Growing up in the Houston area, I never really understood how some people living outside Texas viewed the city or its residents. My family never really traveled outside the state when I was a kid, so other than the occasional encounter with a visiting non-Texan, I never got much feedback from other places until I began traveling extensively as an adult. Then the Internet went into high gear, and now opinions are shared with a speed unfathomable a couple of decades ago. As a result, I now realize that many people have strong opinions about Texas and Texans.
Houston has been going through a steady metamorphosis, and has gotten a lot of recent acknowledgment for emerging as a diverse and dynamic city that's considered a great place to live by many people. What's strange is that as this city gets more positive attention, it also draws out haters who take any chance they can to criticize it. And criticism is fine. Houston isn't perfect; really no American cities I can think of are, and it's not unfair to point out the issues we face and need to improve on. But there are a few common gripes from people who move here from other places, or who just like to bitch about places they don't live, that are just dumb. And here are a few of the criticisms of Houston no one needs to hear anymore.
6. It's Not Pretty.
I can't count how many times I've heard some recent transplant or out-of-towner talk about how ugly Houston is, as if driving around town hurts their eyes. First of all, beauty is subjective, so it's fair to say that to some people, Houston isn't a pretty town. This part of Texas is flat, and especially from its freeways, H-Town has sort of a gray industrial look to it. However, get into its neighborhoods, and there are plenty of parts of Houston that are visually attractive. Is it ever going to look like Paris (France, not Texas) or Rome? No, not very likely. But there are way uglier American cities than Houston. I'll also just add that while "beauty" is definitely part of the appeal of certain places, it's not really a deal breaker to many when one compares other factors like cost of living. Besides, a lot of the complainers I've met are ugly as hell, and we still let them move here. It's a good thing they weren't judged as harshly as they'd judge Houston.
5. The Sprawl.
No one needs to hear that Houston is enormous and sprawling. How many times have we heard that criticism? Yes, the city is huge, as is this state. Ever have to drive across Texas? It can take 12 hours. We know Houston is huge and continues to spread like an awesome concrete glacier consuming more and more of the surrounding landscape. And it poses some legitimate problems like traffic, which we'll eventually have to address more effectively. But Houston's sprawl also means that more people can afford to buy their own home, because there's no shortage of land driving the prices through the roof.
4. Houston's Lack of History.
Where to begin? Every place that's as old as Houston has some interesting history behind its development, so shut up with the idea that this town is devoid of history. What Houston is and has long been is a city that tends to look forward rather than back. It's true that this attitude has resulted in a sometimes eager desire to bulldoze our past so something newer and shinier can be erected in its place, but it has also created a city ideal for people who like change. The cities that hold onto obvious reminders of their past either tend to hinge their existence on tourism, like Salem, Massachusetts, or are so ancient that they just built modern cities around all the old stuff. And those places are awesome because of that connection to their past, as anyone who has ever visited them knows. But not every great city in the world is like that. Houston prefers its history to be in books rather than on the street. No one here needs to hear some visitor complain about the lack of 300-year-old buildings. We get it.
3. It's a Hick Town With No Real Culture.
Fortunately, this ridiculous criticism is beginning to lose some of its grip, because for a long time it was a common complaint. "Culture" can mean many things, but Houston has most of them covered. We have some of the better museums in America, as any visitor can confirm. We have a Theater District that is second only to New York's and is home to eight performance arts organizations with more than 12,000 seats available. Houston has plenty of that type of "culture" to offer its residents, but it also is an incredible mixing pot of people from all over the world, making us the most diverse city in America. We have an openly gay female mayor and a huge LGBT community, so arguments that Houston is some weird backwards city with a homogeneous population just don't hold up well. That diversity of residents also means that Houstonians can sample cuisine from all over the world or explore other cultures without booking a flight out of town. Considering all these factors, anyone who can't find anything culturally interesting to do while in Houston has no one to blame except himself.
2. Houston Isn't Like (Fill in the Blank).
A lot of complaints about Houston boil down to it not being similar enough to some other city, which seems like a ridiculous criterion. People who are so in love with a single city that they feel compelled to complain that another place isn't as sophisticated, beautiful or "cool" should just stay in the city they like. Houston gets a lot of those stupid comparisons, usually from snobs already living in their dream town who need to reinforce a sense of superiority, or from recent transplants here — people who moved because they could no longer afford to live in San Francisco, New York City or whatever other world-class city they were priced out of. All I can say to those people is shut up. Houston isn't at all similar to Boston or New York City, and we never will be. As surprising as it may be to some of those folks, a lot of people living here wouldn't want Houston to be like those places. We have our own thing happening here, and we like it. Sorry you don't.
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1. It's Hot.
Yes, we all know it's hot here for several months out of the year. I don't think that's really a mystery to many people, but one of the complaints that I hear used the most often for why Houston is some horrible place to live is "It's too hot." It's understandable that heat might be a deal breaker for some people, just as others wouldn't want to live anywhere with miserable winters. Some people can hack it, and others can't. But whining to a longtime Houstonian about how the city sucks because it gets hot a few months out of the year is about as dumb as complaining to an Inuit when there's snow on the ground and it's a little chilly in Alaska. It's hot here, and most of us have somehow managed to adapt, usually by living in air-conditioned environments. For the record, it occasionally gets hot in places up north, and a lot of people don't bother to even own a window unit. I've never understood that. In any case, I can understand not moving here if the idea of hot summers is a deal breaker, but whenever I hear a person from somewhere else complain about how hot Houston can be, I just wonder if they have a weak grasp of geography and mistakenly thought this city was located near Seattle or something.
So to anyone contemplating moving to Houston because of our low cost of living, good economy or any of the other reasons people are almost tripping over themselves to move here, let me remind you:
Houston gets hot. If that's a problem, maybe staying in California or New England is a better idea for you.