Moving to Charleston is one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made. We moved here from our home state of Kentucky over 5 years ago. Since then we’ve met lots of people, bought a house, changed jobs a couple of times, and started our own business.
Every day 34 people move to the Charleston metro area. With staggering numbers like these, Charleston is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. With that number in mind, I wanted to write an accurate picture of what living in Charleston is really like. People who are thinking about moving here already know a lot of the pros, especially if they’ve visited before: great beaches, friendly locals, renowned restaurants, beautiful landscapes, and more. Below I give practical advice about what daily life is like in Charleston, including cost of living, daily commute, the weather, and more.
It’s true, the weather is pretty great here most of the year. Our winters are mild with occasional temperatures below freezing. We had friends from home visit last January and the temperatures were in the 70s. We ate dinner outside under the live oaks and enjoyed the nice weather. I’ve also spent New Year’s Day on the beach. Summer, however, can be treacherous. It’s not uncommon to have 30 or more days of temperatures in the 90s. The months of July, August, and September can be brutally hot and humid. Oh, and there are mosquitoes and no-see-ums (gnats), too.
What Charleston has in beauty and charm, it lacks in infrastructure. Chances are your daily commute will include crossing a bridge at some point. There are only so many routes you can take, and very few shortcuts. Rush hour often means long commutes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Downtown is also prone to flooding. Locals like to joke about paddling their kayak to work, but it’s not far from the truth. Flash flooding is a common occurrence and drives go through dangerously high water in order to make it to home or work. During the tourist season there’s an influx of visitors, especially downtown. Driving behind horse carriages and “people from off” can really test your patience, especially if you are trying to get to work or a meeting. But hey, I’m not complaining! Tourism is our number one source of revenue here.
Things to do
One of my favorite things about Charleston is that there’s always something to do. Every week there’s a new restaurant or shop opening. There are also festivals, farmer’s markets, Riverdogs baseball games, gallery openings, museum exhibits, pop-up shops, concerts, and more. We have beautiful beaches, a great county park system, and greenways. There are plenty of local shops, bars, and restaurants, too. You’ll never be bored here.
Cost of living
One of the biggest complaints my friends in Charleston have is just how expensive it is to live here. Other than our cheap gas, everything else is above national average. Housing is the biggest factor: whether you are renting or buying there is a high demand that drives up prices to sometimes staggering amounts. Unfortunately, salaries do not match the high cost of living here. Most people who move to Charleston take a significant pay cut. I highly suggest having a job lined up before moving here, or at the very least a source of freelance income and money in the bank. Many of my friends work full-time jobs and have side hustles or a second job just to make ends meet.
Generally, the people in Charleston are friendly and outgoing. My husband and I are both introverts, and we always say we have the most friends in Charleston then we’ve ever had before. It’s been easy to make friends through church and work. A lot of people I’ve met have also moved here in the past 5-10 years and do not have family nearby. Because of this, people are more open to starting new friendships and doing things together as couples or families.
When it comes to Charleston’s food scene, the hype is real. And it just keeps getting better as renowned chefs from all over the world move here and open a restaurants. You’ll never find a shortage of southern food here: biscuits, barbecue, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits…just to name a few. But there are also trendy restaurants that serve up innovative dishes, and chefs that are nationally recognized. Finally, there are three farmer’s markets in the area that sell local produce alongside popular food trucks with cult-like followings.