Article Overview: Living in North Dakota, Moving to North Dakota
As a longtime local, I’m here to give you the unfiltered lowdown on living in North Dakota – no sugar coating, just the honest truth.
From our endless horizons and close-knit communities to the challenges of isolation and extreme weather, I’ll walk you through the highs and lows of North Dakota living. I’ll discuss the economic ups and downs shaped by agriculture and the oil industry, and I’ll share insights into the limited cultural and entertainment options that come with a less populated state.
Expect a candid look at the pros and cons of a state known for its rugged independence, where the beauty of the landscape is as undeniable as the harshness of its winters. Let’s get started.
Editor’s Note: As long time readers of this website will know, the fun lives in the comments. Don’t forget to take a look below to see what your neighbors are saying. We update this post regularly based on feedback received. Cheers!
Living in North Dakota
Table of Contents: Living in North Dakota
Table of Contents: Living in North Dakota
- Living in North Dakota
- Pros of Living in North Dakota
- Cons of Moving to North Dakota
- FAQ – Living in North Dakota
- Map of North Dakota
- Summary of Living in North Dakota
- Pros & Cons of Living in North Dakota
Pros of Living in North Dakota
1. North Dakota is Surprisingly Beautiful
Listen, I get it, North Dakota is usually everyone’s 50th state to visit for a reason. But, a common refrain from folks who do finally make the trip is “wow, it’s actually really beautiful here.” Home to spectacular Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Missouri River, Dakota Prairie Grasslands, a slew of national wildlife refuges, and even petrified forests, there’s more to North Dakota than its reputation allows. While the primary theme is rolling prairies, there’s also lots of wildlife, lakes, rivers, canyons, valleys, and even mountains.
2. Sense of Community
It’s no secret that North Dakota is out there. That can seem pretty isolating (more on that below) but the opposite is actually true as well. Because of the awareness of this remoteness, communities are pretty close-knit. People are often happy, eager even to help one another out in small and big ways. Whether it’s picking something up from the store or helping with a backyard project, the sense of community is a major pro of living in North Dakota.
Obviously there’s always a bad apple or two in any situation but overall people help one another here. If you’re moving to North Dakota from a big city like New York for example, you’ll see the changes immediately. It’s hard to imagine a person in need being ignored on a sidewalk here.
3. Winter Wonderland
In my experience, you either love winter or you hate it. There really isn’t too much in between. Living in North Dakota, loving winter is essential. And for those who do love winter, the season brings on a whole new world of recreation possibilities.
Snowmobiles are omnipresent. Ice hockey is wildly popular. Ice fishing is a major activity along with ice skating, and more. I kid you not, there are lots of people in this state that celebrate the first snow of the year. Perhaps it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome but there are ways to love our longest season.
4. Great Job Market
One major pro of living in North Dakota is the booming job market. North Dakota currently has the 4th best job market in the country meaning if you’re looking for work, odds are you’ll find it here. However, it’s worth noting that the state’s economy is heavily influenced by the energy sector, which is subject to big fluctuations in oil prices (more on that below).
Agriculture, healthcare, and manufacturing are the next three biggest industries behind energy, each with lots of job opportunities. In recent years there’s been a push to attract more tech jobs that seems to still be in the works. Another major employer in North Dakota is the US Air Force with the Minot Air Force Base having around 5,000 personnel stationed there. Finally worth mentioning, if you’re handy there’s always work for you in the construction realm given the growth the state has seen in the past decade or more.
5. Low Cost of Living
If you’re looking to save a buck (who can blame you these days) then moving to North Dakota is worth considering for the cost of living alone. North Dakota routinely ranks among the most affordable places to live in the US with all of the major staples across the board costing less here. In recent years housing costs have gone up but such is the case all over America. Utilities, groceries, healthcare, and education all fall well below the national averages.
6. You Get All Four Seasons
If you’re big on having four distinct seasons then North Dakota is your kind of place. Personally I *love* the fall and can’t imagine living in a place that doesn’t get amazing fall foliage. People don’t think of North Dakota as a fall foliage destination but I can tell you we see lots of it, especially the cottonwoods. Winter is certainly more dominant than I’d like (more on that below) and spring seems short but we get all four seasons every year.
7. The Great Tax Situation
Saving the best for last, living in North Dakota we’ve got a pretty sweet deal when it comes to taxes. In fact, North Dakota is ranked as having the 13th lowest tax burden on residents. Let me break it down for you. First off, our personal income tax rates? They’re super low, we’re taking 1.1% – 2.9%. On top of that – our property taxes are some of the lowest in the country. We’re talking an average rate of around 0.99%. It’s a huge relief, especially for homeowners like me. Makes owning a home way more manageable.
Oh, and if you’re a retiree, you’ll love this: North Dakota doesn’t tax your Social Security income. So many of my retired neighbors are happy about that. Plus, we don’t have sales tax on necessities like food and medicine, which makes a big difference in the budget.
But it’s not just great for us individuals. Businesses here get a good deal too, with corporate income tax rates ranging from 1.41% to 4.31%. That’s definitely helped our local economy, bringing in jobs and all that good stuff.
