17 Reasons Not to Move to Salem, Oregon (Voted by the Locals!)

Salem is the capital of Oregon, but don’t let that fool you! It’s a unique city with its own strong sense of identity that sets it apart from the likes of Eugene and Portland. But what are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t move there?

1. Weather

Salem is the victim of classic Pacific Northwestern weather patterns, which is to say that it rains for most of the yearOpens in a new tab.. Days have a 50% chance of rain all the way from late October to early May, leaving only 3 months of the year where residents can feel confident that it will be dry during the day.

If you’re from another part of the Northwest, then this will likely not be a huge problem for you. However, people who aren’t properly acclimated to this kind of weather tend to struggle to keep themselves mentally healthy in this kind of weather. The atmospheric changes and lack of direct sunlight can contribute to seasonal depressionOpens in a new tab. in many people.

This is especially problematic in places like the Pacific Northwest, where rain and clouds are the norm and sunny days are a luxury to be enjoyed only in the summer. If you struggle with seasonal depression where you live now, you probably shouldn’t move to Salem or anywhere else in Oregon.

That being said, Salem isn’t nearly as bad as places like Portland, Tacoma, or Seattle for cloudy days, which means that if you absolutely have to move somewhere in the region Salem might be your best bet.

Summer in Salem is pretty nice though. Low humidity combines with relatively mild temperatures to make it one of the nicest summer climates in the world for people who hate summer.

2. Looming Natural Disaster

Before we get any farther into this article, it’s critical that anyone thinking of moving to Salem (or anywhere else in the coastal Northwest) understand that everyone living here is currently living on the razor’s edge. Seismologists predict that the next big earthquakeOpens in a new tab. has a 1 in 3 chance of occurring in the next 50 years, and there’s a 1 in 10 chance that it will be a super quake like the one that caused the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011.

If you think that those odds seem low, consider that for pretty much everywhere else in the country, those odds are 0%. By moving to Salem from outside the Northwest, you increase your odds of getting killed in a terrible earthquake from essentially nothing to between 10% and 33%.

When a similar earthquake to the one scientists is expecting now hit the region in 1700, it was so powerful that the resulting tsunami only took 10 hours to reach Japan. That’s faster than taking a plane there from Portland. It’s also faster than the speed of sound.

The region is not prepared for an Earthquake like this. The 2011 Fukushima disaster killed 18,000 people in the world’s most seismologically prepared country, and most buildings in Salem (and the rest of Oregon) are not in the least bit earthquake or tsunami resistant.

If you have an aversion to risking your life, this is the wrong place to move. If you’re waiting for the world to fall apart so you can feel special about your food storage, consider Salem and make sure you use watertight storage cases.

3. People are Unfriendly

In Salem, there is a general consensus that there are already enough people living there and that new people should just move somewhere else. Once you’ve been in town a while, people should get used to doing as they would anywhere else in the country, but expect to get looks if you still have an out-of-state license plate or memorabilia.

While people are a lot more open about these kinds of sentiments on the Internet than they would be in person, you may get a few groans from people if you don’t say Salem when you’re asked where you’re from. If you think that this will ruin the town for you, you may want to choose to live somewhere else.

4. Low Diversity

Salem is not a very diverse cityOpens in a new tab., although it has a growing Hispanic community. Regardless of the reason for this low diversity, Salem doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of multiculturalism.

If you’re looking for the kind of city where you can get to know lots of different kinds of people, you won’t really get that in Salem. You also may struggle to find people to celebrate your own culture with, which is unfortunate. If you’re looking for a city in Oregon that’s more of a melting pot, you may need to move to Portland instead.

5. Nazis

This may be the reason for the low diversity in Salem. Oregon and Washington have a very specific problem, which is that a number of white supremacist neo-Nazi groups decided to actively colonize the region in the 80s and 90s and haven’t stopped trying to take control of the area since.

The Southern Poverty Law CenterOpens in a new tab. currently tracks 10 hate groups in the state of Oregon, 3 of which have their headquarters in Salem while a further 4 (including 2 with a basis in explicitly Nazi ideology) can be found statewide. This is to say nothing of the countless people who moved to the state as part of the wider movement and aren’t aligned with any particular group.

They’ve been moving to the state for long enough that they have significant populations in every city and town in the state. Fortunately, they haven’t had much power over the state government for a while, but their mere presence can make life more difficult for lots of people.

But not moving to Salem because of the presence of Nazis in the city would, essentially, be letting them win and have the city to themselves. It’s up to you to decide what to do with this information, but if there’s a way to thwart Nazis it’s pretty much always a morally good thing to do.

6. Oregon Politics

Oregon is infamously a very liberal state. Portland is known for being a liberal paradise, and the rest of Oregon tends to be forgotten about. In reality, Oregon is one of the most politically polarized states in the country. It’s so bad that a significant portion of Eastern Oregon tried to leave Oregon and join Idaho. You’ve got to be desperate to want to move to Idaho.

