6 Ways Newcomers Can Survive Life in Green Bay – True Confessions of a Non-Sconnie

Green-Bay-Newcomer

I moved to the area 7 years ago. I was a Chicago Bears fan, didn’t have a taste for beer, and found myself in Green Bay.

I knew I had some work to do if I was going to make it.

When I arrived, the motivation to get to know a new area was quickly replaced by boredom. Maybe some of you transplants can relate. My initial few weeks here went something like this…

“Wow, we live in Green Bay!”

“Hmm, ok… I thought it would be bigger. I thought there would be more to do.”

“WHAT? It’s pronounced “de-PEERE”?!? (The 7 years of French I took were crying foul.)”

“I’m employed! Now I need to make some friends so I can figure out what the heck “booyah” is…and why they name every single snowstorm.”

“Ugh. I’m bored. This place isn’t very pretty. I really thought it would be bigger. How is this place the home of an NFL team?”

The good news is that there is a happy ending to this story. I have come to love the area, and appreciate all of its little quirks. If you’re still getting to know Northeast Wisconsin, read on to see how to unlock the best of the area that I now call home. (It’s really not as much like “Fargo” as you might think.)

1. Get to know your neighbors to understand the culture

Jamie Home on Karl StreetMy first examples of what life would be like here were from our neighbors. Our first rental was in Allouez, and to this day I still miss that neighborhood.

Big trees provided shade and character, beautiful songbirds, and squirrels for my dog to chase. Every neighbor was not only willing to lend a hand – they actually wanted to help.

Those trees were the very reason that we initially met many of our neighbors on the block. A huge rainstorm knocked some large branches off of one of those beautiful trees, and they landed right onto our neighbor’s home. About 5 minutes after it happened, my husband and I went outside to survey the damage. We saw a group of about 7 people picking up small branches and sawing larger ones, and they were all checking to see if everyone was ok. Two of those people were old ladies in their PAJAMAS, not missing a beat. I watched in surprise from my front porch as a small smile crept onto my face. I had never experienced neighbors like this before.

They also hosted a block party every summer.  (The party always featured booyah, so never fear – I eventually learned about it.) One of them even proudly cooked it in his driveway in a repurposed dryer drum. (Yes, a dryer drum.) While I never really got excited about booyah, I did love the fact that they shut down the street for a night to connect with everyone.

These fine folks also helped me dig out my tiny 1999 Saturn during my first Tundra snowstorm (While I was wearing heels and dress pants, mind you). They also invited my husband to golf with them multiple times, and rallied around a fellow neighbor who was dying of cancer. Right before he passed away, we all gathered outside in the snow to shiver together under a fireworks display in support of him (his favorite holiday was the 4th of July, and he wasn’t going to see another one).

These folks embodied a culture that I was slowly becoming a part of myself:  hardy, resourceful, and full of heart. This is the culture of northeast Wisconsin!

Embrace it, Newbies! You don’t have to love brats or cheese curds, but maybe you can get to know the people who love them. (For what it’s worth, I’m not afraid to say that I think fresh cheese curds are a bunch of hype. However, if you put a pile of fried cheese curds in front of me, I will devour them all.)

2. Attend a Packers game at Lambeau Field

Jamie at Lambeau FieldNow before my fellow Bears fans start calling me a traitor, I’m only promoting this single act because it truly shows you a side of the area that you simply will not see outside of the stadium.

If you want to feel the heartbeat of Green Bay, go to an actual game. You will see strangers become friends and shirtless old men in below-zero temperatures.

Hearing a crowd of 80,000 yelling at the same time is something you just need to feel in your chest. There is so much history there – it’s almost as if you can hear the Packers heroes of the past yelling with everyone. When I first went, I felt as if I was visiting Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. Lambeau Field is a “must” for football, just as Wrigley is for baseball. You just have to go there, no matter what team you root for.

Out of the four games I have attended at Lambeau, I did get the chance to see the fabled rivalry between the Pack and my Monsters of the Midway. Unfortunately, Chicago didn’t bring home the “W” on that day, but a loss only fuels you more for the next game!

I wore my orange handkerchief and Bears shirt proudly, in a sea of green and gold.