Cons of Moving to North Dakota
1. Winter Depression
So this is the part where I tell you that moving to North Dakota ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. Far from it. Winters here can be really rough. In fact, North Dakota is rated as having the most miserable winter in America.
I know I’m bound to get some comments disagreeing but I’m telling you, it literally does not get worse (in America) than a North Dakota winter. This inevitably leads to an annual winter depression. While it hits everyone at different times of the winter (some brave souls can stave it off for months), it eventually comes for us all at one point or another.
One reason for this is that winter here is extremely cold. Three out of the top five coldest cities in the United States are located in North Dakota.
Another reason for the winter blues is that winter here just seems never ending, lasting for about six months out of the year. Woof. And the darkness is downright awful. North Dakota is one of the least sunny states in America clocking in at 42/50. All this is to say, if you’re not a winter person for heaven’s sake think long and hard before moving to North Dakota.
2. The Isolation
Everyone works a little differently. Some folks claim to love their alone time and prefer a solitary existence over one surrounded by fellow humans. If this sounds like you then living in North Dakota will fit you like a glove. If you’re like me, and enjoy spending time with others, and like the modern perks of living in a city, well you’re in for an adjustment. North Dakota is a vast place with lots of open space and a small population. Towns and cities are spread out, and neighbors aren’t always just a stone’s throw away.
The long distances to travel for basic amenities and social gatherings can be a bit tiresome. Especially in rural areas, the nearest grocery store, hospital, or even a friend’s house is usually quite a distance away (more on this below). The aforementioned harsh winters amplify this feeling of isolation. When the snow piles up and the temperatures drop, it feels like you’ve been effectively cut off from the rest of the world. Social activities slow down, and just getting around is a challenge.
3. The Long Drives
As someone who’s lived in North Dakota for ages, let me tell you, the amount of time you spend in your car is a real downside. Around here, everything is spread out, and I mean everything. You need to go to the grocery store? That’s a drive. Dropping the kids off at school, visiting friends, even just a quick trip to the post office, it all adds up.
And the distances aren’t small either. We’re talking miles and miles of driving. It’s not unusual for folks to commute long distances for work or even just for basic errands. I’ve had times where I’ve spent more time in my car than I did at my destination!
Then, consider the harsh winters I detailed earlier. Snow, ice, freezing temperatures – they make driving tough and time-consuming. It’s not just a quick hop into the car; it’s scraping ice off the windshield, navigating slippery roads, and extra cautious driving.
So yeah, living here means you’re going to be spending a fair bit of time in your car. It’s just part of life in North Dakota. You get used to it, but it’s definitely something that can take a bit of adjusting.
4. Lack of Shopping & Stores
I’ll cut to the chase– There are no Trader Joe’s in North Dakota. There are no Whole Foods in North Dakota. For the remaining few readers who are still in shock and struggling to find the “x” button to escape this bleak section of the article, there is a silver lining. There are two Costcos in North Dakota (Fargo & Bismarck) officially making it a habitable state.
If you live in Fargo, Minot, Grand Forks, or Bismarck you’ll find Walmart and some bigger stores but outside of that it’s tough. In most parts of the state you might have a couple of local shops and maybe a supermarket if you’re lucky, but that’s about it. For anything more specialized, like a fancy boutique or a big electronics store, you’re looking at a pretty long drive to the nearest city. And it’s not just shopping for fun stuff; sometimes, even finding basic necessities can be a trek.
Online shopping helps, but there’s still that wait for delivery, and sometimes it’s just nice to see things in person before you buy them. So, yeah, living in North Dakota means you’ve got to plan your shopping trips more carefully and be okay with not having a mall or a big variety of stores just a short drive away. You learn to make do with what’s available locally, but I won’t lie – I do get a bit envious when I hear about the shopping options in more urban areas.
5. Summer Mosquitoes
The mosquitoes come as a surprise to lots of folks I talk to outside of the state. If you’re not familiar with living in North Dakota then it makes sense why you’d make this assumption – harsh winters plus general lack of humidity equals no mosquitoes, right? Oh you sweet summer child…
Every year when the snow finally melts, the mosquitoes go full war zone on us.
It’s a bit maddening because just when you’re at peak desperate for nice weather after yet another brutal winter, you go outside only to get savaged by mosquitoes. Luckily the worst of the mosquitoes typically doesn’t last too long.
6. Lack of Dining Options
Let me put it this way: if you’re a fan of big-city culinary variety, you might find North Dakota more than a bit lacking. We’ve got some solid local eateries, sure, but when it comes to variety, especially international cuisine, it’s pretty limited to say the least.
Most small towns here have a couple of diners or family restaurants, which are fantastic for a classic American meal – think burgers, steaks, and hearty breakfasts. But if you’re craving something like authentic Thai food, high-end sushi, or even a variety of vegetarian or vegan options, you’re not going to find much of that around here.
In larger cities like Fargo, there’s a bit more variety, but it’s still nothing compared to what you’d find in a big metro area. And if you’re living out in the rural areas, you’re mostly looking at a long drive if you want to dine out somewhere that’s not your typical local joint.