Salem is where all of these clashing interests meet. As the capital of the state, congresspeople and other politicians spend a lot of time in the city and that often brings about protests and arguments.

7. Politically Mixed

Salem is split almost 50-50Opens in a new tab. between conservative and liberal voters, and presidential elections tend to be up in the air within the city. This has very little impact on statewide politics because of the huge power bases of the strongly liberal cities of Portland and Eugene, but it is important to local policies.

If you’re looking for a town that will stably be one thing or the other and where political discussions tend to be between two people who mostly agree with each other, Salem is not that town. If you’re looking for a town where who you vote for locally may actually matter, then Salem might be for you.

8. Bad Public Transportation

Unlike its northerly neighbor, Salem doesn’t have a significant rail system or any public transportation to speak of. The city’s only public transit system is its chariotOpens in a new tab. bus system, which is functional but restricts hours pretty significantly on workdays and can be a pain to navigate.

While you can probably get basics down in Salem through the busses, it’ll be really hard to do life without a car. The general consensusOpens in a new tab. is that there aren’t enough bus routes, the ones that exist are inconsistent at best, and it’s missing important inter-city lines like Salem to Portland. The city has a lot of work to do before it has a viable public transportation system.

9. Bad Drivers

The average driver in Oregon crashes their car once every 7 years or soOpens in a new tab.. This is a pretty high rate considering that most people crash their vehicles very rarely. This combines with the city of Salem’s bad public transportation to create a place where getting around can often be quite dangerous if you don’t have time to walk or wait for a bus that’s going to be late.

10. Traffic

Calling what they have in Salem traffic is a little insulting to cities that have actual traffic problems like Seattle, L.A., or New York. However, if you’re used to small-town roads the mild congestion that Salem gets can be a bit of a shock, especially if you’re commuting by car every day.

During rush hour, it’ll take about 10 minutes to get through townOpens in a new tab. and there will likely be more traffic if you go in the direction of Portland.

11. No Sports

Salem’s only sports team is a minor league baseball team, the Salem-Keizer VolcanoesOpens in a new tab.. They play in the Maverick league, a 4-team league where all the teams are based in a different part of the Salem metropolitan area. The people of Salem are so starved for sports that they started their own baseball league!

If you want to see any professional teams in person, your choices are to go all the way to Seattle for MLB or NFL games or all the way to Portland for NBL or soccer, and neither of those places are especially convenient for Salem residents.

12. Boring

As a result of the lack of sports combined with the lack of other interesting activities, the Salem area has very little to actually doOpens in a new tab.. If you want to leave town, which you probably will have to do if you want to have fun, you can either go to Portland and see the sights there or go into the wilderness for a hike. Either way, you’ll have to go somewhere outside of Salem to avoid boredom, which isn’t convenient.

13. Napoleon Dynamite

While Napoleon Dynamite was actually filmed in Idaho, the film’s creator is from Salem, Oregon, which is something that people know of there. Everywhere in the country, you can meet people whose entire personalities are based on this weird film, but in places with an actual connection to the movie, those people are both more common and more annoying.

If you really want to avoid Napoleon Dynamite, in every way, shape, and form, move somewhere else.

14. Limited Housing

It’s hard to find an apartment in Salem. The city doesn’t have very many high-density housing developments, with most of the options being single-family residential units. This can make finding a place to start out extremely difficult in Salem, which can drive the people who move here to try and get into a house as soon as possible.

15. High Property Costs

Housing costs have been on a consistently upward trend since 2012, with the market receiving the same boosts that the rest of the country’s markets have gotten over the past two years or so. The current median home price in the city is $438,000Opens in a new tab., which is a bit higher than the national averageOpens in a new tab..

16. Property Taxes

Salem has a property tax system that it uses to fund its public services. This system uses mils to determine each taxpayer’s yearly rate for vehicles, real estate, and personal property. The current mil rate is 28.80Opens in a new tab., which means that for every $1,000 of property you own, you’ll owe $28 in property taxes. As always with property taxes, this will add up to quite a bit for people with expensive homes.

17. Pot (Marijuana) Industry

The problem here is not necessarily the presence of marijuana, as in Oregon it is legal to use, which means that its presence doesn’t bring with it any kind of criminal element. No, the problem is that the entire industry sits on somewhat shaky ground because marijuana remains illegal on a federal levelOpens in a new tab..

This results in an incredibly difficult time for dispensaries across the state, which, if you want to move to Salem to smoke legally, might be a problem for you. Fortunately, in Oregon, it is legal to grow your own marijuana, so if that’s an option for you, you can mitigate some of the worst of this.

Nathan Aydelotte

Hello! I'm Nathan, the lead editor for Suggested by locals. I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area and have lived here most of my life. I enjoy being close to the mountains where I can go hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

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