I knew as soon as I visited that I wanted to move here right away, though there are a few things I wish I knew before moving to Arizona. I still can't believe there's SO much to do. There are more things to do in Arizona than I ever imagined!
Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Arizona
There are many wonderful things about this place that I thoroughly enjoy. I had only visited a few times before I packed my family up and moved 2,000 miles to start our new lives here. Flowers bloom year round. It seems like it is almost always sunny. The furnace was only turned on for 3 days last winter. No more fear of falling on the ice in the parking lot or the driveway. No need for an ice scraper for the car windows.
Our hummingbird feeder is busy every day of the year. People like to visit us during the winter to escape the snow. There are some things I wish I knew before deciding to move to Arizona.
I love boobs but, uh, haboobs? Ha…what? A haboob is a “violent wind and sand storm that comes on quickly and decimates visibility and other things in its path”. Last summer, in addition to the occasional haboob, there were several storms that were strong enough to knock out the electricity for hours at a time.
Haboobs and rain are my favorite parts of Arizona living. I know people get scared and hate the storms but they're just beautiful!
Trampolines flying out of yards, roofs being ripped off, power outages (no air conditioning and it’s 110), flash floods, and amazing lightning storms are all from haboobs. We sat in our dining room during one of the storms because the power was out and watched the lightning for a couple of hours. It was like a strobe light outside.
Neighborhoods are built with washes specifically for the flash floods that happen every summer. Huge established trees were ripped from their roots and toppled over. Roads flood in what seems like minutes, but they dry up rather quickly, too. For those that have lived here long enough, they know that these storms are just part of a typical summer. For the people that are experiencing it for the first time, it can be very scary.
When you think of the desert, you think dry dry dry. Believe it or not, though, when all of those summer storms hit, the humidity comes with them. Add the humidity to the heat and you have a recipe for what feels like a swamp. You'll have swamp ass for half of storm season!
Jesus. Snowbirds. They have a saying here in Arizona: You don’t have to shovel sunshine. With the exception of the storm season, the humidity is super low; it is the desert, after all. Who wouldn’t want the luxury of having a house to escape to when the snow starts flying and then get to leave again when it starts getting too hot to handle? Old folks come and go in flocks like birds, which is where the term “snowbird” comes in. The traffic is the one nice thing about summer here. It is so much lighter once they all leave!
Yes, it's really 120 degrees.
I have figured out that when people ask me how long I have lived here, what they really want to know is how many summers have you survived so far?
You expect it to be hot during the summer. You prepare with your typical shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. The temperatures start to climb in April and don’t come back down until October. You’re thinking, “how hot can it possibly get?”, but you really don't want the answer. It can get really. freaking. hot.
Most people live in a place where it gets hot in the summer for a few months with at least a little bit of relief during the night when the sun isn’t blazing down. Here in Arizona, once it reaches 100 degrees, it’s just so damn hot. Temperatures soar to around 120. For me, I don't feel like there's much of a difference between 100 and 120. Either way, I'm hiding inside with the A/C.
Nobody wants to step outside. They are all indoors laying naked under the fan. I remember learning in school that it gets COLD in the desert at night. But you know what? During the summer, it doesn’t cool down at night! It is still so damn hot! I sleep with an ice pack.
Those big fluffy oven mitts you have in your kitchen? We keep them in the car for driving gloves because the steering wheel and any metal you have to touch on your car will burn you. I didn’t wash my car for 3 months last summer because the outside of the car was so hot I didn’t want to lay my bare arm on the sizzling hot metal to pay in the drive thru. Some things you learn the hard way (ouch!). Us locals are so happy when the temps start falling even in to the 90s. That's how we know Fall is on its way.
No cold water. Ever.
This is something I just never thought about, either. The tap water only gets as cool as it is outside. Since the weather rarely gets cold enough to freeze anything, the pipes aren’t buried very deep in the ground. You get hot water out of the cold tap all summer long that is actually hotter than the hot tap. The inside of the house is so much cooler than the outside, so you get cooler water for awhile using the hot side instead of the cold. All summer long, we take showers using the coldest possible water that will come out of the shower and it is still hot. People throw ice in the pool to try and cool it down. If you want cold water, you have to store it in the refrigerator.
The kids wanna play in the hose? That's not happening; you might as well throw a pot of hot water at them in that case. It takes a long time for the water to even get to a safe temp to touch!
So. Many. Creepy crawlies.
Most places have their share of bugs, spiders, and snakes. Missouri had mosquitos and so many snakes! I hated it. Arizona takes creepy crawlies to a whole new, creepy, disgusting level. In addition to your typical nasty critters, there are scorpions, roaches, venomous centipedes and rattlesnakes… just to name a few. They want to live in your house with you. Especially scorpions!