3. Join one of the many area charity races

Jamie runs in Green BayIf you are new to the area, getting over stigmas is simply something you must do. Not everyone in Green Bay sits on their couch and watches their life go by while gnawing on a block of cheese, as some might believe.

There is a huge group of people that are in the racing community. They are health conscious and genuinely just love the high of crossing the finish line. It’s like nothing else. It’s almost like an underground kind of club – you have to seek it out. But once you do, you will be welcomed with open arms (and shin splints).

Training runs actually helped me to learn where the heck I was going in Green Bay. If you’re new to the area, nothing helps you learn the grid better than when you are constantly praying for the next street sign to come.

I broke in my running shoes with the Bellin and the Cellcom Half Marathon, but there are MANY other races in the surrounding area of all types of distances. In fact, there are running clubs and weekly meet-ups at local bars for runners, and even running clubs for kids! (Check out Girls on the Run in Appleton, Neenah, Oshkosh, Darboy and Chilton). During the summer and fall, there is a race going on almost every single weekend if you look hard enough.

From Door County to Oshkosh, this area provides diverse opportunities for running, biking, and swimming (or all 3 if you’re that kind of crazy).

Not only do you get to push your body and receive a physical benefit, you make friends and also get to see some pretty beautiful courses along the way. I’m already planning my next race now that my daughter is getting out of the newborn stage. One of my personal goals is to participate in a race in Door County in the fall – I know I won’t be disappointed by the views!

Running across the many finish lines that I did (in my PK “pre-kids” days) gave me something in common with everyone here in Wisconsin. We had all accomplished the same goal together.  We bonded.  You can, too.

4. If you live in Green Bay, crossing the bridge won’t kill you

Unless it’s the Leo Frigo bridge – then you might be taking your chances.

For all of you who actually live in Green Bay, this one is easy: CROSS THE FOX RIVER! If you live on the East side, check out the West side, and vice versa. Ignore that voice in your head that says, “It’s too far away”. As my husband always says, “You can get anywhere in Green Bay in ten minutes.” While that might be stretching the truth just a teensy bit, the point of his statement rings true.

I have always been an East-sider, and if I never would have ventured out beyond my end of town, I would have missed out on so many businesses and events that shape the heart of Green Bay.

The good news for people living anywhere in the area is that many of the best events and attractions are downtown – right in the middle of everything.

Some of my favorites in downtown Green Bay include: listening to performances and taking sunset walks on the CityDeck, perusing the many area Farmers’ Markets, finding great local eats through Taste on Broadway, and visiting the Neville Public Museum.

5. Go beyond Green Bay

Remember Newbies, Green Bay doesn’t stand alone (before I moved here, that was my perception). Some of its greatest partners are its surrounding cities.  It is always worth it to try a new experience instead of just gnawing on that block of cheese I mentioned earlier (even if you like it)!

Some examples:  One of my favorite memories from my time here includes an anniversary sunrise kayaking trip in Egg Harbor that I took with my husband. Seeing wildlife in the morning and capping off the trip with the view of one of the famous Lake Michigan shipwrecks was something you just couldn’t get in Green Bay! Also, this fall, my husband and I plan on taking our kids to one of the Barkhausen night hikes.

Before I became a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), I was blessed to be employed by a company rooted in Appleton, and within a position that required a lot of travel in NEW and beyond.  Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would handle all that time on the road, but I soon discovered what a treasure we have in the many small communities around here. We are all within a short drive’s reach of fantastic businesses and natural beauty.  Getting to know landmarks and businesses outside of Green Bay lets you see the whole picture of what NEW has to offer.

I don’t know what I would do without having discovered some of the great restaurants, trails, and artistic venues in Appleton, parks in Kaukauna, creative and fun festivals (and footraces, too) in New London, and beautiful family farms in the Howard-Suamico area. Did you know that there is more than one zoo in the area if you head north of Green Bay? (I’m not talking about Door County here.)

6. If you have them, use your children to your advantage

Cole at ParkFor those of us who already have kids, we know the truth: this area is simply a great place to raise a family.

