YOU PROBABLY have a few preconceived notions about Portland. Like any other city, this place has a reputation—some of it well earned, some of it not. Below are a few common misconceptions that newcomers should shake off if they want to pass as fully integrated locals.
• Plenty of people will tell you the US Bancorp Tower, snickeringly referred to as "Big Pink," is the tallest building in Portland. It's not. The drab and alienating Wells Fargo Center is 10 feet taller.
• Portlanders are proud of this city's urban parks, but that often leads to the wholly wrong claim that Forest Park is the biggest urban green space in the United States. WRONG. At a mere 5,172 acres, Forest Park is dwarfed by Anchorage's 495,000- acre Chugach State Park, and New Orleans' 24,000-acre Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, just to name two examples. Forest Park is big, sure, but it's not the nation's biggest slice of urban wilderness. Not by a long shot.
• Despite the large number of people who bring their dogs into cafés and bars, it is not, in fact, legal to bring your pets into eating and drinking establishments.
• If you hear any classist assholes dismissing East Portland as "not the real Portland," immediately stop listening to anything they have to say. East of 82nd is as "Portland" (whatever the fuck that means) as anything else.
• You might've seen something on TV about our Shanghai Tunnels. Another myth. Portland never had a giant S&M dungeon filled with stolen dudes. Shanghaiing was very real in Portland and elsewhere, but it had nothing to do with tunnels.
• Portland was not built on an ancient unicorn burial ground. So far it's just a Facebook group, but this myth has yet to be debunked.
But over and above everything else, there's one Portland myth demanding refutation: the fable that it's "where young people go to retire." According to Christian Kaylor, an economist with the Oregon Employment Department, Portland is most definitely not a city where young workers survive on low-wage, part-time jobs.
"If you look at the large cities in the United States," Kaylor says, "Portland is about in the middle. We're well above average for education at eighth place in the nation, which fits the overeducated stereotype, but we're also ninth for income... so that doesn't really fit the idea we're underpaid and overeducated."
Kaylor also adds that Portland's unemployment numbers aren't anything unusual.
"The unemployment rate is no different than that of the 50 largest cities in the United States," he says. Kaylor also adds that underemployment statistics are hard to come by for Portland, but that's also the case for other cities as well.
"If you look at workforce participation rates among young workers," he says, "Portland doesn't stand out as being particularly high or low among the largest cities in America."
"You could retire early and more easily in Stockton or Fresno or Boise or Spokane, where the cost of living is much lower. The number one city I've actually argued for [as best for early retirement] is Raleigh."
So there you have it, would-be young retirees. Get your ass to North Carolina—because Portland's work environment is just like the rest of the country's.
More Newcomers' Guide Articles:
Welcome to Portland!
Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain!
A Portlander's Pronunciation Guide
A Newcomers' Guide to Making Friends
Portland Free Stuff
Getting Around Town
Finding a Place to Live
How to Apologize for Moving to Portland
Bicycle Death Traps
Portland History 101
Portland Myth Bustin'!
Portland Tourist Traps