I am from Roanoke, but I spent 8 years of my most formative college and post-college days in Richmond. Every month almost I find myself see-sawing over: should I move back to Richmond or should I stay in Roanoke? I used to think Roanoke was just a smaller version of Richmond, but it truly isn’t. They both have their pros and cons. Here is my purely anecdotal opinion, based on my observations, as to why Roanoke, indeed, is not just a smaller version of Richmond.
The Stickers for RVA could just as easily mean Roanoke, but they don’t. Instead if Roanoke decided to imitate Richmond’s stickers it should be more like ROAVA, and the A should be a star. Instead it’s this:
2. Roanoke and Richmond May Both Have Rivers, BUT
Typical Roanokers only use it for kayaking or fishing and don’t eat what they catch. On the other hand, Richmonders actually swim in their river. Not that either river is clean. Roanokers actually have a few other places to swim outside of Roanoke, such as Smith Mountain Lake, the cascades in NRV or Roaring Run in Botetourt.
3. Grandin is not a Mini Carytown
In some ways, yes. Historical theaters? Both, check. A natural health food store? Both, check. That is where their similarities end my friend. Roanoke is not a city that has a shopping area within the city streets beyond the handful of shops in Grandin, Crystal Springs, and Downtown Roanoke. The people like their malls.
4. Biking areas
Do not ride your bike down the streets of Roanoke. Cars are not used to you and you will get hit. In Richmond, begrudgingly the motorists will look out for you, in Roanoke, you may as well be on horse and buggy. It is not common. Where it is common: greenway. Go to this asphalt trail and do your business.
5. City Pride
Where are all the Richmond doesn’t suck facebook pages and websites? Oh, that’s right, Richmond doesn’t need to counter the complaints from its residents. Sadly, a lot of the Roanokers are a self-loathing bunch. For all the amazing things and people it has to offer, some people would rather focus on the fact that we don’t have a Trader Joe’s.
6. Brain Drain
You would think there would be less competition for the white-collar jobs because there are less college-educated people, but actually, there’s only a few really good jobs, and you really need to know someone to get them. The pro to Roanoke is that even if you start out at a company at entry level, the general consensus is that it’s easier to get more power and responsibility in your position with these companies. On the flip side, they don’t necessarily want to pay you commensurate with these responsibilities, but it is a resume builder. If you’re looking to become a rising start, don’t discount Roanoke yet. Especially for nursing. CRMH is one of the few hospitals that hire new nurses and you will definitely get a lot of responsibility.
7. Arts Scene Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. There are a lot of musicians in Roanoke for its size. There are a lot of really amazing, humble, and dedicated musicians as well. Roanoke and Richmond are very similar with the music scene. I would say there are more VCU Jazz musicians gigging around, so Jazz is played out more in Richmond. It is not as obvious that there are people shooting short films and music videos in Roanoke, but it is happening. It is something you have to search out, but there are people creating art here. Of course in Richmond, it is more obvious, and you can find them easier.
8. Finding a Roommate through Craigslist
There’s some stigma to still having a roommate in Roanoke that I didn’t witness as much in Richmond. In Roanoke, my friends would all say that they are passed the roommate stage and that that is for college. In Richmond, young professionals and singles still have roommates in their 30s and beyond. Rent is almost double between the 2 cities and saving up for a down payment on a house in Richmond is very expensive. Because of this stigma it is super hard to find a roommate through Craigslist. You need to ask somebody. If I put up a craigslist ad in Richmond, I would have around 10 people call within the first week. Most of them would be in the same age range, young professionals, etc. I would choose one of them and the room would be filled within a few weeks. In Roanoke, crickets. You are lucky if you have 2 people call within the first month. One of these calls will be from someone down on their luck asking for you to give them a chance by not requiring a security deposit and asking upfront for a discount on rent.
9. Living in the City vs. Suburb
There is no rush to gentrify in Roanoke. Richmond has Jackson Ward and Church Hill and Roanoke has Gainsboro. Which is prime real estate only a few blocks from downtown. Beside Hotel Roanoke. Unless we run out of housing in Old SW and Crystal Springs, all of the non-Natives who are fine with a little danger for convenience, will never seek out gentrifying that neighborhood. No one else will do it. Only people from out of town. Roanokers’ preferences are always for security even if it’s not convenient to Blue 5, and their house isn’t a millennial structure and charming. This is evident in the conversation I had with a coworker once who was trying to warn me about moving into Old Southwest. “You know, I live in a good neighborhood (near Towers Shopping Center), but, if I get in my car, drive 5 miles away, I would be in a bad area.” The horror. I gently reminded her that I had lived in Shockoe Bottom for 7 years where I only had to walk a few blocks to be in the “bad area.”
10. Parallel Parking
I have never received so many passive-aggressive notes on my windshield cursing me with bad-parking karma until moving back to Roanoke. I have never been told I wasn’t leaving enough space because the other person couldn’t just slide out without any adjusting. Sorry, but not sorry, that is just wasteful. Learn how to parallel park people. Sometimes there are limited parking spots in high-traffic areas, like downtown, or in front of the hospital, and yes, you need to let more people fit in. This annoys me because Roanokers don’t realize how good they have it with parking. Roanoke parking attendants have actually given me warning tickets before. In Richmond, I got parking tickets for times I wasn’t even on the street. Roanokers, as a whole, have such a good parking situation that they won’t go downtown because there aren’t parking lots on every corner. In conclusion, go to Richmond to learn to parallel park. Then come back to Roanoke to forget.