Oil barons in Stetsons, rodeos, big hairdos, NASA’s Johnson Space Center and its frequently borrowed line: “Houston, we have a problem..." - you’ll find it all here in Houston, mega-city of Texas.
Home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other US city except New York, Houston's economic powerhouse is based on energy (oil and gas), manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation.
Houstonians are, on the whole, incredibly polite, warm, welcoming and fiercely proud of being Texan. They are highly sociable and it won’t be long before you’re invited over for a barbeque and a frozen margarita.
With nearly one-third of Houston’s residents foreign-born, the city boasts a diverse culture. Its thriving downtown theatre district, plethora of museums and galleries, fantastic shopping malls, and varied residential areas from the arty area of Montrose to the luxury homes of River Oaks, make Houston an easy place to call home.
On the downside, smog (and poor air quality) can be a real problem here; Houston is a city designed for (very big) cars. While park n’ ride systems and car-pooling have been encouraged and a downtown metro was recently installed, its wider public transport infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade.
What is special or unique about your city?
Considered the world's energy capital, Houston is nicknamed "The Bayou City", after its Buffalo Bayou, a marshy body of water that runs through the heart of the city. With many visitors and residents from all over the world, Houston is the most international city in Texas -- and quite possibly the most diverse metropolis in the entire southern USA.
Houston is both a center of cutting-edge science and a home to the arts. In this city, you'll find the world-renowned Texas Medical Center, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston Symphony, Houston Philharmonic, Houston Ballet and Houston Opera.
In addition, Houston hosts the world's largest livestock show and rodeo each year.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Houston is a very spread-out city with a flat landscape. It is covered by busy freeways and a wide variety of restaurants. The city's high heat and humidity -- particularly in the summer -- can be a little overwhelming to some newcomers at first.
Many people who are new to Houston--and to Texas--will notice that Texans are very proud of their state, which is called the "Lone Star State." You'll also discover that, as in many parts of southern USA, the people in Houston are generally very friendly and helpful.
Are these impressions likely to change?
People adjust to the heat and humidity as time goes by. This goes for the busy freeways, too!
What is the local language?
English, though there is also a large Spanish speaking population in Houston.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Without working knowledge of English or Spanish, the newcomer will face some challenges. However, Houston is a very international city. Thus, with help from English speakers, a person may be able to get by in his or her native tongue.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Try to understand the traditions and history of the area. Houstonians are proud of their city and their state, so it is not a good idea to make fun of Texan (or American) ways!
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The very mild temperatures will allow you to be outdoors all winter, but the summers can be tough due to high temperatures and very high humidity. It is important to give yourself time to adjust. Drink lots of water and expect to move a little slower in the summer.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Houston is a city of contradictions. It is cosmopolitan, modern, fast-paced and international, yet it retains a friendly, small-town Texas feel. Its citizens embody a great deal of "Texas spirit," which is characterized by always looking to the future with mindfulness of the state's past.