Adjusting to Upstate

Egg and The OC

Was that a giant egg? This is definitely not the OC.

Susan wrote to AOA recently:

I'm having a devil of a time adjusting to living here. I moved here from Southern California and just cannot get used to this endless winter. It's been two years and I still don't feel comfortable here.

I'm in Saratoga and don't love having to drive to Albany all of the time to do stuff. Most of the other towns I've visited just seem to be smaller, less developed versions of Saratoga.

I'm trying to make it work for me, but it's been tough. Came out here for work, so I'm thankful for that. I just find it really hard to love it here. Have you run across any SoCal expats who feel the same? Or any who have embraced it here?

Anyone have thoughts/suggestions/ideas for Susan? What do you love about living here?

She adds that she's "not much of an outdoorsy/athletic person, so snowshoeing and skiing aren't for me." But she loves walking (when the weather's nice), the Saratoga Film Forum, indie craft fairs and used book stores.

By the way: the forecast for LA today includes a high temp of 69. Here in Albany: 20.


I've been Susan in both directions.

I grew up on Long Island, move out to the LA area for five years, and then moved to Troy back in October. I've had to adjust both times, but for me, I much prefer the East Coast. Likely because this is "home" to me, not LA.

In LA, I couldn't get used to the endless summer. I couldn't adjust to going shopping for Christmas trees while wearing tank tops and sandals or BBQing on Thanksgiving. But each side has perks.

My advice would be not to stop doing everything you loved in California. There's a NY alternative to almost everything. If you used to hang by the beach in Cali, find stuff to do near the Hudson. Yes, you'll need more layers, but it may satisfy a craving. What did you love about California? I guarantee you you'll be able to find something similar here. Except maybe the people. Upstate and LA people are very different creatures. No judgments, they just are. :)

Of course, the other side of the coin is this: If it's been 2 years and Saratoga still isn't home...maybe a move is in order? Jobs are everywhere. You need to live where it feels comfortable. I spent five long years trying to make California feel like home to me. It never did. So I moved back to NY.

I think most people who are born here never get used to winter. If nothing else it makes you appreciate nice weather all that much more. Just last week when it was in the 40s people were talking about how warm it was. 40s. Warm.

I find that when I'm starting to get tired of it being hot out, summer turns into fall. And when I've decided that I miss snow, fall turns into winter. And when I've finally gotten tired of the snow and cold, winter stays winter for another 3 months. c'est la vie.

I am curious as to what you are able to do in Albany that you're not able to do in Saratoga (Springs).

Take a snowy walk along the Avenue of the Pines; revel in the fact you can take a deep breath any day without fear of smog levels; quit whining and enjoy the fact you have a job, your health, and you live in one of the best cities in the US to live in. After that, walk along Broadway and stop in for a great cocktail at Max London's.

This isn't endless winter. I've lived in Syracuse, and I can tell you about endless winter, the kind where EVERY time you go out to your car you have to scrape the windshield.

Oh, that's not much help? Well, unfortunately much of what I love about the area -- especially that there are endless outdoor recreation opportunities -- is what Susan isn't looking for. I'm sure if I moved to southern California I'd have to find a way to enjoy the beach, even though sitting in the sun is something I actively avoid. You have to adapt to where you are.

I just got back from San Diego and I'm also having a hard time loving Albany weather. I was at the beach yesterday! I like to take the bus when the weather is bad because I hate driving in snow. I personally like going to coffeeshops - warm atmosphere and drinks, there is usually music or an open mic going on, and you can stay for hours to get the most mileage out of leaving the house. I must say though, I have to admire the dedication of the Albany college student. The past two years we have had storms on St. Paddys and I still see guys in green body paint balancing a 30-rack while navigating the treacherous icy sidewalks on Ontario St.

I think the key to being happy living in an area with four very distinct seasons is to embrace each one as best you can. For some that means having different sports for each season. I kind of take this to the extreme. In the Spring and Summer I'm very active: running, biking, etc... When Fall comes I buckle down at work, put in late nights, and go out at night more often. I ski in the winter, and spend most evenings reading inside. If you are not outdoorsey, I would try to find a way to divide your yearly routine into seasons, and then actually change your routine for each season.

Try to notice the transitions between seasons. For example, head down to Washington Park the first beautiful weekend in May and look at people's faces. There's something about that first weekend when you realize that Winter is over. It's brilliant. Everyone is smiling, there are tulips everywhere -- it's brilliant. But it's only brilliant because we all put in our time during the winter. Our Spring is the same as any other place's spring -- it's the transition from our Winter to Spring that is special.

