“You May All Go to Hell and I Will Go to Texas”: Why I Like Living in Houston

by Rachel on January 11, 2012

“So do you like living in Texas?”

I get asked this question quite frequently by people who know me who do not happen to live in Texas.

“I do,” I say.

Really?” they say. They can’t believe it, I can tell.

“Really,” I say.

The truth is, Texas isn’t home, but I do like Texas.

I think of Texas like a very well-known family that I had always known about and had grown up fearing, admiring, and loathing. Texas was that obnoxiously wealthy family who is overconfident, proud of their money, and willing to own their crazy. I imagine that I grew up seeing their three kids around town: Dallas, Houston, and Austin (which are totally the sort of pretty but pretentious names those trust fund kids would have), who seem to only hang out with each other and their cousins, (San) Antonio and (El) Paso. Dallas was the oldest and the most intimidating; blonde, thin, beautiful, and just not interested like an uncool little kid like me. Austin was a few years younger, pretty (if scrawny), and such a fucking hipster that it was almost unbearable. She was always taking all her friends out for organic pork tacos and wearing the coolest/most ridiculous clothes that I’d never even think to try wearing. And then there was Houston, the middle brother, who was good-looking, though quiet. He seemed almost embarrassed by the rest of his family, trying to stay laid-back and normal in the midst of all their crazy. And then I got to know him and like him, so he introduced me to his family and I started to think, Hm. Maybe I can handle these Texas people.

But really, I got to know Houston best, and though I came here with low expectations — I didn’t exactly choose this city; I followed a guy here, who had followed a job here — I was surprised to learn I do like Houston and am actually really comfortable here.

The first thing that surprised me about Houston was how diverse it is. I mean, obviously it’s a big city, and that means there are going to be tons of cultures and colors and accents, but there is also more diversity when it comes to opinions and politics than I expected. What surprised me most is that people just don’t talk about it. Texas has so much swagger and seems so fierce and ballsy that I assumed everyone was flinging bibles at each other, but it’s really not like that here. People actually don’t fling any beliefs at each other. My co-worker summed this up for me perfectly one day when he said “If there are red states and blue states, Houston is just purple.” It’s not that you don’t know where people stand; it’s that it’s just not really discussed that often. It’s not that politics or religion are taboo, exactly, but I feel like they are talked about very differently here than other places I’ve lived. It’s discussed in a very friendly way because there are three odd forces at play: people care deeply about what they believe in, they don’t care that much about what they believe in, and no one is trying to convert anyone else because they know everyone else around them is as independent as they are.

I know these things seem to be at odds with each other, but I understand it because this is exactly how I’ve always felt about politics and religion. I can talk about it and then let it go. I care, but I can also move on. And I can be friends with or be attracted to people with different belief systems. A lot of my friends don’t get this about me, how I can stay friends with the girls from my sorority who, say, post quotes from Ann Coulter on their Facebook profiles, and honestly, I’ve never been able to really explain it. But now that I’m in Houston, I feel like I’m surrounded people who get it.

I think the fact that this state has such a history of independence has a lot to do with why people don’t get into it. It’s like a “don’t fuck with me” attitude has been passed down for generations and the transplants who end up here and who stay are those who have that same attitude. Sometimes I feel like “sorry I’m not sorry” could be the Texas motto. People may be crazy, but at least they’ve owned it. Even though people don’t all share the same views, we seem to share that attitude, so we don’t really feel a desire to get into it on a regular basis.

I had always heard that Texas was like another country, and I get that now. The economy and the weather, the gloss that always made Texas seem kind of special and glamorous, has a lot to do with this. But there’s a ruggedness too; sure there are money and palm trees, but just when you think you’re in LA…nope! We have cowboy boots and Castle Doctrine. The economy is what really makes me feel like I’m living outside of the United States. I was coming from Michigan, a state hit hard over and over again by economic woes and high unemployment rates. Since moving to Texas, I’ve found two jobs and it took me less than two weeks both times. (And I had multiple other interviews/options each time.) After living here for 18 months and not going home for a full year, returning home to the Midwest for Halloween was a bit of a shock. It felt…grittier than I expected and I wasn’t sure if it had always been this way and I just got used to it, or if this was the result of an even harder year that I simply been unaware of because I was living in an area that was so untouched and therefore out-of-touch. When I explained the sort of “we don’t really talk about it” attitude toward politics I’ve experienced here to my best friend Beth, she said, “Well of course you don’t care down there. You don’t have to.”

