I lived in Miami and surrounding areas for eight years. Like anywhere else, I suppose, I found things that I loved, and things that I could have done without. Here are some of my reflections on living in Miami.
1. It’s a diverse, multi-cultural city
When you hear people referencing Miami as a Latin city “close to the U.S.,” it’s really true. I met people from Cuba, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Dominica… I think that there are very few Latin American countries from which I didn’t meet at least one representative. But the diverse atmosphere doesn’t stop there. There are a lot of people from the Caribbean, snowbird French Canadians, and Eastern Europeans. I had quite a few Russian friends living in Miami.
I loved walking down the street and hearing British English, then Spanish, then Russian, then Portuguese (and then Spanish again, always Spanish).
I always asked people the question “Where are you from?” with genuine interest, knowing that they were sure to name some faraway place. I even met a cab driver once who said he’d grown up in the Amazon rainforest, and a woman from Bhutan.
2. Warm Weather
When you mention that you live in Miami, especially in the winter, people automatically sigh with jealousy. One of my favorite things about living there was, of course, the tropical sunshine and ocean breezes.
On the negative end, the heat in the summer months can become unbearable. I have found that most people can handle 85 – 90 degree (30 – 33 Celsius) heat pretty well, but add in the thick wet humidity and everyone melts. And if you aren’t used to it? Don’t visit in July.
That said, I’d much rather endure heat than bitter cold. And for most of the year, Miami’s temperatures range from 70 – 80, absolutely perfect.
Hurricane season is basically in the summer in Miami. Though I myself never experienced any truly serious hurricanes while I lived there, I was lucky. True Miami residents know that it’s only a matter of time. Everyone has hurricane shutters and other such protective measures. And houses have to be built to certain regulations, specifically for hurricanes.
But even if you don’t go through a hurricane, you will definitely go through hundreds of storms, especially during the summer. During that time, it rains almost every day.
Miami is especially fond of showing clear, sunny skies, followed by deafening thunderstorms and walls of torrential rain, only to clear up within fifteen minutes, as if nothing ever happened. So if you’re caught in a storm somewhere, just wait a few minutes. It’ll be gone soon.
4. The Colors
Miami is a vibrant, colorful place with a lot of flavor and exotic flair. Older buildings, reminiscent of the Miami before all the skyscrapers and mega-hotels moved in, are charmingly painted in pastel pinks, minty lime greens, baby blue, and really any other color you can think of. Burnt-orange Spanish tile roofs, bright street signs, people dressed in the most glaring of neon colors, and green, green palm trees and lawns give Miami a lush and very alive atmosphere. Even the fruit at the grocery store is more brightly colored – it’s true.
5. “You Don’t Speak Spanish?”
The majority of people in Miami are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English (often at the same time). If they speak only one language, it is just as likely to be Spanish as English.
With my fair skin, curly hair and blue eyes, I don’t think that I look particularly Latina, but many people would come up to me and just assume that I spoke Spanish. Working at a coffee shop, I had many customers ask me incredulously why I didn’t speak Spanish, or refuse to even talk to me, beckoning over another Spanish-speaking employee, who they would then speak in English to anyway.
Knowing at least the basics of Spanish is definitely something that you want to pick up if you plan to live here. It will go a long way.
On the plus, if you’re trying to learn Spanish, Miami is a great place to do it.
6. South Beach
There are a lot of tourists that come to “Miami” on vacation and never even leave South Beach – a big mistake. In fact, South Beach is an independent island off of Miami. Locals don’t consider it a part of the city at all. A good many of them actually loathe it and refer to it as a tourist trap that they would never allow themselves to be seen in. I wouldn’t go that far myself; I actually like South Beach. Its pretty, there’s a lot going on, and its one of the best places for people watching. But there are quite a few “true Miami” friends I have that I would never admit that to.
7. It can be hard to meet people
I always found it very difficult to make friends in Miami. Acquaintances and lets-go-here together friends were easy to find – everyone is always out doing something in the beautiful weather, and they don’t mind company. But almost none of these outings would ever turn to real, genuine friendships, in my experience.
I often thought that many of the relationships I had with people in Miami were shallow. Not always in a bad way – but shallow, nevertheless.
8. Cuban Time & No-Shows
To further hinder your hopes of making friends, you’ll quickly find when trying to organize anything with people that saying “Let’s meet here at 8” is a lot more than most people can handle.
They’ll likely respond, “Oh… 8? Well, I’ll text you.”
And no matter how you try to pin down a timeframe, they will guard the secrets of their schedule at all costs. Quite possibly because they work hard to have no schedule.
If you actually get lucky enough to set up a time to meet, they will almost definitely be late. If you’ve heard the phrase “Cuban time,” you’ll discover its true meaning in Miami.
And after waiting all that time, don’t be surprised if they never show up. They will probably cancel because of a family related issue (“My uncle’s birthday party…”) which is actually probably a real excuse. I’ve observed that people from Latin America usually have a lot of family members, all of whom they are very close to, and who are constantly throwing parties. It’s not a bad thing – you’re just not invited.
The worst is when they simply stand you up and don’t answer your calls. You will then see them two days later and they’ll act like nothing happened.
This sort of thing even happens in the workplace. Working as a manager at a coffee shop, I was going crazy with the amount of people that would come in late, or not at all. When I started writing people up for being late, even the other managers were horrified. If they needed someone to be at work at a specific time, they would sometimes schedule them to come in half an hour earlier than what was actually necessary.
Frustrating, to say the least.
9. Nothing is too outlandish
I always thought that Miami was a pretty freeing, individualistic kind of place. You can be anyone, wear anything, and act any number of strange ways in public without anyone thinking anything of it.
I’ve seen plenty of crazy things, and all sorts of fashion styles in Miami. No one will care if you venture out in wrinkled gym clothes, and no one will care if you completely overdress for a casual lunch and wear an evening gown and stilettos.
Not only are all of the expensive cars crazy, but so are the drivers. And the car insurance. Expect to be cut off and stare in shock at the driving practices you’ll see. Also stay away from all of the old ladies driving enormous tanks and wearing sun-hats. Expect to pay at least $20 for good parking downtown.
Just don’t let it stop you from getting out and exploring Miami – there’s a lot to see.