My two cents. Good luck!

I wish I knew what to say. I adore Albany, but I am fundamentally a northeast girl through and through. It may be harder for her to adjust because SoCal is so vastly different than the northeast (the winters being just one tiny aspect).

She has already said that she's not a fan of driving to Albany to do stuff, so I'm sort of at a loss for suggestions. A day of antiquing and poking into the quirky shops in Center Square may be fun: brunch/lunch at Justin's or perhaps El Mariachi, dessert at Cheesecake Machismo, a couple of hours wasted away in Dove and Hudson Books, galleries...and there is SO much more. Perhaps coffee and quiche at the Ultraviolet cafe and a discounted film at the Spectrum on a Tuesday night? But alas, I feel that there is not much Center Square can offer that Saratoga doesn't already have in the summertime (plus there's the whole commute thing).

Since Susan said she's been here for two years, how does she feel about the nicer-weather months in Saratoga? There are the bars, the concerts, the track...I would be surprised if she hated it and if she did, perhaps it's just not the best fit.

I feel your pain, Susan. I couldn't hate winter more, yet I love living here. The trick is to take advantage of everything here, even the things you don't think you'd enjoy: new exhibits at the TONS of local art galleries, classes in every kind of dance/yoga/more traditional exercise you can imagine, tons of concerts, great restaurants, etc.

Cabin fever is a terrible thing, but getting out as much as possible really helps you forget how miserable the winters are.

Sounds like she needs to move out of Saratoga and closer to Albany if that's where she feels everything is happening (not to mention the shorter commute).

Like all perceived annoyances in life, try embracing the weather instead of being annoyed by it. Some of it will suck no matter what (slush, dirty brown snow, sub-zero wind) but you can make use of the rest. Try taking up winter sports. Use driveway shoveling as a way to exercise. Enjoy the view when the trees are covered with ice.

Girls like buying clothes, right? Use the coldness as an excuse for some new leg warmers or whatever you girls wear these days. Mock your sweaty, short-sleeved So-Cal friends by posting Facebook pics of yourself wearing a snuggly hoodie and fuzzy wool socks.

Try to get outside at least once a day during the non-Daylight Saving Time period (Nov-March) to get some sunlight, it helps with the winter doldrums.

I'm sorry, all I heard was "I moved to a banal, whitebread yuppie commune and now I'm complaining that I have to drive to get to cool stuff."

Okay, so I'm being harsh on Susan, but gee maybe this wouldn't have been such an issue if you lived in Albany. Maybe she works there or has some other good excuse, like not knowing that Saratoga is where pretentiousness rains down like... uh, rain, I don't know.

Anyway yeah, if you're not very outdoorsy winter can be tough. You'll probably have to pick up a few hobbies and see who gets together to do what in your area. the Metroland has a good listing of local events.

First of all, most of us feel like this around the end of the winter. We wonder why we chose to live in a frigid wasteland when there are warm, sunny places in the world. So don't feel too bad about the winter because we're all in the same boat.

If she doesn't like always traveling from Saratoga to Albany, perhaps she should consider moving to Albany? Maybe she works in Saratoga? Even still, personally I'd rather have to commute to work and be near the things I like than the other way around.

There's plenty to do around here, but there aren't always a lot of choices. There isn't an indie movie theater that caters to everyone's taste. There are a couple restaurants of almost every ethnicity, but there's no Mexican-Chinese-Slovenian fusion place right around the corner. Rather than bemoan the lack of choice, perhaps use this as an opportunity to try something new?

I would also recommend that she hook up with some Meetup groups. This will give her some connection with some folks who share the same interests and who might have some secrets on lesser-known things to do.

I grew up in Santa Monica in Southern CA And came here for college at RPI and never went back. Yes the weather here stinks. The skiing stinks here too compared with the west coast. You never get used to it. But when I take one look at the cost of living and housing prices and it makes up for a whole lot of snow and cold.

And it has the added benefit of being just a couple of short hours by car or train to 2 radically different very large and very exciting cities (NYC and Boston) for the times when you miss some of the diversity that comes with big city living.

Your enjoyment and relative happiness will come from finding a strong community, an urban tribe if you will, and the activities will flow from there regardless of the season. Because no amount of warm weather will cover a lack of community, but the cold does seem to make you feel it more.

I grew up in California and lived there until I was 23 years old. Then I moved to Montana for three years before moving to upstate New York, where I have lived since 2004 (Albany since 2007). The Montana winters were tough, no doubt about it, and New York winters are only slightly better. But California's sunny weather has never given me the urge to move back.

