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Asheville, NC - A British Perspective
I’m Paul, a British person that relocated to Asheville from the UK in January 2014. Because of that, my friends back in the UK often want to know what life is like here, and I wanted to bring together some of my responses to their questions below.
I realize that this might not be everyone’s experience of Asheville, and it is influenced by the fact that coming to AVL felt very much like coming home, so I naturally have a very positive attitude towards this wonderful place! I’d certainly be interested to know what you think of what it is like to live here.
What is the sense of community like in Asheville?
Most of the time. Asheville is a very friendly city; it’s a liberal, hippy, accepting place, located in a conservative state, so it’s a bit of an oasis. You don’t have to go too far outside the city to find viewpoints that differ wildly from those of most of the people here! Because of that, it tends to attract the weird, the hopeful and people that might not ‘fit in’ elsewhere. It also has a lot of tourists!
As far as community is concerned, there are hundreds of interest groups people can join and pretty much, whatever your interest or hobby, there are other people that have it too. In some ways, this can actually make the choice of things to do a little overwhelming.
Are people friendly and accepting?
Yes. As I said above, because Asheville tends to be a place that people with different viewpoints end up, it is very accepting of more or less everyone. (One of the best quotes I heard about this place was If you’re too weird for Asheville, you’re too weird!)
This means that most people have a ‘live and let live’ attitude; you’re expected to respect other’s choices, and they will (generally) respect yours. People are also very friendly when you get talking to them (in shops, restaurants etc.) Because I have a British accent, I tend to get asked where I am from quite a bit and then we get talking about why I moved, if I like it etc. It’s a great icebreaker.
Is littering a problem in Asheville?
I am sure that it is in *some* areas, but mostly people are pretty respectful about it, certainly in the various neighborhoods and downtown. There’s an extensive recycling program and lots of bins around, so that makes things easier.
There’s not much smoking in public whilst walking about, so there aren’t cigarette butts everywhere. The one thing that is a major issue is the condition of the roads and how dirty they are. By that I mean the sheer amount of crap that gets washed off of the road surfaces means that there’s a lot of dust and grit around, and that’s a pain to walk on, especially in sandals because of all the stones in the shoes!
Do you feel people in America have a better work life balance than over here?
I don’t think so. The US in general has pretty strict rules on vacation time etc (which is generally much less than in the UK), and people tend to work pretty long hours. Also, in Asheville, because there’s not much work available outside the tourism / service industry, lots of people work two to three jobs to make ends meet. Also, in the service industry, people tend to rely on tips (since basic wages are pretty terrible) so that means they work hard, and work long hours.
One of the main downsides about this town is that it is very hard to find good paying work. I’ve heard Asheville described as a BYOB (Bring Your Own Business) town and that certainly fits in with what I have observed around here.
Do you know much about the schools and their community involvement?
I don’t know a huge amount about that. We certainly *have* a lot of schools and the children seem happy! We also have a major university here (University of North Carolina Asheville – UNCA) which is well subscribed and a Tech college.
Do you perceive people to be happier?
In Asheville, definitely. The US psyche in general has a different approach on life to the typical British psyche. People want to do well, and here’s the crucial thing, they also want others to do well. People are generally very happy to share their time, interests and expertise, and aren’t backwards in coming forwards!
Speaking for myself, I am very happy about having made the move. I really miss my family and friends, and the BBC, but apart from that, I couldn’t hope for a better quality of life, clean air, the mountains, friendly people and a great city. I have no regrets about the decision to move here.
Is the sunshine usual?
Asheville / Western North Carolina in general have a pretty unique weather pattern. We’re on roughly the same latitude as southern Spain, so we get some lovely hot, sunny days, and the mountains tend to take most of the rain, so we don’t get huge amounts of that here.
That said, it’s very much a micro-climate, which means that it’s pretty unpredictable. We get a lot of thunderstorms in the summer!
What's the worst thing about living in Asheville?
That's easy - The drivers! The roads in general aren't in great condition in the city (partly due to the rapidly changing temperatures in the winter months creating big potholes), but this is just compounded by some pretty awful driving.
There are a few major roads in Asheville that lead into and out of the city (Merrimon Ave, Biltmore Ave, Tunnel Rd, I26 and I40) and on many of these roads it's everyone for themselves. There's just not a lot of consideration when it comes to driving, which is surprising given how great people are otherwise. Be warned, for a person coming from a country with very strict mobile / cell-phone use while driving, the cavalier attitude of American drivers will frustrate you!
You'll need to ne constantly vigilant driving in Asheville, but it;s worth it!