during my time so far:

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Dogs! It is amazing how dog friendly everything is here! With most of the bars/restaurants being half outdoors, you can bring your dog almost anywhere! Most parks have a fenced in area so your furry pal can have a run around. There are even doggy water fountains you can find to keep little fido cool during the Texas heat. We adopted a puppy, who we named Zeppelin (photo above) from a great rescue shelter, Friends For Life. I have been very impressed with the rescue movement down here!

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Gorgeous Parks. Hermann Park being my favourite, there are many throughout the city that are beautifully preserved with ponds, flower gardens, and even art installations! Some will host awesome events such as, Blanket Bingo, movie screenings and festivals. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, and has been a great retreat from all the concrete you would see around otherwise. Speaking of which…

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Concrete. Everywhere. While Houston has loads of really big, beautiful parks, you can’t help but notice all the concrete that blankets the city. So many plazas, and large parking lots, there are only a few pockets where you can get that charming feel. With the city so spread out, and large they seem to fill space with (in my opinion) a bit too much of it, which doesn’t make Houston the most scenic destination.

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Low taxes, but horrific road conditions. The road conditions are the worst I have ever seen in major city. Pot holes the size of kiddy pools, and it seems all is done is patch work which doesn’t seem to be a sustainable solution. Watch out suspension!

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There are no shortage of burger shacks and BBQ joints, but there are also loads of healthy options. I was very pleasantly surprised to find there are varieties of restaurants and food choices that cater to those who eat healthy, veggie and organic. While I am not a full-time vegetarian myself, I do like the healthy options available to me. Field of Greens is my favourite spot!

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Cool bars. There are so many choices for bars and restaurants that we often have a hard time deciding where to go. Most bars are built to be social with games like sandbags, pool tables, shuffle board at your disposal. I also like that most of our favourite places don’t charge cover, and are for the most part, casual and chilled out.

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Yes, there are people who have guns, but also people who don’t. Without getting too political here, I expected almost everyone in Houston to own a gun. While I have met a handful who do, most of who I have met, and who we hang out with, do not. It is quite a sensitive topic, one which I find hard to grasp, personally. We learned from experience, that we have to let it be known that guns are not welcome in our house, and that it is not always so obvious.

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No one really hangs out in the “downtown” They are trying to fix this by introducing new restaurants, and life in the area, but really- it’s just where people work. Houston is so spread out with various neighbourhoods, that there really isn’t one spot where people tend to congregate to.

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Everyone drives. Houston is so spread out, and with limited public transportation options, everyone drives. There is valet service offered in most places, otherwise there is no shortage of parking lots that sprawl around the city. This means, the traffic is horrendous, and I must admit, Houston has the worst drivers I have seen in a major city. Cell phone use while driving is still legal here, and no one seems to put forward the courtesy of signalling, or checking blind spots.  Also, drinking and driving is a big problem.

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Most people I know in Houston, are not from Houston. Which is great because we have been learning a lot from each other. Not only is there a big expat community, but loads of people from other states have set up here because of the secure economy. Because of this, it has one of the highest migration rates in the US.

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This may be a southern thing in general, but you always know what university people went to. It’s on their cars, they wear the polos, they talk about it, even wear the big ring you can’t miss! I suppose with the staggering tuition fees, you gotta own it!? And even in their mid-40s, they are very proud of where they went to school, and identify a lot with it. In some cases, relationships and job hires depend on it!

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Mexican food! I love it! There is no shortage of it here in Houston, but I have yet to find a place that will prove to me that there is better Mexican food here, than in San Diego. Please, prove me wrong! Most tacos are made with soft, corn tortillas (which I … gasp! prefer the flour tortillas!) but we have definitely been enjoying it while being here!

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Food in general! There are sooooo many restaurants in Houston, it’s quite overwhelming, but great! I especially love all the food trucks you find in all the right places. They even have various food truck parks, and occasionally, festivals to celebrate this mobile cuisine genius. Kimchi fries (see photo above) are the poutine of Houston, boasting a Mexican/Koren fusion and they are pretty good! You can find other crazy fusions such as Jamaican/Korean or Mexican/Chinese and it never fails to be delicious!

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Finally, the Art scene… It does exist! It took a while for me to take notice, and I am still cracking it, but it does exist and I have been so inspired by the talent here! I look forward to attending more events, being a part of more shows and meeting more people in the community! As I explore Houston, I discover all the street art, and installations that are tucked away, and kinda dig how you have to dig for it all!

So in this last year… I have been focusing on my art and experimenting with it in 1000 ways, enjoyed frozen margaritas on the regular (maybe sometimes, too regular!) adopted a rescue puppy, been giving back to the community through volunteering, urban gardening and while it’s taken some time, have made some really awesome friends! None of which could have happened, if I didn’t move here.

Here’s to the next two years, Houston!

(If you have any tips/advice on what to do and see in Houston- please reach out and let me know or leave a comment below!)

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