This is not because I love winter -- I don't. But I do enjoy experiencing the changing seasons in a way that you just can't have on west coast. Spring and fall just don't have the same distinction there. Cold winters are part of my definition of upstate and, as such, they are part and parcel of the bigger reason that I love it here -- it's just so different from the world where I grew up, in ways that are more important to me than temperature.

California felt like an endless sprawl of suburbia, smog, and traffic. Yeah, the temperature is real and it feels great but, like most people, I never really appreciated it while I was there. I think if anyone lives in that weather long enough, they take it for granted. Some Californians I know won't even consider going new places for fear of stepping outside their climate-controlled comfort zone.

Here, the weather it tougher, but I don't take a sunny day for granted. I like that. And I appreciate other things about upstate, like historic buildings and rich history. And open spaces that turn green in summer instead of brown and that I can drive to in an afternoon. I like following in the tradition of people who tough out the cold by focusing on things that are more important than temperature, like family, friends, and food.

I am lucky because I have found those things here, which I enjoy in lieu of good weather. If I didn't have those things, winter would take a much darker hue, I am sure. I still can't say I love the cold season -- if it would finish up in February, that would be just about right for me. But I do love it here nonetheless.

My advice? Try saving up money and flying to California for a week's vacation in the middle of winter. I bet you'll be enjoying the sunshine more than anyone you meet.

@James Cronen: I think the Spectrum is a lovely indie movie theater. In fact, I don't think it gets much better than that. As for ethnic and creative cuisine, I think we're pretty lucky in that department too.

This is not Manhattan folks! We don't have a McDonald's that delivers and a Starbucks on ever corner (thank god), or a Mexican-Chinese-Slovenian fusion restaurant (as James described), but for a relatively small upstate city with a year-round population of less that 100,000 (last I checked), I think we've got it pretty good.

i grew up in pebble beach, ca (which is saratago on roids) and have lived here for four years after college in nyc. i have never gotten used to the winter, though i have taken up outdoor winter sports, which i love. i do like many things about this area, but harder for me than the winter, is how unfriendly the community can feel sometimes. i have found a lot of people who are wonderful, but the general vibe is very 'cliquey' and unwelcoming. are upstaters just generally more angry? i definitely don't think this area is my forever home.

Susan, I feel your pain! I lived in Southern Cal before moving to Saratoga several months ago. It's a really hard transition that I'm still attempting to make.

Bottom line: you need to be really creative and resourceful when finding things to do since you don't have the vast options of So Cal. Here are some things that help me cope.
- Read AOA, Kristi's Time's Union Blog, and Metroland
- Take the Amtrak into NYC when you need a big-city fix.
- Explore as many restaurants as you can (I love Forno Toscano, Harvest & Heart Pizza, Cantina!) because they're so much less expensive here versus So Cal
- Watch the schedule at The Egg, Palace Theatre, and the other venues for cool shows
- Go to the Roosevelt Baths and have a mineral bath. Janet is the BEST massage therapist here.
- Soak up the sun at the Victoria Pool.
- The YMCA in Saratoga Springs is great and cheap!


Also, I have to admit that my heart skipped a beat when I saw that picture. The 15-year-old in me misses the O.C. dearly.

I moved here from [some place in Europe] and just cannot get used to these brutally hot and humid summers in Albany NY.
There is no such thing as spring here. There is cold, cold, cold and suddenly HOT.
From early May to late September I just cannot breathe.

There are about 2 days in May and 2 weeks in October when I can enjoy outdoor weather. The rest is miserable. I miss my balmy June mornings so much...

My family did not have A/C in a car and it never was a problem. I tried to drive a car with a broken A/C in Albany during summer. Nevermore.

I moved to Albany from Southern California (Anaheim to be exact) just a few months ago. Who knew there were this many other CA natives all around me? I love it! We should start a club and swap all these coping mechanisms more often. Lots of good ideas here though. I fantasize about all the great things I am going to do during my first summer in Albany at least once a day, but it's nice to read some advice that will help get me through the rest of this winter!


It was incredibly swell of you to post this.
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to post such thoughtful and informative suggestions. I'm going to print your comments out and check out the places mentioned. Many of them I had not heard of.

It'll still take a while to get used to six months of winter, but that's coming to an end soon.

Maybe we should do some sort of Meet-up for ex SoCal people. Or maybe I'll start a blog.

Thanks again everyone!