To be able to survive in this climate, a creature has to have a tough constitution and we willing to eat darn near anything it can find. This includes you, your kids, and your pets. Blood is blood to them when they are hungry. Termites are inevitable. If you don’t have them already, you probably will! Bug treatments are just part of the territory here.
Old people ratio
I talked about snowbirds already but the number of older people to the general population is more than noticeable – even with year-round residents. There are many 55+ communities that draw them in. The amazing weather for the majority of the year, the cheap housing, and year round golfing opportunities are all draws for the old folks. There seems to be an amazing number of doctors here also. You can’t go far without seeing a hospital, doctors office, or specialty medical clinic. All this warm weather is good for those achy bones.
I love old people so I can't complain, but I know it annoys a lot of younger folks to be surrounded by seniors all of the time. Grace says they “move like turtles running through peanut butter”.
When I first moved here, my friend pointed to construction cones and said “those are our state tree”. I laughed, but she was serious. You will literally not drive a single day without seeing construction here in Arizona. In most areas, road construction is something that you typically expect during the summer time. But in Southern Arizona, the road construction is year round.
The weather is usually beautiful and sunny year round which gives the opportunity for the construction crews to never stop tearing up and “repairing” our roads. With the ever growing population, the infrastructure is trying to catch up. There are large bedroom communities that are located 45 minutes from the nearest freeway. They are built around places that were rural farm areas and never needed roads that would have to handle the large volume of people they now see daily. This brings about having to widen roads, move utilities underground, and create more through streets.
The delays construction causes for commuters can be such a source of frustration. Since they are still building a second route, if there is one impatient, self-important jerk that refuses to leave any following distance and he happens to cause a fender bender, that small accident can cause an additional hour-long pile up for the tired and hungry people that just want to go home.
Highways and Byways
The highway system is so jacked up. It seriously looks like someone had a ball of yarn, they dropped it, and some cats swatted it around for a bit. Then these genius engineers designed the roads based on where the yarn landed. It’s true that Phoenix runs on a grid system but that’s just in town. I’ve lived here for almost five years and still can’t figure out the damn 202/101 crap! I have to use a GPS to get anywhere.
Dehydration is a thing.
Dry skin, dusty mouth, and headaches are just a few of the signs of dehydration. It’s a good idea to find a water jug that will keep things cold for a very long time if you plan on visiting or moving to Arizona. Drinking enough water can be very challenging in this extreme climate. You will sweat through your clothes.
I like to hide inside in the a/c, but your first utility bill will damn near give you a heart attack. I promise. The first time we received a utility bill for $450 from setting the thermostat to what I thought was a modest 75, I gasped. Most people keep their houses between 78 and 80. It sounds atrociously hot, but you do eventually get used to it. The a/c also sucks the moisture out of you, so even if you aren’t sweating you are still being dried out.
Dust, dust, everywhere!
As much as I would like to open up all of the windows when it does start to cool down, it comes at a cost. The dust is horrible. It will cover every surface in your home. It will penetrate your electronics and shorten their life. Carpeting, drapes, and bedding will all be dusty. You will literally have a layer of dust all over everything.
The dust causes breathing problems for people. Sinus infections, allergies, and asthma are common here. Sapphire had allergies before we moved here, though, and it's been a HUGE relief on her asthma (it's triggered by cold weather). Dust will seep into every crack and crevice. You’ll wonder how on earth did dust get in there? It will find a way. You’ll taste it in the air and feel the grit in your teeth.
Poverty – good and bad?
I expected Arizona to be more expensive than Missouri is, but it's not. Arizona is literally PARADISE in comparison, but it doesn't cost any more to live here than it does back in the Midwest! That's a great thing for me, because I work from home and am 100% in control of my income. However, Arizona really doesn't pay well so that's not a great thing for many folks.
Unfortunately, there are large pockets of poverty in southern Arizona. When you first visit Arizona, you’ll only see what tourists typically see. At first glance the job market around the Phoenix area seems like even though the pay rates are slightly lower, it is in ratio to the lower housing prices that are available in the surrounding metro areas just outside the city.
The government employees that work for the state of Arizona as white collar educated office professionals with an accounting background haven’t had a raise in 10 years. Can you imagine having an accounting degree and only making $11.61 an hour for an entire decade? Private sector would pay at least double that amount. Granted, the benefits are good, but they aren’t that good. It's hard to believe they have been able to retain any employees, but because there are more job seekers than jobs, they have. As long as people have the hope that they will be able to move to a better paying position they stay. The governor gave himself a raise, but not the individuals that make all of the details happen on the business end. Go figure.
At the end of the day…
Nothing beats Arizona. I've lived many places, I've visited many places, and Arizona is still my favorite. It's beautiful and it felt like home from the day we got here!