21 Things Portlanders Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners

by Alex Scola Jul 18, 2015

1. One does not simply “go to brunch” in Portland.

The only time you’ll encounter a line half as bad as the one stretching around the block at Voodoo Doughnuts is when trying to get into virtually any restaurant between the hours of 10:00 AM-2:30 PM. The brunch culture in Portland is strong, so consider yourself warned.

2. $4.99 means $4.99.

There’s no sales tax here, which means that the price you see is the price you pay — and which is exactly why Portland has major shopping destination for tourists headed to high-end clothing stores, the Apple store, or those looking to buy a car.

3. It’s really really easy to navigate here as long as you don’t need to deal with Ladd’s Addition.

If you know your A-B-C’s and generally how to count, you’ll be set everywhere except the Bermuda-Triangle-esque hellhole that is Ladd’s Addition. Seriously, who designed that mess?

4. It doesn’t matter how long you’re here, you won’t be able to try all of the craft beers.

I’ve lived here for 6 years and I still haven’t tried *most* of the local beers at my disposal. Protip: pick ONE brewery (Bridgeport, Full Sail, Laurelwood, Widmer Bros, Rogue, Pelican, Hopworks, or Deschutes to name a few) and try working your way through all of their offerings this trip. Even then, that’s a pretty tall order.

5. It’s called the “coast,” not the “beach,” and you’ll see exactly why when you get there.

Yes, there’s sand. And yes, it’s where the edge of the continent meets the ocean. But if you think you’re heading out to a warm, sunny day of tanning, playing volleyball, and going for a dip in the water you would be making a gross miscalculation. In fact, your day at the coast has a 99% greater chance of being misty, overcast, and resembling the lost world of Jurassic Park II than it does resembling anything like a Californian beach.

6. Cart food is more than just quick eats to grab in a pinch, it’s a way of life (and at times, far more preferable to eating in a restaurant).

Only in Portland would folks opt to eat at a food cart outside, in the rain, over a well-established restaurant. But the dirty little secret is that typically, the food at our food carts is fast, unbelievably delicious (and often riddled with exotic ingredients most restaurants can’t afford), and way cheaper per-plate than most brick-and-mortars.

7. You will learn to embrace public transportation.

We love our Trimet, we depend on it to take us everywhere we’re too lazy to ride any of our 3 fixies. We’ll even ride the street car despite the fact that it might be faster and more convenient just to walk those 4 downtown blocks. And while you’re here, you’ll be grateful to have it as a resource (especially since we *just* got Uber and Lyft, so those services out here still suck).

8. It doesn’t really “rain” here, it just sort of mists year-round.

Okay, it does rain here… but not as much as people assume. And when it’s not raining, it’s misting pretty much constantly, so either way… you’ll still be getting wet every time you step outside.

9. It’s pronounced “cooch,” and don’t you dare giggle.

If you spend any time crossing the river between the East side and downtown, there’s a fair chance you’ll wind up on the Burnside Bridge. And to get on that bridge, you’ll surely cross over “Couch” street. But tell your cabbie you’re headed toward “couch” street and you might as well be begging to get made fun of.

10. “Summer” is a funny concept here.

Arrived in May or June thinking you’ll catch some sunshine? Joke’s on you, here in Portland a fat, disgusting gray slug of a cloud rolls in overhead around mid-September and usually hangs out until around the 4th of July. But in those brief months of summer sunshine, the entire demeanor of the city picks up. Like, birds singing and folks smiling and whistling as they amble down the street kind of happy. And we live for those 2-ish months out of the year.

11. Oh, you’re from California? It’s best to keep that to yourself.

Especially if you’re in your 20’s, work in the tech industry, and are looking for somewhere “quaint” to hang your quirky designer hat.

12. Yes, that’s real foie gras on the menu, and yes it’s legal here.

At first, it seems a bit of a contradiction: why would something so taboo like foie gras be allowed in a place where “farm raised” and “cruelty free” are pretty much prerequisites for getting an “A” rating as a restaurant? But the not-so-secret is that Portland is first-and-foremost a town of foodies, and their razor-sharp palates can practically taste the sadness of animals that were raised inhumanely before slaughter. So while they demand a buffet of even the most taboo flavors, they’ll still insist on having them acquired as humanely as possible.

13. Surprise! It is JUST like Portlandia.

Much to our deepest, sincerest chagrin. And to see it for yourself, look no further than Hawthorne Ave. in the afternoon.

14. If you’re linking up with a local, you will be invited to a strip club. And declining the offer will probably offend your friend.

I was raised in Las Vegas, so heed my warning when I say the strip club culture here in Portland is weird as hell. It doesn’t matter what gender you or your friends are, nor if you’re interested in seeing boobs or just playing pool over some brews, hanging out at strip clubs is just the thing people do here. And they do it a lot.

15. Got a favorite activity? You can do it in Portland… while drinking.

You don’t become the microbrew capital of the country by not loving to drink… so in Portland, you can pretty much expect that any activity you might get into will come with the option of bonus alcohol. Going to see a movie? How about a beer? Going to the arcade? How about a beer? Going to spend an afternoon in the great outdoors? Did you remember to pack your beer?

16. Bicyclists ride like they’re LA motorists, and drivers drive like they’re terrified, half-stoned 14-year-olds.

With such a strong biking culture in Portland, it’s probably no surprise that the cyclists around town have grown a bit brazen in recent years. And this might indeed have something to do with the fact that the drivers here are like delicate fawns concerned about offending each other’s sensibilities. Be prepared to lose your voice shouting “that’s not how merging works!” and “stop waving me through, you have the right of way!” repeatedly while banging your head into the steering wheel.

17. Voodoo is *good*, but there are better options.

Don’t let the Portland hipster elite make you feel bad for trying Voodoo Doughnuts, it’s genuinely a superior doughnut to the majority of doughnuts you’ve probably eaten (and absolutely worth trying at least once). Just know that there are even better ones available in Portland that don’t require a 3 hour wait. Enter: Blue Star.

18. Need to fill up your tank? Don’t you dare get out of your car.

If you’re driving during your visit to Portland, I can guarantee you will have this experience no fewer than 3 times during your trip. You’ll pull up to an all-but-deserted gas station, and look around. With no one in sight, you’ll open your driver’s side door… when *BAM.* Out of nowhere a gas station attendant swoops in, ready to take your card and tell you that “in Oregon, you can’t pump your own gas… so please have a seat.”

19. For Portland pedestrians, everywhere is a crosswalk.

Seriously, nothing is more maddening and terrifying as a motorist than watching a group of teens walk backwards across a busy intersection without so much as looking to see if there might be traffic poised to accidentally smear them across the pavement. And it happens *way* more often than you’d think.

20. Beards are more of a rugged cranium accessory than a sign of unkempt laziness.

Portlanders take pride in their impressive, literally-award-winning beards. So while you’re in PDX you’ll have to learn to marvel at spectacular facial hair, and pass judgement on the clean-shaven instead.

21. You may have seen Portland, but that doesn’t mean you know anything about Oregon.

The area of Oregon is roughly 98,466 square miles, while the area of Portland accounts for only 145 of those square miles. That, coupled with the fact that the state is outrageously diverse (from all manner of terrains and ecological niches to socio-cultural ones), means your Portland experience will be, frankly, not at all representative of the state of Oregon as a whole. So if you want to have a full Oregonian experience, you’d better be prepared to spend the majority of your time here actually outside of the city altogether.

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