10 Things I Hate About Where I Live

Corn-field

My husband and I thought we’d made a great decision when we first moved from Texas to Iowa in 2016. Before too long though, we realized we’d made a very expensive and inconvenient mistake. In this post, I’m sharing 1o things I hate about where I live (although I no longer live there – yay!), along with helpful takeaways to help shed some light on how you can be sure you move to a place that you love.

Whether or not we like a place is purely subjective. It’s a lot like our tastes in food. Let’s say you like asparagus. Most likely you’re not going to take offense if I tell you I don’t like asparagus. Yet, people often take it personally when they learn you don’t share the same love as they do for a place. (Especially if you think the place sucks!)

So, what 10 things do I hate about where I live – or, rather, where I USED to live? Read on to find out!

Conformity reigns supreme

We lived in a farming town of about 7,300 people. It’s not what you think of when you think of a suburb, but it had this odd suburban Stepford Wives air about it. Everyone was super Type-A about their lawns. The minute the grass reached 1 inch, people were out mowing. When it snowed, people started shoveling their sidewalk before the snow even stopped. Not only that, people narced out neighbors who didn’t keep their front porch tidy or mow their grass enough. The city actually fined these people for their “offenses.” Every place has its quirks, but they aren’t always compatible with how we want to live.

Takeaway: By allowing ample time for your scouting visit, you can better gauge whether a prospective location has any annoying peccadillos.

Dumb and unnecessarily punitive laws

I had no idea Iowa had so many ass-backwards laws. The state and its cities treat private property as if it was public property–except when it doesn’t work to their financial advantage. I’m talking specifically about sidewalks. I had never lived anywhere that considered the sidewalk in front of my house private property. But, Iowa considers city sidewalks 100% private in the wintertime and 50% private the rest of the time. In the wintertime, residents must clear the sidewalks within 24 hours of the snow stopping or pay a fine. And if the sidewalk in front of your house needs to be repaired, guess who gets to pay half the cost? You guessed it – the homeowner!

Takeaway: Research homeowner’s laws to make sure you don’t encounter any unwelcome surprises once you move to a new location.

Distance to the nearest city-ish place

Iowa is a rural state, so most people don’t think twice about driving 100 miles one-way. That’s why we got a lot of rolled eyes when we complained about having to drive 30 miles one way to Iowa City every week. But when you’ve spent most of your life in a place where you can drive or walk 5 minutes to get anything, spending the better part of a day running errands gets to be a real pain in the ass. I know I sound wimpy, but who cares. I don’t ever want to live outside a city again.

Takeaway: Be realistic about what you are, and are not, willing to live with.

Community planning? What’s that?

The town we lived in was not “booming” by any stretch of the imagination. The population remained mostly flat over 30 years. The lack of anything in that town meant housing was reasonably affordable. The few people who did move to that town did so because they were priced out by high housing costs in Iowa City.  Why, then, did a couple of developers decide–and why did city officials agree–that this was a prime location to build four “trendy” $200,000 Pennsylvania House Town Home townhouses?

That’s not all, though. The real head-scratcher is where they chose to build them. The site, which used to have affordable housing on it, backs up against a car wash, sits one block off the railroad tracks, and directly across the street from the Fareway grocery store. The location is much more suited to commercial than residential. What on Earth were they thinking?!

Takeaway: Research how a community manages, or mismanages, growth.

Stingy city officials and their messed-up priorities

Housing prices were relatively affordable in that town. However, the cost of living was waaaaay too high considering what we got in return. I was shocked to learn after running the numbers that we paid 22% more in property taxes and 33% more in utility costs living in a town of 7,300 than we paid to live in a city of 250,000. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the town actually invested more than the barebones minimum into making the town a nicer place to live.

For example, the lighting for the very creepy pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath the railroad tracks was broken for years. Did the town fix the lighting so it was safer for residents? Nope. They waited to repair the lighting until the annual bike ride around Iowa was slated to come through town for the first time in 15 years. It’s heart-warming to know that 20,000 bicyclists who spend all of one day in town are worthier of spending money on than the people who put money in their coffers every day of the year.

Takeaway: Research the policies and laws of a prospective location to get a feel for how it treats its residents.

Pig farms

There are 7 times as many pigs as people in Iowa, so it’s no surprise that there are a ton of pig farms all over the state. Maybe this doesn’t sound so disturbing in the abstract, but when you see and smell pig farms everywhere, it’s pretty icky and depressing.

Takeaway: Research the main industries in a location and seriously consider how your quality of life could be affected.

Allergies

I lived for 23 years in Austin where everyone around me was absolutely miserable with allergies. But I never had a problem with them. I didn’t even get allergies when I moved from Austin to West Texas. But for some reason, I was allergic to Iowa. Maybe it’s all the cornfields or the pig farms. I don’t know; I just know it was no fun!

Takeaway: Research the pollen counts of a prospective location ahead of time.

