ATL to BOSTON - Culture Shock?

Sep 12th, 2006, 03:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 411
ATL to BOSTON - Culture Shock?

Hello Fodorites.

I've read many of the relocation threads and decided I wanted to get additional and varied OPINIONS. For those of you that have visited or lived in both cities (Atlanta & Boston), can the difference between the two cities be categorized as a culture shock?

Can you live comfortably (which I realize is relative) on less than six figures? Meaning not in a high crime area, etc.

Do you have apartment or townhome communities with garages or covered parking? or do you have to pay 20K a year for a spot?

Last, is Boston truly one of the most segregated cities in the U.S.? Is racial tension high?

Why do I ask these questions? Well, I am considering relocating (as you've likely guessed) and welcome your opinions.

Have a great day!
sk84fungirl is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 04:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,240
I have never lived in Atlanta, but my parents lived in a Georgia town about 90 minutes outside, our son goes to college in Savannah and his girlfriend is from Atlanta. I have lived in Boston area for 30 years.

First, the cost of living, primarily housing, in Boston will be much higher than Atlanta. Housing issues are less ones of crime than of commute time - it can take quite a while to go from 15-20 miles outside Boston to downtown during rush hour. As a general rule, prices and rents are higher in areas that are either close to downtown and/or an easy commute on public transportation.

Boston and surrounding areas are relatively safe from random personal crime (muggings, getting shot). As with any city, reasonable precautions need to be taken late at night.

As far as racial tensions, as a white middle aged woman, I am perhaps not in the best position to evaluate that. My opinion is that often the segregation is as much economic as racial or ethnic - the affluent community in which I live is welcoming to all those who can afford to live here, but predictably negative towards those of any racial or ethnic heritage living in some form of subsidized housing.

As far as culturally, Atlanta is probably one of the most "northern" southern city I have visited. So I don't think culture would be as much of an issue. So many people come to Boston for higher education and then stay that there is some beginning diversity.
gail is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 04:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,050
Boston is now a majority-minority city.

Although the population of the two cities is comparable, Atlanta is spread out over a much greater area (130 square miles vs 48 square miles for Boston). So Boston is a much more congested city.

Boston's poulation is roughly the same as it was 100 years ago, and peaked in 1950 at about 800,000. So its housing stock is mostly older than Atlanta's, built for the working class in the first half of the 1900s.

Increasing incomes, highway expansion, and the growth of attractive new housing in the suburbs led to a depressed housing situation in the city in the 50s an 60s. Banks "redlined" chosen neighborhoods, refusing to lend in those areas, while protecting property values in the other areas. Housing prices plummeted further in the redlined neighborhoods, making them affordable for lower-income populations including the great northward migration of rural southern blacks. Municipal disinvestment in those areas (schools, roads, etc.) further emphasized the gap between old and newer residents.

I put my oldest child on a bus in 1976 even though I knew that the city could not be integrated on the backs of little children. Now, the school system is 86% black so in a way busing did manage to eliminate imbalances in our schools.

A lot of hateful opinions are based on misinformation and isolated incidents. To tell the truth, I am not really sure what "racial tension" really means.

The tiny area of the city proper means that the close suburbs play a greater role in the housing picture for the middle class.

Close to Boston, the land was bult on or preserved decades ago; there isn't room for many large planned communities. It's hard to reply to your parking question because it's not quite phrased in the terms that describe the Boston-area housing stock. Most of the cars in the Boston area live outdoors.
Anonymous is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,050
The biggest culture shock usually experienced by Southerners moving to New England is the perception that people are "cold and unfriendly." Whereas when New Englanders encounter somebody behaving in ways that are considered "friendly" in the South, they naturally suspect that the individual has a screw loose, or perhaps some hidden agenda related to a pyramid sales scheme. In northern cities, friendships are earned. But that seems to make them more meaningful.
Anonymous is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:20 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 411
Thanks for your repsonses thus far.

Gail and Anonymous, thank you for your insight.

I have a lot of research to do and this Forum always helps me identify additional resources.

I sincerely thank you for taking the time to respond as this is a decision that I am not taking lightly. I was born and raised in the Chicago area, so understand the perception of the north vs south thing. My questions are based on articles I've found and people I've spoken with while doing my research.