Not only is having children a great way to get to know people (most folks just can’t resist a chubby baby), but it opens your eyes to the strong pro-family atmosphere.

I have been surprised at the number of worthwhile activities that I have come across are either free or low-cost.  Even our own Mayor has created a city-wide holiday just for kids (Kids Day – June 25th). Many restaurants, businesses, pools and other summer activities open up for free for the entire day.

Our parks department employs “parkees” at 36 different Green Bay parks, and these individuals host daily activities as well as an annual parade each summer. Combine that with a Children’s Museum, many area splashpads, a Railroad Museum, a Botanical Garden which boasts an incredible Children’s Garden (I kept expecting to find a gnome, fairy, or the door to Narnia), and there is never a lack of something to do!

Over time, I quickly learned that instead of fighting the culture I didn’t quite fit with, I might as well learn about it and adapt. I will always be a proud Hoosier (who still insists that she doesn’t have an accent), but I can learn to love the ‘Sconnies, too.

One of the biggest things about Green Bay that quickly caught my attention was the fact that the people here are community-minded. Many just brush it off and think that it’s the Packers who join everyone together. While there is some merit to that, I also think it’s because the people here truly love the area. They invest themselves into making it the best that they possibly can, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them.

In the 7 years I have lived here, I am still a proud Bears fan, found my taste for beer following my 2nd pregnancy (and thanks to Titletown’s great selection – hello Johnny Blood Red). While Fort Wayne, IN will always be home, I am proud to live in Northeast Wisconsin.

Now, back to your regularly-scheduled cheese gnawing.

Comments

  1. Love this! I wish I read it when I first arrived over 14 years ago. This has been the hardest city to “break into” and I’ve lived in a lot of places. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. Cheers! Go Pack Go!

  2. I’ve been here for two years now. We are originally from the Rockford, IL area, but we fell in love with Green Bay, which totally surprised us.

  3. I am from this area, so it’s easy for me to love it. But it’s still cool to hear transplants to the area say they enjoy it, too. It’s all what you make of it ! If you think it’s going to be awful, then it will. If you give it a chance, you’ll learn to appreciate it.

    • Jamie Steinbrinck says:

      EXACTLY. Your comments are exactly what I was hoping this article would get across. You get in what you put in.

      P.S. Nice name. It’s one of my favorites.

  4. I lived here for 8 years back in ‘the 80’s… and then, as a ‘suburbanite’ in OSHKOSH for 20+ years. After a divorce, I sold my business… and thought ANYPLACE DIFFERENT would be fun. The U.P.— wayy tooo cold for waaayyyy toooo long. – LOSER. … Fayetteville, ARKANSAS– Very pretty place, but way too under-educated for this BLUE STATE boy!. I tried Chicago again for 7 months. Even in BEAUTIFUL SUBURBIA, there were machine gun shootouts at the building next to me…. SO, I thought for a couple days… WHERE was I happiest at any point in my life? AND GREEN BAY WON…HANDS DOWN!! NO EXCEPTION!! We have the PACKERS, We HAVE THE REST of WISCONSIN!! And the UP and Minnesota and Iowa. We love our country and our community. And EVERY MAN is that Chinese guy at Tianaman Sqaure. And every girl is Malala! We all love and value what we have built and what we want to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

    U-freakin-TOPIA!!
    .

  5. Great article Jamie. You should sell it to the Chamber of Commerce.

  6. velocityhead says:

    #7: Don’t say ‘Sconnie

  7. I just moved to GB 7 short months ago and find myself relating to this more and more. Thank you so much for writing this… now if I could just put some of it to practice.

    • Jamie Steinbrinck says:

      Mary – it can be so overwhelming to move. I know! Just pick ONE thing from the list and do it well, instead of trying to do all of it. See where it takes you!

  8. “Hearing a crowd of 80,000 yelling at the same time is something you just need to feel in your chest.” This made my eyes sting a bit with tears. I so agree. A Bears fan and Chicago native, I have to say I am a total fan of Packer fans! Well written!