I moved to Albany from the Midwest, and it took time for me adjust, too. I think it’s important to keep in mind that New York is its own beast. No better, no worse, just different. Like anywhere, you’ll run into people who assume the stereotypes about wherever you’re from (I regularly had people talk slower and louder to me after I told them), and yes, it may sound like people are perpetually angry (they’re not—for real), but honestly, once I figured out how things rolled, I haven’t met kinder, more loyal people anywhere else I’ve lived—and I had A LOT of fun in the process. Now that I’m no longer in NY, I miss it quite a bit.

I’ll second what many people have said already—it helps to take classes and do meet-ups. The Capital Region has a number of academic extension programs, art classes, dance schools, you name it. Meet-ups are another great way to meet people with similar interests—I go to one where I live now to bulk up my posse.

Additionally, it helps to take advantage of not only bigger area events, but happenings at local places—like a coffee shop that has a game night, a yarn store with a knitting circle, a bookstore that has reading clubs, or a tasting at a wine shop. If you’re willing to make a little effort to join in, you’ll be welcomed in a hurry.

Something else that works: VOLUNTEER. There’s a gamut of non-profit organizations out there, and I doubt any of them will turn away free help right now. You’ll feel good about yourself and help someone else in the process.

One last piece of advice: the best thing that worked for me was that I never said no to any offer. If someone invited me to do something, I accepted—even if it was something that I wasn’t interested in. It got me out and exploring the area, finding new passions, and I met a lot of friends-of-friends who became my own in the process.

Get a warmer jacket (

You'll be amazed at how much your perspective will change.

I have to agree with Jae....and I grew up here. People are not very friendly.....and I find that to be especially true as you move from the city center. If you have to live here, Albany's the place to question.

We should ABSOLUTELY get the Cali people together up here! We could start a MeetUp group for transplants. Anyone game for vino next week?

I grew up in LA, a suburb on the West Side, went to college in San Francisco. I didn't think I was ever going to move! But in 1990 my family & I moved to Albany so my husband could go to graduate school at SUNYA. Now we live in rural Schoharie County. My family got a nice affordable house, my daughter with special needs got an excellent education, and we wouldn't consider moving back to California now. I still haven't adjusted to driving here in the winter. Every winter I vow that this will be the winter I try snow shoeing, or whatever, and I don't. I find people here very friendly, especially as compared to people in California. Through a local theater group I have made good friends, but I'd welcome a Meetup!

Here's something that can get you started! I stole this from a friend of mine...

"We are still looking for volunteers to help for a few hours on Saturday for eba's Cabaret benefit! It's a really easy gig, and you get to see the show for free, too! All we need are some guys or gals who are willing to direct traffic for the silent auction/wine tasting/show to the designated parking area in the park for a few hours.
Send me a line if you can, or if you have any questions.
To learn more about the show you can also check this link out."

Everywhere, but especially a place like Albany, is what you make of it. I think Alice is dead on with the just never say no philosophy. It's super easy to be bored and feel like there's nothing to do here, especially in winter, if you don't make concerted efforts to change that. Find things to do, even if you seriously doubt you'll enjoy them, just try it. You may find you like it, or at a very least you'll have a new experience. Essentially what I'm saying is go snowshoeing it's awesome.

But also, I find a great thing about the area is how it's such a great jumping off point for fun little day trips to quirky little towns nearby. North Adams, Northampton, Tannersville, Hudson, Lenox, Kingston, Redhook, and my all time fav New Paltz are great little towns with funny little places, galleries, museums, restaurants, and junk to explore and check out.

Bottom line: Fun doesn't find you out here, you got to find it. Which in my opinion is half the fun.

I'd be up for a meetup with some other ex-SoCal or NorCal folks. I have lived both places and miss things about them that would be a great jumping-off point for discussion.

@jackers - agreed 100%, especially about my old digs, New Paltz. Sometimes my friends who live in bigger cities seem kind of impressed by what I do to keep myself active - I think it's actually pretty easy to get stuck in a rut in a bigger city with so much going on, ironically.

Within the span of a week in Albany, for instance, I'd attended a cooking lecture/demo, a burlesque show and went out dancing at Revolution Hall. Not too shabby.

@Jackers: right on! I love little day drives. My all time favorite place to run off to for a few hours is Bennington, VT. The museum there is great, you can visit Robert Frost's grave, and the strip has cute shops and restaurants. You can soak in the view from the top of the Bennington Monument and see a Revolutionary War battle re-enactment in the fall. I love stopping at the confectionery on the way out there (and/or the way back).

