Can anyone tell me about Madison, WI?

So, I’m sick and tired of New York City. I’m looking for an office job but I keep running against walls and being turned down for being “too smart” to work as an administrator. I’m frustrated with the high cost of living. I feel like, if I just want to support myself while trying to be a writer, I can go anywhere, and it might be wise to go somewhere a little saner, a little more affordable.

I’ve heard great things about living in Madison, and it always shows up on “best cities to live in” lists that periodically surface. I’ve never lived anywhere BUT NYC so I feel a little lost. Can anyone tell me a little more about the Madison area?

One good thing about Madison is it’s not far from Door County. :slight_smile: It’s also a great college town, if that’s your cup o’ tea.

I’ve been there once and had a friend who was born/raised there. It seemed like a very nice college town.

Word of advice: You may find yourself sitting at the hotel bar, small talking with the locals over a few beers. Whatever you do, DO NOT agree to join them in a game of dice. It will not end well for you, trust me. :stuck_out_tongue:

There is a part of your OP that I don’t understand. You are being turned down for administration jobs in NYC. (For being “too smart”) Do you mean to say that if you got that particular job, that you would stay in NYC?

In which case my opinion would be for you to act dumber, get the job you want, and not have to worry about the hassle of moving.

Well, I’m rethinking in general what made me come to NY. I think I guessed I could find an admin-drone job in finance (what I’ve done for the past couple of years), do my writing on evenings/weekends, and be fine. However, I left my last job for sexual harrassment issues, the markets are currently horrible, and I’m coming up on too long without a job. Even on unemployment and the settlement I received upon leaving, I can’t afford New York City for much longer. So, as opposed to giving up my (expensive!) apartment and moving into some outer-borough shithole, I’m thinking maybe I should just move to a city where I have equal chance of employment but much lower cost of living.

Edit about acting dumber: I have a “big name” school on my resume that’s hard to play down.

Not sure if this is your cup-o-tea, but there’s an absolutely outstanding group of RPG-ers / LARP-ers in Madison. I can probably steer you their way if you like. I’d game with them if I was rich enough to afford gas for such a trip regularly.

In my experience (not terribly recent) it is hard to get a job in Madison because lots of college students who go there really want to stay. The “guy with a master’s degree driving a cab or serving coffee” myth is often reality. I have a sister-in-law who moved there as an experienced lawyer and it took her a couple of years to find a job - admittedly she was only looking for law-related jobs but she had an easy time finding them in Chicago, where she’d moved from. She was fortunate that her husband had a job he’d transferred to that could support them. My college friends who stayed in the area rarely had jobs related to their degrees - a construction engineering friend worked in a department store, another friend (I forget her degree) worked in a bookstore.

Housing in Madison anywhere near downtown tends to be either expensive or run-down. (Both if you’re unlucky.) College students put up with a lot so in my experience of living there, landlords know they don’t have to offer much because someone will rent it.

I love the city but I wouldn’t move there unless I had a job lined up.

Eliminate the "big name’ school from your resume. It’s YOUR resume, you can make it reflect yourself in any manner you want. Maybe a little pride/ego thing going on there?

Another minor sticking point: In your OP, you mention that you have never lived “anywhere BUT NYC”. Yet in your next post you are “re-thinking in general what made you [me] come to NYC.”

So which is it?

Although you have cold winters and hot summers in NYC, the extremes in Wisconsin are even more brutal. The summer humidity is positivley Maylaysian.

Madison is a great town with a big college and all that comes with it (good and bad), excellent restaurants, some great biking/running paths around the lakes, several good bookstores, and some nice views. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by the rest of Wisconsin, which isn’t itself bad, but coming from a major metropolitan area you’re going to find it a bit “blah”, and politically and culturally far more conservative than Madison. (I was somewhat underwhelmed by the charms of Door County, but the Superior coast of Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is quite good if you like the outdoors, and fewer crowds.) Milwaukee is about an hour a way, and somewhat unrecognized for its own charms, including the Riverwalk, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and tons of great places to eat and drink on the East Side, but it definitely still has a blue collar bent to it. Chicago is a 2 hour train ride south if you really need to get some big city action, but it isn’t New York in the cultural sense (again for good and bad). I know there are at least a couple of Madison, WI residents here so they should be able to give you more detail. And yes, stay away from the dice game.

Regarding the decision to move, I think it’s a good one. The overall culture of NYC seems to have become increasingly insular, and the provincialism of many New Yorkers (whether they’re native or emigrants) is myopic. It can be a fun place to visit, and if you have the income to isolate yourself from the riff-raff a decent place to live, but there’s no point squeezing every penny just for the questionable privilege of calling yourself a New Yorker when you could be experiencing the different charms of other places. Take this as an opportunity to experience someplace new.

