European settlements began to appear in Alabama in the late 17th century as English traders began to frequent the river valleys along the shore. It was originally considered to be part of the Province of Carolina, but a 1702 French settlement on the Mobile River began to add tension to the area. It wouldn’t be until the Treaty of Paris in 1763 that the French would cede all control back to Britain. Then the Americans would gain control over the region after the Revolution.
Because of the natural resources available in the region, settlers from the original colonies quickly made their way west. The Mississippi Territory was divided into the states that would become Alabama and Mississippi.
Alabama would become the 22nd state in 1819, and it quickly became a center for the plantations that grew cotton through the use of slave labor. The Confederacy was eventually founded in Montgomery in 1861 and served as the capital of the breakaway states for some time.
This state has never been one to shy away from controversy. In 2019, the legislature passed the Human Life Protection Act. Any doctor who performs a banned abortion in the state could face life imprisonment.
List of the Pros of Living in Alabama
1. You are going to love the food in Alabama.
You haven’t experienced culinary heaven until you’ve had some grits that were made in Alabama. Local restaurants make them with butter and seafood fresh from the coast for an experience like none other. You can add some veggies if you want, a little bit of gravy, or be brave and ask for the hot sauce. When they’re done right, you can eat an entire cast-iron frying pan full of this deliciousness.
2. You’ll have access to 60 miles of beaches along the Gulf Coast.
There are some excellent beaches just waiting to be discovered when you start living in Alabama. Over 20 million visitors come to the coast each year because so many of them offer world-class experiences. West Beach is easily the best, extending from Mobile Bay to the Fort Morgan Peninsula. Orange Beach provides eight miles of white-sand goodness to explore with plenty of facilities. There is also Dauphin Island Park where there are incredible natural landscapes to see.
The tourist season typically runs between May to October each year. Since you’re already living in Alabama, you can head out to the coast whenever you want.
3. College football is pretty much a religion here.
When summer turns to fall in Alabama, then football season starts. If you don’t learn how to Roll Tide, then you’d better get out of the way. It is such an essential part of life that people will skip important events, like a wedding, if your schedule interferes with game day. Businesses close down so people can watch the game. High school football has a robust following here as well.
You don’t need to love football like a religion when you start living in Alabama, but it can help your adjustment period if you do.
4. You can barbecue almost any food in Alabama, and nobody will care.
Once you start living in Alabama, you will discover that barbecue from any other part of the country doesn’t make the grade. If you have a food item, then there is an expectation that you can grill it. You really haven’t experienced a true cheeseburger unless you have the veggies and the cheese placed directly on the grill, then smoked, and then put together with some homemade sauce.
If you don’t like the idea of putting in all that work, then visit your local meat-and-three restaurant. Choose your favorite BBQ, get three sides (one of which must be cornbread), and then prepare for the sweet tea. Don’t forget about the fried green tomatoes, the fried pickles, the fried catfish – well, come to think of it, just about anything fried tastes pretty good down here.
5. There are plenty of fun festivals to enjoy in the state.
Even though Mardi Gras is famous in New Orleans, most folks don’t know that it actually got its start in Mobile, Alabama. It is one of the great American experiences that you must enjoy at least once in your life. There are plenty of other fun festivals throughout the state that you can enjoy all year long when you start living here as well. You’ve got Dothan’s Peanut Festival, the Athens Grease Festival, and the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo – and there are numerous other options for you to consider too.
6. You will find some excellent beer options in Alabama.
There is at least one craft beer news story that hits the state wire in Alabama each week. A total of 30 breweries are in the state, and sales regularly exceed $400 million for the year. The state has a rich history in this beverage, with four businesses founded in 1874 to provide it. Prohibition came early to the state though, with the legislature passing a law to let individual counties vote if they wanted to go dry. Birmingham Brewing
7. If you don’t like the weather, then go to the mountains.
Because of its proximity to the Gulf, the weather in Alabama is typically sunny and warm. It can also by muggy and damp. There are days when it can pour like crazy, and then have an afternoon where it feels like you’re going to die because the air is so heavy. You’ll experience bitter cold, driving rain, and sweltering heat all in the same day sometimes when spring comes around.
The good news is that if that kind of weather is not your thing, then you can head up into the hills to have a much better experience. There will be less humidity, the heat doesn’t feel overwhelming, and there are a few chances for you to ski during the winter.
