Sometimes it takes an outsider’s point of view for us to realize how unique our city truly is. It may not all be good stuff but these are just some of the things that make Boston, well, Boston.
This post is from The Great Boston Experiment.
It has now been more than 100 days since we moved to Boston; and even though we visited the city multiple times before that move, New England was completely foreign to us when we arrived. With three months and one powerful snowstorm under our belts, we’ve compiled the top 20 reasons why Boston is like no place on Earth.
20. Parking – Easy & Affordable – Plenty of New Englanders will disagree, but the parking situation in and around Boston is not bad at all. Coming here, we expected parking would be as difficult as Chicago or worse where you can drive around for an hour and not find a space within a mile of your destination. Instead of people lying in the streets to save spaces and high costs, we found relatively easy parking always close to our destinations at a reasonable cost: a quarter for 15 minutes in Boston, 30 minutes in Cambridge and free in Charlestown. Only twice has parking been a major problem, and both those times were during major festivals. Despite two parking tickets, the parking situation is much better than we anticipated.
19. It’s not dog friendly – This has probably been our biggest disappointment in moving to New England: the city is not welcoming to our pets. Countless potential landlords who termed themselves as dog friendly turned us away when they found out we had three dogs totalling 120 pounds. Even though we found a landlord and a neighborhood that welcomed Bella, Molly, Vegas, we were extremely limited in our options. To top it off, there appears to be no fenced-in dog parks anywhere in Massachusetts. Almost every community in Florida has at least one, but there’s no sanctioned place here for our dogs to run free without fear of getting hit by a car. We knew there would be difficulties in having dogs in an more urban area; but even for a city, Boston is not welcoming to furry friends.
18. Parks are widely popular– Maybe it’s because there’s 4.5 million people crammed into small spaces, but parks are widely popular here and always bustling with people. In towns like Defiance, Ohio; Bonita Springs, Fla.; and even Columbus, large parks will sit unused for huge stretches of the year except during festivals. In Boston, thousands of people use the parks every day. The best part is you have the hustle and bustle of the city with its tall buildings and heavy activity going on all around, but you can sit in this quiet green paradise and hang out with people enjoying a little bit of nature in an urban environment. Our favorite parks are JFK in Cambridge and the Boston Public Garden.
17. There’s endless activities – Growing up and living in relatively small and medium cities, we’ve uttered the phrase “There’s nothing to do” plenty of times in our lives. In the Boston area, no one could ever say that. There’s so much to do here, we’d have to live several lifetimes to accomplish it all. The Boston Globe has an incredible Things To Do section, no one here of any age could want of an activity on any night of the week. The only frustrating part is coming up with the money for to do many of these things.
16. Food is much more costly – We were prepared for a higher cost of living in New England, even coming from the overinflated Southwest Florida: housing, electricity, whatever. Still, the high cost of food in the Boston area is what has been the most infuriating. In Florida, we lived on “Buy One Get One” deals, but that’s unheard of at New England grocery stores, which usually only offer small discounts on sale items and still require the inane shoppers cards to get the savings.
15. My God, it’s cold! – We’re not idiots; everyone warned us about the New England winters before we moved here. Especially coming from Florida, we knew our bodies would struggle against the cold, dry weather. Still, all the knowledge in the world doesn’t keep you from freezing when you walk outside for the first time in 20-degree weather, or getting frustrated when you realize the only way your toes are going to be warm is in a hot, hot shower. When we left Florida, it was still the mid-90s, constant high humidity weather, so even the 50s and 60s were an adjustment for us. Boston can have all the charm and character in the world, but that doesn’t stop it from being freaking cold.
14. Taxachusetts is alive and well– During an interview, I (Brad) had a town manager try to convince me that the commonwealth had moved away from its reputation as Taxachusetts. Nonsense! There’s actually a law in Massachusetts limiting cities and towns to raising taxes only 2.5 percent each year. The state needs a law telling its communities to keep the taxing under control, which is unbelievable. Governments here are huge; even small communities have hundreds of employees and $100-million budgets, and that’s not even counting the school systems. The cost of housing in the Boston area is extremely high because there is a large population with limited supply, but it can’t help the cause when governments treat property value as their own personal ATM.
