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    What Do You Wish You’d Known Before Moving to New Orleans?

    moving to new orleans

    Moving to New Orleans

    Moving to any new city is full of challenges. Moving to New Orleans is a whole different thing.  We asked our friends, that aren’t New Orleans natives, what they wish someone had told them before moving to New Orleans. From the funny to the practical, here’s what they wish they had known before calling NOLA home.

    Time is relative

    My boyfriend told me, when I was fretting about none of my friends showing up to a thing we’d talked about, “Darlin’ ya don’t have to be anywhere unless you’re paid to be there. And even then…”

    Getting around

    You have the worst pedestrians and the worst drivers in the same city. It’s a recipe for disaster…and then they tossed in bike lanes to make it interesting.

    This is relatively well known now but I didn’t know it when I came: that the cardinal directions here are upriver, downriver, lakeside, riverside. Once it was explained to me, it made tons of sense, but I didn’t know it coming in.

    I wish someone had told me to never drive in the quarter. One year I wound up leading Krewe du Vieux with my 1987 Buick. I thought I was going to a parade, I did not intend to be part of it.

    How the sewer grates protruding from the eroding curbs will pop your tires.

    Navigating the city when it’s been raining a lot: where not to drive because it floods

    Food and drinks

    That I would get fat from all the delicious food & alcohol, everything is revolved around over indulging in things that are bad for you.

    The 40 pound weight gain….

    Grocery store and convenience store booze totally surprised me. Not having to go to the State Liquor Store or a packie to get some vodka or champagne (even on Easter morning, sometimes!)

    Go-cups – I knew those were a thing, but i didn’t realize how quickly I’d get used to that

    Shrimp is served with the heads on…forgot about that one 🙂 I’ve been here over 20 years now and it seems normal, but when i first moved here I did NOT expect that.

    That you can appreciate the local dishes all you want, but EVERYBODY knows how to make them, too, and will brag about their own personal way, usually learned from their momma or mawmaw.

    The seasons

    The humidity. Coming here for college does not prepare you for actual summer the first year you stay the whole year through.

    You come in *thinking* you know what humidity is. You do not.

    Termite Season. That Plague terrified me my first year.

    Caterpillar season

    I had absolutely no idea that termites even fly! And the caterpillars – I accused the first person to tell me about that that they were just trying to give me one more thing to worry about. Definitely not in the guidebooks.

    Making friends

    I’m from California where I feel people from there are highly into themselves & even if they know you from somewhere, they will act like they don’t. They are the biggest snots I’ve ever met. Here I have always felt welcomed and made friends easily.

    How neighborhood-centric the locals are. That people downtown often never cross Canal and vice versa.

    That “sorry, I was a little drunk” is a reasonable excuse for minor infractions, and you can even find greeting cards for it.

    Not to think local folks are nosy or intrusive when they ask you personal questions (where you live, how old you are, what your momma cooked for you…). That might be especially shocking for New Englanders. They’re just being friendly.

    People actually say hello & ask how you are–and wait for your response. Initially, my suspicious nature made me think I was being watched…LOL

    Haute Couture

    How casual everyone is. Sometimes I need to pump the breaks on overdressing.

    You can be in a bar with a guy in a tux and a hobo and it’s fine.

    Where’d you go to school?

    I never understand why people who move here mind saying where they’re actually from. Maybe you’ll get an attitude if you try to hide that fact. One friend told me that people try fooling her by asking what school she attended. Natives are usually simply trying to make a connection, dahlin’.

    How obsessed the locals are with where everyone went to high school! It’s bizarre.

    The conversations here tend to circle around ‘where did you go to high school?’ more than who you know from your career roles.

    Final words

    Mardi Gras is a marathon… You have to seriously train if you want to do it all.

    Awesome things I wish I’d known: that I could walk into Rite Aid and buy champagne pretty much anytime. That the coveted meyer lemons grow in abundance here, and people will just GIVE them to you. That porch-sitting near the fairgrounds or St. Charles is actually really fun. That you miss the sound of the streetcar when you’re not here. That grillades are a life changing experience.

    Insurance here, of any kind is ridiculously expensive, comparatively. And generally, nothing is really efficient here. But despite that, and everything else listed above, I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else.

    The thing I keep learning which no one tells you about is that for 300 years New Orleans has always changed. It always will.


    Was there something about New Orleans that surprised you? Drop us a comment!



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    One Response to “What Do You Wish You’d Known Before Moving to New Orleans?”

    • Gwendolyn Dunnigan

      Written on

      I wish I had known how hard it to earn a livable wage when I moved to NOLA in 1981. Knowing how easy it is to get lost while driving in the city with countless no left turn signs on many intersection could have a lot of time, gas, and frustration.


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