New New Bedford Resident: Musings of a Southern Transplant

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Find out what a recent transplant thinks of our New Bedford!

by Jennifer Hollie Bowles

In January of 2013, my husband and I moved from Knoxville, TN to Taunton, MA for employment reasons. Roughly one year later, we moved into our first home on Shawmut Avenue in New Bedford. I had lived most of my life in Knoxville area, attending college, becoming an editor of a literary journal, and eventually establishing myself as a writer and poet, but I longed to experience another culture. Some things are what I expected to fall in love with about the area, and other aspects of New England living have come as a shock.


What I already love about living in New Bedford:

#1: The Environment – The coastline is so beautiful, and I’ll never tire of walking around Fort Taber park. The enormous amounts of snow are still a surprise, yet a welcome one. I lived in Kansas City, MO for about a year in my 20s, and the snow looked dirty and ugly within a few hours. Not here! The snow in New Bedford stays crisp white for days! Looking outside of my window is like looking at a snow-covered old-world fairy tale land. The houses in this area are so charming, with their amazing wooden grooves and stately presences.

#2: The People & Culture – After a week of living in our new home, my husband bought a huge flat of wood to burn in our fireplace, which was dumped right on the sidewalk, spilling into the street. Inexperienced home owners that we are, we didn’t even have a wheelbarrow. Within minutes of noticing our back-and-forth hand-carrying struggle, our kind, elderly Portuguese neighbors offered two wheelbarrows for us to use. Our other neighbors have even graciously snow-blowed our sidewalk several times when we were gone for most of the day. I love the Portuguese food and culture that is so rich and vibrant in this area, and Southern hospitality has nothing on the friendliness of the people in the New Bedford community.

What I’m learning to adjust about living in New Bedford:

#1: The Accents – Like visiting a foreign country, I listen keenly to the accents of the people who were born and raised here. The nuances of speech are fascinating, and the phrases are every bit as creative as in the South. I understand the dropping of the “r,” but that’s about it so far!

#2: The Dense Population – The sheer volume of people and traffic is a culture shock all by itself. I’m amazed every time we go anywhere by how many people there are everywhere! I’ve also never lived this close to people unless I was living in an apartment. The best thing about the dense population, however, is that it seems to connect to a wonderful vibe of “live-and-let-live.”

#3: Religion – All of my life I heard about how open-minded the North is because it’s not in the Bible-Belt, but I’m a bit perplexed. I must say that I’ve seen as many churches and proselytizing signs in one section of town as I did in all of Knoxville. This seems to be balanced by signs for Tarot & Psychic readings, but the sociologist in me is still attempting to understand the culture of religion in the area.

What I find difficult about living in New Bedford:

#1: Taxes – Before moving to MA, I had never in my life heard of an excise tax! That one is difficult to swallow, and the property taxes are about twenty times more than my mom pays in TN for her house. Even the state employment taxes are new to me! I also expected better road conditions with all of these taxes!


16 thoughts on “New New Bedford Resident: Musings of a Southern Transplant

  1. Written by someone who hasn’t spent very long here… The list about what they find difficult about living in NB will grow exponentially by the time she is here a year. Let’s face it, outsiders always find things to love about NB when they first get here but she’ll be running back to TN within a few years at most.

  2. She hasn’t learned once you’re in there there is no way out. New Bedford a major city in the commonwealth of Massachusetts has to be the worse at letting its people out. No trains! The bus system shuts down the earliest I have ever seen in my life and you can’t transfer from one bus to the other so the cost to use the system is outrageous. Biggest thing I felt was trapped in the city with no way out. I moved from one city that had everything to New Bedford which doesn’t even have a mall – the town next door does, which never made any sense to me. I have since moved from New Bedford to Fall River and I don’t feel trapped or feel I have to frequent the towns next door for stores etc.

    • I will never understand why some people feel there is a need to stomp on people’s happiness and cultivate negativity. I thought the person on Shawmut Avenue had wonderful thoughts. I am proud to be from New Bedford. I had an excellent education there… know many wonderful people and have had a lifetime of good memories. It is very diverse and people are, for the most part, good and hard working.

    • There are no trains in Fall River & I hope you aren’t giving the “Habor Mall” credit for being a mall, lol. There may be lots of places to shop but most people still flick to the Gallaria & Dartmouth Malls for the majority of their shopping. The coastline is beaufiful, along with all the history of NB harbor. Perhaps if there wad a more optimistic view overall, & had pride & respect for our city…it might become contagious, just saying.

  3. douglas hanneken

    What a shit hole New Bedford is, just go visit Knoxville, TN and you’ll never go back to Massachusetts again.