13. Police are terrible – This is not to say that the police here are bad at enforcing laws or more corrupt than any other law enforcement agency across the country. The problem with police officers in general is huge expectations and responsibilities are heaped upon them to perfectly enforce our laws while being flawless examples of humanity when in reality they tend to be simple employees like the rest of us who are working for their paychecks, cut corners when they can and are promoted for the wrong reasons. Massachusetts cops are this to the extreme degree. Right before we moved here, Mass Gov. Deval Patrick mandated that police officers would no longer serve as flaggers at state-run construction sites, reasoning that you don’t need to pay $40 an hour plus hazard pay and benefits for a cop to do a job an illegal immigrant is paid $7 to do in Florida. In protest of this mandate, a bunch of off-duty cops from the police union went to a state-run construction site near Boston and harassed the construction crew to such a degree that on-duty cops had to be called to break up the mess. With situations like this, the system is beyond broken.
12. So, this is where the tech industry is thriving– In Florida, the economy is based on real estate, construction, tourism and agriculture. In Ohio and Michigan, it’s based on agriculture and the dying manufacturing industry. For those of you that wondered where the high tech industry was — the industry that places like Ohio, Florida and Michigan are trying desperately to attract — it’s in New England, specifically around Boston’s Route 128 and in Cambridge. For example, in just one small city north of Boston called Woburn, one company is developing new technology for fighter jets while another has developed a flying car; and these are just two of many more companies like it just in Woburn. The Boston area is taking it to the next level, too, building all sorts of facilities to attract the biotechnology industry.
11. New Englanders are very friendly– Despite having 4.5 million people jammed into one-third of one of the smallest states in America, Bostonians are very friendly. We’ve driven like idiots, asked all the stupid tourist/newcomer questions under the sun and disrupted the lives of countless people; and everyone is still very understanding and friendly. Strangers come up on the street and in the store just to chat, which could be because we have the world’s cutest baby and three furry friends. The most astounding example of this friendliness is on the road, where motorists seem far more understanding than those in Florida, Chicago, Detroit and Columbus. Here, in Bostonia, people “bang a left.” This has been addressed in a previous entry, but when the light turns green here, drivers will let those making left turns go first so they don’t hold up the people in line behind them. I can’t imagine drivers anywhere else being this thoughtful.
10. The roads were built before cars – Maybe it’s coming from Florida where all the main streets are four-lane highways, but roads in the Boston area are very clearly a patchwork of paved over paths that weren’t a part of an overall plan. With a few exceptions, nothing is in a straight line or a reasonable grid, and the only way to learn the proper way to get around is to get lost and find your way without any plan or map. As many as seven roads will meet at one intersection, which is why roundabouts (or rotaries, as they are called here) are a necessary part of New England lifestyle. This is the result of the roads being built before there were cars, and Massachusetts settlements springing up in a patchwork. The names tend to be amusing, too. In Concord, there’s a street called New Bedford Road. It was built in the 18th century and was the second path to the nearby town of Bedford. The street wasn’t named until the 1850’s, so the Concord residents simply called it the New Road to Bedford.
9. The single-family home is disappearing– The Boston area has some brilliant, enormous houses that were monuments to big families and settling down when they were built. Now, gradually, they are being converted to duplexes, quadplexesand more. Homeowners could do it to cover the high cost of property and taxes in Massachusetts, or just because they can get $1,000 or more per month for a sectioned off room. Homes here are a collection of apartments and rooms. We live in a two-story home that has been split into two apartments. The neighboring houses to the left and across the street have at least four families in them. The neighboring house to the right is a gorgeous home still occupied by only one couple. God bless ‘em.
8. Dunkin’ Donuts breed like rabbits – They are freaking everywhere … everywhere. It’s like a Dunkin’ Donuts mommy and daddy decided they just wanted to have like a billion kids. You know how they used to be a Starbucks on every urban corner, across the street from each other and whatnot. In Boston, it’s the same thing with Dunkin’ Donuts, only on crack. It’s just a Massachusetts institution; going to Dunkin’ Donuts is the same thing as breathing to some natives.
7. Who needs chain restaurants? – With the exception of the above-mentioned Dunkin’ Donuts, chain restaurants take a back seat in Boston. Sure, there’s Outbacks and Olive Gardens, but here the locally owned individual restaurants and small chains are king. One of our favorites, Fire & Ice, isn’t a terrible new concept — the build-your-own grill buffet — but somehow it is a unique Boston experience for us. It’s the best part about Boston, there’s all these great experiences that aren’t terribly different from other parts of the country, but they are completely unique to the city. Other favrestaurants include Fugakyu sushi, the Black Rose pub and Mike’s Pastry.
