Monday, February 10, 2014

What is life like in Utah?

As many of you know, my family and I moved from STL to SLC this past July. While deciding whether to make the move, and even in our relocation decisions on prior moves, I spent a pretty embarrassing amount of time online trying to figure out what life would be like in our potential new city. What are the neighborhoods like? How are public schools seen? What cultural amenities are there? Is it walkable, bikeable, runable? Are people active? Educated? Conservative or liberal? How's traffic? Public transportation? Those questions and a hundred more dominated my attention and try as I might, I could not find coherent narratives about the places. Yes, of course you could blame this obsession on my chosen line of work, but that's a whole other discussion.

Since I'm still seeing this place with fresh eyes, I thought I'd take the opportunity to describe life in Salt Lake, and especially how the distinguishing features of this place impact my life as a runner. Hopefully this will be helpful to people considering visiting or moving here. There are a lot of misconceptions about this place!

After this initial post on this topic, I plan to expand on some of the points below, and some other running-specific issues of this place. To get the ball rolling, let's start with some common misconceptions about Utah:
  1. All the beer is 3.2% alcohol by volume. 
    This is the myth I am most frequently asked to corroborate by my friends elsewhere. This popular myth is only partially correct. It IS true that all beer sold on tap in Utah is 3.2%, and all beer period sold in grocery stores is under 4%. However, it is also true that you can purchase bottled beer in restaurants at normal alcohol levels, and you can buy the good stuff at state liquor stores. Also, there are some really good local beers. 
  2. You can't buy coffee in Utah. 
    Yes, I've been asked this. Not true. Not even a little bit. There are coffee shops on practically every corner surrounding my neighborhood, downtown, and near my work. 
  3. The Mormons will evangelize you relentlessly
    Patently false. I actually have not been evangelized even one time by Mormons since moving here. There is some information given at the end of the tour of the Temple downtown, but, um, you chose you visit the HQ/temple of an evangelical church. Of course they are going to share some information with you. To be completely honest, the Mormons I've met, both here and in the Midwest, have been incredibly gracious people. 
  4. Mormons practice polygamy and it is rampant in Utah
    Mostly false. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), which is the main Mormon church nationally, has not endorsed polygamy in over a century. Yes, it's best-known historical leader (Brigham Young) did have multiple wives, but it is not part of the modern church. There is at least one off-shoot of the LDS church that still practices polygamy. However, I have only twice even suspected that I was looking at a polygamist family. Partly, my exposure is limited by living in the urban heart of the state, where the religious affiliations of residents are more diverse than they are statewide. But mostly, this idea of rampant polygamy is a myth. 
  5. Gender equality is a big problem in Utah
    Sadly, this is not a myth. At all. 
  6. Winter is one big cluster of a sh*tstorm of snow
    How was that polar vortex? It didn't happen here. Yes, we get a lot of snow, but it's somehow not a big deal. Roads get plowed. Life goes on. People ski. The dangerous thing here is the avalanche risk. Two people died in avalanches here this weekend. It's a real thing if you're in the backcountry up in the mountains. 
  7. Something called an inversion happens
    This is true. Both inversions and altitude affect running here. This will be covered in my next post, so stay tuned! Both are actually kind of mind boggling. 
  8. Everyone is pregnant all the time
    Well, sort of. Truth: Utah has the highest fertility rate in the country. Also true: the fertility rate among native born whites in Utah is higher than it is elsewhere in the US, but is still barely above replacement level. Utah is growing through international migration and natural growth (births minus deaths), but largely because of the fertility rate of immigrants. 
  9. You can't go anywhere or do anything on Sundays
    True: many businesses are closed on Sundays, probably because the LDS church discourages its members from engaging in work or commerce on those days. Also true: a lot of things are still open, and that means calmer grocery shopping here than anywhere else in America on a Sunday. 
  10. Everyone drives a Subaru
As I said, stay tuned. Up next: running in the Midwest v. West, Part 1.

1 comment:

Black Knight said...

Interesting information about Utah