“I live in XXXX, should I move to Florida?” is a question I am often asked. In fact, I’ve even been asked about what parts of the country or world a few people should move to! Some places I haven’t even been! I always find this amusing. I try travel often, but I haven’t been to most of the world. And while I’ve been to more states than not in this country, I’m not even close to touching on every city. Not to mention, every person is so wildly different when it comes to wants and needs in a permanent home location. I have no idea what most strangers would specifically look for in a home, you know?

But the reality is, someone asking me if they should move their family to Florida or not, isn’t that strange (compared to the rest of the world). I have lived in South Florida for about 11 or so years now. And I have spent about 2 months of the years here since I was a child. Also, I did attend high school here for a bit a well! So yeah, I’ve been in and out of this place my entire life! If I was single and childless, I don’t think I’d live here now, but who knows. Regardless my family is here now, so I do see why someone might ask me if I think it’s a good fit for their own family.

When answering the question, “Should I move to Florida?” I do start by reminding (or teaching them) them that south Florida is WILDY different from north or west coast florida. We have different temperatures, cultures, beaches, flora and fauna, agriculture, and more. I can’t speak for north or west coast florida. I can only speak about south Florida.

Again, everyone is different. We all have different wants, needs, views on living and thriving, etc. What works for one person, WILL NOT work for someone else. But regardless, I thought I could and should finally put together a formal (and detailed) answer for one of more frequent asked questions…

“Should I move to Florida?”

Hot or Cold? Shiver or Sweat?

The first and most noticeable difference between south florida and much of the states is the climate. Do you like to sweat? Do you mind thick and wet feeling air? Do you enjoy the heat– and not just an occasional heat, but a year round, mostly sweltering heat?

Or do you hate sweating? Do you prefer a crisp cold breeze on your skin? Do you prefer to layer up and be covered head to toe as you head out into the winter months? Do you love chilly mornings as you step out from under the warm covers? Or does that sound like nightmare? If you like heat and sweating, consider florida. I prefer sweating to shivering. Some people dread the heat and cannot function in it, some people (me) cannot function while shivering. No amount of layers bring me comfort, so I’ll take the drippy, smelly sweat days.

How do feel about seasons?

Would you be sad to see all four seasons disappear and turn into one to two seasons? Or does seasonal change not make a difference to you? Or does the change is seasons depress you? The short dark days? Do they mean a time to shift and hibernation or do they mean sadness? I like seasons and miss the fall, but can do without them if it means skipping winter.

The same way many people hibernate in winter in the country, we hibernate in summer. Summer is the time to spend indoors– silly, but summer is the time we lose our tans here. Winter is the tourist season here and summer is slower paced living. Fewer people, less traffic, less shops and restaurants opened, less events, limited farmers markets, etc. For most people growing up here, this isn’t a big deal, this is the norm. But it can be a hard shift to abruptly say goodbye to your idealistic American summer nights, parties, and adventures off from school and change them to more of an indoor based summer time. Things slow down and honestly, it’s often too hot to spend much time outside. But you’re trading that for your winters here. Winter is the time the farmers markets spike up again, outdoors adventure time, and are sometimes able to spend a few weeks with open windows. It’s a trade-off. I despise being locked up in summer here, I miss the smell of spring and the air in fall, but again, I’d rather sweat. So I choose the south in this area. A trade-off.

Speaking of seasons, how do you feel about rain?

Refreshing or a nuisance? “The sunshine state” is a verryyyy deceiving name for south florida. We do have sunshine, in fact we have the sun shining in the windows now, but we do have more rain and storms than sun. (A cloud rolled over as I finished this sentence haha). But in general, you have to like rain, or at least not be bothered by it to live in South Florida. It rains more days that not. And in summer it rains every single day. Summer is typically the time for outdoor parties and cookouts in most states in the country. But for us, summer is typically the only time we turn on our lights— because our house is dark and the storms are alive outside. Most south Floridians get to a part where they enjoy the rain, or learn to embrace it– because it means a cool down from the intense heat. Our plants get watered and things turn extra green. It’s refreshing, but it does rain A LOT. So much more than most people would expect, especially in summer. Personally, I don’t mind the quick down pours of rain throughout the day, but its the long extended rainy season that eats at my mood— by day three of solid, non stop cloudy rain, I’m sad. Seasonal depression– during a season where everyone expects me to be happy, haha.

