Chicago, the largest city in Illinois, and third largest in the US after New York and L.A., lounges on the coasts of Lake Michigan in the heart of the Midwest.
The self-proclaimed ‘Porkopolis’ has a heritage of meatpacking - as did neighbouring Cincinatti. Intense rivalry between the two cities is one of the factors behind Chicago's nickname the ‘Windy City’, meaning that it was full of bluster.
In recent years, Chicago has undergone a makeover. Older parts of town have been regenerated. Bridgeport for example, has shrugged off its former image as a South Side working class grip and is nowadays better known for its vibrant arts scene and creative gastronomy. These days, the elegant residential streets of Wicker Park give way to a bustling blend of boutiques, bookshops, eclectic bars and cafes and some of the city’s best restaurants.
Chicago is a fun city with an uncontainable zest for life. It boasts one of the world’s tallest buildings with the fastest elevators (Willis Tower), a fifteen-story Ferris wheel and no fewer than 7500 restaurants. In a bid to improve the city’s quality of living, the Mayor of Chicago launched a ‘Streets for Cycling’ project that will see 650 miles of cycling lanes installed across the city by 2020.
Another of the city’s irresistible draws is its centre, known as “The Loop.” The nickname refers to the area encircled by the elevated (‘L’) train tracks. There is something to suit every taste among Chicago’s 77 distinct community areas and diverse neighbourhoods, and you’ll find integrating into the Windy City a breeze.
What is special or unique about your city?
Chicago has an impressive skyline, a beautiful lakefront and 29 miles of free beaches and biking/walking paths.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Most people tend to associate Chicago with the Bulls basketball team and the famous gangster Al Capone. Unfortunately, the brilliant playing days of Michael Jordan and the Bulls are in the past and Chicago has not won a Championship game since 1998. Similarly, the days when prohibition-era gangsters showered the streets with bullets are long gone. These days, Chicago is a very safe city.
Despite its ethnic diversity, Chicago is a very segregated city. Ethnic groups tend to settle in neighbourhoods where fellow residents share the same culture and language. Examples of this are Milwaukee Ave, a Polish neighbourhood; Pilsen, a Mexican neighbourhood; Humboldt Park, a Puerto Rican neighbourhood and Devon Ave, an Indian neighbourhood. Be sure to explore the distinct neighbourhoods, as you will find great restaurants with traditional menus.
Are these impressions likely to change?
It is unlikely. If they do, it will be slowly and gradually.
What is the local language?
While English is the dominant language spoken in Chicago, many other languages such as Spanish, Italian and Polish are also spoken within the various ethnic neighbourhoods.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
It is possible to live in Chicago and not speak English. Many non-English speaking residents go about their daily lives, working and navigating the city. Speaking English is advantageous, doing so will prevent major challenges and will enable you to take advantage of everything that Chicago offers.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Keep in mind that asking too many personal questions can be considered offensive.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Chicago enjoys temperature and weather extremes. Winters are long and harsh, so plan to dress appropriately and in layers. Summers are hot and humid, so be prepared to run the air conditioner.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
The city becomes very lively during the summer months as Chicagoans tend to take advantage of the warm weather. There is an abundance of festivals, concerts, outdoor dining, sporting events and other activities.