Out of all of the business and leisure travel I do, Boston is a city I have never visited.

Again, thanks to all that have posted and will post.
sk84fungirl is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 479
I have spent time in both and the biggest difference you will see right away is that Boston is a walking city.
I and many friends have lived in the city of Boston or Cambridge without a car and have done just fine. Don't expect to drive from one part of Boston to another, walk or take the bus/subway. Right now the condo market is a little better for buyers. The apartment rental cost are very high again.
TKT is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 411

For a single business woman that's no longer in her 20's , what neighborhoods would you suggest? I am not sure whether to buy or rent at this point. Will be working in or near Dorchester.

As you likely know, ATL is about the commute. However, I have no problem riding the train. Can you drive and park at the station like you do in ATL? Again, this is all completely new to me. I will be making an introductory trip within the next couple of weeks to at least see Boston.


sk84fungirl is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,050
Dorchester is a large section of the heart of Boston. Some sections are lovely, and some are kinda scary. All are well-served by public transportation.

Most train and subway stations in the Boston area have limited parking or none at all. Some of the stations at the ends of the lines have big garages, but even those fill up early on weekdays. Maps, schedules, etc. at .

I happen to live at the end of the Red Line of the subway system, which runs through Dorchester. Buy my house and walk to the subway! Seriously, it's for sale! My kids are grown and I'm downsizing.
Anonymous is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 06:31 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 3,857
When I lived in Boston my company paid for a parking spot downtown. Really didn't need a car during the week
and I lived in the Back Bay on Yarmouth
so the subway was a snap. I did observe that triple parking (just to run into the dry cleaners,LOL) must have been invented in Boston.

One Friday eve, I drove the car home
as I was planning a long weekend up in New Hampshire. Parked the car in front of the house, went inside to change clothes and go for a run, 15 minutes
later went out and car was gone. Stolen-
and it was still light out!

I think I might consider buying Anon's
house and commuting on the Red Line
if I was considering a Boston move.

PS-Anon'-Do they still salt the roads in winter ?
razzledazzle is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 41,827
I lived in Boston Back Bay most of my life so far back that the shops were closed in August and I could ride my dog in a basket on my bike without worry. It was like a village. Now next to my old apartment is the Armani café, the mom and pop shops are gone. The elderly driven out. Basements made into business locations, Europians paying high prices for condos, all my friends no longrer live there.
I now live across the bridge between Harvard and MIT. It's multi racial, so many ethnic restaurants. and a short walk across the bridge to my old neighborhood. And three stops to Filenes basement(a fashinista haven at heavenly prices)
cigalechanta is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 07:30 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,050
Winter road-maintenance techniques have become more refined since the days of dumping tons of salt on the roads every time we saw a snowflake.

Plowing schedules and patterns, etc. have reduced road slipperiness, even pavement is a little different than in days of yore. Nevertheless, certain combinations of temperature and precipitation do cause icing on the roads that must be addressed. The mix used nowadays has less regular salt (table salt, sodium chloride) in it, and other substances, including some sand, instead. Better for cars and the general ecology.

And despite their reputations for overassertive driving, Boston drivers DO know how to drive in bad weather. Well, most of them.

For sale: 8RM Colonial-style craftsman bungalow, 2000sf, 4BR, 1.5BA, EIK, FDR, FPL, 3 seas prch, fin bsmt, det gar, 4pkg, prof ldscp.

Hey, Mimi, I just saw on the TV news that Filene's Basement is opening a new store someplace around Boston.
Anonymous is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 41,827
ANON., LOL yes, tomorrow is opening day on Boylston St in the Back Bay. I intend to go now that my husband is amulatory.
It's been months since I visited my favorite shops and am excited.
cigalechanta is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 09:37 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 176
Interesting post, sk84fungirl!

I've visited Atlanta friends and have always found them, as well as their friends and neighbors, to be warm and welcoming and very, very nice. And I can say the same about our Boston visits.

So I find it interesting that you ask about Boston being "one of the most segregated cities in the US." I didn't see that at all so I'm just curious why you would ask that? I actually found more of that "vibe" in Georgia!

Not judging...just observing! And curious about your experiences.

daydreamin is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 03:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,240
Regarding segregation - Boston has a history of being regarded as racist - as with most history, some truth and some not. The Red Sox, for example, were one of the last teams to integrate. Decades ago school bussing caused demonstrations and near riots.

