We have now been in Utah for a full year. We’re feeling settled and are having fun here. We’ve learned our way around, found friends, communities, volunteer opportunities, I found a job (!), we’ve done some outdoorsy activities (though not as much as either of us would like), and we’ve acclimated to the culture for the most part.
Utah is just different in some ways, with the dominant religion influencing secular life in a fairly large way. The refugee family I mentor was told by another volunteer that Christmas isn’t big here, and that Halloween is much bigger. That jives with what we’ve seen, but it’s influenced by religion (the Christmas thing, at least) rather than just being less important. The institution I work for is a Utah business, so we don’t get Christmas Eve off, just Christmas Day.
Another thing influenced by religion is the prevalence of specialty soda shops. There’s a big emphasis on sweets rather than coffee and alcohol. But those who aren’t LDS seem to drink a lot more coffee and a lot more alcohol to make up for it.
Some of the politics and legal stuff is weird, but it’s not terrible, and we’ve gotten used to it. I get angry about politics in a lot of places, so Utah is just another instance of this.
The outdoor activities in this state can’t be beat. We’ve been to three national parks this year (Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands), have gone camping at Nine-Mile Canyon (petroglyphs all over the place), and have gone on a number of hikes. No skiing last winter, but we’re hoping to change that this winter. There’s a walking/bike trail that goes from pretty far up north all the way south along a river. We’ve only explored a few miles of it, but it’s quite inviting.
The climate is more temperate than Kansas, still getting cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but nowhere near the extremes of Kansas. The downside of the climate here is inversion, which comes from living in a valley between two mountain ranges. The pollution stays in the valley, settling like smog and staying there for up to weeks at a time, until a storm clears it out. It gets so bad that people are supposed to stay inside, and people who work outside wear ventilators.
I’ve found people with whom to play board games, people with whom to knit, and a great voice teacher. People are very friendly and welcoming. My church is a wonderful community. Work is a good place for me to be.
All in all, we’re happy here and think we’ll be here awhile.