And I can admit that. I don’t always feel like I’m living in reality down here. (The weather alone makes it feel completely surreal to me much of the time; the endless summer is very “Truman Show” and the salamanders that appear as frequently as birds do in Michigan make me feel like I’m on an entirely different planet.) I think the different sense of reality contributes to how Texas looks to the rest of the country. Sometimes too much money and sunshine and independence can lead to arrogance and, well, crazy. When I see crazy Texas politicians doing their thing and know the rest of America is cringing and my friends are scratching their heads wondering how I sleep at night, well…like I said, Houston often seems like the sane kid in a family of crazies, rolling its eyes as the older generations’ behavior. I often find myself watching the national news and thinking, Well, no wonder Texas politicians look ridiculous when they try to enter American politics…I’d probably make a lot of mistakes too if I were trying to run for office in a different country! Watching that Rick Perry video is, for us, like watching your uncle get wasted and make really inappropriate toast at your cousin’s wedding. We’re not proud of this behavior, but we’re not surprised by it.

I feel like if Texas is a family, I fell in love with Houston and got stuck with the rest of Texas as in-laws. Like Scott Disick openly mocking the Kardashians, I feel like I can roll my eyes about Texas and even Houston, but I can still accept them for what they are and accept that this is the life I’ve chosen.

Note: Houston people — I have a fun giveaway just for you posted on The Life page so be sure to check it out! 

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel January 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

I LOVE this post. :) I’ve lived in Texas all my life and just adore it. I’m always amazed at the stuff I see about the economy from the news because you’re right, we just don’t see that here.

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2 Alison January 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hahaha! “It’s like a ‘don’t fuck with me’ attitude has been passed down for generations”. So true. I was born in NJ and have grown to LOVE Houston! We have one of the best museum districts in the nation and tons of fun history! (Ex: http://orangeshow.org/orange-show-history).

Sometimes I miss more noticeable season changes and elevation changes, but I pretty much whine every time the temperature is below 70, so I’ll stay put. If I need hill practice on my bicycle, I’ll just go over Westpark Dr. between Wesleyan and Newcastle.

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3 Amanda @ Click. The Good News January 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Glad you are getting along OK here in Houston. It’s not California or Colorado, but it’s not too shabby either. There are plenty of pluses to offset the heat+humidity that make Houston a great place to live. Beautiful job describing the city for outsiders!

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4 Dallas January 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Ummmmm….

“Dallas, Houston, and Austin… pretty but pretentious names those trust fund kids would have…”

I… object?

Haha.

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5 Rachel January 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm

On trust fund kids, those names would be pretentious!

On you, just badass.

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6 Allison January 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Haha, my cousin’s name is Houston! He’s definitely not a trust fun kid, but he does live in a suburb of Houston, so that gets a little weird for him.

As someone who is hopfully moving to Houston’s scrawny younger hipster brother city in a few months, I really enjoyed your insight on life in Texas!

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7 Dallas January 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Thanks, I appreciate the clarification!! :)

Also, I love this post. It sorta made me want to move to Texas, which…. I’ve damn sure never had that urge before.

I would die in the heat and my name is Dallas, so let’s not ever do that. Haha.

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8 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie January 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Haha. Great, great intro!

Hilariousness: “Texas has so much swagger and seems so fierce and ballsy that I assumed everyone was flinging bibles at each other.”

Thanks for this, makes me want to look at TX with a bit more of an open mind! :)

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9 Chrissy (The New Me) January 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm

This is an excellent description of Texas. I moved to Nacogdoches (two hours north of you and WAY more rural) from New York in 2004, for a relationship, and didn’t manage to leave until just a few months ago. (I took the boy with me.) That is seven solid years in Texas and I have to say – I miss it terribly. It’s a little crazy, a little overwhelming, but full of personality and spark and interesting people that you won’t meet anywhere else. Enjoy your time in Houston. And eat the garlic friend tofu at Van Loc for me. I miss that tofu most of all.

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10 Witnes January 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm

“And eat the garlic friend tofu at Van Loc for me. I miss that tofu most of all.”

WHAAAAT! Oh you took me back, that’s one thing I miss about Houston. The real deal Vietnamese food!

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11 Rachel January 16, 2012 at 10:51 am

Oooh must try this tofu!!

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12 Kavi @ Lab to Fab! January 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Ha, love the trust fund kids analogy! It’s cool to hear your take on it, since you’ve lived in different parts of the US. Having those experiences provides a unique perspective.

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13 Ebbs January 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I love this post, especially the part how you compared the cities to family members. I live in the DFW (Dallas-Ft. Worth) area and honestly, I can’t see myself living anywhere else but in Texas. :)

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14 Whit January 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I know nothing about Texas, other than the Houston airport where I have been exactly twice for connecting flights,so this comment really has nothing to do with the post itself. I just want to thank you for that link to the Scott Disick meme. love.

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15 Barbara January 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I think this is so true. I don’t even live in Texas I live to the west in New Mexico but my brother has lived in Houston for about 6 years. I really had a different idea about Texas at first but now after visiting 3 times a year for the last 6 years it has really grown on me. He lives in Houston (well Cypress and Katy before that). I even go there and think “wow I could live here no problem!”

