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Miami: America’s Most Transient City

March 03, 2009 By Matt Meltzer in Miami: Local News  | 10 Comments


A friend of mine went on a girls’ weekend to Chicago a while back and as she sat on the tarmac waiting to fly back to Miami, she felt I might appreciate her observations on the windy city’s male population.

“There are SO many nice, cute American guys here! You think I could convince one of them to move to Miami?” she texted me. “I mean, it’s so cold here. Who wouldn’t want to move?”

“You might be able to get one to move,” I texted back, “But getting him to stay? Ain’t gonna happen.”

Such is the revolving door that is the population of Dade County. When people talk about where they’d like to move, Miami is always on the top of the list. But if this town is so great, how come nobody ever stays? How come it is that of the countless friends I had in college who were not from Miami, exactly 3 are still left in the city? How come it is that when you work at a bar or restaurant in South Beach, every week somebody else has moved back to New York?

The first inclination would be to blame the language and cultural barriers. Americans aren’t really used to having to play by another culture’s rules, and to some it seems preposterous to have an American city where English is not required. So while one might be drawn by the awesome nightlife and phenomenal weather they see on the Travel Channel, the real Miami turns out to be a bitter disappointment.


And though the local “Latin Flavor” might be charming for the first six months or so, the first time you’re in a hurry and walk into a store and have to find three people to help you before you find someone who speaks English, it starts to wear a little thin. If you are female, it starts to wear thin the first time you feel uncomfortable leaving your apartment because of the stares and catcalls you get from the neighbors. Playing by other people’s rules is tough. It just takes moving to Miami for most Americans to realize it.

But it’s not just the cultural barrier. This city is fast-paced and synonymous with drugs, sex, violence and partying. And if you are the sort of person who wants to put down roots and raise children, well, that’s just not the best environment to do that in. And even if you are ok with that, the cost of living here can make it prohibitive. Yeah, Miami is ok if you are single and renting a small apartment and only feeding yourself. But if you want to have a house and 2 cars and 2 kids, well, that can be pretty draining down here.

Career wise, unless you are in the Latin American Finance or Cruise industries, it is hard to rise to the top of your profession. Yeah, we have plenty of businesses, but career-minded people don’t see Miami as a place to spend their whole lives. Maybe to start out, but once you get serious about life, this is a hard place to go far.


I think the retention percentage past 2 years here is about 10 percent. Of all the folks I know who’ve tried, that’s about how many made it stick. Maybe it’s the culture, maybe it’s the people, or maybe it’s the cost of living, but whatever it is Miami still seems to remain a place that people can’t live in for too long. You have to be a certain kind of individual to put down roots in this city, and for many Americans, that’s just not the kind of person they want to be.

Oh, and my friend who wanted to put a Chicago boy in her suitcase and bring him home? She moved to New York in January.

Related Categories: Relocation Guide Miami: Local News,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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10 Comments on

"Miami: America’s Most Transient City"

pod says:

Frankly the fact that Miami doesn’t play by US cultural norms and rules is what made me stay. I moved from New York in 1997. Going on year 12. Most of the northern cities have too many downsides to make me staying. New York is full of self-serving arrogant assholes who think being in New York makes them some sort of American nobility. Like I said, I’m from the area, and used to work for the Miami branch of a New York company, so unfortunately I had to still deal with New York. Don’t get me started on the outlying areas.

That being said, Chicago was not bad when I visited, though that was mid-summer when Miami’s weather is deplorable.

In an ideal world we’d all have private jets and just go wherever we wanted when we felt pissy.

Posted on 03/03/2009 at 11:43 PM

Sarah says:

I am dreading the day I have to leave. The northern lands, they’re just so damn cold.

