So You’re Thinking About Moving to Florida? (Read This First)
By Kelly Dean
I’m a realist and I believe in telling the truth as a rule. People frequently ask me about the downside of living in Florida. That’s a tough one because there’s a downside to living anywhere; it’s completely up to the person to make the most of the upside anywhere they choose to live.
If you’re going to relocate to Florida, it’s going to take some sacrifice, just like anywhere else. If the sacrifices are worth it to you, then you’ll be happy. If they weigh on you, then you will struggle and long to return north, where the places and faces are more familiar. It could take a little time to become acclimated to the big F-L, but you can eventually be happy. You must realize a few things, however.
If you grow to accept the challenges, you can find a good life in a state that can be simply amazing, with water, great temperatures, unique people, wonderful wildlife, theme parks and sunsets that can take your breath away.
The following is my opinion about a few mindsets that require adjustment once you come to the Sunshine State. If you can learn to adapt to them, I think you can learn to love this state – like you learned to love your first pet, hobby or husband. Florida is an instant affection but an acquired love over time.
The Seasons and the Weather
Florida is Sunny, but the seasons are not all the same.
Between Halloween and Mother’s Day, Florida is lovely, temperate and breezy. This is called “season.” It is almost heaven. Winter mornings, which are in the mid-50s to mid-60s, are wonderful and the high temperatures in-season are a lovely mid-70s. It rains very little in the winter so it’s a bit dry, and the grass and foliage is browner than in the summer rainy season. Mowing and landscaping is not the chore in winter that it is in summer, when the rain accelerates growth. In summer you must mow once per week, in winter one can stretch that a few days. Some coastal cities provide irrigation water for irrigation year-round. Irrigation in winter will keep your lawn green, whether you provide the water or it comes from another source.
Stone crab is available at this time as well. Yum.
In the summer, during rainy season, it is warm and humid with lows in the mid-70s and highs in the low 90s. This hot period is from June to September, about four months. Average rainfall is about one-third to one-half inch, so it’s a heavy rain. Foliage stays green and grows briskly in summer as these afternoon rains happen about every two out of three days during summer. The rain goes away in a couple of hours and the sun usually follows, but it’s quite humid. There are occasional all-cloudy days in summertime.
If you love to take a dip in the ocean when the water temperature is a pleasant 85 degrees, then you are a summer beach-dweller-type. You might also be a closet fisherman, because summer is great for catching fish. Many game fish make summer runs up both coasts in the summertime. You might be a future boater. Summer temperatures are great for boating because the ocean spray and warmer air are more pleasant in summer. There is a lot to like about summer, and a year-rounder knows this secret. I enjoy summers a great deal, there’s just a lot more air conditioning added to the equation. People who get caught in a hard rain simply reduce speed dramatically. Even on the interstate speeds can drop to as low as 30 mph if necessary in a hard rain. It’s just a fact of life in Florida.
Summer is also hurricane season. Northerners make more of hurricane season than Floridians do. And the weather guys make their living off the storm season. Most Floridians take a watchful but measured approach to these scares. The natives tend to focus on the storm-track and only then start digging out the survival supplies. The fact that folks who live here don’t get quite as excited as others up north is not a complete exaggeration. But as mentioned, Floridians keep a watchful eye, without discussing it very much.
It stays this way and it doesn’t deviate much over the rainy season from June until mid-October. But the change is sudden around Halloween, at least in southern Florida. Areas up north are only slightly different, as I see it.
Way south, I find rains come a little earlier in the day on The Keys, but it’s largely the same.
Up north is obviously where the lion’s share of people come from, no surprise here. Most Floridians were not born here. In general, new arrivals are people who’ve move here after they have become disenfranchised with their current life up north; they want to be a snowbird, or they want to become a resident who has relocated, rather than just a tourist.
I thought when I moved here I would take the state by storm. They wouldn’t know what hit them. To an extent, I thought I was so sophisticated that I would wow all comers immediately. I was smart, ambitious and wouldn’t even need to try that hard. Heck, I wouldn’t even need to work more than a few hours a day. I could spend a lot of time on the beach. Well, I was largely mistaken.
People work hard here, if they are not retired, they work quite hard. That will not change just because there’s sunshine. And like me, everyone who moves here thinks they can simply re-invent themselves as something else. They can. But others have the same dreams and are doing the exact same thing. So whether you are a doctor, lawyer, waitress or beach bartender, it requires the same give and take. There are many who feel the same way as you and they have taken the step to act upon it earlier. It requires strength to stay on course.
The Survival Dynamic
Because this mindset is so common, you must understand that people develop an acute survival instinct once they have been here a while. Here in the sun, people pay what I call the “sun premium.” That premium is about 25-33 percent less salary than you made up north. This is easy to research, but not many do. If you expect to be paid what you made where the winters are subzero, you need to change your thinking, because employers know they can pay less, simply because they have the sun to their back, and because they are making less as well. It’s the sun premium.
With this, there is a survival philosophy. People who once came here thinking they would take the state by storm, and ultimately realized it was more difficult, soon turn into business survivors. They acquire acute skills that keep them functioning, even when the dream is not exactly where it is supposed to be. They economize and adapt. Accept this, and you are going to survive yourself. Struggle with this, you will likely be one looking for a fast-track back north — and some do this — and it’s not just to spend more time with the children and grandkids.
This dynamic is the one I struggled with the most. I have spoken with everyone from doctors to bartenders who came here looking for a new lifestyle. They were willing to sacrifice everything to make a change. If you are willing and able to accept what efforts you must go to, you can succeed here, all without retiring first. Hopefully, I have covered the main three above and it can be something worth considering.
Like anything else, make sure you do your research and get your seagulls in a row before making any decisions.