I have been in Austin for 10 months and I am unimpressed. Maybe my expectations were off, but I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. There is nothing weird about Austin, Texas. It looks and feels just like any other US city I have been to – save the BIG ones like New York or LA or SF. There isn’t anything you find in Austin that you can’t find anywhere else in the US. People here are the same. Food here is the same. Bars here are the same . It’s all pretty much the same.
There are however a few differences. Take public transportation, for instance. It sucks here. In order to get the times, or routes, or stops, or schedule you need to have a phone or computer. There are no signs at the actual bus stop that tells you what the next stop will be, and what time the next bus will come. There is only a phone number and website. I called the phone number when my bus was over 20 minutes late. I was on hold for fifteen minutes before someone got on the line to tell me they didn’t know where the bus was, but it was “out there”. Gee thanks. Also, there are no transfers. That’s right – no transfers. If you ride occasionally and don’t need a pass you can pay $1 to ride the bus. And another when you have to transfer. Or you can pay $2 for a “day pass” – even if you only need to ride for 20 minutes. It is stupid. Adding to the confusion, they also have two busses with the same number that go opposite directions. Awesome. (The number 30 bus picks up outside my work. It picks up on the same side of the street for either direction. There is no sign telling you this.)
Another difference I have noticed is the fashion. I was told that the folks in Austin are fashion forward have great style. I was lied to. And from what I gather, pointing out fashion faux pas here makes you pretentious. That’s right, if you don’t embrace shorts and those hideous UT shirts, you are an asshole. Then I guess I’m an asshole because Austin is a city that has truly embraced the “casual” style. Or lack there of. Austin clothing culture can best be described as jeans & boots meets T-shirts & sweats. It’s a city that embraces its own mediocrity and celebrates it. Austin doesn’t try. If you walk around Austin (even downtown) you will see a majority of folks wearing a rust orange top with the long horns silhouette and a pair of jeans. (The school colors of UT. You cannot miss it here.) You might also see that same t-shirt with matching sweat pants. Or not matching. You might see a flock of college girls out for a night on the town in that same t-shirt, boots and jeans. Are you starting to see a theme here? In Austin Texas nobody cares about fashion. I seem “dressed up” if I put on make-up and a necklace. It’s sad, and even a little bit depressing. Caring about what you look like doesn’t make you pretentious. It is pretty normal. Or so I thought.
The cost of living here is also a lie. Sure, it’s cheaper than Portland, LA, SF, or NY. But those places have natural beauty and a barrage of cultural things to do. Austin has neither. Austin is not a beautiful city. It’s flat and brown. A river runs through it but so do a bunch of highways and freeways. Don’t ask me which is which because both highways and freeways here have stop lights. The drivers here are discourteous and stupid. And the traffic is as bad, if not worse than LA. Anyway, the scenery in Austin consists mostly of condo property and businesses. Some businesses are in office buildings, some are in remodeled houses. There are a couple of nice parks in Austin, (Zilker, Greenbelt, Barton Springs) but the rest are sad and barren. Austin is not a walkable city like SF, but as I already noted it isn’t a great city for driving or using public transit either. But I digress. The cost of living here isn’t worth what you get. Plain and simple. You’ll get more bang for your buck some place else. And don’t forget – they don’t want “YOU” here anyway.
The other thing you hear about Austin is of course, “the music scene here is amazing!” I beg to differ. Just because there are a shit ton of bands and musicians here doesn’t mean that it has a good music scene. In my opinion there are a handful of really good bands/musicians here in Austin. The rest are taking advantage of the fact that a lot of bars feature live music. If you are into that, then hey – maybe you’ll like it here. But I for one don’t like to pay a cover just to see a crappy band. People in Austin talk about the music here like it is special. It isn’t. It’s meh. Let me put it this way – Austin has a huge case of “Big Fish, Tiny Pond” syndrome. Just because you are “famous” in Austin doesn’t mean the rest of the world knows about you. You can dress the part, act the part, and even try to play the part but it won’t make up for a lack of talent. And SXSW? $300 bucks for a wristband? No thanks. (And no, I didn’t buy a wristband. I battled the 700 other people trying to see free shows in the park or bars.) SXSW really wasn’t that much different that any other music fest.
I think the thing I was most disappointed about was the food. People rave about the breakfast tacos here like they had invented them. Nope. Nothing special. I had cheaper (and tastier!) breakfast tacos in the East Bay. I had also been looking forward to trying Tex-Mex – in Texas. I grew up in California so I know Mexican food. I lived in Mexico for a short time as well. I am a mexican food fanatic. Prague has a lot of great things, but mexican food isn’t one of them. The food here is no good. It’s blah. I found out that Tex-Mex means covered in cheese. If you order “Queso” at a restaurant in Texas you will get a bowl of hot Velveeta, sometimes mixed with chili. It is truly disgusting. There are a great deal of food trucks here but only a handful of them serve up worth while food. The trucks all have clever names and serve everything from tacos to Thai to donuts, but the food just doesn’t cut it. The prices are high but the food is mediocre at best. The food culture in Houston is one hundred times better than the one in Austin. Austin is full of fast food – be it truck or Whataburger. The mid level restaurants are plentiful but not worth the price, and the up scale dining (where I think Austin is actually alright) are so expensive that a girl like me can’t really afford to go there. The best parts of this city are reserved for the people with the most money.
Lastly, I was lied to about the weather. It might sound silly, but people told me the weather here was great. Really? Great? I was told “…the winter here is really nice…” The weather here is hot, hotter and OHMYGODITSSOHOTIMIGHTBURSTINTOFLAME. I knew it would be hot here, but 89 in winter is lame. It is pretty much summer year round with a side of intense (year round!) allergies. We didn’t really get a winter this year. I mean, we had two cold days where I had to put on a coat, but other than that, nada. And now it’s spring. But if I didn’t have a calendar telling me what month it was I wouldn’t know. What’s so great about this weather? At least in California you can get a nice range of climates. Here in Texas its just hot. Hot. Hot. Hot.
Austin is a city that is full of itself. It pats itself on the back for such things as SXSW and Willie Nelson (who was born in Abbot, Texas not Austin), and gives itself a high-five for The Alamo Drafthouse while driving a huge SVU to the river to “party”. It ignores problems like traffic and housing and blames anyone who had the nerve to be born someplace else. If you aren’t from here – get out. That’s Austin’s REAL motto. For a city that wants to be “weird” it really doesn’t embrace differences. It revels in its “glory days” without doing much to make the “now” better. Maybe Austin used to be super cool. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m here now, and it so isn’t.
Austin is pretty smug and self-righteous. It reminds me of the mom who thinks her child can do no wrong. This city has a lack of class, culture, respect, and style. It is long overdue a makeover. It’s a city that can’t decide what it is. Are you a Yuppie city or a bohemian city? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t drive that huge SUV and be “green” at the same time. Shopping at Whole Foods and riding your bike downtown on the weekends doesn’t make you “green”. The Austin vibe WANTS to be “Slacker Chic” but is actually “Lazy”. Most of the people I have talked to here have never lived outside of Texas. That could be part of the problem. There is a weird combination of lack of self-pride mixed with batshit crazy “Texas Pride”. Austin is under its own spell. It is a mass delusion. Let me put it this way: It’s a city that claims to be liberal and forward thinking yet won’t let you purchase alcohol on Sunday before noon. You know, because of god and stuff.
I won’t stay in Austin. It’s not for me. The bad far outweighs the good. For me, a good city is welcoming, walkable, full of free parks, culture, museums and good, easy to use public transit. Austin Texas just doesn’t cut the mustard.