8. There is a rich history in the state that everyone embraces, for the good or the bad.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from history that you will find on display in Alabama. When the rest of the United States was focused on tearing down the statues and monuments to the Confederate leaders, you would see the people in this state talking about the lessons they learned over the years, including during statehood, the Civil War, and the reconstruction period.
The plantations further to the east were wealthy. Farmers in Alabama had poor land and worse conditions. Some of them couldn’t even afford slaves, so they were doing work in the fields on their own. Even though the legislature voted to separate themselves from the Union and over 120,000 soldiers from the state fought in the conflict, the perspective here is distinctly American.
9. You can walk outside barefoot at least nine months out of the year.
It might get wet and sticky in Alabama during the summer months, but that just means you’ve got another excuse to go to the beach. It’s shorts and t-shirt weather here 8-9 months out of the year, every year. If you don’t mind the 50s during the winter months, then you might make it barefoot all year long. Snow happens at the higher elevations in the state, but
10. It’s an excellent destination for military veterans.
Veterans are well-loved in Alabama. Patriotism here is directly linked to a person’s willingness to serve, which means you will find a lot of infrastructure support available for your health and wellness. The cost of living in the state is also lower compared to the rest of the country, which means you can find beautiful homes, sometimes a century old, at a price that you won’t believe. If you love old wood flooring, vaulted ceilings, and that intricate brick masonry work that you don’t see outside of the south, then this is the place for you to be.
11. There are deep musical roots to enjoy in Alabama.
Most people think of songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” when they start considering the musical roots of this state. Although country music remains popular here, some of the most innovative bands and music genres have come out of this region. Whether your preference is for jazz, EDM, or even heavy metal, you’ll discover that it is pretty easy to score some tickets to a local band and have a nice weekend out on the town. Even small towns in the state have bars that play live music regularly.
You’ll find the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia is a great place to explore. There’s the Jazz Hall of Fame in Birmingham as well. Some incredible music legends came from here too, including Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Buffet, and Nat King Cole.
12. The state has a quirky personality to it, ranging from its churches to its bars.
People are not afraid to express themselves in Alabama. That means you can find some interesting restaurants, creative boutiques, and some colorful language – even at church. Folks take their spirituality seriously here, but they also make sure that there are times to have some fun. Some people prefer the “old” ways of doing things, while entrepreneurs see the state as an affordable place to put down roots and prepare for the future.
13. There are some good manufacturing jobs to find in Alabama.
What you may not know about Alabama is that it is the only state in the country that can provide the natural resources which are necessary for iron and steel manufacturing. You’ll be living in a state that is the largest provider of steel pipe and cast-iron products in the nation. If your vocational experience works with this industry, then it is pretty easy to find some employment opportunities when you start living here.
The unemployment rate stays pretty close to what the national level is as well. In March 2019, it was stable at 3.7%, which is much lower than Mississippi’s 4.9%. The cost of living is lower here, so the wages aren’t as high as they are elsewhere, but you can carve out a nice life for yourself in Alabama.
14. Housing costs in Alabama are exceptionally low.
Did you know that the median home value in Montgomery is just $119,500? You can even find a nice place to rent for about $800 per month. Mobile has the 22nd-lowest cost of living in the United States. Even Huntsville is competitive with these figures. Even though housing costs are expected to rise by more than 3% in 2019 and 2020, you will still find some very affordable options to consider when you start living here.
Getting around the state is pretty easy too. You’ll want a car since public transportation can be iffy outside of the metro areas. The interstates will take you to Mobile, Birmingham, and Montgomery, with connections to Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, and Anniston easy to navigate. The traffic is pretty good as well, with the average commute in Birmingham only 26 minutes. It’s only 9 minutes to work if you live in Tuscaloosa.
15. You won’t need to deal with the crowds in Alabama.
The worst traffic that you’ll find in the state happens during college football season during a home game or when church lets out right before lunch and everyone heads to their favorite restaurant. Even when life feels busy in Alabama, the laid-back pace of life that you’ll find here makes things easier to adapt to after the move. Not everyone is polite, and there are pockets where crime and generational poverty are problems, but you can also make it here if that is your goal.
