By: Joanna Rutter
Thinking about moving to Durham?
The thing about articles like these is that they’ll sell you on top brunch spots and gyms to convince you to move here. Durham is a lot more nuanced than that, and that’s exactly why it’s such a special place to live. The further you dig into the history, the longer the walks you go on exploring a section of the city, the more hole-in-the-wall pupusa joints and tiny coffee shops you find, then the more this city belongs to you too.
Durham is the type of place that loves you back.
Be a good neighbor, wherever you are
The housing market and rental landscape in Durham is no joke. I’m pretty sure I just saw someone advertising a “studio apartment” on Zillow that was a hot plate, a utility sink and a mattress on the floor in someone’s basement for $1000/month. It’s brutal out here.
As I wish you the best of luck, know that whichever neighborhood you live in here, you’ll have good people as neighbors. My former New Yorker self always advises that if you’re able to sublet and get to know the city better before you sign a lease, do it. You’ll learn way more about a city driving and walking around than you can by squinting at a map.
I have a soft spot for my neighborhood, Watts-Hillandale, and our truly bananas email listserv that’s been active since the 90’s, but you may find cozy digs in neighborhoods with rich history like Lakewood, Hayti, and Braggtown (and that is history you need to know!).
Keep in mind that gentrification targets communities that don’t have a lot of resources to put up a fight, and as a result, lots of newcomers are eagerly snapping up formerly Black-owned land (in East Durham especially) to create more white wealth for themselves like it’s the 1800s. Don’t be one of them! Use tools like OpenDurham.org (searchable by neighborhood) to learn and respect the rich history of your area.
Showing up and giving back
If you’re moving into a neighborhood where you may have more financial privilege or other resources than some of your neighbors, set aside a bit of your paycheck to give back to local organizations fighting to make this city safer and more welcoming for all, like Triangle Showing Up for Racial Justice, Durham Beyond Policing or Southerners on New Ground. It’s the neighborly thing to do, and often a skipped step by lots of newcomers. If you’re coming to Durham for a fancy tech job especially, make sure to spread the wealth around!
Even if you’re moving here for school, make some time to be a citizen too! We have a massively important election coming up this fall and your vote really counts in North Carolina. Please save the NC girlies from having all their rights taken away. If you can update your voter registration to North Carolina and show up to early vote, even just for this one election, it will be one of the most impactful things you can do as a resident here. You can register online with the NCDMV here.
Build new habits (or upgrade old ones)
Likewise, avoid spending a majority of your money and time in places that aren’t run, owned, and operated by Durhamites whenever you can.
- Skip Whole Foods and shop at the Co-op instead. (Or buy a box of locally grown produce from Black-owned farmers through Tall Grass Food Box.)
- Join a local coworking space like Provident 1898 or the American Underground, not WeWork.
- Buy coffee at Beyu and Cocoa Cinnamon, not Starbucks.
- Buy books at Rofhiwa or Letters, not Amazon.
- Skip SHEIN fast fashion and buy authentic vintage clothes at pop-ups hosted year-round by Starcourt and The Durham Bazaar instead.
Not only does this make your life awesome, and give you a sense of true community, but the more you keep your wealth inside the city limits, the better the city becomes for you, too.
I’ve still got you though: Here’s where to get your hair and nails done. Arrow Studio is where to go for layers and color (for a curl cut worth every penny, ask for Alissa) and for lace installs, braids or blowouts, check out GlamShe Co. At Posh Nail Spa, you can get a full acrylic or SNS dip powder set for under $40 – and it’s right next door to the Food Lion so you can refer to it as an “errand.” See, I had your back!
Make sure to check back tomorrow for part two in this series on moving to Durham! Let us know @theraleighdurhamgirl on IG what you think — what do you love about Durham?