Moving to Utah

Archived Responses: 

Thinking about moving to Salt Lake City

Dec 2007

Hi, I've read the advice given from 2000 but I want to ask some specific questions. My brother is thinking about moving to Salt Lake. He isn't mormon. He also has 2 teenage step-children that are mixed white & black. He doesn't want them to feel ostracized. Anybody have experience with or know about the attitudes towards mixed kids in this city? Thanks in advance. anon

As a good sister, I think that you need to encourage your brother to move to Utah as soon as possible, if only because you will have a free place to stay when you go skiing... That said, I am a Utah local now and can't imagine living anywhere else. I have lived as an adult (college and beyond) in diverse settings -- Berkeley, District of Columbia, the Netherlands, Jacksonville, FL and now Park City, UT (each of the former for three or more years..I've lived in Park City for a year now, though owned a 'second home' here for three years).

Some thoughts for your brother -- consider Park City. It is a twenty-minute jaunt down the hill to Salt Lake City, so a work commute wouldn't be too bad. The public school district is amazing. Outdoor activities are year-round. There is free public transit to nearly every neighborhood. The police blotter reads along the lines of 'teens cited for tossing frisbees across Main Street.' Political affiliations run about 50-50. It isn't particularly racially diverse -- nowhere in Utah is particularly diverse. In Park City, I think that mixed race children would do fine vis a vis 'racism' (I honestly haven't noticed any), but there wouldn't be a natural support system for the African American portion of their heritage. I have met very few African American adults in town not here on holiday.

As an aside, Salt Lake, despite the opening scenes in 'Big Love,' isn't really the center of the Mormon world anymore. That has moved down to Provo, home to BYU. SLC has a thriving gay community, brew pub scene, etc. I never considered living there, because I am thrilled with the offerings of my current community and don't mind the quick drive down the hill to take advantage of its cultural offerings.

And, specifically to the Mormon thing...I LOVE the family-friendly culture created by the state's dominant is really nice to walk into a nice restaurant with extended family, ask for a table for sixteen with four high chairs, get it within five minutes and not have other restaurant patrons staring at you with open hostility, for instance. There are tons of events year-round geared at multi-generations. For instance, Park City has a free concert series (concerts every Wed & Fri) in the summer where all of the town people show up pulling coolers filled with picnics and wine. Teen-agers hang out at the top of the hill gossiping. The youngsters dance in front of the stage. Everyone from 20 to 90 sits somewhere in between enjoying the music set to a good pinot.

Oh, I am not Mormon, specifically disagree with the religion on many points, etc, but I love Utah... jan

Moving to Ogden, Utah

April 2006

I've accepted a position at a university in Ogden, Utah. We'll be relocating in late June. We can't buy a house immediately, so we'll be renting for a year or so. Any suggestions on good neighborhoods? Is there decent Thai food, health food store, how good is the preschool on Weber State campus? We're not Mormon and we're also a multi-cultural family, so we're wondering how/if we will find any funky, Berkeley-esque type folks like ourselves there. My fear is that we will be the freaks in the neighborhood, with my SO playing his doumbek and dijeridoo, our Middle Eastern music, my sometimes weird attire, and our eclectic parenting style. Any suggestions or feedback would be most appreciated. Monika

I don't know anything about Ogden, but if you are not adverse to the commute, you may want to think about Salt Lake City. I spend a lot of time there (I live in 20 minutes away in Park City for half of the year). It isn't the Bay Area, but has lots of positives nonetheless. The Sugar House neighborhood in SLC is pretty hip -- great shopping street, restaurants, pantagonia outlet, etc. SLC has a pretty big gay community, which at the very least means that SLC is probably more open minded than other parts of the state. Wild Oats if the Trader Joes-esque chain out there. Jan
I go to Ogden on business and work with a lot of people there. I can't remember what your original post asked but I will try to give you some Ogden info. As a girlfriend who is from Ogden once explained, Ogden is where the ''bad Mormons went.'' It has a reputation for being sinful mainly b/c it was a railroad town. It feels like a place in transition. It is a college town (Weber State) so there are some cute shops and bars. The downtown main street is being rehabbed and is cute. The weather is pretty awesome. Lots of people live there for the skiing and hiking. If you are not outdoorsy I think you will go crazy with boredom. The LDS Church is the dominant force but you will find a lot of non-LDS there and Ogden has the only synagogue outside of SLC. People are SO NICE!!! You really can't beat Utahns for kindness. There is a pretty huge low-income population and lots of low-income new immigrants. What else? The IRS is a huge employer. The food? Slim pickings although you can get a decent meal downtown. Hope that helps! Elizabeth

