Tell me about living in a northern state

A former boss of mine who is still in the company just emailed me with an interesting suggestion. He is now located in upstate New York, and there’s an upcoming job opportunity in his group which he thinks I’d be suited for, so he wants me to put my name in the pipeline for it. The job would be in upstate New York and would involve a great deal of driving.

I live in Memphis, with which I am growing increasingly discontented. Because of that and because this would be a good career move even if it were here, I’m tempted by the opportunity. One thing that gives me pause, though, is the notion of living that far north. Apart from Memphis, the only place I have ever lived is the Philippines, so I have little experience with snow (Memphis gets about 2/3 of an inch of the white stuff every other year) and no experience with bitter winters. Can anybody give me a heads-up on living in such a place?

I am only in Iowa, so do not get the intense snow that you would experience in upstate NY. But you get used to it. In the winter, you learn what conditions you personally can deal with in terms of driving, and you avoid those you cannot. I think that will be your biggest challenge, because from talking with folks in Buffalo, they get a lot of snow, and I suppose Buffalo isn’t really “upstate” but they get the “lake effect” snow. I would imagine all of upstate NY gets that.

I have found the regardless of how long you have lived in an area with a decently snowy winter, damn near everyone goes through the first couple of snow storms as if they spent their lives in Hawaii and didn’t know what this fluffy white stuff was. They completely forget how to drive in this weather. Hell it rained today and I saw an idiot in the ditch, lord only knows what will happen when that chowderhead hits a snowy patch!

I think driving is the biggest challenge to get used to, because for everything else you just dress appropriately and make sure your home is insulated. Oh and buy a snow shovel to dig out with! Double Oh - make sure you carry the right equipment in your vehicle in case the shit hits the fan!

I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Michigan for 24 years. Snowy/icy driving is something you get used to, but if you don’t do something active the cold and dark can get to you. On first arriving, get yourself a REAL winter coat (I’d recommend a lined hood), insulated gloves or mittens and REAL boots. With these things there are lots of outdoor activities that are available to help stave off cabin fever. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing!

Snow removal in places that get a lot of snow is usually pretty good, so unless it’s really bad, the roads get cleared off pretty fast. Also, while it gets really cold, it’s not like it will be snowing every day, the snow just piles up higher every time there’s a storm or snowshower, so mostly you’ll just have to think about staying warm, which isn’t that hard.

You’ll have to shovel your own driveway, unless you pay a plow truck to come, which might be a good idea if you have a really big driveway, or there’s some physical reason you can’t do it.

You don’t spend nearly as much money on air conditioning, though!

It really depends on where in New York too. Buffalo is much more snowy than other areas. Bitterness also depends on how far north or west you are. I grew up in Kingston and I never found it as bitterly cold as I did some days in Chicago, or up here.

In general, though, you’ll get at least four seasons and that’s one of the great things about being up here.

Whereabouts in upstate NY are you looking at? There is a significant difference in snow, cold, and miserableness between say the Hudson Valley (occasional snow) and Watertown (three foot snowfalls not even noteworthy).

I grew up in a suburb of Albany and we would usually get on average a few feet of snow a year. The first sticking snowfall would happen in early December, then maybe a few weeks later it would all melt (it rained last Christmas), occasional snows through March, with the final thaw happening in April.

I went to school in Buffalo. That place was miserable. The city proper didn’t get THAT much more snow than Albany, but the wind. Holy crap. When it blew off the lake it was terrible. The high was 40 degrees with 30 mph winds when I graduated in late May.

“Upstate” is a huge area, with many different climate zones. Actually, all of NY State north of Westchester county (the suburban county immediately north of New York City) is called “Upstate” by some.

Any general idea where you’ll be? Albany? Buffalo? Plattsburg? Poughkeepsie?

I lived in Ohio a couple of different times, and spent September-April pretty thoroughly miserable. I don’t like cold, not one little bit. Don’t like snow, either. Add to that the distance from family–especially difficult when emergencies crop up and you can’t get home conveniently/quickly.

