From the Midwest to the Plains to Canada to the Northeast, people hold the fantasy of moving to Miami close to their heart — a warm and shiny talisman to get them through the misery of winter. When you tell your Northern kin that you’re actually going for it, they ask, “Do you speak Spanish? What will you do for work? Aren’t you afraid of hurricanes/Zika/sinkholes/flesh-eating zombies?”
But everyone knows you’re not too worried about any of that stuff. Soon you’ll be boating on Biscayne Bay every weekend, hanging out with the cast of Ballers, and wintering in the Keys. You’ve just got to take the plunge. It’s a roller coaster — well, more of a water slide, because of the surprise walls of rain and the fact that you're far more likely to be wearing a bathing suit. But it's a fun one. This is what it feels like, from the time you say bye to your former hometown to the first moments of truly feeling local.
Stage 1: South Beach Aversion Therapy
Until now, the only neighborhood you’ve ever visited is South Beach (except for one confusing three-day interlude in a high-rise on Biscayne Boulevard). Everyone loves South Beach! However, you’d be an idiot to move there. People tell you this, and in the same breath they assume that you will definitely move there. You wonder why they think so poorly of your decision-making skills. Yet the first place you rent in Miami (an extended Airbnb stay while you search for a longer-term apartment) sits just off Lincoln Road. Obviously, you have rented it illegally.
Stage 2: App Rage
You’ve spent several weeks browsing real-estate apps, lost in a world of soft-lit house porn. You arrive in Miami with a bookmarked list of prospective homes to view — and learn within 24 frustrating hours that not one of them is available. The app listings are never updated. Or, more likely, the apps are bait-and-switching. Now you must find a trustworthy realtor or be stuck wandering the streets forever, poking around private property in search of “Unit Available” signs.
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Stage 3: Real-Estate Hazing
You’ve put an offer on a place — thousands of cash-money dollars wired to the account of a real-estate firm in Miami, oh, God. And the lease paperwork — you thought it was done, but it never ends. The people are asking for a police report, a credit report, and written character references from everyone you’ve met in the past ten years. You actually have to get fingerprinted! Week after week, the deal is still not finalized. More things must be ticked off. It is nobody’s fault. Well, actually, it’s the condo board’s fault, but you can’t be angry with those people or they’ll reject your application.
Stage 4: Where Am I Even?
Maybe you fulfilled everyone's expectations and snagged a South Beach apartment. Maybe you bucked the trend and settled in Doral. Maybe you thought you were moving to North Beach but it turns out you're living in North Miami Beach, which is not, in fact, on the beach. No matter where you live, one thing is certain: You're not in Kansas (or Canada or Connecticut or wherever) anymore. Exploring on foot isn't as easy as it was back home, and driving makes you feel like every car on the highway is out to get you. And if you don't speak even a tiny bit of Spanish? Time to invest in Rosetta Stone.
Stage 5: Zip-Curious
Do you need a car in Miami, or do you not? Uber is so much better for nights out, but it’s impractical for meetings. If you can walk to work or work from home, you don’t want to get in your car most days anyway. And then there's the concrete death trap that is I-95 — who wants that? But for Sunday funday outings and trips to Target, you can’t avoid the necessity. This is the phase where you join ZipCar just to see if it provides a shared-economy solution. In four months, you’ll decide it does not. When you live in Miami as a grownup, you ultimately want your own vehicle.
Stage 6: Clear and Present FOMO
Fear of missing out isn’t just Facebook-driven anxiety in Miami. There’s undeniable proof that amazing things are happening all around you: When you’re strolling down the beach walk on a Sunday afternoon and you pass four pool parties in a row, which you can identify only because you can hear the music. When you drive to a waterfront restaurant and realize everyone else has boated up to it. When you meet the other mothers in your fourth-grader’s class in Coral Gables and realize you’re the only mother with a 9-to-5 job. Whatever your definition of “best life,” Miami has a lot of people who are living it right in front of you.
Stage 7: Hurricane Anticipation
The first tropical depression of the season is heading toward Florida. All social aspirations and healthy outdoor fitness plans are canceled. You stock up on wine and nonperishables while your husband feverishly Googles “how to pack a go bag.” You purchase flashlights and fill the freezer with batteries. Then you buy several jigsaw puzzles even though you hate jigsaw puzzles. You’re ready for this. Then the storm models change, the cone of death swerves toward the Gulf of Mexico, and all you get is a week of gray skies and heavy downpours. Is it wrong to feel cheated somehow?
Stage 8: You're Finally Home
You’ve been here around six months, so when friends/family come to stay, you know what to do. You’ve nabbed them a convenient parking space for the week. You have a favorite Peruvian-Japanese restaurant and a favorite Cuban-coffee place and a favorite happy hour with a raw bar. On Sunday, you take your guests to an all-day brunch. There, you observe a 75-year-old man celebrating his birthday with bellinis, and four bachelorette parties are in full swing with carafes of rosé. Over in the shady courtyard, a few international moms get made-to-order pasta for their 5-year-olds. Eventually, someone in your party dances with a bachelorette on a podium. Someone else gets invited to sail to Cuba with a man they met in the bathroom. Someone else gets stung by a jellyfish. It's a perfect Miami day and evening. You vow to do this every weekend.