Culture and diversity– what is that like where you live in the country?

This varies greatly state to state and city to city. We are lucky where we do have A TON of different cultures here– you visit parts of south florida and you feel like you’re in a different country with billboards and stores entirely in Spanish. I can walk into my grocery store half a mile away and have every cashier speak to me in Spanish– and only Spanish. We also have a large population of Guatemalans, Mexicans, Cubans, Jamaicans, Haitians, and more. It’s really nice being in a place with so many cultures.

But sadly, one of the biggest things I noticed when moving to South Florida is that it is still super segregated when it comes to blacks and whites. Massachusetts was definitely super cliquey where everyone tended to stick to their own circles and ethnic groups, but here in south florida it’s mostly white and black segregation, especially in the school system, but everywhere to be honest. Maybe high schools have changed since I was there, but there definitely was not a lot of mixed groups. Everything was separated. It’s easy to think that we’re advancing in the world and racism is a thing of the past, but it isn’t. In history and now, the south is falling behind when it comes to equality and racism. I prefer the cities and places I’ve visited outside of the south where there is a less obvious gap and segregation between whites and blacks.

So lets talk more about schools.Do you have kids to enroll in the school system?

By nationwide standards, Florida schools are AWFUL. I mention this to anyone who emails me about moving down here with a family. For us, it’s not a problem because we home school and when Marlowe was in school she qualified for the gifted program– allowing her to go to the better school in our district. But had she not, she would be at a D rated school now. I went to both public and private school up north and went to public school here in florida. I went from being bored and unchallenged in school in New England to entertained by kids throwing paper airplanes in class in Florida. But in the schools defense, they didn’t transfer me properly because I was in all the honors (highest rated) classes in Massachusetts and put in the middle group in Florida. An error in records left me in classes that I would fight to pull my kid out of.

But of course, schools vary district to district and whether you’re in a private school vs. public school. Boca seems to have some decent school options. And Miami has some good private and charter schools. Unfortunately in west palm, all three schools (elementary, junior, and high school) Marlowe is assigned to are awful. For me, the biggest difference in schools up north vs. down south is the security. We didn’t have police officers up north, metal detectors, or fences around our property. This all exists here in Florida.

When I transferred to school here in Florida, the idea of this was so foreign to me, I was completely overwhelmed and confused by the gates closing us into the property like a prison. And somehow this is in place to keep us/our children “safer”, but there are so many more school shootings down here than in Massachusetts, so I don’t know. Schools in the states are tough place now anywhere and everywhere. As a parent, I’m not sure I’d really trust any of them (safety wise). And in terms of education, I really think any school is or can be fine, as long as you’re teaching your kid at home as well— which I think is our responsibility as parents anyway. If you’re set on moving to florida and schools are a concern, just be sure you do you research to the district you’d be zoned in when picking a house.

How much do politics matter to you?

Are you blue or red? Will this be a problem moving down here? I live 2.3 miles from Trumps house. This makes me uncomfortable for sure. Safety wise, we havent had problems because of this, but it’s not the ideal situation. Especially when he is in and out-of-town. We have unbearable traffic and people waving confederate flags and pro gun signs in the air when he comes to town (ew). This obviously sucks for someone like me. Thankfully, at the end of the day– not everyone here is a republican. We still have plenty of young forward democrats here as well. And I am still able to find friendships with people with equal values to me. On one downside I have the reality of knowing that if I vote democrat, my vote disappears into electoral nothingness. On the upside, each New Democrat considering moving down here is another vote for less Trump and fewer guns– if that’s your thing.

