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A Guide For Naturalized and Naturalizing Yinzers

Pittsburgh's pros far outweigh its cons Photo by Brian Grublis for TPOP

Pittsburgh’s pros far outweigh its cons
Photo by Brian Grublis for TPOP

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh now for fifteen years and when I arrived, it didn’t exactly have the same reputation as it has grown into today. It was a dead city. People were coming to Pittsburgh for college and then leaving for greener pastures. At the time, the Pirates had the reputation of being a AAAA baseball team, in that they were a step above minor league baseball but they couldn’t compete to retain the top talent they developed here. They would come, improve themselves and move on. In many ways Pittsburgh was a AAAA city when I moved here, as the best and brightest moved on after earning their degrees. All that was left were those who saw the potential the city possessed and were willing to fight the good fight or those of us who found the charms in it’s quirkiness.

I happened to be both.

What happened over the course of the next ten or so years is that publications began to see the charms and the secret slowly got out. The lasting image of a dirty city cleaned itself up. The decay of the old system made way for the rise of a newer more attractive one, which has drawn in more residents of the millennial variety. What had been a graying town has begun to get younger and has grown into an unexpected hipster haven that blends in surprisingly well with the existing blue collar mentality. In 2010, the census reported fewer residents over 65 on average than the rest of the state, but it also reported fewer people under 18 as well. If the city is getting younger, it’s getting younger by drawing from other places.

As Pittsburgh has grown, it has proven it’s not for everyone. A number of folks have come and gone back from whence they came or to the next trendy spot on the map, like Cleveland or Philly or where ever. So how do you make it work here and what are some things you need to know to give an honest go of it in the Steel City?

Pittsburgh Still Has Flaws

For all the acclaim Pittsburgh gets, it’s important to recognize that it has a long way to go in the grand scheme of things. We have the barest bones of bike infrastructure and mass transit has declined, even while the rest of the city has improved. This is a car-oriented town many may not have expected. Our food culture is constantly improving, but it’s certainly not cutting edge. It gravely requires new talent in the pool. The fine arts are here as are the not so fine arts. While live music is light years ahead of where it once was, it’s not great yet. If you were expecting a thriving metropolitan experience, it’s coming but it still has evolving to do. If you were expecting culture, it may not have been what you expected which leads me to my next point.

Pittsburgh Is Perfect

Pittsburghers have an irrational sense of civic pride where the city can do no wrong. Some people think Pittsburgh is a sports town, but I think Pittsburgh is a Pittsburgh town. The sports are just one way they can show off their love for their homeland. Oddly, there is an almost nationalistic pride amongst Western Pennsylvanians and they take their culture and love of home with them as they’ve relocated to other places. Traditional foods, regional identification, dialect, love for celebrations of all types, and booze. They all go with them wherever the wayward yinzer goes. There is a reason why every Steelers away game sounds like a home game. It’s not because people travel per se. It’s because they’re already there and they still identify with the Steel City.

For some like myself, this type of engagement can be quite energizing. I enjoy falling in love with where I am. For others the superiority can be off putting. I’ve found that those who cannot embrace it simply don’t last long. If you can’t learn to love Pittsburgh, you’ll eventually grow to hate it. Part of Pittsburgh’s greatness comes in how great it believes it is and if you don’t believe, the magic disappears.

Pittsburgh’s Not All That Progressive

People assume that because of Pittsburgh’s historical place in the labor movement and the legacy of influence they still have in the city that naturally we’re progressive. While I’ve met some folks left of Marx since I’ve been here, by and large people are fairly up-by-the-boot-strap conservative even if they vote for the Democrats. It’s only with the rise of East End politics that we’ve seen our first truly progressive mayor and council elected in the time that I’ve been here. The city under former mayor Luke Ravenstahl was pro-business and was content to simply allow services like transit and schools to decline rather than raise taxes. He even tried to privatize the city’s parking resources. Truthfully, Pittsburgh happily caters to entrepreneurs and established companies alike and really, it’s a great place to start a business. Old leadership did create jobs and new leadership has found ways to balance a progressive agenda with creative solutions that make Pittsburgh competitive for the 21st century.

Pittsburgh Is Livable Because It’s Cheap

A huge part of why Pittsburgh is considered livable has to do with its low cost of living. You get great bang for your buck, but your Pittsburgh price tag shouldn’t come with Big Apple expectations. Rather than harp on the cities flaws again, I’d note that you get a lot more than you pay for here in terms of both real physical space and experiences than you do a lot of other places, but if you’re coming from New York, Chicago or Toronto, it’s best not to look for a one to one comparison. Those are much larger cities that Pittsburgh can’t compete with in many ways. The good news about living in Pittsburgh is that you can afford to visit those expensive places a lot more frequently with the money you save.

Pittsburghers Are Friendly But Are Not Always Looking To Make New Friends

The people here are great. They’re outgoing, friendly, and courteous. You may have even taken advantage of that courteousness getting onto the Liberty Bridge from 579. Problem is, the ones who have already been here aren’t always interested in making new friends. I’ve heard time and time again from new residents how difficult it is to meet new people here. It’s true. It makes sense to go on the offensive and take the lead in forming relationships. It also helps to join activities. civic groups or volunteer.


There are other concerns for Pittsburgh including its lack of diversity, density, and the poorly regarded school system that might rub people the wrong way. Still, the city has come a long way from where its been, but new residents need to embrace it for what it is, not what they wanted it to be. Maybe some articulations of the current state of things in Pittsburgh are overstated, but I’m not sure where you’ll find the complete package in a mid sized city like you do here.

There are a lot of things Pittsburgh does well in, some not exceedingly well, and poorly in a handful. On aggregate, the town gets high marks. However, there are some areas where Pittsburgh is nearly unrivaled in the East and Midwest. The aforementioned civic pride, pound for pound nightlife, higher education, natural beauty to go along with a mostly safe, clean and friendly city make for a great experience. If you’re willing to overlook some of the flaws and just love the city for what it is, you’ll continue to grow more and more fond of it.



Steve is a naturalized yinzer hailing originally from just north of Allentown, PA. He came to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and decided to stick around after graduation. Steve is best known for his contributions to Duquesne hoops community as the owner of the Duquesne Dukes forum on Yuku and as the former editor of We Wear the Ring on the Fansided network. He is an avid Pirates fan, home cook and policy nerd. He is the co-founder of the Point of Pittsburgh. Easily irritated by people who misuse the word regress.

3 Comments on A Guide For Naturalized and Naturalizing Yinzers

  1. IsIt2015Yet? // December 21, 2014 at 6:55 PM //

    Thanks for this. My gf and I have actually talked about moving from Chicago to Pittsburgh. My dad grew up in Pittsburgh and moved to small town Illinois well before I was born. I inherited a love for the Pirates and visited the area quite a bit over the years. I’m a tech recruiter so my only reservation is the tech hiring market there compared to Chicago’s.

    • Kevin Creagh // December 21, 2014 at 7:41 PM //

      Pittsburgh is a fantastic place to live. Can’t exactly speak about tech recruiting, but a friend of mine is an engineering recruiter and does quite well. Google is here, Carnegie Mellon puts out a ton of tech guys a year, plus all the other tech startups. It’s not Silicon Valley, but it’s pretty good.

    • Steve DiMiceli // December 21, 2014 at 7:51 PM //

      Glad you enjoyed it and I hope you guys decide to come. Good luck on the job hunt if it gets that far. We’re not Chicago on that front, but we’re pretty solid and constantly improving.

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