The Portland Way

May 22nd, 2014, 8pm

It was 22.8°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

In 15 years, I’ve discovered one very good reason to love this town: you can be yourself, or you can be someone else. Portland takes it all in stride—as long as there’s good coffee available.

— Zach Dundas, Loving Portland, For Better or Worse.

We arrived in Portland about 6 weeks ago, and even though we’re brand new here, I can already confirm that this is probably the most accurate portrayal of the city that you’ll ever read.

Saying that moving countries is hard would be an understatement. It’s way more than hard — it’s brutal. And yet we chose this, so we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves. I also know that it could have been a lot harder if we moved somewhere less open to newcomers.

Portland has welcomed us with open arms, and I have since decided to return the embrace. From growing a beard, to starting to bike to work, to my (amazing) visit to The Modern Man, I’ve endured my share of ridicule about my new Portlandia lifestyle. But you know what? I’m ok with that. Because that’s the Portland way: to be whoever you want to be, to be ok with it, and to realize that other people don’t have to like it.

So despite the endless challenges involved in setting up a new life, I’m happy here. I’m happy because this is a city of people who want to be here. They smile, they help you out, they yell at you if you break one of the many self-imposed rules of what it means to be here (“Pedestrians on the LEFT!!!”).

My favorite thing about Portland so far might seem small, but it’s significant in my mind. When you’re ready to leave a coffee shop you don’t just get up and go. You take your cup and carry it to a container somewhere in the corner so that the baristas don’t have to come around and pick up after you. There is something in that unspoken rule that perfectly sums up what Portland is about. It says, hey, don’t be lazy. We’re in this together. Carry your own damn cups.

That’s a city I can grow to love.

Vivien, Lester, Christine, Steve and 8 others said thanks.

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Rian van der Merwe

Family, design, coffee, and Oxford commas. On Twitter:

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