Here’s an easier topic: blueberries and apples or mangoes and jackfruit?

What do you want more of? I mean, the reality is that you can now find all those fruits in all parts of the world, haha!  But what do you want to find fresher? Or what do you want to pick yourself? Or what do you want to grow? From an agricultural viewpoint, Florida is like no other part of the continental United States (Hawaii has some pretty badass produce). For me, while blueberries are one of my absolute favorite fruits, I’m sticking to Florida for fruit. I LOVE tropical fruit. I love being able to grow tropical fruit and have bananas, papayas, dragon fruit, passionfruit, and all the tropical things right outside my window. We also have an opposite growing season here, but it’s not necessarily a disadvantage or advantage, it’s just a change. Most vegetables will be grown in fall and winter here. Summer is pretty barren for vegetables– we don’t have farmers markets overflowing with root vegetables, gourds, and more, but we have loads of tropical fruit and some tomatoes. Don’t be fooled, we still have very high prices to pay for this tropical fruits– even down here, but the upside is you can grow these things yourself!

Health and safety– how much control can you handle?

“But Florida has warm beaches!” — everyone in regards to living here. Yes, we do. And when it’s not raining and not summer we can use them. Summer is too hot for beach time, unless you go after dinner or before 8 am. And unfortunately, most people not living in florida aren’t aware of the toxic algae we have here due to poor conventional agriculture practices, factory farming run off, and more. Our main lake in the center of florida (the one that looks like Florida’s eye) is basically a waiting pool for toxic waste and poisonous chemicals. And once this lake fills, the state releases the pollution into our waterways. This ends up contaminating all the canals and beaches in the area. It’s a really difficult and sad reality for the people who live here. Animals start to die, people get sick, and more. Big money corporations and crappy senators allow this to happen. For me, this is a huge turn off to living in Florida.

Another health and safety issue is the routine aerial spraying that takes place. South Florida sprays chemicals in the air to kill off mosquitos. And you know, I freaking hate mosquitos, but I’d like a choice to whether I want chemicals or not in the air I’m breathing. This might also be something to consider if you’re moving to florida— does the idea of breathing in chemical laden air bother you? Or do you think this is fine? I know this sounds like a loaded question, but really, I know plenty of people who really could care less if they spray chemicals to kill bugs in the air. I don’t want it toxic chemicals in my water or in my air.

I’m also aware that many places in the country have their own pollution and toxic problems. The middle of America is loaded with areal spraying of GMO crops and is susceptible to fungal diseases. And other lakes in the country also have their algae issues, etc. But when factoring in things like beach time and outdoor time into your *should I or should I not* move to florida question– it’s worth noting that we have beaches and waterways, but they are sadly polluted. You can click here to see more or give it a google– “lake Okeechobee discharge pollution.”

We do really have amazing flora and fauna here– plants and gardens unlike any others– but like anywhere in the world, it’s just hard when the pollution keeps growing. I think anyone who has lived here for more than a year will tell you it’s not the paradise vacation zone most people imagine when they envision living here. For outsiders looking in, the lure of tropical florida can be deceiving, with the everyday challenges of the climate, political, and racial problems being hidden. You have to truly live here to learn and experience what south florida is for yourself. It’s not a perfect dream place, but it certainly has its advantages. Really, its a fine place, there are just problems that need to be worked through, like any other part of the country.

As someone who has lived in both the north and the south (and the west too), I can tell you, A LOT of people would not like Florida. But personally, I find the a lot of the goods do outweigh the bad. And for the most part, when deciding: it isn’t good vs bad– a lot of things are just a trade off. It all depends on how you look at it.