You will still find people of color who think nothing has changed - again, my perspective is a white one. At work I hear much discussion among Hispanics making firm and sometimes nasty distinctions between different Spanish-speaking countries - so maybe it has just morphed into a different ethnicity.

As far as income, I think a reasonable ballpark figure would be at least $50,000 as a renter without room-mates to be "comfortable". Article in Boston Globe today about a guy making $20,000 and living in Boston - I do not know how he does it. Obviously different people have different definitions of comfort - my brother could live in Boston on far less and be happy, a good friend of mine would think anything less than twice that amount would be poverty!

As far as snow - we generally know how to get rid of it when it falls, although smaller streets in congested areas with street parking can be nasty for some time after it snows (I do community health nursing north and west of Boston so do a lot of driving to such areas). It is rare for airport to be closed during snowstorm for more than a half day - unlike some more southern cities.

The winter can be depressing - but there is no weather that will kill you here (no major hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis).
gail is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 05:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 411
Thanks again to all of you for your responses.


I have not been to Boston, so I have no experiences or observations. I've been researching and talking with coworkers that have visited Boston for business. None of them have lived there for any period of time. I realize that it is just their opinion. And that's ok with me. I'm just asking general questions based on things I've heard or read to get various perspectives.

As it relates to observations, not sure if you're asking about my experience in GA...but, here it is. I consider metro ATL to be pretty diverse. There is obvious segregation by what some could describe as income. The inner city areas and lower income neighboghoods tend to be populated by various persons of color. In a nutshell, there are affluent people of all cultures. There are also some obvious differences. Since I have never been to Boston, I plan to visit within the next couple of days to at least see the city. I realize I will not get a full picture, but at least I will see it.

So, what areas/neighborhoods should I make sure I see when my company sends me for a few days? Keep in mind that I would work in Dorchester.

sk84fungirl is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 06:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,050
I know you probably don't want to reveal the name of your employer, but Dorchester is huge and varied, and it really would help if we had some idea whether you were going to be working in one of the fancy new harbor hotels, or UMass Boston, or in a detox center. At least, go to's trip planner and figure out how far you'd be from the nearest bus line or Red Line subway station.

Are you looking for recommendations of areas to look at as potential neighborhoods to live in? If so, there are many unanswered questions, most of them very personal ones about family and income!
Anonymous is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 06:49 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 827
"Winter road-maintenance techniques have become more refined since the days of dumping tons of salt on the roads every time we saw a snowflake. "

Ha! I know a few other cities that could benefit then from some more 'refined' winter road maintenance techniques. I'm sick of all the salt on the streets and sidewalks in the winter. It does a number on my shoes.
Vittrad is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 04:19 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 411
Interesting thing is Anonymous,I don't even have a clue where the office is that I would be working at...LOL

I am going to look up the address and try to figure out using the method you suggested. I have also come to realize that Dorchester is pretty large. After my visit, I will determine whether to move forward with salary negotiations. Now that will be interesting. I've rec'd feedback that I can be comfortable on 50K, or that I need no less than 80K, and also that 150K is nothing in Boston...Geez!

I won't know the truth 'til I'm all moved in and receive my first heat bill. Just think, my gas bill avgs less than $500 a year in GA. I could potentially pay that in a couple of months in the Boston area.

Oh well, just one of the many things to think about.

Thanks for all of the help everyone!
sk84fungirl is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 05:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,240
While heating bills in north are high, air conditioning bills in south are also high - one thing to remember.

As far as costs, the one significant difference is housing.

I have no idea who told you $150K is "nothing" in Boston, but I would stop considering their info reliable. I was the one who said a ballpark starting figure is 50K, with the provision that everyone defines "comfortable" differently.

Last winter was the highest ever for heating - either natural gas or oil. I live in a medium-large house, and my heating bill was never $250 in any month last winter.

gail is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 05:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 411
I realize that "comfortable" is relative. My point was that as a part of my research I've read and received varied information. I know that I have to make my decision based on what is important to me and what I can afford. There is just a LOT of information and a little bit of time to truly understand it all. Just a little overwhelming for me.

Thanks all.
sk84fungirl is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:37 AM.