  4. I’m not sure what you mean by “the dense population”.

    I can think of two ways to take that.

    Both of which are true.

  5. Notes from a not quite so recent New Bedford transplant (5 years):

    The town is one of the most disgusting and uneducated I have ever seen in my life.

    Within my first year of living here a man was murdered on the next street over. I recently witnessed a man die directly in front of my house from a gun shot wound to the head. There was brain matter along the side of the street for days.

    The hookers are old and worn, each new addition more vile than the next as they loiter in front of the local bar up the street from my house in plain view of children waiting for the bus and police officers never seem to give them a second glance.

    The drug use in this city is rampant.

    Instead of hard workers, most of the population appears to consist of people working the system for their ssi and welfare. Where I work I see some of the worst offenders in their Gucci valour track suits with hair and nails and diamonds living the good life off of thousands from their multiple children that are just one more check. Each child overly fed and undernurished, screaming vile words without a modicum of class or respect in neither the children not the parents.

    When Ive spoken with the randoms I’ve had the unfortunate displeasure of having to share the abysmal public transit system with, they all seemed genuinely astonished that I have an actual tax paying job. How novel!

    Common decency and respect are sorely lacking from the vast majority of the population with the use of the word “nigga” peppering their small vocabularies until it becomes a low drone the resembles wasps in their hives.

    Intelligent and independent thought is discouraged and mocked by all who each seem to believe that a large vocabulary is a sign of pretention.

    In order to communicate with the lovely locals one is forced to dumb down their speach until it feels as if you’re losing IQ points with every breath.

    How anyone could have pride in the fact that they hail from this festering cesspool is beyond me and I will be evacuating this rotten land of filth, whores, murderers, drug dealers, gang members and pathetic wastes of space as soon as humanly possible.

    I highly recommend that this poor author do the same. Quickly.

    • For someone claiming superior intelligence, your post is riddled with bad spelling and grammar. Bet there’s a mirror in your bathroom you could look in.

    • You Just Sound Like A Big A Hole ! Why Don’t You Go Back Where You Came From ! Why Did You Come To New Bedford ?

  6. New Bedford is the richest seaport in the country…for years! We have the whaling museum, seamens Bechtel, & parts of the underground railroad…we are close to Martha’s vineyard…where presidents vacation. We may not have the mall but we have shopping downtown & malls are nearby. We are only 1 hr from Boston,40 minutes from providence & Newport & 3hrs from New York. Weather isn’t too bad! I’m glad I was born & raised here. There is good & bad EVERYWHERE!

  7. Congrats to the Knoxville couple. I have been to your fine city and have wonderful memories of my short stay. I have lived in other parts of the country before coming back ‘home’ 20 years ago. To those naysayers with the negative comments, this is why people like this fine couple leave. if you don’t like it here leave. we don’t need your crap or foul mouths. This city has its problems but no different from other cities its size. We have a wonderful diverse culture that for the most part ‘gets along’ . We have great restaurants with great food (especially seafood) and cheap when you consider the portion sizes and the price. We have great recreation areas, beautiful parks, Buttonwood, Hazelewood and Brooklawn that were designed by the same man/company who designed Central Park in NYC. We have history, and now a reborn downtown with plenty of venues and festivals. We have great beaches in the city as well as Horseneck Beach nearby. We also have decent weather, not too cold in winter not too hot in summer and long springs and falls. again, If you don’t like it here leave! The city would better off without your negativism

  8. I have lived in New Bedford going on 14 years! It was a little bit of a culture shock coming from Cape May area in NJ but I love it here. Compared to Philly or Atlantic City, I would take New Bedford hands down.

  9. This article puts me on the verge of tears. I MISS HOME! I joined the AIr Force and have only been stationed in New Jersey, and goodness I do not care for it. I miss Buttonwood Park. I miss the beaches that are not monopolized by cheap boardwalks with their cheap but overpriced food and silly carnival games. Trying to go to Killadelphia sucks; its like a war in that city. Providence and Boston outrun any big city around here with their beauty and great history. I miss my great friends and family, people down here are just unapproachable and have such horrible attitudes(outside the AF). I miss all the wonderful restaurants the idea of local owned I love like riccardis and all the yummy resaurants downtown. In NJ all you get mostly is Diners or chain resturaunts. Suprisingly you think the Italian would be good here, but nope nothing but a big dissappointment. I am going to school to get my nursing degree and hope to return after my enlistment is up. There is a ONE GREAT thing about NJ it is a 4.5 hour drive up 95 to 195 to 140 drive to HOME. =) So I visit as much as possible.

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