All of that, plus my standard objections of weird gun laws, no sweet tea, no grits, no SEC football, Yankees talking funny and way too fast. Yeah, reckon I’d rather just move to Hell and be done with it. YMMV.

There is also “upstate” and “UPSTATE”. I have at various times heard Poughkeepsie, Albany, or Pittsburgh described as upstate. That covers a range of about 200 miles, and a far bigger range in mentality.

Poughkeepsie is close enough to NYC that you could almost call it a suburb (note I say “almost”), while Albany is the center of a fairly sizable group of municipalities. Plattsburgh is a tiny city in a very rural area, isolated from damn near everywhere by a huge lake on one side, Adirondack Park on the other, and a whole lot of nothing between itself and Albany a hundred miles to the south and Montreal a hundred miles to the north.

Coming from a relatively large town like Memphis, you may find the lifestyle of rural upstate New York more challenging than the snow.

ETA: I see that three others made the exact same point while I was typing this. sigh

Well, upstate New York is a big place.

Turn into the skid.

I would say the key to enjoying life in upstate New York (as a general concept) would involve enjoying outdoor activities, including winter activities, and being willing to travel when necessary to visit civilization. It is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful country that offers different things in each season. You don’t even have to be that active, but even liking brisk walks will help. Winter especially hunkers down and it feels like it is here for a long time.

It is kind of easy to get into the trap of sitting around all winter and not doing anything and sort of slowly sinking into decline, so I suspect most people would have be a little more intentional about staying engaged and getting out of the house. Winter is awesome but it makes you work a little harder.

Driving in the snow is the thing I would worry about the most. It seems like something a smart person could master fairly quickly, and I guess that about 95% of it is something a smart person could master quickly … the problem is that other 5% percent which only comes from experience.

Upstate NY is not a cultural wasteland BUT if diversity of cultural experience is important to you, then you need to plan to make some fun long weekend trips to NYC, Boston, or Toronto to keep your sanity. A lot of upstate NY is very country in a way that a lot of people from other areas probably don’t associate with New York State.


As a Houstonian, I obviously have no hints for dealing with icey winters.

But I’ve visited New York State a few times & found the area amazingly beautiful. Much of Texas is extremely flat & our few mountainous areas have a dry, parched kind of beauty. And most Texas lakes are dammed up rivers–nothing like the glacier scoured lakes of New York. The state’s scenery inspired a whole school of painting.

And there are really big cities nearby…

Buffalo? Cool! You can cross the brodge at [del]Vegas North[/del] Niagara Falls, Ontario, and hop on a bus or train to visit us in Toronto! If you’re driving, use the Queenston-Lewiston bridge; it plugs into all the freeways and is better for driving. Though that does mean you have to fight your way up the Queen Elizabeth Way.

Now, about climate. Buffalo gets a lot of snow; it’s in the lake effect area to the south of Lake Ontario, and also to the east of Lake Erie. Because of the lakes, it doesn’t get as cold as areas at similar latitudes but away from large bodies of water. Minimum winter temperatures are around -4F (-20C).

Because of this milder winter climate, we get a lot of stretches of winter weather where the temperature crosses the freezing point each day. During the day, it’s just warm enough for snow and ice to melt and flow across sidewalks and roads. During the night, it all freezes again. This leads to unpredicatable zones of ice that may make walking or driving treacherous. You really need to watch where you’re going, especially when such ice flows are covered by a dusting of later snow.

In terms of felt nastiness, though, the worst weather is not when it’s -20. -20 in brilliant winter sunshine when you’re dressed for it can be an exhilarating dazzle of beauty. The worst weather is when it’s raining and windy and just above freezing. It is then that you lose the most heat: the rain hits your face and you can’t keep warm. Thais is the stereotypical weather of November.