16 Comments

  1. Interesting take on things! I’ve always wondered about living in Florida. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, I’m trying my hardest to cultivate dragon fruit 🙂

    • I LOVE New Orleans– it’s definitely lacking some of the fruit– but otherwise you guys have the hot sticky air too…… and way better food 😉

  2. Michelle F

    As someone who grew up in South Florida from age 6 to 18 (Pembroke Pines represent!) Your depiction of South Florida is very very accurate! I will say So.Fla is unlike any part of Florida in a good and not so good way. I have lived in the Tampa Bay area for 16 yrs now and it’s very different than South Florida.

    • Yay! I was nervous to post this as I’m only one person with my own personal view on what florida looks like, but its good to see others who grew up here agree 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, as someone who has lived in Florida for more than twenty years. I live on the West Coast and have raised my daughters here. I love Florida a lot, but you’re right, people get stars in their eyes when they think of moving here. Every place has it’s good and bad sides.

    As far as the schooling goes, my daughter lucked out. The Palm Harbor area has the best schools in the county and people try to get into our district all the time. However, we are going a different route with education. I worry too much about school shootings. I know it’s rare, but it doesn’t feel that way when it happens.

    As far as political climate, I’m a Republican. I’m just a very open-minded one. I also don’t like or respect Trump, so I feel you on that one. I do have family members that like him and I don’t understand it.

    I think you might be right about segregation. Granted, I live in a different part of Florida, but my daughter came to visit me recently and said that I lived in a rich, white neighborhood in suburbia. I laughed because I never really thought about it before. I guess there’s some truth to that. I am not one of the rich people in my town. At all.

    My favorite part of this post was when you were talking about the rain and the heat. I laughed because my daughter Chloe and I were just talking about that. This is our hibernation time. Our favorite time of year is winter. It’s when we are most active.

    I love Florida. It’s a great place to live, but it really does depend on where you live and what you want out of life. I’ve lived in the so-called poor sections and now I’m living in a really nice upscale area. It really makes a difference in how you feel about it.

    Anyway, sorry this is so long! Lots of feels. Great post!

    ~Laurali Star

    Here’s a link to where I live from my blog:

    https://www.girlynaturelovers.com/p/community.html

    • I like your long comment! It’s good to see others views on florida! I feel like this summer has been better than other in regards to rain and clouds– but still needing to hibernate with the heat for sure!

  4. Hi Drea! I enjoyed reading your post about FL – I was born and raised here, in WPB and am sitting here nodding haha! I moved to Asheville this past year and am moving back down to South FL in about a week. I absolutely love Asheville but it wasn’t working out financially for us so although we are very sad to leave, I’m a little relieved that I won’t have to deal with winter this year. I didn’t mind the cold but I wasn’t expecting the seasonal depression that would come along with it.

    Side note: I’m still shocked by how people drive in South FL – I think that is something worth mentioning. 😉

    As a public school teacher, I’m not surprised to see what your opinion is of the education system here. I attended Public school K-12 in Royal Palm and Wellington. So much has changed with the huge push in standardized testing.

    I think there are actually some really great schools here in Palm Beach County – Dreyfoos and Suncoast have both received national recognition. The elementary schools are hit or miss – most schools that are A rated are decent, and we have quite a few excellent ones with gifted or Dual Language programs.

    Palm Beach County has grown and changed so much since I was a kid! Honestly, I think there are just too many people and not enough space to accommodate everyone. For anyone who is considering moving to South FL, I would encourage you to visit and spend time here first before making the move.

  5. Loves this post, so interesting to read other countries and people experiences! Fascinating 🙂

  6. Thanks for writing this post, Drea. Very thorough and hit a lot of my concerns. It looks like we will need to see how we feel on the next few visits… I’m not looking to move ASAP, just taking our time with the decision.

    Thanks for touching on the schools systems in particular. I believe we will be homeschooling (which is a big perk for me in florida because the laws are way less strict than from where i am) but still interesting to hear your input in case things change.