  9. Well written. My family and I are transplants as well. Fitting is has presented its challenges. The friends we have made have been the most genuine. We miss Chicagoland and visit often. As we approach DePEEEERE we are refreshed and thankful we do not have to endure the traffic issues (at least until our next roadtrip south of the border). Our goal is to be in a position to one day open a “true” Chicago style hot dog stand. I know you Chicago natives know what I mean 🙂

    • Jamie Steinbrinck says:

      I hear you regarding traffic issues. Every time we travel back to Indiana we have to plan around it.

      Funny you should mention Chicago dogs, Mike. I LOVE them! I would be the first in line.

  10. Jamie, I am also a Non-sconnie I have lived here now for 12 years, I am originally from Ohio a die hard Buckeye fan, my wife is a native from New London I love it here now. I love the small town where we live it’s quiet and I can see the stars when I walk onto my back porch. I used to be a Redskins fan but have switched allegiances to the Pack, that and former Buckeye A.J. Hawk plays for them. You are so right about neighbors and getting out and discover Wisconsin, I have yet to attend a game at Lambeau but it is my hope that one day soon I can. I have been to see the Buckeyes play in Madison. Thanks for the Article.

    • Jamie Steinbrinck says:

      There is no substitute for real beauty in nature. I’m so glad you get to see the stars from your house! Not everyone has that luxury. New London is a great town – I know some wonderful people there.

      How fitting that you used to be a Buckeye fan. You guys are like the “Packer Fans of College Football” to me. One of the best fan bases around! I hope you get to Lambeau someday.

  11. Jamie – thanks for this article. My husband and I are moving to GB in October. I’m originally from Michigan, he’s from Idaho and we’ve lived in Colorado for the last few years. Just had a baby a month ago, so I’m glad to hear that the family piece exists!

    My biggest trouble is that we wont have much time to really determine WHERE we should live (we’ve found houses that are affordable in most places). We really like the homes/yards on the east side, mostly between Main St and 43… but we have literally no idea what the neighborhoods are like. Do you know of any resources to help us determine where to be? Thanks so much!

    • Karie A. Green says:

      Kelsey,check out Allouez!!! Variety of ages,architecture,convienient location, great schools,Target,Costco within a 10 minute drive!!! Mature trees, home prices in all ranges. I can suggest a wonderful agent-Barb Hayes with Shorewest-920-593-4142 welcome to the Green Bay Metro area!!!!

  12. My husband is in the Army and trying to become a recruiter. We went to a game at Lambeau 2 years ago and, even though he’s a Giants fan, he’s totally on board with moving to Green Bay so I can be with other Packers fans like myself! I’ve spent summers in Minnesota but I’m from Georgia and have never experienced “real winter”, according to my BFF from Ohio. Is winter really as bad as everyone keeps telling me? Or will I be ok with the right clothes? I just don’t want to be stuck inside for 8 months gnawing on cheese!

    • It’s not 8 months inside – that’s an exaggeration. It’s more like 7.

      To be honest, Alex. Winters do get pretty long. Some are more mild than others. And it’s usually pretty enjoyable until mid-January. Last year it was a rough one! But you can’t have the sweet without the bitter. People in Wisconsin take FULL advantage of their summers.

  13. Thank you so much for this article! I am interviewing in Green Bay (Fort Wayne native) and while it is freezing right now in Indiana, it’s not much different than GB. Jamie and Kasey, can you compare the cost of living from FW to GB?

  14. Well I’m from south Texas and I’m considering moving to Green Bay I just want to know how hard is getting a job over there

  15. This is great to hear – my husband and I are moving to the Green Bay area in a month and have no idea where the best place to live is? I want to be near a mall, lots of restaurants but also in a very good school district for my 11 and 12 yr old. Any suggestions? My husband will be working near Bellevue. Thanks in advance

    • Hi Donna. Thanks for checking us out! A lot of the answers to your questions are pretty subjective. It depends on who you ask, what kind of restaurants you like, what is important to you in a school etc. I can tell you that Bellevue is a growing community and people who live there tend to really enjoy it. Lots of development – including both homes and stores/restaurants. Nearby De Pere is known for its school system. Ashwaubenon is where Bay Park Square mall is located, as well as many recognizable restaurants (chains and franchises). It’s also near the “Stadium District” of Lambeau Field where there’s always a lot going on.