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16 Clare @ Fitting It All In January 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I just moved to Dallas from the midwest and I LOVE texas:)

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17 Howdy from NYC January 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Whoop for Texas!!

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18 Ché @ Knight at the Restaurant January 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

WHOOP!

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19 Rachel January 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

My whole family is from NYC and I was born there, but moved to Texas when I was a baby. For most of my life, I couldn’t WAIT to get out of Texas. But the older I got, the more I was exposed to the awesome parts of Texas (that my family didn’t know/care about) and fell in love. I also met, fell in love, and married a cowboy, and he’s never leaving Texas.

I guess I’m stuck here for awhile! But I no longer mind.

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20 Diane January 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

“It felt…grittier than I expected and I wasn’t sure if it had always been this way and I just got used to it, or if this was the result of an even harder year that I simply been unaware of because I was living in an area that was so untouched and therefore out-of-touch.”

That’s totally how I felt the last time I was in Michigan after living in DC for a year. It’s strange how … sad it makes me now. DC is sort of the same way, economically. People change jobs easily, and it seems like everyone can afford $1200-a-month studio apartments. It lacks that kind of gray, rusted desperation that Michigan has. (I’m not knocking MI, it’s just really different for me now.)

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21 deva at deva by definition January 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm

This is a great description of Texas and where you live. One of my best friends lives in San Antonio and I cannot wait to have the opportunity to go visit. Even though I’ve never lived in Texas, that was the impression that I got through my one (weekend) visit, and The Boy’s numerous business trips to the state.

I almost feel the same way about where I live now versus where I grew up. I grew up in a small, college-dominated town and while I miss it, now that I am living in a big(ger) city, I don’t know that I would want to give it up. I love having a walkable neighborhood, but I also love having an MLB team in my area, and I like having 3+ malls to choose from in my immediate vicinity. My small-town hometown is still “home” to me, but my bigger city is becoming more and more home every day.

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22 Bridget January 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm

I felt differently when I was back in Michigan as well. I don’t know if gritty is the right word I felt…maybe deserted? I don’t know.
I’m not hanging a Texas flag any time soon, but I don’t hate it here. I certainly don’t feel like it’s home. I had to sign something when I got my new license that said I surrender my Michigan residency. I teared up.
Sometimes I think it’s alot of what a person makes out of it. ANYWHERE can be great, as long as you’re open to the idea.

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23 shelby January 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Literal LOL at “flinging bibles at each other.”

Texas suits you. :)

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24 Mel January 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I’m an army brat and lived all over the country but moved to Houston during high school and ended up moving to DFW area for college. I loved it so much even though I’m not really “from” anywhere, I claim Texas. I think part of that “in your face” attitude made it so much easier to meet people and find friends too because unlike a lot of other places in the country, people would strike up conversations with someone they don’t know and a lot of texans will give you the shirt off their backs. I live in Seattle now and I miss Texas all the time.

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25 Morgan January 11, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Please send me those boots.
Thank you in advance!

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26 Theresa January 12, 2012 at 2:58 am

As a native Houstonian, thank you for writing this! This rocks!!!

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27 Amanda January 12, 2012 at 3:08 am

I don’t really read blogs. I never have… thought I never would. After a friend sent me yours, I’m hooked and shall be reading yours religiously. You are pretty much the only person who has captured my attention with every post. As a native Houstonian – SORRY I’M NOT SORRY.

Loves it.

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28 Rachel January 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

That is a really wonderful compliment — THANK YOU!

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29 [SMASH] January 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

Being a native Texan and Dallasite, I love love LOVE the way you described Dallas, Austin, and Houston as siblings… It is the perfect description of all 3 cities.

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30 Rachel January 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

Thank you! I was hoping I’d get your approval on Dallas actually. :)

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31 Alexandra January 12, 2012 at 11:30 am

This is such perfect timing! I arrived back in Chicago last night from spending a week in Texas (Austin, Dallas, then San Antonio). I definitely agree about it feeling like a completely different country there! LOL about Austin being ulta hipster. I talked to this guy in San Antonio who just moved from Austin & he said he left with wayyy more tattoos and piercings than he originally wanted. On a side note: prickly pear margarita from Boudro’s on the Riverwalk was delish.

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32 Ella, RD January 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I love your attitude about politics. I’m the same way – I care very much, and I have some strong beliefs, but I can MOVE ON. My friends are all over the spectrum. Life is much richer and broader that way!

