The total newcomer’s guide to Portland

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Illustration by Marika Van de Kamp

So, you’ve just moved out to the City of Roses and you’re wondering how to get settled here. I first moved to Portland from the New York City area in September 2015 and it was a crazy culture shock, so whether you’ve moved here from Medford, Indonesia, or Philadelphia, I’ve got you covered.

The first thing you need to know is how to get around your beautiful new home. Portland is an incredibly walkable city, with few hills and plenty of pedestrian-friendly roads. If you’re a biker, you’re even luckier as Portland has bridges and sections of roads just for you.

If you’re not into walking or biking, we have an awesome public transit system. The Portland Streetcar will take you throughout downtown and its surrounding areas, and the MAX can take you all around the Portland metropolitan area. Best of all, if you’re a student, the Streetcar is free. The MAX is $2.50 for a two-and-a-half-hour ticket, but compared to the prices of public transit in other cities, that’s a steal.

When it comes to stocking your refrigerator for the first time, you have a lot of options to choose from. However, Safeway has coupons that offer free home delivery so you can get acclimated to the city before worrying about in-person grocery shopping.

Portland isn’t exactly like how Portlandia depicts it; in fact, a lot of Portlanders eschew the comparison. That doesn’t mean we don’t let our freak flags fly though; after all, we do host the World Naked Bike Ride every year, and yes, it’s exactly what you think it is.

If you come from somewhere that has constant sunshine, be prepared for long and rainy winters. Similarly, if you come from somewhere that knows how to take care of snow, you’re in for a surprise. When it snows in Portland, no matter the amount, the city shuts down. Our summers, however, are unrivaled in their beauty—I’d invest in a fan or two if you’re going to live in a dorm that lacks any air conditioning, since it does get pretty hot.

Weather issues aside, I’m sure you’ve heard all about Portland’s reputation for having amazing food. You could eat food from a different culture every day for a year in this city, whether it’s from a food cart pod or a restaurant, the satisfaction never ends. If you have dietary restrictions, whether it be that you are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise, you’ll have just as many things to eat as everyone else.

Don’t bother calculating sales tax when you’re out buying all that food though, because there is none. In my opinion, one of the best parts of Portland and Oregon as a whole is that when you go to buy something, the price is exactly what it says on the sticker.

Portland isn’t just inclusive when it comes to food though. In your first week here you’ll notice the kindness that emanates from all aspects of the city. Whether it’s our businesses, schools, or people, it won’t take you long to feel like you’re right where you belong.

You may have heard that marijuana is legal in Oregon, and while that is true, there are some things you should know before rushing to a dispensary. PSU is a federally funded university, so whether you’re a medical or recreational user, you can’t possess or use marijuana on campus. You also can’t legally smoke in public, so you’ll have to find a private place to exercise your new rights.

If marijuana isn’t your thing, Portland is known for being inundated with bars of all shapes and sizes. Even if you don’t drink, there’s nothing like sitting down at Rogue Hall after a long move for some short rib poutine, trust me.

If you’re coming to town for the first time from anywhere outside of Oregon or New Jersey and planning on driving, get ready to sit back and relax at the gas pump. That’s right, we don’t pump our own gas. It may be a little weird at first, but I promise you’ll get used to it.

The most important thing to know about moving to Portland is that it won’t take you long to feel like you’ve lived here forever. We’re a city of love, acceptance, and fun, and that becomes very apparent very quickly.

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