    Appreciate this post so much! 💚

  7. Interesting! Thanks for sharing. I grew up in PA and we had police officers and metal detectors in the early 2000s. I’m afraid the safety issues exist all over the U.S.A.

  8. South Florida love! Every place has it’s ups and downs but if you can live with the horrible schools and pollution it’s not so bad. I have a bunch of kids both mine and fostered and I love love love South Florida. We make up for the poor schools by educating our kiddos and I do wish we had been environmental practices but it’s a great place to be if you like the heat

  9. Very good, honest read. So much to say about Florida. Florida, for all its faults, is my favorite. I can’t even deny it. I’m born and raised here, first in Ft. Lauderdale and now in north Florida. Both are VERY different like you say. Agriculture is super diverse here in the state (second largest industry in the state!) with less tropical and more “typical” commodities grown in N FL. Much of our politics are determined by the fact that we attract a lot of conservatives from up north, but I can only hope we are still purple and not fully red. I live in the only democratic county in my area. The retirees, seasonality, and over development they bring annoy me to no end, but that’s another story! It’s interesting you say you experienced less segregation up north. When visiting in certain northern states I have experienced the opposite (though the city I live in is certainly very segregated), and in speaking to retirees and northern transplants I have encountered some very bigoted opinions. It’s also interesting to me the variation in issues- up here almost no one talks about Lake O (depressing). South Florida is definitely its own being, perfectly imperfect. I don’t know if I would move back anymore, but I do miss a lot about it- the smell and heavy wetness in the air after a summer storm, the ocean, the Cuban food (and coffee!). I’m glad to have grown up there.

  10. As some one who was born and raised in SoFL for 23 years and now who lives in the northeast for the past 7..I could NEVER move back. Seasons, the slower paced living, less traffic less crowds..less crime, just a better environment for my kids is why I won’t move back. However with that being said I want to say that I actually feel like schools were better in FL than here. We went to school in west palm, Belvedere elm, lake worth middle and Forest Hill for high. We had more field trips then my kids do, and we were exposed to more culture ( so many non English speakers). I remember in 5th grade I did this poetry writing thing at Flagler museum every Friday. In High school my sister and I were in the Environmental science academy, and my sister is now a doctor ( she moved to PA with me though and doesn’t want to move back). I had many friends at Dreyfoos who went on into great careers in the arts. I feel our education was much more well rounded. They also started forgein languages at earlier ages. The teachers were had were so amazing ( compared to ones up here). I feel standardized testing and the influx of immigrants in SoFL have a huge impact on their ratings. And yes I agree that the schools are not the safest. But man I wish my kids could just have a fraction of all the things I learned and was exposed to in school ( field trips to operas, art museums, magnet schools, different cultures etc.) With that being said, I encourage everyone I know from down there to visit other cities in the U.S. bc regardless I feel there are better places to live. Life just doesn’t end down there it feels like the same thing every single damn day. But up here I feel like we enjoy life more, each season, each holiday, everything is slower and not taken for granted 💛

  11. Mmm thanks for posting this! I’m trying to decide where to move right this minute. Time for a change. If you were childless and single where would you choose to live? 😁

  12. SO accurate!

    But this part is just me every Summer: “…by day three of solid, non stop cloudy rain, I’m sad. Seasonal depression– during a season where everyone expects me to be happy, haha.”

    My friends are always trying to visit me during Summer and I make them change their plans every time, not because I don’t want to see them. But because I don’t think that this (summertime) is the best time of the year to visit Miami (South Florida in general). I -actually- think it’s a huge waste of money if what you have in mind are endless sunny days, blue skies, white clouds and warm (but not hot that you might burn your feet and cry) sand.
    But If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain…

  13. Florida is a great place. Lots of perks for living in Florida. Plus hey, it has beaches! The downside? Well personally I like hiking and there isn’t too much mountains or hiking trails in Florida. I like your tropical pictures!