      But you’re really not far away from there wherever you live in the Green Bay area. And of course, we’d encourage you to check out the locally-owned restaurants and businesses in the area! Hope that helps!

  16. Jamie Steinbrinck says:

    Donna, I can’t add much to what Kasey mentioned, as he pretty much covered the basics, but what I can tell you is that Bellevue is very close the East Town Mall shopping area. It’s a smaller mall in Green Bay near a cluster of stores, along with some restaurants, so you could still get a little shopping done if you lived in Bellevue. KC is correct, anywhere you choose to live in GB will be somewhat close to the Bay Park Square Mall as it only takes you about 10 minutes to get there if you take the highway. If you like shopping, I would also encourage you to check out the Broadway District downtown – very cool, locally owned shops and GREAT restaurants worth trying (I speak from experience). Best of luck with your move, can’t wait to have you as our newest Green Bay residents!

  17. Thanks for the write up Jamie (and keeping up with the comments). I am coming up to Green Bay next week to check out Green Bay and planning on moving in May. I will be looking at town homes/apartments next weekend so any pointers there would be appreciated. I am looking at living decently close to downtown (10-15 minutes). I have lived in a few different places but am currently living in Baton Rouge, LA so I am sure there will be some major differences between here and Green Bay. Any must dos to get acclimated would be appreciated as well. Thanks.

  18. Donna Murphy says:

    Thanks Kasey and Jamie!! That helps a lot! We are seeing a lot of homes we like in an area called Kaukauna – are there a lot of “chain” restaurants there? Is it close to the Bay Park Sq Mall you were talking about? is that area know for good schools? Thanks for any input!!

  19. CR Smith says:

    Green Bay Wisconsin is one of the worst places I have ever had to deal with, and I am only taking that from third party friends that actually lived there. If you live outside of the actual “City of Green Bay” it isn’t bad, but one must discern from living in Green Bay to an area outside of the city, such as DePere. Yes, the mall is good, and that area is fine for shopping, but that isn’t anything you couldn’t find anywhere else in Wisconsin.

    Attend a Packer Game at Lambeau Field? Those games are mostly sold to season ticket holders and getting tickets is very costly. They play around 8 games a year, other than that, Lambeau Field is a parking lot with a stadium in the middle and a bunch of infrastructure that takes up space. Not only that, if you are not a Green Bay Packers fan, that is not for you….I like the Vikings and the Bears, skip the Packers.

    There is absolutely nothing to do downtown, and as usual, parking is a hassle. Don’t waste your gasoline, as getting downtown will get you totally lost. It is a difficult city to navigate. Jobs are NOT stable in Green Bay. In fact, there has been a major decline in jobs in Green Bay since the mid 2000’s. The surrounding areas have work, but most of the large, good paying factories, paper processing plants, and offices have gone out.

    Green Bay has the hidden nightmare….It feels great and then the “mafia” gets you. The City of Green Bay charges you a $75 fine if you accidentally leave your trash can out after the city picks up trash. Thus, if you work different hours, and you forget, or are not at home to move your city trash can from the curbside grass area to your yard, they slap you with a $75 fine for each can, and yes, each time!. So if you are at work or out of town and you forget about your garbage can, they act like the mafia!

    The City of Green Bay has no respect for the constitution and property rights. I know of a couple that went on vacation for two weeks and returned to find that the City had trespassed on their property and completely cut all of their decorative flowers and plants. They claimed that they violated a city ordinance. Never served a warrant, just did $3500 worth of damage to the citizen’s property. They moved out of the city and filed suit against the City of Green Bay for damages for the value of their home, which they state is basically worthless as they have no protection from the city.

    The city has some of the worse codes and ordinances and makes the Chinese government look like saints. I had friend that came home to find his car missing from his driveway. He thought it was stolen. After dealing with the “mafia” the city claimed that his vehicle was “too old” and they towed his vehicle from his private driveway at his home, when he was at work. The city attempted to extort over $400 to return his car. They never had a warrant to seize property and trespass on his land, and caused him financial harm as he could hardly afford to pay his utility bills because of paying the ransom to the City. Further, he was harassed by the city after that many times.

