Starting New in Miami
“This is Cuba with money,” Z said as he looked around the small man-made island in the middle of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. We had just arrived via a 55 mph Jet Ski ride that was way too rough for this newbie. I looked at him, the 24-year-old Miami-born Cuban entrepreneur with his stylish sunglasses, and then looked around the narrow and rocky beach with palm trees and icy blue water contrasted with the view of the gleaming buildings of downtown Miami. A tropical island with an urban view – I had never seen anything like it.
Getting Social in South Beach
Having moved to Miami less than two months earlier without knowing a soul in the city, I was walking down the hall of the office building early on a Monday morning with a lingering feeling of loneliness after a disappointingly uneventful weekend. I tried to remind myself of what I had been hearing from almost everyone I was meeting: “I hated Miami when I first moved here,” and “Miami grows on you.” Anyone who has been to Miami, even if just for a short trip, knows that most people are transplants from somewhere else. They’re either snowbirds (a word I learned my first week in Miami) escaping the northern winter, or immigrants and people seeking diversity, excitement, something exotic, all things they had associated with the name Miami. I came for a job from an equally exciting and diverse city, Los Angeles, which might be why I had assumed the transition to living in Miami would be easier than it was. But as I found out, it was not easy making friends in Miami — something I would hear over and over again from fellow transplants.
While turning the corner of the hallway of my downtown office building with my head down toward the gray carpet, Z came out of the office next door saying, “Hey, how was your weekend?” As I opened my mouth to answer I was shocked that I couldn’t hold back the tears and uncontrollably started crying, not quite the professional impression I wanted to make in the building where I worked. However, this uncontrollable outburst that I was feeling so embarrassed about led to making my first friend in the city and opened the gates to talking about more than just the superficial “how are you?” in the office hallways.
Miami is Not Quite Cuba
The beach was crowded with people: families, couples, barbecuing – their jet skis and boats parked along the sand. I was taking it all in; I was now on the other side of Cuba so to speak. Having spent three months studying abroad in Cuba during college and then moving to Miami nearly three years later I found myself taking mental notes and referring back to the experiences, people and topics I studied living in Havana.
After swimming around the island I got back on the jet ski and we sped off to the main attraction, Star Island. Perhaps it is because of the numerous celebrities that own homes on the island or the fact that stately mansions are the star of many movies, such as Scarface, or because tourist boats passing by get a fulsome, voyeuristic view of the luxuriously exposed backyards, that the island got its name. This was the Miami most people imagine, perhaps the reason why so many came and are still coming here.
One of the benefits of moving to a city where everyone is from somewhere else is that it’s a chance to make it your own. Maybe that’s what people mean when they say Miami finally grew on them.
Tamara Kahlon is a travel enthusiast currently living in Miami, FL. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and recieved her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from UCLA. She has traveled, lived and studied in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Middle East and is constantly looking to expand that list — but for now living in Miami is just fine!