The Worst Transplants in Portland
An estimated 16,000 people moved to Portland between 2013 and 2014. 16,000 people! It’s easy to understand how watching your once-quiet enclave of mellow Pacific Northwestern goodness become a melting pot for yokels, tech bros, and surly East Coasters overnight is infuriating, but the ability to distinguish one type of transplant from another is a special skill that takes years of passive-aggressive armchair sociological excavation to hone.
Lucky for you we do a lot of aggravated people-watching, so here’s a quick lowdown on your fellow wayward brethren who also moved here after Portlandia made moving here patently uncool. These aren’t your hotshot transplant chefs and artists changing the Portland landscape for the better. These are some of the worst transplants in Portland.
Given that it butts up against corn country, being overrun by Midwesterners in search of fresh powder and dank nugs was inevitable for Colorado. Judging by the number of Subarus you see with Colorado plates and the “NATIVE” sticker scraped off in favor of more local flair -- “BEND” and “Keep Portland Weird” being popular substitutions -- it’s safe to conclude that Portland is the last bastion of hope for deposed Coloradans in search a more authentic West Coast experience that has not yet been overrun by former University of Kansas bros who took up microbrewing and bouldering because shit looked tight on Instagram.
Who’s that Land Rover-driving turbo-douche whizzing past you on the freeway with a Blackberry in one hand and a cup of hot coffee they demanded their barista pour over ice and add six pumps of blue raspberry syrup to in the other? It’s an enraged émigré from Massachusetts who was dragged here against their will by their significant other who just wanted to escape the grind of the Northeast and live near some trees, that’s who! Rather than watch Pats games at Yur’s, they’re likely to show up to your own team’s bar away from home to drink your tears every Sunday. Don’t worry, though... they’ll be 86’ed before half time is over.
The Rebooter Girl
After five exhausting years of hustling in the PR world back East, this ambitious young lady finally moved out West to drink all the coffee and whiskey, see all things, and go on all the hikes with her dog until she has enough material to publish her memoir about living simply and finding her true calling (while her parents pick up the tab). Her Tinder profile is nothing but emojis and pictures of her dog on a mountain, and your chances of landing a date with her will spontaneously combust when you inform her that you’re not into climbing.
The Life Coach
Hang out at any coffee shop on a weekday afternoon and you’ll likely overhear an enthusiastic young corporate dropout giving a distraught middle-aged person a pep talk on how they should be developing their personal brand and embracing the tumult of their “newfound freedom” (“unemployment”). Two World Domination Summits later and the recipient of this advice is in turn doling it out to other rudderless interlopers, thus creating a cycle that finds Portland about three months away from a scenario in which there are more life coaches than there are lives in need of coaching. Ditto for the ratio of yogis to yoginis, which is as painful to type as it looks.
The Desert Mystic
The whiff of sandalwood and patchouli you catch when this fashionable neo-bohemian interviews for a spot in your house may seem benign, but it’s only a matter of weeks, nay, days until their wandering band of Burner friends takes up residence in your living room, leaving nothing but a trail of dirt and feathers in their wake when they finally depart for the yoga retreat in New Mexico they’ve been training for in your yard ever since they latched onto your good will (and drank all your La Croix).
The Floridian Refugee
When you grow up in a state that defiant weirdos defect to when they decide to elope and marry that stripper they met at a Waffle House somewhere in Kentucky, the task of finding an even quirkier place to move that’s had fewer episodes of Cops filmed within its borders can be daunting. They assimilate well due to their supposed hatred for their home state, which makes them hard to pick out of a crowd initially, but a quick mention of an EDM festival or a sale on Rainbow Sandals will make it easy to suss them out.
The Retired Bay Area Punker
Did you see Green Day at 924 Gilman before they sold out? Have you taken the 60 bus out of Downtown Campbell? Have you been heroin sick outside Mabuhay Gardens while the Dead Kennedys show got broken up by the cops? Neither has he, but his cutoff denim jacket is all the street cred he needs. Never mind the fact that this guy just moved to Portland to dodge a warrant for unpaid parking tickets in Walnut Creek -- he, his dog, and the eight Jimmy John’s bike delivery dudes he lives with in a soon-to-be-razed flophouse in Cully are part of the solution, man, not the problem.
The Disgruntled “Old Portlander”
After leaving the wanton commercialism of Silicon Valley in the late '80s when his shares in Apple vested, this aggravated old faux-hippy bought a house in Buckman for $30k and spent most of the ‘90s living the Portland dream. His house has now quadrupled in value due to all “the kids” flocking to his neighborhood, and he just can’t stand the noise anymore. He’ll sell his old Victorian to a developer in a couple years and retire again, this time in a McMansion somewhere in Beaverton or Hillsboro, all while grumbling about how Old Portland is no more.
The Lone Idealist
Spiritually exhausted by being the only vegan member of the Dubuque, IA chapter of Food Not Bombs, this radical loner finally says “enough already” and gives in to the lure of the West. After several intimidating encounters with local radicals who think transplants are encroaching on their leftist utopia, he ditches the idealism and turns into a hesher metal dude who wears nothing but black Carhartt products. Halfway is better than nowhere, right?
The Native Suburbanite
They say there’s no zealot like a convert -- which is certainly true of any of these characters who landed here before you did (or at least before Portlandia aired), but the proverbial “they” have never met a native of Beaverton or Vancouver who traversed the tunnel/river in their 20s and quickly adopted xenophobic attitudes towards the droves of aspiring chefs, artists, and musicians who move to “their city” en masse. Nevermind their younger selves stubbornly avoiding the hassle of entering Portland proper for anything besides the Rose Parade or Third Eye Blind shows at Crystal -- they were soooo here before you it’s not even funny.
The vitriol most Portlanders have toward the steady stream of Silicon Valley tech folks infiltrating the “Silicon Forest” (ugh) is seemingly endless, and for many a good reason: these soul-patched aggro-nerds are snatching up all the cool old houses and replacing them with condos, creeping out the local ladyfolk of most popular Internet dating platforms, and giving credence to the joke that everyone and their mom in Portland is a DJ. But we probably have them to thank for bringing a Timbuk2 store and the La Boulange line of Starbucks pastries with them, so it’s a net positive, right?
The Supposedly Earnest Midwesterner
Like the Rebooter Chick, this young lad flees the heartland in search of a better life with better coffee and lush scenery. Being the frugal and self-deprecating Midwesterner he is, he avoids the volatility of the rental market by living in a van and writing snarky stories about it. His snark extends well beyond stories of his own personal life, and the locals begin to backtrack on their belief that everyone from the Midwest is good natured, hard-working, and sincere to a fault. They take to the comments section to put him on blast for his egregious misconception of their opulent existence, unaware that only fools check the comments sections of their own work. He also writes lists about transplants for Thrillist.
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Pete Cottell is a writer at Thrillist who transplanted to Portland from Ohio, lived in his van, and shattered your belief that all Midwesterners are polite. Follow him to the comments section: @vanifestdestiny.