“Some of the most obnoxious people that I know live in Florida. But I should not generalize that everyone down there acts the way that they do. I won’t do it again.” ~ Domnic
I moved out of Canarsie in 1977 to go to Houston (mostly for economic reasons). In 1977, Houston was a city of very limited amenities. For example, by the time you realized you had entered downtown, you had already left it. (Really!) Pizza was mostly horrible, most ethnic foods no better, and the only restaurants we could find that were mostly decent were related to steak.
I’ve visited many US cities over the years. They all have their own collective personalities. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of energy defending New York and New Yorkers in Houston and elsewhere. On an individual level, New Yorkers can be as nice as anyone in the world, but the city … Let’s just say that on balance it’s not a welcoming place. (In my experience, I feel like only Los Angeles is less pleasant.)
I didn’t experience this until about 1996, when I visited my mom for 3 weeks to help her move to a condo in southeast NJ. It was the first time I had been able to spend more than 5 days at a time back in Brooklyn. I came away feeling that retail employees had taken attitude lessons in Paris and customer service training in Moscow. In comparison to business/consumer experiences I’d had in Houston and elsewhere, I found that businesses’ employees in NY were indifferent and sometimes rude, and after some manager-interaction, I realized that they obviously modeled the management that had trained them.
If you can tolerate Texas’s Conservative politics (our new governor and Lt. governor are so far right-wing they get lost in the haze), Houston is one of the easiest and most pleasant cities to live in. Parking in most places won’t make you crazy. Double-parking is virtually unheard of. The city’s amenities have become very cosmopolitan. There are pizza places here that rival any in Brooklyn, and ethnic restaurants as good and diverse as any you’ve experienced. You just have to know where they are.
We have good museums, a couple of great parks (though nothing like NYC), the Johnson Space Center, Galveston Island and the Sea Wall (a great resort area on its own, and an origination point for some great cruises), Moody Gardens in Galveston (worth at least a day).
You can do all the shopping you want in Houston, from national retailers to some cool specialty shops. Montrose is the artsy part of town. We have a Chinatown and a Little Saigon. Road access is pretty good, though population growth has made rush-hour congestion almost as bad in some areas as you can imagine. But we have many major road projects in progress to improve that.
One of the really nice things about Houston is that in about an hour or so from anywhere, you can literally be in the country and driving through small towns. The Spring bluebonnet/wild flower season is one of the scenic highlights of Texas, and the Houston-Austin corridor is one of the best areas to experience it.
Of course, Houston can get really hot (though Dallas is worse during any given heat wave). In NY, 3 days in a row over 90 is called a heat wave. In Houston, it’s just called “summer”. Here, the definition of a heat wave is 3 days in a row over 95 or 100 degrees! If you’re not accustomed to it, you can get heat stroke or heat exhaustion very quickly, but you can adapt. (I did.) On the other hand, severe cold is rare here, and doesn’t last long (sometimes just a few days; sometimes just a few hours), but the city isn’t used to it, and homeowners have to take precautions for plants and plumbing. Day/night temperature swings are wider than in NY (which are usually 10-15 degrees day/night); in Houston it’s usually at least 20 degrees from day to night; sometimes 30 degrees!
Geographically and climatically, Houston is in an interesting place. Around I-10 seems to be a boundary between Gulf Coast weather (we’re about 60 miles from the Gulf of Mexico) and Central Plains weather. Weather fronts often seem to move back and forth across that road. That can mean that a couple of days a year, the temperature difference between northern Metro-Houston (IAH Airport) and southern Metro-Houston (HOU Airport) can be 30 degrees at the same time! For many years, you could grow a palm tree south of I-10 but not north of I-10. (That’s not been the case for about the last 15 years, though. We’ve been warming up and getting dryer, for the most part.)
Like any city, Houston isn’t perfect. It’s probably not the “must see” travel destination that NYC can be. But it’s actually a pretty decent place to live.