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An Expat Talks about Living in Charlotte, North Carolina

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Charlotte

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

The YMCA is a good place to meet people, and there are plenty of locations around Charlotte. Church is also a good place to meet people. Church is big in the south, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the folks are all religious fanatics. Church is church, but it is also a big social occasion. Most churches provide daycare, youth groups, etc. I haven't been to church since I left Chatham, but it's often crossed my mind to try one of the nearby churches just to meet more and different people. There are also a fair number of Catholic churches, synagogues, etc., so it's pretty diverse. Some are way conservative, but most seem to provide a great social and support network for their members.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

Well, that's a hard question. Charlotte has an identity crisis. It wants to be considered a world class city, but it's just not ready. For example, a few years ago Charlotte was one of the cities selected by the playwright of "Angels in America" as one of the few cities in which he was going to stage his play. Charlotte was very proud of this and you heard about this coup up until the first performance. Then the town did an about face and attacked the Arts and Science Council because there was a nude scene with a gay man (I don't quite remember - I didn't see the play). It's like the city wants the good press but doesn't want to get its hands dirty. We have a ton of ethnic restaurants, and the fastest growing Hispanic population in the nation. But we get resistance to mixed-use zoning (houses, shops, apartments in the same community). I guess a good description would be to say that Charlotte is a statistically diverse city, but in reality it can be segregated. It's OK to be ethnic as long as you are being ethnic in your appropriate ethnic space. Charlotte wants to embrace the future but isn't ready to let go of its past, so it's going to have problems. But it's also going to have a lot of opportunities.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

Charlotte is a banking town with the Bank of America headquarters here, but there is also a tech sector, with Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, etc. The hospitality industry (hotels/restaurants) is also pretty big. It's actually a fairly mixed bag - I would say you could probably find any type of work you're looking for in Charlotte.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Work is important when you are at work, but once you've left the office family takes over. Family is very important here, and people seem to have much more contact with extended family members of all ages than I remember from up north. Socializing and sports are part of the culture, but also a status thing, such as Panther tickets or the symphony uptown. And yes, even NASCAR tickets are a status thing - they're almost impossible to get!

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If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Charlotte is a great town to start out in, make your way, and gain experience. It's big, but not too big. It's small, but not too small. I guess a good comparison would be that Charlotte is the slick corporately owned restaurant chain while Asheville, NC is the bohemian independently owned night club. Charlotte has the job market but everyone wants to retire to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I like Charlotte. It has a great music scene. There's lots to do. But you don't fall in love with Charlotte like you would Charleston, SC or San Francisco.

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