6. The sports teams are incredible – It’s nothing new that Boston sports teams are enjoying an incredible run of success, the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, Boston College, the Bruins. This isn’t luck or some divine coincidence. Boston as a sports town demands this level of excellence. In other sports cities like Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, fans are usually happy with a good season of making the playoffs and just elated if there’s a championship. Only in Boston (and maybe New York) is losing in the baseball league championship series a bad season. When the Celtics missed getting a good pick in the NBA draft two years ago, the team could have kept slogging on as one of the worst basketball squads in the league. Instead, the Celtics go out and make a couple of trades to put together a great group of players and eventually win the league championship. This is the direct result of the New England sports culture where perfection is demanded.
5. No shortage of institutions of higher learning – Harvard, MIT, UMass, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University, New England School of Law, Northeastern, Merrimack College, Bunker Hill Community College. Get the point? This doesn’t even stratch the surface of the quantity post-secondary institutions in the Boston area. There’s 53 colleges and universities in all, and it’s the reason why the culture in Boston is so much different in the summer. It’s no wonder why so many companies and cutting edge technology firms are locating here; this could be the most educated populous on the planet.
4. Public transportation is great, to a degree– Cars aren’t necessary in Boston. With public transportation, between the T (which is the subway/trolley system), buses, water taxis and the commuter rail, anyone with a little ingenuity who doesn’t mind walking a mile or two can go anywhere in eastern Massachusetts. Especially anywhere on the many T lines in Boston Proper, public transportation is the best option to get everywhere: it’s easy to figure out, relatively cheap and faster than driving and parking . However, outside the T system and Boston Proper, it gets a little dicey. The buses take FOREVER, and you still have to deal with traffic. The commuter rail is efficient; but it’s not cost-effective, and the train schedule is really spread out. It’s why people like us who live in the outer suburbs always drive into Boston Proper even though we dream of ditching the car in favor of the T.
3. The language makes no sense– The Bostonian accent is completely unique. It doesn’t bleed throughout New England or even the rest of Massachusetts, the language is entirely specific to Greater Boston. Don’t try to figure it out either, it is completely without logic. It’s like all Boston area teachers forgot to include “r” in the alphabet, said “o” is pronounced like “au” and that people shouldn’t even bother withthe last syllable of most words. We knew all about the Boston accent before moving here, but what we weren’t prepared to deal with how it influences official names like those of cities and towns. Worcester, for example, is Woosta; Peabodyis Piboudi; and Woburn is Woobin. To compensate for this, when pronouncing these names, we just try to say them as quickly and as mumblely as possible.
2. History is a way of life – Strictly talking about post-European settlement history, Boston is tops in the country for a rich and deep background. Even outlying communities like Marlborough, North Andover and Medford flaunt their first settlements on welcome signs in mind-blowing numbers: 1660, 1646, 1630. Of course there’s all the Revolutionary links: Samuel Adams, the Freedom Trail, Bunker Hill. It’s incredible living someplace where millions have lived hundreds of years before you, knowing that your existence in this place is part of a long building up of settlment, tradition and economy.
1. Boston is surprisingly small with an enormous influence– Geographically, Boston is extremely small for a major American city; you could walk from the eastern to the western city limits in an afternoon with little difficulty. Despite its small size, Boston has an tremendous influence on the entire region. Basically everyone living inside the I-495 loop or even farther out are consider part of Greater Boston, even though they are four or five communities removed from the actual city limits. People in Rhode Island and New Hampshire could technically be considered Greater Bostonians. Boston may have a tremendous reach geographically, but each city and town in eastern Massachusetts has its own unique culture and influence. Cities like Cambridge that border Boston Proper are have a symbotic relationship with the Boston where they are considered part of the city yet separate from it. The same goes for outskirt places like Salem, Brockton and Foxborough, although the association with Boston lessens the farther out you go. Even neighborhoods inside the city like South Boston and Dorchester have their own identity. There’s no place else on Earth where you can live in Marlborough, be a member of that community and still be associated with the culture, identity and charm of another small city an hour away.
Source: The Great Boston Experiment