Other cities to consider for more affordable diverse culture: Minneapolis, MN; Ann Arbor, MI; Portland, OR; Seattle, WI; Austin, TX. I’m sure others can add to the list.

Be aware that public transport (I assume that you don’t own a car) is rarely as widely available as in NYC, so either be prepared to deal with more limited transportation options or learn to drive a car and carry that expense.

Good luck to you.


I won’t be able to get any interviews if I don’t have a college degree. What, you think I should lie and put another college down? I think that will reflect poorly on the background check.

I didn’t go to school in NYC, I moved here right after graduation. I grew up in a very small town in upstate. The only time I’ve lived on my own, and supported myself, has been in NYC. What I mean is, everything I know about finding an apartment, job markets, etc. are specific to NYC. I don’t know about anywhere else. In fact, I’ve never been West of the Mississippi or south of NJ.

I grew up in a town about 30 miles south of Madison. After graduating college, I moved to Madison, got a job in the field I went to college for, and have lived here since… I can try and answer any specific questions you have. I know there are other dopers from Madison as well.

I like Madison a lot. It’s on my short list of “places to relocate if I ever want to leave where I’m at.” We hop down there for vacations every once in a while, and it’s a fun town.

That said, I have just about as opposite of experience as you have as you can get. I like small towns - Madison is about at the top edge of where I’d ever want to live. Coming from NYC, I’d worry about the lack of, well, everything compared to a big city. Sure, Madison has good restaurants/parks/art/etc for a small city, but it’s nothing compared to NYC.

Of course, you probably realize that. It might help us if you’d let us know what you find important in life - do you need culture? Museums? Restaurants? Or are you yearning for outdoorsy stuff or dairy farms :smiley: What makes you tick?

I too live about 15 miles southeast of Madison. Today probably isn’t the best day to ask anyone in the southern part of the state what is good about it (Wisconsin, anyway), as we got 10-14 inches of snow yesterday. It ended almost 24 hours ago and some side streets in my small town are not plowed yet. There are currently five foot + piles of snow (drifts, not created by snow plows). So, winters can be unpleasant but you really sorta learn to deal with it.

The nice weather months in Madison are hard to beat. We’ve got the lakes, the Capitol, and like someone else said, bike trails, Memorial Union (for a beer on the lake), Overture Center for culture, art galleries. There is always, always something going on somewhere in the city. There is public transportation, though it is probably vastly underutilized judging by the quantity of cars on the road, especially during rush hour.

I too can answer any specific questions you might have. I love living here and though I abhor the quantity of snow we now have, that’s what you get when you live here. Summers CAN be very humid. I wouldn’t live anywhere that doesn’t have air conditioning.

Just heard on the news, we have had 73 inches of snow this year (season), two inches shy of the record.

OK, I’ve gotten the impression by talking to others that, while the unemployment rate is low, there are a lot of surplus workers as significant others to the university students, and this sucks up most of the jobs. Is this true?

Born/raised/educated in MadCity. I know where Mrs. Rennebohm’s statute is located, and where the bodies are buried under the basement of the Capitol building. When Oscar’s smelled like cheap perfume, your driver’s test was once around the Capitol Square across all four lanes and back safely and successfully (during rush hour), and best radio was WISM. I remember Snowball, too. Still have family there. Still visit regularly.

Madison is a difficult place to break into in the field you want, unless you pay your dues. For those of us who grew up there, that often meant getting your degree and moving away for the next 20 years to develop a rep so you can move back. Yes it’s true. More often than not the cabbie or garbage collector has a Masters or PhD. They want to work in their field but can’t. It took me my 20 years but I decided not to return. (I decided against it because the roads are full of shit pot holes year-round now, the college students don’t care about anything other than themselves now, and a few other things. Having said all that, if the offer came around again, I would seriously consider returning.)

The Madison economy is stable, really stable. The university, state government, insurance industry and new techy fields keep the economy always warm, if not hot, all the time. You can always find a job, but don’t expect it to be in the field you want right away.

It used to be Madison had all the benefits of New York, Chicago and LA, but without the significant downsides. Now it’s developing its own share of issues. But it’s still better than New York, Chicago or LA.

Recreation, be it cultural, outdoorsy or sports can’t be beat.

But that’s fading quickly, at least downtown. Factories and wherehouses are disappearing left and right and high priced condos are showing up faster then you can count them.

Best Cheeseburger’s in the world can be had at Dotty’s Dumpling Dowry. it used to be on Regent Strett but I think it has since moved.

Oh, I want one!

Madison is constantly rated amongst the top in those quality of live magazine articles, like “Best Place to Live” etc. I think that is mainly due to the availability of Spotted Cow Beer. Damn Wisconsinites, won’t export it to Minnesota. It’s a quaint marijuana town with a college problem.