Considering relocating to Provo

Aug 2005

We are considering relocating to the Provo, Utah area with our 3 year old daughter. I am looking for input/information/recommendations on towns and neighborhoods that are appealing, i.e., good schools, affordable housing, good restaurants, low crime, good parks, shopping. We are a moderate thinking couple politically (one moderate democrat, one moderate republican), not Mormon (or members of any church, but are looking). Negative experiences living in the area welcome too. Thanks. tired of working to live in the bay area

I was born and raised in SLC and my parents currently live in Orem. Moving from the Bay Area to Provo, Utah will be a culture shock. Provo is a fairly insulated town populated mainly with Mormons. One of the biggest draws in Provo is Brigham Young University which has a fairly big influence on how things are run in the city - many things are closed on Sundays, alcohol can only be purchased at a liquor store.

If you are looking for a religion, the Mormons will be happy to sign you on. Other religions are not as prevalent and your choices may be limited.

Schools are not very good in Utah as Utah is last in spending per pupil in the US. This is due to the high number of children in most families. While you may think that this will mean many playmates for your children, many LDS kids are not allowed or are not encouraged to be friends with children outside of their religion. And, even if they are allowed, there are so many church activites that they don't have the time to associate with kids outside of their church.

On the good side, the town is clean, the mountains are gorgeous, outdoor activities are easily accessible (skiing, hiking, boating, biking), and SLC is a short 45 min drive away. Utah also has four seasons, which is a nice change from the Bay Area. People are mostly friendly, at least as acquaintances.

Good luck in your decision.

If you're a total conservative, this is your home.. from the left/right index site (very interesting site, by the way): this is what it said:

Provo is the county seat of Utah county, which is documented to be 89% Republican, and over 85% Mormon. The mayor of Provo has recently ordered the public pool to be closed on Sunday, saying that people should be in church, not swimming.

But houses are cheap, if that's your priority. Try Oregon, much more interesting. anon

Why Provo, may I ask? I grew up in Utah and graduated from University of Utah and spent a bit of time in the Provo area. Therefore, unless you have been offered a fabulous, high-paying job there or a fantastic scholarship to BYU, why would you voluntarily choose to move there? Even though the state is now only 40-45% Latter Day Saint (LDS for short, that is the official name), if you move to Provo, you are moving to Ground Zero for Mormons across the world. If you wish to join the church, great, you will have an immediate network of friends and neighbors. If you do not join the Church, you will be in for a rough time I am afraid. I was raised LDS, grew up in a smaller Utah town, but when I decided to question Church teachings, I was basically run out of town and my family snubbed and outcast. I was 17 years old at the time.

There are many suburbs of Provo now, they are experiencing the kind of growth that the Antioch, Vallejo, Livermore areas are feeling: farmland turned into cookie cutter suburbs with the ubiquitous strip malls. Orem is a large city of its own now, Alpine is a charming suburb, but beware that you will spend a fair amount of time on the overloaded freeway if you live out and take a job within Provo. Rent is moderately cheap, but competition is super-fierce because you are competing with thousands of ''zoobies'', or BYU co-eds.