    Wal-Mart, which is obviously a well known store chain, attempted to purchase and build a store in Downtown Green Bay, an area which is zoned for such types of businesses. The location that Wal Mart attempted to build on was previously a department store, and was a perfect match for zoning for a large retailer. The City of Green Bay requires “approval” (approval of the head of the mafia) in order to build a structure or commercial building. The City Council denied Wal Mart a permit to build their store in Downtown Green Bay. Such activity caused Wal Mart financial harm, which invested millions in the design and development of the store. But don’t forget about all the JOBS that were lost because of that Wal Mart not being built.

    reen Bay has both big crime and petty crime, it ranges from graffiti…along with the city harssing you the day after you’ve been vandalized with potential fines….to shootings, robberies, muggings, car thefts….

    Over all, there is ABSOLUTELY nothing that would attract me to Green Bay. There are a few nice areas around the lake, but why not just drive north on either side of the Peninsula?

    Overall, I would describe Green Bay as a living hell, only from people that I met that actually lived there or tried to live there or do business there! STAY AWAY, that house is not worth the trouble! The surrounding areas and nearby towns can be nice. Probably the only positive thing I can think of about Green Bay is the city water is not as costly as Appleton.

    Oshkosh Wisconsin is an old city, much like Racine, but Oshkosh, at least so far, is a much nicer place to live with lower crime, and the city seems to be more friendly to business and citizens alike. Other than a parking ticket over parking with windsheild side out in a public lot (backing into stall) which was relatively inexpensive, I have had NO bad experiences in Oshkosh Wisconsin. It kind of feels like Milwaukee in the 70’s / 80’s.

    Appleton looks nice, but has high crime…there are alot of burglaries, thefts and robberies in Appleton. There are way too many cops, and citizens walking in public are often harassed by police in Appleton. The city mounted cameras on every major intersection, and Appleton now feels like living in a prison, you have cops following you walking to the grocery store. I have been harassed at least 4 times, and I am a white guy, I cannot imagine what is like for black people in Appleton. By the way, Appleton has no night parking…. you can’t park your car on the street overnight at all. I lived in Appleton for 5 years and became paranoid and had to carry surveillance equipment and install cameras in my house due to burglars. My vehicle was vandalized, sugar in the gas tank. Appleton sucks. But Green Bay is worse!!

    I would highly recommend that you stay out of major cities in Wisconsin. Country is the best deal in the state. Property taxes are huge in the city, and in comparison to other states, Wisconsin has higher taxes overall. But the burden of fines, fees, ordinances, and all the riff-raff that happens in the city, makes Green Bay the worst of all of them.

  20. CR Smith says:

    Green Bay Wisconsin is one of the worst places I have ever had to deal with, and I am only taking that from third party friends that actually lived there. If you live outside of the actual “City of Green Bay” it isn’t bad, but one must discern from living in Green Bay to an area outside of the city, such as DePere. Yes, the mall is good, and that area is fine for shopping, but that isn’t anything you couldn’t find anywhere else in Wisconsin.

    Attend a Packer Game at Lambeau Field? Those games are mostly sold to season ticket holders and getting tickets is very costly. They play around 8 games a year, other than that, Lambeau Field is a parking lot with a stadium in the middle and a bunch of infrastructure that takes up space. Not only that, if you are not a Green Bay Packers fan, that is not for you….I like the Vikings and the Bears, skip the Packers.

    There is absolutely nothing to do downtown, and as usual, parking is a hassle. Don’t waste your gasoline, as getting downtown will get you totally lost. It is a difficult city to navigate. Jobs are NOT stable in Green Bay. In fact, there has been a major decline in jobs in Green Bay since the mid 2000’s. The surrounding areas have work, but most of the large, good paying factories, paper processing plants, and offices have gone out.

  21. CR Smith says:

    Green Bay has nothing to do and between the crime and the city enforcing its rules and ordinances, I would recommend everybody avoid it. Go to a nicer place like Oshkosh or live in a suburb like DePere. But I would avoid Green Bay at all costs. I keep seeing my comment dissappear by the moderator. What, if it isn’t positive information you won’t publish it?

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