Posted on 03/04/2009 at 12:44 PM

Steve says:

Everywhere in Florida you hear northern transplants talking about what’s going on “back home.” (I even hear it from retirees who have been in Florida for more than 20 years.) In Tampa when the Chicago Bears come to play the Bucs, more people cheer for the Bears! I think Florida and Miami in particular are going through a messy adolescence in which identity and stability are hard to get a handle on. It’s true that Miami Dade is a major immigrant portal, where poverty is a given (just like in New York 120 years ago.) But unlike New York, Chicago, and LA, Miami is poised for exciting change. Think of Wynwood Arts district as a hint of the vanguard of urban renewal to come. And don’t forget the coming silver tsunami of retiring baby boomers. They want warmth and this past winter shows that only the southern tip of Florida doesn’t get freezing. I just read that Miami Dade county still leads the state in number of new driver’s license applicants from up north.

Posted on 03/07/2009 at 1:19 PM

Elon says:





Posted on 03/07/2009 at 7:38 PM

Sungal says:

I’ve only been here three weeks and the one thing that’s starting to get to me are all the people here on holiday. It’s hard to work in the service industry (as most transplants do), and see people having fun, enjoying a leisurely dinner outdoors, relaxing at a happy hour spot sipping their frozen drinks, while you are toiling away. And when I go to the beach, I can’t help but envy all of the tourists who are sitting on their terry cloth covered mattresses while I sit on my beach towel. And as I walk home from a local pub, I see crowds of girls in their newest dresses getting ready for a big night out as I saunter home in flip flops.

Most people move here for the warm weather, beach, and nightlife. My friends call me and say, “You’re so lucky! It’s 23 degress, icy and rainy here.” Yes the weather is fabulous here. But it means nothing if you don’t have friends, or a job that pays enough to enjoy all that sobe has to offer.

If I find a great job, and form some meaningful friendships, trust me I’ll be here to stay.

Posted on 03/08/2009 at 5:00 PM

Doug says:

I think what ran me off was the sheer density of the place.  I have lived in cities with high density before, but there were always nearby escapes: LA had nearby mountains within the city limits that could make you feel like you were miles away; New Orleans had acres of oak-lined parks within an hour’s distance, and even New York was close to not-so-faraway getaways.  However, in Miami, you have swamp, city and ocean.  Not too many buffer zones.

I could compensate for that if I could afford a house with a private yard where I could have my own secluded taste of the outdoors, but that ain’t happening for less than $1500 a month!

Miami Beach, nonetheless, makes a fascinating escape.  I think it’s a much better place to run off to for a week or two than to live in.

Posted on 03/08/2009 at 8:26 PM

Matt says:

I don’t know how many boomers are going to be coning here. The sheer culture shock may lead to places like Naples, Tampa, and other spots along the gulf coast becoming more popular. Maybe PBC< who knows..

And if you’re calling 3 states home, you’re definitely a transient. Not like a bum, but, you know, more part of what I’m talking about here than folks who put down roots.

Posted on 03/09/2009 at 5:53 PM

Sungal says:

Hey Doug,

Are there any condo/apartments that offer a private or common yard? Maybe you’d like that. You could have your own garden and have backyard bbq’s!

Posted on 03/09/2009 at 10:19 PM

Doug says:

Not for less than $1500 a month that I can find.  Even a private balcony will probably cost about $1200 a month! But keep your eyes out for me, ya never know! ha ha

Posted on 03/09/2009 at 10:39 PM

josh says:

Goood article….I’m leaving after 3.5 yrs as I wasn’t too satisfied with the amount of things to do in my free time. I enjoyed my job as a real estate broker but couldn’t get used to only having the beach or lincoln rd to enjoy or perhaps a trip to aventura mall. It just is kind of like a place without much to do besides a club and the other resort stylle options I mentioned. Great for a couple years but now I’m returning to LA, CA . Only thing ill miss r the hot people-best lookin in usa for sure-but that isn’t enuff of a reason to remain.  Better to visit and imagine how boring itd be if you weren’t single? Super!

Posted on 06/12/2012 at 12:20 AM

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