Miami is the most international city in the United States, and residents often joke about Miami being so close to the United States. Truly, it is unlike any other U.S. city. About 57 percent of its residents are foreign-born, and 70 percent are Hispanic. The city is host to people from all over the world, enticing Europeans, Israelis, Russians and others to move to Miami and join the city's eclectic culture and diverse flavors.
Despite its languid heat, Miami is a high-energy city. A boom in high-rise construction in the last decade has added height and heft to the skyline, and condo living, mass transit and urban living are becoming more common. Miami is actually one of about 30 cities in Miami-Dade County, each of which has its own government. The city of Miami has a population of about 430,000, while the county has about 2.7 million residents. Metro Miami blends into metropolitan Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, which blends into neighboring Palm Beach County.
While Miami is known for its beaches, food and nightlife, there are qualities only locals are privy to that will help any newcomer feel like a native. So while you search for a storage unit, here are 8 things to know when moving to Miami.
1. People speak Spanish in Miami, but don't worry, they're not talking about you.
Some people are put off when they are surrounded by people speaking another language. In Miami, it's everyday life. Deal with it. Your grocery clerk may be flirting in Haitian Creole with the bagger, or the woman in the dressing room next to you at Macy's may be discussing jeans in Hebrew.
The language you're most likely to hear is Spanish, which 59 percent of Miami-Dade residents speak at home (though they may speak English, too). Spanish is also a common second language for the many people in South Florida who do business with Latin America. You won't pick it up simply by relocating to Miami, but if you can learn enough to know that people in the elevator are not talking about you, you'll be happier. Spanish is not the language of the underclass, but the language of international business.
2. Miami is a classy place. We don't wear shorts and sneakers to dinner.
People dress up in Miami, and some of their outfits may be a bit outlandish. Enjoy the spectacle. A little black dress is always safe, but save your shorts and sneakers for the gym. If you're a woman, you will need a selection of strappy sandals—the blingier, the better. Sandals and socks for men? Uh, no. But you don't have to wear a tie.
3. Miami has bugs. Yes, that includes giant flying cockroaches.
When I first moved to Florida, I rented a cottage a few blocks from the beach. I was horrified one night to find a large cockroach (we call them palmetto bugs) on my freshly baked cheesecake. I ended up moving, not realizing that if you have a problem with bugs in your house, you call an exterminator, because bugs are everywhere. In addition to the palmetto bugs, expect to see tiny sugar ants, larger carpenter ants, fire ants (whose bites are painful), termites and mosquitoes. On the bright side, we have fewer flies.
4. In Miami, everything starts late. Unless you're late, and then it start on time.
Time is a difficult concept in Miami. The stereotype is that when Latins say they're coming at 4 p.m., they mean 5 p.m. But because some Latins hate that stereotype, they make it a point to always be on time. And because some Anglos and African Americans get tired of waiting for tardy friends, they are always late. Most events start at least 10 or 15 minutes late, because even the people who meant to arrive on time got stuck in traffic.
5. Miami traffic is bad; expect to be stuck in it. We don't use turn signals, but we use our horns.
What they say about Miami drivers is that everyone drives according to the rules of where he or she came from. If that were true, we'd probably drive better. You have to drive defensively here, because someone will cut in front of you to turn left from the right lane without using a signal. Warning to Miami pedestrians: You may have the right of way, but don't count on drivers to stop. If you relocate to Miami from another state, you have 30 days to get a Florida driver's license, and your best strategy is to make an appointment rather than just show up.
6. You can grow your own food. We traffic in mangoes.
Florida's weather is fabulous for growing all kinds of edible crops and, in Miami, mango and avocado trees abound. You can grow your own orange, grapefruit, lemon and Key lime trees, as well as more exotic species such as lychee and loquat. Florida's sandy soil is great for growing lettuce and herbs, and with fertilizer you can grow tomatoes, green beans, peppers and more. For most crops, the growing season is in the winter. But mangoes ripen in the summer, and the bounty of a mango tree is often enough to supply several households.
7. People in Miami are always looking for new friends. You might have to make the first move.
One of the best things about moving to Miami is there are lots of newcomers. That means you don't have to deal with being the only new guy in a town where everyone else has known each other since grade school. Lots of people want to make new friends, but you may have to make the first move. In the meantime, one of the first things to do when you move can be to check for Meetup groups and try some of the many networking events at museums, cultural venues and bookstores.
8. It's easy to find lots of free things to do in Miami.
The culture in Miami is vast and has exploded in recent years. There are free art walks nearly every weekend, ranging from the sedate first Friday of the month event in Coral Gables to the giant street party that takes over Wynwood the second Saturday of every month.
The new Perez Art Museum Miami is just one of the museums that offers free days. Plus, you can watch free movies weekly under the stars at the home of the New World Symphony in Miami, which also provides free outdoor Wallcast concerts. Miami's independent bookstore, Books & Books, voted Publisher's Weekly Bookstore of the Year for 2015, has free author events at its multiple locations nearly every night.