10 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is a top relocation destination for many people, moving here from all over the country. Whether you’re thinking about moving to Portland for the nearby outdoor recreation, world class food and drinks, friendly progressive vibes, or for a great job, there’s a lot to consider before you load up the moving truck.

Whatever your reason for moving, take some time to understand the practical, economic, and social dynamics of the city of Portland. You’ll be better equipped to find a good job here, and to bring a positive impact on the future of our sweet city. Here are 10 things to help you understand what it’s like to live in Portland, Oregon.

Portland is a Great City to Live In

First of all, there’s a reason why people keep moving to Portland: it’s an amazing city. You can drive an hour west to get to the ocean or an hour east to be in the mountains. Portland is renowned for livability, food and drink, arts and culture, and much more.   

Tech, Health, and Sports Lead Portland Job Market

While trades, government, and manufacturing provide stable job markets, many professionals come to Portland following growth in

  • Technology – Intel, Tektronix, and many smaller electronics names have growth the “Silicon Forest” in the PNW.
  • Health – Oregon Health & Science University employs 15,000, and hospitals, private companies, and public agencies are all investing in growth in the bioscience sector.
  • Sports – Led by the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, many professionals work in product design, marketing, and customer service for big name outdoor and athletics companies with local offices, including adidas, Columbia, Keen, and Under Armor.
  • Check out other key sectors in Portland, including clean tech, software, and more.

Portland is a Stronghold for Nonprofits

There are a ton of nonprofit organizations located in Portland. If you want to make a difference through your day job, you’ve got lots of opportunities. Check out Oregon’s best nonprofits to work for, or get connected with one of many nonprofit networking opportunities in Portland.

Salaries are lower than in other cities

Workers in the Portland area make 9% more in wages than the national average. Yet folks who come to Portland from larger metro areas like New York, D.C., and even Seattle complain about lower salaries. While the minimum wage in Oregon is rising, many in Portland see the cost of living increasing much faster than the numbers on their paycheck.

Competition for work is fierce

Job growth remains steady and Portland’s unemployment rate keeps dropping. There are great jobs to be had, but your ability to land one depends a lot on what you do. Based on our non-scientific, anecdotal research with Portland job seekers, the job market is heavy weighted on Who You Know: personal relationships and connections are more important here than in other cities. Check out our step-by-step guide to landing a job in Portland for more.  

Now that we’ve covered the job market, let’s dive into what it’s like to live your life day-to-day in Portland.

News Flash: It rains a lot in Portland, Oregon

Let’s just get this out of the way: long, wet winters are the norm in Portland and all of western Oregon. From October through May, Portlanders deal with rainy gray days for weeks on end, and most winters bring at least one snow or ice storm that will shut down the city for a few days. It’s a citywide hobby to complain about the weather, but most of us get used to it and stay the course until summer arrives (in July). In the meantime, invest in Vitamin D supplements, and maybe a “happy lamp.”

Housing is tight, and prices are rising

The cost and availability of housing is a problem for many people in Portland. Rental vacancies are low, and rent prices have been increasing steadily for years. However, a rash of new apartment construction during 2016 and 2017 is expected to ease some of that tension.

The real estate market continues to boom after the Great Recession, but most residents can’t afford to buy: according to the Portland Housing Bureau’s 2016 report, “the average Portland household can only afford to purchase a home in eight of the 24 neighborhoods. Many are moving outside of the central city seeking affordable homes. Check out the HUD Comprehensive Housing Report for our area to learn more. For more advice on navigating the Portland real estate market, check out the Portland Relocation Guide.

Portland traffic is not great

Ask a Portlander about traffic. It’s not southern California-level traffic, but it’s still bad and Portland traffic is getting worse. As more people move here, there are more cars, cyclist and pedestrians on the road, making congestion throughout the city pretty bad.

And parking is getting increasingly more challenging, particularly in the NW and SE Portland areas. In fact, good luck finding parking off bustling shopping and dining corridors on Division Street or NW 23rd Ave. Luckily, Portland’s public transportation system is very reliable and is expanding to serve more people all the time. Or, do what I do: ride a bike.

Shop local. It’s the Portland way.

You won’t see a lot of chain stores in Portland. Instead, you’ll find a dazzling variety of local businesses. From grocery stores to clothing boutiques, local coffee roasters to breweries, and the greatest food carts you’ll find anywhere, local is the way to go for Portland people.

Some things about Portland are still weird

Some say that Portland’s surge in popularity (the Portlandia effect?) has killed the quirky vibe of the city. Certainly, time and growth have changed the city in real ways. Gentrification is a real problem. At the same time, there are still lots of folks keeping Portland weird. You’ll find a thriving arts community, a varied and active cycling culture, and tons of makers making cool stuff happen all over the city.

And remember, when you’re new to Portland some sour souls may not embrace you with open arms. Sometimes folks who only moved here a few years ago want to pull up the drawbridge for new residents, which is ridiculous. But there’s a reason why people move here, and it’s because Portland is a great city in many, many ways. So if you’re ready to brave the traffic, tolerate the clouds, budget for high rents, and, importantly, embrace the weird, then “Welcome!”