Pretty much all of the schools in Utah are great because the taxes earmarked for schools are used well and used wisely. You also have many dedicated, talented teachers who are content to work for a mere pittance because it is their ''duty to shape young children.'' The drawback, of course, is that what they are teaching may not be tolerance and strength in diversity. Also, the kids in school who are not Mormon, have a bit of a rougher time fitting in. As far as restaurants and such, you are now in the land of ''bigger and newer is better.'' So, the hot restaurant on a Friday night is the Chile's or the TGIF. Krispy Kreme is very popular there right now.

If you have friends there, go stay with them a week and have them show you around. If you don't know anyone, go there and stay a week anyway. As my husband and I found out, what people tell you about someplace and what you find can be two different things, which is why you should take what I say even with a grain of salt. We made a very expensive move to Atlanta, and everyone says what a cool place it is, and we tried it for 5 years, but it basically was not cool and we made another move back to the bay area, happy to put up with the ridiculous housing prices just to be in this area. I will never move away again, and of all places I would never go back to the suffocating environment of Utah after having lived here. Have you checked out any towns in Oregon, Medford, Coos Bay, Eugene? They have a similar bay area feel without the religious overtones of Utah. Also, Pocatello, Idaho is a small but great place, if you can handle the snow. Finally, please, please go spend time in Provo before you make any plans. Good luck to you on finding a place to call home. ex-Utahn

I want to warn you to think VERY carefully before you decide to move to Utah - especially Provo. I lived in Utah for 3 years. I am originally an east coaster. Utah is the most beautiful place, with the best weather (assuming you love the four seasons), and quite inexpensive. I loved that part of it! However, if you are not of the Mormon faith, and are not very conservative, you will probably have difficulty living there. People are super nice, at first. My experience is if you do not join the church, you become somewhat of an outcast. This can include children being left out as well. There is certainly a family environment there, but most activities center around the church. I found politics to be very frustrating as well, although I am far from a bleeding heart liberal. However, I enjoy being politically involved and I was terribly frustrated about the lack of choices. The schools are much better than here, however, especially in Provo. There, they are very progressive. I was involved with the school system as a teacher. If you would like more information or to talk furthur, please email me. Cynthia
I've never been there, but FYI one study found that Provo is the most conservative city in the US, based on election returns. (Berkeley is the third most liberal, surprisingly trailing Detroit and Gary.)
I think it would be very difficult living in Provo, Utah not being a mormon. I was born in Utah and visit there every year. I have family in Provo, some are religious and some aren't. There are tons of outdoor activites for adults and children and life there is very family oriented, which is great. I think I would suffocate for lack of diveristy and culture. Girls are raised in a culture where they feel like spinsters if they arent' married by age 20. I don't know if this is still true but I read that in the schools they don't teach enough years of foreign language so that kids then can't get into colleges outside of Utah. It is a very isolated life. It is also a very safe place to live and definitely cheaper than the Bay Area. There aren't really any good restaurants - it is just a series of strip malls with all the same stores you see everywhere. I can't recommend any neighborhoods because I don't know them that well but I do like some of the old stone houses right in the city of Provo. I'm sure all the schools are about the same - there really aren't bad neighborhoods that I've seen. Provo is only about 20 minutes from Sundance which is a great place to ski in the winter and also a great place to hike in the summer, but it is also the home of BYU which brings a strong mormon element. I think it would be good to take a trip there to see for yourself. jm.
Greetings, I spent a year in Provo a little over ten years ago as a visiting professor at BYU. On the whole I had a very positive experience there, particularly with my colleagues, who were more open-minded and welcoming than my colleagues at my big state home university of the time (not Cal). My students were also wonderful. I am saying all of this to make it clear that I am not anti-LDS (I don't belong to the church) or anti-Utah.

But having said that, I think you should think hard before moving to Provo as non-LDS. I would be happy to stand corrected by someone who has lived there more recently, but in my experience Provo is a rather small community with a very large LDS majority. The entire culture of the town is influenced by the church. Good things about that influence would include a child-friendly environment, reasonably low crime, shopping and restaurant opportunities that favor people with children, etc. But not belonging to the church could well mean that you will have difficulty forming social networks (politics play a role, but not the primary one). It takes a while to learn the cultural practices and assumptions of the community if you have little prior exposure to the history and contemporary life of the LDS church. Because of the importance of BYU, life in the town really revolves around the actitivies of the church.

Physically the town is not beautiful, though the surrounding mountains and canyons certainly are. The houses tend to be newish and not aesthetically appealing, the streets are laid out mostly in grids, and the downtown district is tiny and not particularly lively. There are some Hispanics in Provo, but otherwise I found diversity to be basically nil. That might have changed.

If you are set on moving to Utah, I would think that Salt Lake would be much more appealing to Gentiles (that's non-Mormons in Utah). There is a large non-LDS community there, a more lively cultural scene, but still many of the positives one would associate with the family orientation of the culture. It's not a terribly large or unmanageable city, and it's much less expensive than the Bay Area.

If you are interested in talking or in getting in touch with someone who lives in Provo now, write to my e-mail address. Linda

Probably moving to Salt Lake City

Jan 2000

Our family will probably move to Salt Lake City, Utah, much to my chagrin. I love the Bay Area and feel it is where my heart belongs. However, I am hoping to find aspects of my new potential home which will make me feel a part of the community. I am not Mormon, so I am concerned about finding friends, a job, a school for my son and a sense of belonging without joining the Mormon faith. I am looking for advice from people who are familiar with the area. Thanks!

A very good friend of mine moved to Salt Lake City in December 1998. He and his wife are not Mormon (in fact, his wife is Hindu) and they said there is a very large community of non-Mormons there. My friend is a professor at the University of Utah. If you would like to get in touch with him to get specific information about tapping into the non-Mormon community there, let me know and I can give you his e-mail address. - Sharon
I lived in Provo, Utah and worked as a visiting faculty member at Brigham Young University for a year, and I am not a Mormon (usually called LDS in Utah) either. Perhaps some info from my point of view could be helpful.

First of all, though LDS culture is dominant throughout Utah, SLC is less than half LDS. There are plenty of Gentiles (non-LDS, admittedly bizarre if you happen to be Jewish) in SLC, and there are brew-pubs, cafes serving caffeine, and plenty of other lifestyle choices to prove it. So you can lead a Gentile life in SLC without too much complication.

Like many places where the predominant culture is conservative, pockets of liberal resistance (both LDS and non-) are particularly active in Utah, especially in SLC and especially at U/Utah. If you have a cause, there will be people out there to be in touch with. But if day-to-day life is more your concern, I can say that in my experience, even living in a real stronghold of LDS culture (Provo/BYU), people were respectful of our differences. There was no effort to convert me or even convince me to stop drinking coffee (which would probably be good for me, anyway).

It helps (a lot) if you can be respectful of other peoples' religious and cultural choices. Those Gentiles (and LDS) I knew who were deeply unhappy in Utah were the ones who just couldn't stand even looking at the LDS lifestyle. It wasn't enough that they themselves were not required to stop smoking, stop drinking coffee, start having lots of children, etc. etc. They didn't want anyone else to have to do those things, and they thought the whole religion was silly/onerous/oppressive/diabolical, etc. I adopted the strategy of thinking of LDS as a foreign culture (which it is, if you're not LDS), something like Hinduism for a non-Hindu. Then it became exotic, interesting, and something I could happily allow to exist (speaking from a culturally arrogant perspective here), as long as it didn't infringe too much on my own spiritual/cultural space.

The one place where I could see long-term residence as a problem (as a liberal) is the political arena, which is a place where Mormonism can impose its values through the democratic process. In that respect, Utah does not differ much from much of the conservative U.S. One important difference between the LDS Church and many fundamentalist movements, however, is the culture's emphasis on learning. I found a lot of very good intellectual conversation partners/friends in Utah, among both LDS and non. I hope you do, too. If you would like to talk, let the list organizer know and she can give you my number. Good luck!