Noise pollution

Cars, pick-ups, motorcycles and 18-wheelers roared up and down the streets at all times of day and night. Most of the time, the car stereos are cranked up so high the windows of our house rattled. Iowa doesn’t require car inspections so there were tons of cars and trucks that didn’t have a muffler. This means they were reeeeally loud. With so many kooky laws, you’d think they’d have a noise ordinance, but I guess not. Or if they did have one, they didn’t bother enforcing it.

Takeaway: Research noise ordinances and pay attention to how noisy a location is on your scouting visit.

Humidity

I spent two decades slogging through Austin’s interminably long, hot, muggy summers, so I’m no stranger to humidity. But I had absolutely no clue how humid the summers are in Iowa. I’ll never forget walking downtown on our first day and nearly passing out from the humidity. What’s that? Why didn’t I know about this before we schlepped 1,000 miles with our four-legged family and all our possessions? Because I simply didn’t bother looking into it. That’s how shoddy my research was!

Takeaway: Research detailed climate data ahead of time.

Apathy

The town I lived in was the unlikely location of the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the world. The State Theater is a beautiful historic theater that’s screaming to be properly celebrated. But a company out of Des Moines that insists on showing only superhero and Pixar animated movies owns the theater. I understand they have to make money to stay open, but what a waste of an iconic theater.

We could not understand why they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) reserve a couple of weeks out of the year for film festivals–something that would draw people and their money from out of town. But every time we mentioned this to anyone, including the mayor, we got the patented eye-roll. Residents could have used the theater to breathe some much-needed life into the town. Too bad no one there gives a shit.

Takeaway:  Make note of how engaged or apathetic a community is as part of your scouting visit.

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.

8 Comments

  1. Tamara Jones on Feb 15, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    We lost everything when we moved from California to Amana, Iowa. It may be 25% cheaper to live there, but we took a 50% pay cut so that’s a mathematical FAIL! I also never had allergies until I moved there, the mold & humidity was outrageous, the people weren’t friendly, terrible weather, life was generally harder in so many ways. Ruined our lives. We’re back in CA now trying to rebuild. Your article was cathartic, thank you!!!

    • Margaret on Feb 16, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      Tamara, fellow moving disaster survivor, my heart goes out to you! It sounds like your move to Iowa was as nightmarish as ours has been. I’m so sorry you had to go through that and that you are still recovering from the experience. It’s sobering just how much damage a wrong move can cause. I only hope I can help others from having to go through what we have! Thanks for sharing your story and all the best to you as you rebuild your lives back in CA.

  2. Emily on Apr 15, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    We moved from Washington to California. I had taught pre-k for years, and was told getting a job in that field would be easy. They have a whole different system there that I didn’t fully understand until we actually got there – so, ASK QUESTIONS if you don’t understand something that pertains to your field of work. It turned out, I would have had to go back to college to learn how to do the job I had been doing for the past 5-6 years. I didn’t have that kind of money, so I had to get jobs in a different field. (Yes, jobS because California didn’t want full-time workers, another thing to look into.)
    The noise thing is completely accurate – no matter where we chose to live, it would be “in the way of the airport”. This meant that from 6:30am-11:30pm we would hear airplanes taking off and landing. (We would have to stop conversations/pause movies until the planes past us due to the sound.)

    • Margaret on Apr 15, 2021 at 2:34 pm

      Such great advice, Emily, thank you for sharing! I’m so sorry that, like me, you had to learn the hard way about the place you decided to move to. I couldn’t agree more that you have to do as much upfront research as you can BEFORE you move anywhere, so you can avoid ugly surprises. Again, I really appreciate you sharing your story and advice!

  3. Jeff Lusk on Aug 15, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    There is one group of people that know not to EVER live in Iowa. That’s those of us that grew up there. I won’t even go there for a high school reunion. In some ways it’s a blessing that I had to endure my first 19 years or so there because I was old enough to leave and never look back. I’m now 74 and happily retired in western Michigan along the Lake Michigan coast. There is hundreds of miles of Great Lakes coastline in Michigan with a number of affordable towns 10 to 20 miles inland from the lakes. We have coastlines along Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. When you get to retirement age, my advice is to look for a beautiful place less susceptible to climate change that has plenty of water and cool air. A few months of snow is a small price to pay and the towns are affordable. I bought a 120 year old house and did some renovations and couldn’t be happier here. We do admittedly have a few knuckleheads in city government but I expect that’s a common theme in any small town.

    • Margaret on Aug 15, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      Dear Jeff, I appreciate you weighing in! I’m so glad you escaped Iowa and have never looked back. It sounds like you’ve built a wonderful life in western Michigan. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Rodney on Sep 3, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    Don’t move somewhere because it’s cheaper, 25% cheaper is nothing. There’s a reason places are cheaper less services, people less formally educated, less physicians, less specialized medical services, much less convenience, much less people unless you like conversations to a corn field, in those types of places nobody is ever going to have any degree of happiness. Places that small like Mayberry RFD, You’re not going to have any real friends or be happy, you’re not very welcome and you will end up moving back to where you are from.

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