13 Questions About Living in Iowa, Answered by a Brutally Honest Iowan

It’s not always snowing or tornado-ing. It’s called June. 

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What It's Really Like to Live in Iowa
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1. What’s the weather like in Iowa? 

If an Iowan tells you that the weather in Iowa is great, they’re lying. But the good news is that this bit of deception is probably coming from a good place. Like, maybe they want you to come over for a pop or a turkey dressing sandwich. Or maybe they want you to give living here a chance, because it’s a pretty excellent place to live, despite the often non-excellent weather.

Iowa City

2. Is it ever not snowing or tornado-ing?

It’s not always snowing or tornado-ing. It’s called June. 

Just kidding (mostly). Here’s the truth: the weather is not the reason to move to Iowa. We have occasional tornados. We also get a fair amount of snow and sub-zero temps. But the nice days are really, really nice, and because they’re also occasional, we really, really enjoy them. I mean, can you imagine having nice weather ALL THE TIME? What the hell would you talk to people at work about?

3. Does everyone in Iowa live on a farm?

Look, we have a ton of farmers. And if you like to eat, then you’re welcome. People love to make fun of Iowa for being a farm state, but can we pause for a minute and talk about how awesome farms and farmers are? While most of us are “working” Monday through Friday and enjoying weekends, those men and women are in fields and barns busting their butts to make sure we have food to eat. So to answer your question: no, we don’t all live on farms. Why? We can’t all be that tough.

Des Moines

Courtesy of Michael Leland under a CC 2.0 license.

4. Are there any jobs in Iowa besides farming or building baseball fields for ghosts? 

Yes, there are, but hosting ghost baseball games at the Field of Dreams would be ah-may-zing, so if you can find a way to get that job, do it. Iowa is home to some really cool, big companies with a ton of opportunities: Collins Aerospace, Principal Financial, HON, Nationwide, The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, DuPont Pioneer and ACT just to scratch the surface. 

In Iowa, you can be an engineer, a teacher, a surgeon, a software developer or an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter. Whether you want to work for a Fortune 500 company or build a scrappy startup from scratch or run a nonprofit that gives back to the community you love, you can make it happen here. We'll even help you find a job.

Ames IA
Photo Courtesy of Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

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5. For real though, is there anything to do in Iowa?

You mean other than roping hogs? Yeah, there are a few options. All around our state there is something for everyone: Big Ten and Big XII athletics, world-class entertainment venues like The Englert Theater and The Des Moines Civic Center, and a ton of fantastic museums. You can visit the home of "American Pickers." You can have a catch at the real, actual Field of Dreams.

Choose any weekend at any time of year in any city, and chances are there is some sort of unique festival going down, whether you’re into bacon or art or maple syrup or craft beer or the intersection of literature and music or the mysteries of the creative process. I don’t know about you, but I’m into all of those things.

6. Does Iowa have actual cities or anything besides small towns?

We’re a state of just over 3 million people, and 65% of us live in what the Census Bureau defines as an urban area. So, you really have options when you decide to move here (which, I’d like to reiterate, you totally should). Many people envision Iowa as being comprised solely of small towns, and while that’s not an entirely accurate perspective, our small towns deserve a lot of credit. They’re tight-knit. They’re resilient. They’re charming. There are a ton of reasons people choose to live there. 

But our cities are really special, too. They’re clean and safe. They’re welcoming. They’re growing. Come spend a day in Dubuque or Iowa City or Des Moines or Ames or Davenport and you’ll find everything you love about cities in other states, with an Iowa twist. What does that mean? It means the people are friendly. The nice restaurants aren’t pretentious. The food is amazing and locally sourced. There’s a reverence for craft beer and artisan cocktails and Busch Light. There’s a legit arts scene that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s an overarching vibe of, “Hey, we’re glad you’re here.”  

If you come to Iowa, whether you come to a small town or a big city or something in between, you will feel good. It’s easy to feel good here.

7. Why does Iowa get to choose the president?

People ask this question every four years, and I’m not sure I have a great answer. We’re the 31st largest state and we’re 90% white, so I understand why the question comes up. What I can say is that we’re diligent and we take the responsibility very seriously. Iowa may only show up on national network news every four years, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not thinking about the Iowa Caucus and the candidates for much longer.

The candidates spend a TON of time here. They’re workshopping their policies with us. They’re listening to what small-town Iowans need. They’re working with our local lawmakers and business owners to find out what is working and what isn’t. 

8. Is there anything to eat in Iowa besides corn? 

Ever heard of farm-to-table? It’s a trend all over the country, but here in Iowa, it’s the rule, not the exception. The food here isn’t just farm fresh (it is); the food here is world-class.

Let’s talk about the mouthwatering breakfast options in Iowa City. Or the diverse, delicious food scene in Des Moines. Or the Top Chef contestant running an innovative, locally sourced restaurant in Dubuque. Or the James Beard Award semifinalist in Cedar Rapids that Food & Wine is writing feature stories about.

But yeah, we have corn too. 

And on the topic of food in Iowa, if I hear another person say, “Oh my gosh. Ew. I would never eat seafood in the Midwest,” I may just lose it. Believe it or not, we have refrigerators here. And on trucks. And on planes. So, yeah, it’s possible to have fresh seafood. When is the last time you saw a pig farm in New York City? But you still eat pork chops there, don’t you? Come on.

9. How do you survive the winter? 

Survive? We thrive, babyyyyyyy! Last winter we had a Polar Vortex. If you don’t know what that is, it’s OK. None of us did either. It was dangerously cold and it was awful. But it was the first time any of us had ever experienced it. The point is that it doesn’t happen very often, and while it definitely gets cold here, it’s not that bad. But we do have lots of fun things to do in the winter, like in North Liberty, you can Beat The Bitter. Or, you can go ice fishing, which is actually way better than regular fishing. Or, you can complain about it like regular people, and then you can celebrate when spring rolls around!

10. How cheap is it to live in Iowa? Are houses free? 

Well, houses aren’t free, but, when you compare Iowa home prices to those in larger cities, Iowa is pretty affordable. Even our cities, like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, are much less expensive than our Midwestern pals like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. I think the real story here isn’t just affordable home prices, it’s all-around affordability. Because we’re not spending our entire paychecks on rent and private school (did I mention that we have super great schools here?), we tend to have more discretionary income. So we travel more, we go on weekend road trips, we go to local shows and concerts, and we eat in our awesome restaurants, and we support our local downtown economies.

11. Is everyone in Iowa actually nice all the time?

I love this question. People are generally nice, yeah. But people are nice everywhere. I think what sets Iowans apart is that we’re kind. The difference is that Iowans go out of our way to make you feel welcome and at home. We really do want to be helpful, and we really do care about you.

12. Do you know Ashton Kutcher? 

I mean, I feel like we’d be really good friends, but no, I don’t know him. But he seems like the kind of guy that would be pretty cool to hang out with, doesn’t he? Yeah, that’s because he’s an Iowan.

Ames IA
Photo Courtesy of Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

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13. Why would anyone want to live in Iowa? 

Look, if you can’t figure it out after what you just read, I’m not sure I can help you. But if you really need more convincing, email me. And remember: Iowa is 75% vowels, but 100% awesome.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m not a native Iowan and I hate myself for it. I guess it’s not my fault, but I’ve been an Iowan for twenty years and I’m trying to make up for the lost time. I love my wife a... more

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Wed, 12/04/2019 - 20:25