16. Educational opportunities are excellent in Alabama.
It is true that the public schools in Alabama could use some work, especially in the urban centers where funding isn’t always as good as it could be. When you get outside of the K-12 system, the successful football programs at Auburn and Alabama have helped to form one of the best programs for engineering, science, and business in the country. UAB also has one of the best medical programs in the United States. There are excellent graduate and doctoral programs around the state as well.
List of the Cons of Living in Alabama
1. Watch out for the cockroaches.
If you think that pest infestations are bad where you live now, then you’d better get ready for your first encounter with cockroaches when living in Alabama. The ones that live further north tend to be small and scurry around in the dark corners of your home. When you start living in this state, you’ll quickly discover that they can fly at your head.
Then you’ll want to keep an eye out for the gators, spiders, snakes, and scorpions that all seem like they’re a whole lot bigger than they should be when you start living here.
2. Some places are still closed on Sunday in Alabama.
The larger cities in Alabama have mostly abandoned the tradition of stores being closed on Sundays, but remnants of this tradition exist. Most stores and restaurants close before 10pm here as well, which means you’ll need to adjust your clocks accordingly. Friday and Saturday nights are the times when things start hopping, and it is a schedule that most folks eventually begin to appreciate.
3. Alabama might have beer, but it isn’t easy to get a drink sometimes.
There are still some counties in Alabama where alcohol sales are banned entirely. You can also find places where there are Sunday restrictions in place. Some cities limit the times of day when you purchase something, while others only allow it in particular settings. If you’re used to the blue laws of the north, then this might not be such a big deal. When you enjoy a quick trip to the 7-11 to grab some Mike’s Hard Lemonade, then you’ll want to stock up in advance instead of waiting for a craving.
4. Some of the kind phrases are really insults.
You’re going to hear people saying “bless your heart” frequently when you start living in Alabama. The only other phrase that might have more generic meanings to it is Roll Tide. It can be easy to mistake this phrase for a compliment when you move here, but the tone of voice from the individual will let you know what is really going on. It can be a sincere expression of concern or sympathy, but it’s usually offered as a polite way of saying that you’re the stupidest person ever or you made a terrible decision and won’t get any sympathy from it.
5. The weather can take a severe turn for the worse.
There are times when the weather in Alabama can seem finicky. You might even enjoy some of its unpredictability. What isn’t so great are the tornadoes that like to blow through when the stormy season hits. Having an E5 down here is no joke. Entire communities are wiped off of the map each year because of these weather events. You’ll need to have an emergency plan in place that can get you underground or into the most protected room of your home quickly.
Hurricanes are another problem that you’ll need to manage in Alabama as well. Camille is the one that many people talk about since it was only one of three Category 5 storms on record to make landfall in the United States. Tides were 10 feet above normal with the storm surge. More than a dozen notable storms have come through in the past century as well.
6. Alabama is ranked as one of the worst places to live in the United States.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked all of the states in the U.S. and DC in nine specific categories. They measured safety, housing, health, education, jobs, income, environment, civic engagement, and access to broadband Internet. Each item was assigned a value from 0-10, which means a 90 is a perfect score. New Hampshire scored the highest with a 77.6. Alabama finished 49th out of the 51 measurements at 51.3, only finishing above Arkansas because it had a higher rank in one of the categories.
The state scored a 0.3 from OECD for safety. It also scored a 1.7 for health, which was ranked 50th. Even when it scored an 8.4 for education, that placed the state sixth from the bottom in the United States. Residents report low-wage bases and high sales tax (such as 10% in the city of Tuscaloosa) as additional irritants.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Alabama
There are some distinctive challenges to consider when Alabama is on your radar as a place to call home. Numerous statistics and ranking mechanisms place the state at or near the bottom of the best places to live in the country. There is an active housing market and job opportunities are plentiful in most cities, but it may not be up to the living standards that you’re used to in your current community.
Montgomery might be the birthplace of the Confederacy, but it is also where the Civil Rights Movement began with Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If you want to learn about the history of the United States, then this is where you need to be.
The pros and cons of living in Alabama must go beyond the beautiful landscapes of the Gulf Shores and the cottages along the lakes to the actual opportunities that await you here. If you’ve got a job offer waiting and want a quiet place to live, then this state has a lot to offer if you don’t mind the ever-present politics.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.