My whole life, I’ve been called “weird.” In Jr. High School, I was the first and only student with bright green hair. In 1998, people looked at me and my green hair with caution and suspicion. ¨Did your parents let you do that?¨ people always judged. “Obviously,” was my annoyed, rebellious reply. One of my friends was no longer allowed to hang out with me because her parents thought I looked “weird.” Even though she was smoking pot already and I hadn’t started yet.
Apparently, Oregon’s population, having just reached four million in 2015, is growing rather rapidly. I am one of the 12,000 people, estimated by Portland State University, to move to Portland last year. I’ve found that locals here, no matter if they are transplants themselves or not, have mixed feelings about this population increase. Why are so many people moving to Portland? Is it a result of the attention drawn to the city and its culture by the hit show, Portlandia? Well, people are always asking me why I moved, and it wasn’t Portlandia! There’s something special about Portland.
Keep Portland Weird
The oh-so-famous slogan of Portland. The phrase started as a push to support local businesses.
Now, “weird” has evolved into so much more. It’s the, do it yourself (DIY) while drinking a craft beer at a local farmer’s market surrounded by unique street art, hipster culture. It’s a highly creative culture that values individuality and expressionism through fostering its local culture and arts, in contrast to suburbia’s cookie cutter shopping areas and housing developments. It’s a culture that values nature and humanity in an aesthetically pleasing fashion.
Did you know? Portland is Well Known in Japan!
That’s right! Before Portland, I lived in Tokyo, Japan for three years. I wanted to move to Portland back then but took a detour via Tokyo. When I first got to Japan and was talking about Portland, people always asked me “Really? Why do you want to move to Portland?” My quick response was, “because I want to wear socks with sandals and not get teased.” Three years later, when I finally decided to leave Japan and move to Portland, things had changed.
This was the new conversation I continuously had:
Me – “I’m moving to Portland!”
Japanese Friend – “Poland?”
Me – “No, Portland.”
Japanese Friend – “Oh, of course. Because Portland is so cool!”
Yes! I no longer needed to justify why I wanted to move to Portland. People just knew.
“So many Japanese guys want to be like cool Portland guys,” a Japanese friend in Tokyo said to me.
What are the odds? The same month I moved to Portland, October 2015, Tokyo had a Portland Festival dedicated to Tokyo-based, Portland-inspired businesses. Many places and new stores and shops that were inspired by Portland’s style or related to another shop in Portland. Portland is a creative city and paradise for food with the spirit of DIY in art and culture.
The main difference between Tokyo and Portland is that Portland is weird all over. Every neighborhood has their own “weird” stuff, and the neighborhoods stretch throughout the city: Hawthorne, Belmont, Alberta Street, the Pearl, etc. In Tokyo, you find only a few neighborhoods, like Koenji and Shimo, that are densely populated with “weird”. Imagine if you took all of Portland’s “weird” and put it along Hawthorne Blvd.
Only one problem for the Japanese hipster, they can’t grow beards.
So, is Portland Weirder than I Expected?
Well, I live right in the heart of Portland on SE 17th and Hawthorne. I think it’s kind of weird that I need to go all the way out to SE 99th Avenue to find a Target; a local business for me because I’m from Minnesota, where Target was born. But, besides that, Portland just feels like home. I came to Portland, so I don’t need to be the outcasted “weird” person anymore because I easily fit in with all the other weirdos here.
Recently, I started making a rug out of old T-shirts. My friend said to me, “Oh, now that you are in Portland, you’re going to do it yourself?” I said, “No…I’m a crafty person. I’ve always made things myself. I moved to Portland because I do things like this myself and now I just fit in.”
So, why are people moving to Portland? Because they value the things Portland is about: individuality and expressionism through local arts and culture. These are the things that our generation likes, things that are becoming more and more popular.
It’s not just Portland.
Other “Weird” cities:
- Brooklyn, NY
- Austin, TX
- Salt Lake City, UH
- Venice Beach, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Oakland, CA
- Tulsa, OK
- Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
So, sure, Portland is weird. But really not that weird, and definitely not too weird for me. Is it too weird for you?