Hi! You need WARM CLOTHES. People who don't grow up around here always underdress, in my experience.

Get silk long underwear: several pairs of both pants and shirts. You need enough to wear every day for a week. Handwash and line dry.

Next layer: fleece or 100% wool. You need wool sweaters, a bunch of them. Turtlenecks too.

Next layer: more wool. Yes, heavy wool sweaters to wear over the lighter wool sweaters. Alpaca is even warmer.

Next layer: Goose down and/or a serious waterproof and warm parka. Fur is even better.

Also: buy wool socks: at least 7 pairs. They aren't cheap, but you need them, so buy them. You may need extras since at times you may want to wear more than one pair of socks. If the wool is too scratchy, buy silk sock liners.

Also: a wool or thick fleece hat. If wool, make sure it's felted or tightly knit.

A balaklava/face mask AND a wool or fleece scarf

Sheepskin boots, sheepskin gloves.

Now you will enjoy the outdoors.

And you'll have to: because that's what we do around here.

Learn to cross country ski: believe me: you won't be cold if you're doing that. You'll get in great shape too.

Snowshoeing, ice skating, playing hockey, deer hunting, ice fishing, birdwatching, animal tracking, horseback riding. Learn at least 2 of these and really put some effort into it.

I know, you're not outdoorsy -- I suggest you learn to be. Warm clothes help a great deal.

A woodstove is an excellent thing to come home to as well.

When you dress for the outdoors, and you aren't freezing your tush off, you can look around and appreciate the beauty of the snowy landscape. You will see wildlife and birds and see that everything is not "dead" in winter, there is a lot going on, you just need to pay attention to see it. Then you might start to really enjoy Upstate NY.

If you don't... well maybe move back to CA, because sitting inside all winter (and basically this is like 6 months out of the year) complaining about the weather sounds like not too much fun. Life is too short.

Hell, I was born right here and I still hate winter. Snow and ice storms stop rocking when you stop getting snow days from school.

I'm very rarely in Saratoga, but if you like walking and history, when the weather's warmer you should check out Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. I tag along with my father during the Revolutionary War re-enactments and it's great fun. Battles, and suttlers (the 18th century version of a craft fair/market) and you can come round and talk to the re-enactors who are by-and-large very friendly and knowledgeable.

If you like coming into Albany, there's Crossgates Mall, and Colonie Center. Crossgates' theater now has an IMAX screen.

There's also Lark Fest, Tulip Fest, Lobster Fest, all downtown in Washington Park.

The winter is rough though. If you like to ice skate once in a while, Swinburne Park on Clinton Ave has an ice skating rink. For about $2 you can skate all you want.
There's the NYS museum, and the Albany Institute of History and Art. And there's also historic sites all around the capital region.

Me again.
I can't believe how many people responded. You guys rock!
Just so you know, when I moved here I bought a ton of stuff at Eddie Bauer, so much so, they know my name there now!
I've got Yak Trax for walking, so I'm not sitting at home waiting for Spring.
I'm thankful I live within walking distance of downtown Saratoga, so there's civilization close-by.
No one told me before I moved, that there'd be six months of winter.
I might have reconsidered the move. Or not. It's good to be employed.
And it's not just winter and the lack of sunlight that's been rough.
(I might invest in one of those light boxes for S.A.D.)
It's also the physical layout of this area. My previous location was open and light and filled with color all year long. At times living here feels claustrophobic in comparison.
Believe me, I am not complaining or whining. I sincerely want to make living here work for me. I just didn't think after a couple of years, I'd still feel this way.
I love the recommendations of places to visit and plan to do those soon.
Again, a sincere thanks to Greg, Mary and everyone who posted to help me out.

I read this book "French Women For All Seasons" which really helped me appreciate each individual season for what it's worth. It's total fluff but it helped me out. Seriously corny. Seriously.

& save your vacation time for winter. No need to waste days when summers here are great with ample weekend getaways in every direction. A mid-winter tropical getaway can do wonders.

Use winter to your advantage.
Go to museums (the boyfriend & I try a new one every month),
Visit NYC at Christmas (the hell of it is part of the fun)
Read a lot
Watch movies
Clean your closet
Go to a spa
Force yourself to walk outside daily
Meet your neighbors while digging out
Get your taxes done early!
Do the indoor things you won't want to do once springtime arrives.

You're always going to feel a bit batty towards March but nothing in the world beats the first time you smell freshly cut grass in your neighborhood or realize that the trees have buds on them.

I moved back from VA Beach because I missed winter!

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