Driving in snow is less of a problem that you probably think. First of all, most drivers are used to it. What’s really scary is snow in a southern state where drivers rarely face it. They end up skidding all over the road. In NY, that’s less of a problem.

You should pick it up quickly. Just use common sense: drive slowly, and don’t let your brakes lock (it’s effective to “fan” the brakes a bit – a little pressure, let go, pressure, let go, etc. Antilock brakes do this automatically). It you go slowly, then you can stop merely by letting off the gas, which is ideal. Also, learn what to do when skidding – with front wheel driver, aim where you want the car to go (FWD makes this much more easy than the counterinutuive “turn into the skid” on RWD).

Another point for snow is that they have far more snowplows and much more salt to clear things. Also, when a big storm hits, things tend to shut down, so you can avoid driving.

Of course, Buffalo is known for very heavy snowfalls, but it’s not that hard to adjust to. If you own a house, a snowblower is a must.

As for things to do, there are always things going on wherever you live. You just have to seek them out.

Buffalo also has some gorgeous architecture. Really pretty housing should be available, depending on your tastes.

I hardly know a darn thing about Buffalo except that you couldn’t pay me to live there. In general the culture is very different from Buffalo to Albany, and while Buffalo is the second largest city in NYS, in the last 20 years its population has dropped drastically.

Sports are big, as is conservatism. Beyond that I hardly know a thing about the city. I have visited there on several occasions and have some colleagues there but I don’t go unless I am dragged. If I go to Toronto next year as I hope Buffalo/Niagara Falls may be a stopover, but honestly, that’s getting a bit too close to the midwest culture I grew up in and I wouldn’t live there.

As for upstate NY, my god, the winters are beautiful. Last year we had a horrid ice storm which knocked out power in my area for six days…and in the middle of it I found a bunch of trees, with these little red berries, that had the ice frozen on them in such a way that every berry was encased in its own little globule of ice. It was stunningly beautiful. Art in life, as it were.

Buffalo is supposed to snow a lot and they do get what is called lake-effect snow and in thirteen years of me living in Albany I seem to remember them actually closing the city - declaring a citywide state of emergency - one time.


Oh, I’m sorry, but this Doper who has lived in Winnipeg for almost 30 years is just sitting and laughing his ass off. :smiley: You Americans don’t know winter. :smiley:

I will say, though, that here in Winnipeg, we have avoided winter so far, temps have been getting down to minus teens C lately at night (plus teens F?) and around the freezing point during the day, but usually by now winter will have hit with snow (or a blizzard every couple years or so), but the grass is snowless so far (we even raked our leaves last weekend). I’m still expecting snow on the ground by December.

(From what I’ve heard, Buffalo is just a warmer Winnipeg and has climate similar to Chicago.)

I would definitely agree with Sunspace on both those points. Just be prepared is all.

I remember a couple of years ago our church sponsored a refugee family from Liberia to have them move to Winnipeg, they came in mid-January, which was very much a climate shock for them (heck, even Memphis would have been), but they’ve since acclimatized quite well and have learned about surviving in weather like this. You will too.

So Western New York, then. :cool: Most people in Buffalo would be shocked to learn that anyone thinks they live in Upstate New York.

Housing is terrific, you can find almost anything to suit your taste and needs. Cost of living is generally low. Taxes are generally high. The food is great, there are a few styles of cuisine that you can’t find, but the quality of everything else is out of this world.

Driving in the greater Buffalo area is not so bad. Road conditions due to weather are sometimes a hassle, but traffic is seldom a problem. A job with a lot of driving would not be so bad compared to other urban areas.

Somewhat recent article about snooty New Yorkers moving to Buffalo and discovering it is not as backwoods as they feared (I say that with love for both Buffalo and NYC):

I think you should go for it - it’s good for people to experience new things.

As I said in the Turks and Caicos thread, I moved to Calgary from the prairies for the milder winters. :smiley: