One Month In Tennessee

As a City Girl from Oregon #bigmove

This has been such a crazy journey. I moved across the country in November, and now Christmas is right around the corner in my #newhome.

I thought I would list out all the things I've learned and experienced during my first month as a Tennessean, things that were shocking and not so shocking. My life started out as an Oregonian, and the two states definitely have lots of differences.

Are you thinking of leaving Oregon? Moving to Tennessee? Or just wanting to get out of wherever you are?

This is a list of all the culture shocks I've had, and what I'm used to from the West Coast. Maybe you'll notice some similarities in yourself, or just enjoy the read. Either way, I hope it helps.

The link to the corresponding YouTube video is here:


One Month In Knoxville


First thing I noticed moving from Oregon to Tennessee, was how kind everyone was. I lived in Portland, Oregon originally, and it's gone downhill over the last few years. Hospitality wasn't much of a thing anymore. Kindness no longer existed. People aim to find the one thing they can fight with you over, but when I came to Tennessee I noticed that the people here aim to find something they can relate with in your story and build a friendship from that.

Now, there will always be a few bad apples in every batch. I don't want to sound naïve when I write this. However, after living in such a hate-fueled city for most of my life, seeing a city full of people trying to build a community is refreshing to say the least.

Small Business Support

Now what shocked me is that you won't find a whole lot of chain stores. Knoxville of course has them all, but only a few rather than making large chain stores the majority. And all in one area of the city (West Knox is the major shopping region). Starbucks for example, there's approximately fifteen in the entire city, but outside of downtown they are massively spread out. There are no Dutch Bro's or Black Rocks. Every other coffee shop you see is a small business. The majority of businesses in Knoxville are small mom and pops or LLCs, and the city is constantly searching for ways to better support those who run a small business.

Businesses come together to support each other. I recently met a donut shop that is supporting another donut shop through pop-ups and events. Or a floral business teaming up with a coffee business to open a storefront (which is brilliant, coffee and a bouquet of flowers?) I've personally met so many people who want to support my bakery, they always tell me how much the city could use another bakery or another small business in general.

Back in Portland, only those who know the struggle really support each other. Outside of customers of course. Any businesses with storefronts are on constant high-alert for rioters or looters. A few years ago I would say it's just downtown, just stay out of downtown and you'll be fine, but now the violence has bled out to surrounding cities and neighborhoods. Windows get smashed regularly and product is stolen constantly. If you open a business store-front in Portland, Oregon make sure you have really good insurance. You'll need it.


This has been a big change for me. It's the first full week of December as I'm writing this, and the beginning of the month was filled with sixty-five or seventy degree days, lots of sun, and barely any rain. Earlier this week I witnessed my first Tennessee rainstorm. All of this sun and warmth has been a bit of a shock to me.

As many people know, the Pacific Northwest gets LOTS of rain. From mid October to mid May it's constant grey skies and rain, rain, and more rain.

Many people have warned me about the humidity in Tennessee. While yes, it is pretty humid in the summer, it is so DRY here in the winter. Keep in mind I'm in Knoxville so I can only speak for East Tennessee on this, but it's drier than anything I could've imagined. I find myself researching humidifiers in my spare time, that's how dry it is in the winter.


Now, Knoxville does an amazing job of celebrating anything and everything. I swear, any excuse they can find to throw a parade or festival, they do it. There were two Christmas parades before December fifth. Downtown Knox gets decked out in holiday décor for every season, currently there's Christmas lights on every tree and light post, and a handmade ice rink built in the middle of Market Square.

It reminds me of Gilmore Girls, a tv show about a single mother and her daughter, but they live in a town called Stars Hollow. That town gets decked out every season and holiday above and beyond. Knoxville isn't far behind that. Whether it's team spirit on gameday, or holiday spirit, people in Knoxville find any reason they can celebrate with each other. I love it.

The multiple festivals/parades in Downtown Knoxville


This one will probably be controversial, so please remember this is just what I've experienced personally. A lot of people from Oregon have been asking me about the political nature of Tennessee, and Knoxville to be more specific.

To understand why, Portland has entered an era of constant rioting. Overall, Portland was a once beautiful city full of love and food and kind people, but has spiraled into what I refer to as The Purge. Most drugs have been decriminalized, there aren't enough police available to handle all the shootings, and homelessness has taken over every bridge, park, or underpass in the area.

Riots in Portland during 2020/2021

Now I would love to say the media has greatly exaggerated the damage, as we've all learned the media loves to twist the narrative. However, it breaks my heart to say the news was pretty accurate in discussing the riots. The only thing they did wrong was tell the world the riots were over or for any kind of political stand. They never ended, only proceeded to bleed out into surrounding communities. Portland rioted for over two hundred days straight. Businesses and families set up GoFundMe sites to raise money to get out of Portland. And during 2020, Portland was named as one of the worst cities to visit due to the allowance of violence.

Let me say this, when the protests began they were for great causes. There were serious issues in Portland to protest. Sadly, looters and violent people took the peaceful protests and twisted them into something hateful and destructive. Once that darkness took hold, there was no stopping it, and they became riots. Every group you can think of "stood their ground" in the streets of downtown. The real tragedy were the people hurt, the small businesses destroyed, and the homes ruined by people who only sought violence. And in the end, the noble causes these protests set out to fight for, were discredited on every level due to the destructive behavior of the people who rode on their coattails.

Which brings me to Tennessee. A big difference in how the states are run is Oregon is a blue state while Tennessee is red. That may excite or anger some people, I am only trying to write the facts and what I've experienced.

There are significantly less shootings in Knoxville. Not zero, but compared to Portland's record-breaking thirteen shootings in twenty-four hours, Knoxville is looking pretty good. Whether this has to do with Tennessee being an open-carry state, or the fact that just about every person here has taken gun safety courses or been taught when they were little how to properly handle such things, I am not sure. I only know that I no longer hear gun shots and sirens every night as I'm trying to sleep.

Protests still occur in Knoxville, especially during 2020, however none that I could find ever reached the level of Portland. Peaceful protests really mean peaceful. There were some marches and chanting and sign holding, but no fires, explosives, or windows being shattered. I witnessed one the first time I visited the city in July of 2021. In Market Square there's a stage that groups can protest peacefully at. They chanted and held signs, but rather than fearing for safety, people would nod to them and wish them luck on the issue they were hoping to change. I'll take that any day.

Since moving here, I can count on one hand the amount of political conversations I've had with people. Not one person has asked me who I voted for. Whether it's because people don't care or it's because people are respectful of your privacy and views, I'm not entirely sure. I appreciate that people don't hold their entire identity within their political views. Back in Oregon it's always one of the first questions people ask you, and a very common discussion topic. Millennials and Gen-Z'ers are incredibly passionate generations, but they are also incredibly angry. I wish I wasn't born right in between the two.

Masks. That is a BIG difference. Oregon is currently trying to make masks mandatory indefinitely. Here, I don't even know where my masks are. I haven't worn one since crossing the Wyoming state line. In Tennessee in general, it is up to you to wear a mask or not. If you feel safer wearing one, no one is going to judge you or even bat an eye. If you choose not to wear one, no one is going to judge you or even bat an eye. Some businesses or events have signs asking you to wear one, but you'll notice they'll all large chain stores or city events that need to keep themselves safe liability wise. Not many actually adhere to that.

I know this section had a lot of info in it, but it is the most common question I get about moving to Tennessee. So I figured this should be the biggest section.

Mental Health

Now, living in Portland I not only met many people struggling with mental illness, but my family and I also struggled as well. Anxiety and Depression run very high in Portland. Due to many things, the culture, the pressures of living in such an expensive city, the violence, the seasonal depression, etc.

Since moving to Knoxville many of my mental struggles have eased immensely. I still deal with some anxiety from owning a business and uprooting my entire life, but no where near the high stress and anxiety levels I lived with in Portland. My family is well on their way to getting out as well.

Life overall is a bit slower here, a lot more simple. And that is something I will treasure forever. This is a place I could see myself raising a family, teaching them about the fundamentals of living in this world with a level of peace I haven't felt in years. Family and community is a much bigger value to the city and its people than I experienced back in Oregon. Work is still work, obviously, but community is stronger. I know living in a place for a month won't give me all the knowledge I would like to have, but so far I've experienced a lot more genuine people here.

People work hard and understand that life happens, and that there's enough success for everyone. Obviously not everyone thinks this way, there are always a few outliers, but here hard working and genuine people are the majority. That is a refreshing sight.


Now this could be another controversial topic, depending on your views. But a lot of people here just assume you go to church. Not in a bad, shoving-religion-down-your-throat way, but in a community building way. There is no judgement surrounding religion that I've seen so far.

I know southern families tend to lean a little more traditional, so if I was in a southern family here my views may change a bit. But as an outsider coming in to this city and finding my place, I haven't experienced any judgement or hypocritical religious speeches of any kind.

Like I mentioned before, community and family are major values here. So if you get invited to church, try not to see it as a "I'm trying to convert you and save your soul" kind of thing. I was invited to four different churches during Thanksgiving just because they were hosting a large dinner for all who attended. If you aren't interested, just say "I'll see what I can do" or "no thank you" and move on, no one is going to force you to do anything you don't want to do.

Now I do attend church, so I'm a bit more open minded to it all. But I've been hurt by a church before, so my guard was definitely up when I first moved here. Take all this information as just my personal experiences.