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33 Ché @ Knight at the Restaurant January 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I. LOVE. this post. I’m from Houston (now living in Boston – I also moved for a boy), and my heart absolutely swelled with pride to hear you talk about it. When people are talking about Texas, Houston is definitely overlooked for the more shiny, glamorous (homogeneous) Dallas or the quirky, wacky Austin, but it has such a special personality of its own that you really can’t understand or appreciate until you’ve lived it. You are so dead on with everything you said, and explained it better than I ever could have (despite having lived there for 22 years). Thanks so much for posting this – it made me nostalgic in all the best ways.

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34 Andy January 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I also moved to Houston from Michigan and it is definitely now home. One nit to pick, though. I know you are talking about perceptions but Houston is older than Dallas.

Houston, est. 1836
Dallas , est. 1841

Can’t let those Metroplex people think they are one up on us in anything.

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35 Tony July 28, 2013 at 2:30 am

LOL!!!

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36 Joanne January 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I like your affection for where you live…. I live in Michigan (which I adore). My oldest daughter moved to Houston about 6 years ago (following her husband, who took a job there, but is originally form Arlington). I’ve had an opportunity to visit some. I’ve always thought Texas was like another country. One which I enjoy getting to know, but really probably just ’cause I have to. Well, our country is incredible with all its beautiful, unique diversity space generously over so much territory.

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37 Hänni January 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

As a fellow transplant who followed a guy who followed a job (and consequently dumped the guy and kept Texas), I think your post about Houston is right-on. I think Lyle Lovett (beloved Houstonian) sums up the H-Town attitude when he says, “That’s right, you’re not from Texas but Texas wants you anyway.” Yee haw.

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38 Chelsei B January 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I was born in Canada but was transplanted in Sugar Land pretty young. Since then I have lived all over the country, back in Canada and finally back to Houston this past August. In high school I couldn’t wait to get out of Texas, after leaving for a job to Florida I can’t even describe how happy I am to be home. There is no other way to describe it other than it really is a whole different world out there, and I feel much better in this one.
If you ever need Houston/Sugar Land advice let me know!

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39 Ann @ Running With Chopstix January 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Ah, love this! I used to be from NOLA and have been in Texas for a while. Now I’m scared of what to expect when I go up to Philly in August!

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40 evelyn January 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

lmfao u said it perfectly. when i see a rick perry goof on tv i just shake my head like “oh ricky. you so crazy.”

i’m 21, and i moved to texas when i was 12 from louisiana. and i love this place. now i’m looking for jobs and people scream “GO TO LA! GO TO NYC! GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!” and i’m like…i mean..i LIKE texas. *shrugs*

i live in dallas, i went to college in austin, so maybe i should see what Houston is all about now?

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41 Laura January 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

I just moved to Houston from Cleveland, Ohio in August and I completely related to everything you wrote!! Very accurate observations :) I agree, I love living here now, even though it is so different from “the north”. Thanks!!!

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42 Chelsea January 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I found your blog tonight through another that I follow and had to say hello. I am also from Michigan who came to Houston because I followed a boy who followed a job here. My attitude about it, it’s not home but i don’t hate it (unless I’m driving on 610 during rush hour). I enjoy your blog, I enjoy reading more.

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43 Rob Fiasco February 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

just stumbled upon your blog. I too followed someone to Houston and after 4 years moved back to NY. I miss Texas every day and can’t wait to move back!

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44 Lisa February 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm

My boyfriend is from Texas and has family there. I also have some family there. I visited Texas for the first time last year. I LOVED Austin–it was my kind of city. Sunshine, good food, hippies…it was basically Portland just warmer. Dallas? Not so much. I wasn’t a huge fan. I realized that people in Texas talk about two things: sports and Texas. I hate sports and I especially hate football so I wasn’t involved in a lot of conversation there. That was the part I did NOT like…

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45 elaine August 4, 2012 at 1:04 am

wow, love this. I love your description of how Houstonians coexist. Having grown up here and now being back for a job, I’ve been itching to move away. Not because I don’t love Texas, but just for a change of scenery and a more vocal, younger crowd. This post made me truly appreciate what we have here. Thanks!

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46 NadiaThinks December 21, 2012 at 12:07 am

I have been SO homesick for Houston and I can never quite explain why to people here in AZ. Your post could not have been found at such a better time. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

A printout of this is going up in my cubicle at work!!!

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47 Daniel February 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Excellent description of us here in Texas. I was born and raised here in Texas and would have to agree with your description of us 100%.

THANK YOU

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48 Ethan Weisinger March 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I absolutely love this article :-)

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49 Nikolee May 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I just came across this, and it absolutly made my day. I’m a Texan currently living in Saint Louis and I very much long for the day I move back to where I belong! Reading this really sums up why I love it down there and can’t wait to get back!

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50 travis May 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I have lived in texas all my life. Born in El Paso and grew up in the Houston metroplex area. I have lived in AZ and FL but I have always come back. When it gets to be August heat here that just means our gorgeous women are wearing less clothing and the beer is still cold.

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