So, while we do have some solid, comforting food, the lack of diverse dining options is definitely a downside of living in North Dakota.
7. One-Sided Politics
Living in North Dakota, you’ll notice the politics tend to lean pretty heavily in one direction. We’re known for being a predominantly conservative state. This political homogeneity can be a bit of a downside, especially if you’re looking for a more diverse or balanced political environment.
In conversations around town, at local events, even in local government, there’s often a strong sense of consensus on issues. This can make it tough for folks with different viewpoints to feel heard or represented. It’s not that alternative perspectives aren’t here; it’s just that they’re not prominent or influential.
For someone who values a mix of opinions and a more balanced political discourse, living in an area where one political ideology dominates can feel a bit limiting.
Don’t get me wrong, there are pockets of diverse thought, and people generally respect one another’s views. But the overwhelming lean towards one side of the political spectrum is definitely noticeable and, for some, a drawback of living in North Dakota.
8. The Boom/Bust Oil Economy
As a longtime local, I’ve seen firsthand how the oil economy has its downsides here in North Dakota. Sure, the oil boom brought in a lot of jobs and money, but it’s also brought its share of challenges. First off, the oil industry is pretty volatile. When things are good, they’re really good. But when oil prices drop or there’s a downturn, it hits our state hard. Jobs disappear almost overnight, and towns that were booming suddenly struggle. It’s this boom-and-bust cycle that makes things unpredictable.
Then there’s the impact on our small towns and infrastructure. With the influx of workers during boom times, our roads, housing, and public services can get overwhelmed. Prices for housing and rent skyrocket, making it tough for locals. And the increase in traffic and heavy machinery has taken a toll on our roads.
Also, there’s the environmental aspect. Oil drilling and fracking have raised serious concerns about water and land quality here, and not everyone is comfortable with the trade-offs (including me). So while the oil industry is a big part of our economy, it’s not without its challenges and controversies, especially for those of us who’ve been here a long time and have seen the ups and downs.
FAQ – Living in North Dakota
Is North Dakota a good place to live?
Is North Dakota a good place to live?
North Dakota is a good state to live in for those who appreciate a slower pace of life, wide-open spaces, and a strong sense of community. It’s particularly appealing for outdoor enthusiasts, given its beautiful landscapes, hunting and fishing opportunities, and outdoor activities like hiking and biking. The state’s low cost of living, including affordable housing and lower taxes, makes it attractive for families and retirees looking for a more economical lifestyle. North Dakota is also ideal for individuals seeking job opportunities in agriculture, energy (particularly oil and renewable energy), and healthcare. Moreover, it’s a great place for those who value a simpler way of life, with less congestion and a smaller population, offering a peaceful and less hectic daily routine. The state’s strong educational system, with a focus on community and technical colleges, also makes it a good choice for students and educators.
What is the cost of living in North Dakota?
What is the cost of living in North Dakota?
The cost of living in North Dakota is generally lower than the national average, making it an affordable option for many. Housing costs in North Dakota are particularly reasonable, with median home prices and rent below the national figures. This affordability in housing significantly reduces overall living expenses. Groceries and healthcare also tend to be more affordable compared to other parts of the United States. However, utility costs can be slightly higher, primarily due to the extreme temperatures that require more heating in winter and cooling in summer. Transportation costs can be a factor as well, given the rural nature of much of the state and the necessity of owning a car for commuting long distances. Overall, North Dakota offers a cost-effective living environment, particularly attractive to families and individuals seeking a more affordable lifestyle without the high costs associated with larger urban centers.
What is North Dakota Known for?
What is North Dakota Known for?
North Dakota is known for its vast, picturesque prairies, rugged Badlands, and rich agricultural heritage. It’s often called the “Peace Garden State” due to the International Peace Garden on the border with Canada, symbolizing the peaceful relationship between the two countries. North Dakota is a major producer of wheat, making it a key player in the nation’s agriculture. The state also has a thriving energy sector, with significant oil and natural gas production from the Bakken Formation. It’s home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which preserves the striking Badlands landscape and honors the 26th U.S. President’s conservation efforts. North Dakota has a strong Native American presence, with several reservations and a rich indigenous history. Additionally, it’s known for its friendly, tight-knit communities and outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and hiking.
Map of North Dakota
Summary of Living in North Dakota
- North Dakota is surprisingly beautiful
- Sense of community
- Winter wonderland
- Great job market
- Low cost of living
- You get all four seasons
- The great tax situation
- Winter Depression
- The isolation
- The long drives
- Lack of shopping & stores
- Summer mosquitoes
- Lack of dining options
- One-sided politics
- The boom-bust oil economy
Pros & Cons of Living in North Dakota
|Pros of Living in North Dakota
|Cons of Moving to North Dakota
|1. Surprisingly beautiful
|1. Winter Depression
|2. Sense of community
|3. Winter wonderland
|3. Long drives
|4. Great job market
|4. Lack of shopping & stores
|5. Low cost of living
|5. Summer mosquitoes
|6. Experience all four seasons
|6. Lack of dining options
|7. Great tax situation
|7. One-sided politics
|8. Boom-bust oil economy
Pin Living in North Dakota
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