Climate: get the full four seasons, just about on schedule (i.e. spring arrives in March, winter in December, etc.). Being on the coast, the weather is milder than even 15 miles inland, so the summers are less hot and the winters less frigid right in the city.
Living Areas: Pretty much the whole city is lived in, except the few blocks of the financial district. Boston is known for the clannishness of its neighborhoods, so it depends on what you're looking for. The North End is still mostly Italian, Beacon Hill and Back Bay old Boston families, South Boston Irish, Roxbury and Mattapan mostly black and hispanic. Some nighborhoods are more diverse, such as the South End but even there you get segregated sections, blocks where mostly gay people live or hispanic blocks, etc. It's only when you get out of Boston proper that you find more diversity, such as Cambridge and Somerville. Students tend to live in Allston/Brighton, Cambridge and Somerville.
Type of City: Boston is light industrial so only air pollution comes from cars and trucks. It's a small city geographically, you can walk from Back Bay to the North End in half an hour. Lots of beautiful old buildings, historical treasures such as the Boston Public Library, the State House, Fanueil Hall. Great place to see federalist style architecture.
Cleanliness: Fairly clean for a city. Lots of park areas and they're kept clean and used by lots of people. Boston has the "Emerald Necklace," a series of river and lake side parks that wind around the city. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, same guy that designed Central Park.
Crime Rates: Again, depends on where you go in the city, but crime is actually quite low. The only thing you have to watch out for is car theft. Boston has always been known as a high risk for car theft. Just take the usual precautions and you'll be okay.
The people of the city: Hmmm. Again, hard to specify as it is a modern American city and there are all kinds of people. One unique thing about Boston is that it has a very high percentage of students because of all the colleges and universities. One in five persons in Boston is a college student! When you add in teachers, administrative staff, researchers, etc., you can see why Boston is known for things such as having 6 times as many books in libraries as there are people in the metro area.
Diversity: That goes back to the neighborhood thing. Some parts of Boston are mostly white, others hispanic, others black, others Asian, etc. Boston does have a nasty repuation (well-earned I'm sad to say) for covert racism. For example, some people say the reason Larry Bird was so much more adored than other Celtics is because he's white. It's only in recent years that players like Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, etc. have gotten to be sports icons in Boston, so it's changing but slowly.
Environment: Boston has a lot of beautiful parkland. Also the Boston Harbor islands are now part of the Nat'l Park Service. As I said, not a lot of air pollution. Rivers and streams have been cleaned up a lot in recent decades. So has Boston Harbor. Now you can spot dolphins and sea lions in the harbor.
Expenses: Living expenses in Boston are fairly high, again that may have a lot to do with the volume of students. Right now, however, rentals are fairly inexpensive. Real estate is ridiculous, however, one of the most expensive parts of the country to in which to buy a house. Gasoline, ironically, is lower than some states because Massachusetts doesn't have a huge gas tax. Lots of farmer markets so you can get local produce cheaply. Heat in winter can be a big expense.
Schools: Public schools depend on the neighborhood, also lots of charter schools in the area.
Shopping: A great mall in Back Bay called Copley Place Mall, also an area of Boston called downtown crossing has a lot of big stores. Tons of great malls in outskirts of city.
Food/restaurants: As with ethnic neighborhoods, Boston's restaurants may depend on the neighborhood. North End has some of the best Italian food around. Fresh seafood is abundant, Legal Seafoods is very good. Big farmer's market downtown every weekend called Haymarket has everything from local produce to fresh fish.
Jobs: Entry level jobs abound in the Boston area. For more specialized work, check out the jobs section int he Globe. Boston has a very large medical industry -- dozens of hospitals. Also lots of teaching positions at all the colleges and universities. Also a fair amount of high-tech jobs. Tons of research being done -- medical, pharmaceutical, biological, high tech, etc.
Getting around: Subway and buses are very efficient for downtown, less so off the beaten track. Driving can be a bit challenging until you get used to finding your way around.
Boston is my adopted city. I love it because there is a tremendous amount of arts & culture. Lots of tradition but balanced by willingness to change when needed (i.e. harbor clean-up, massive recycling efforts in area, etc.) Boston is liberal politically, but politics in general is a HUGE deal. Sometimes it seems like every block has its own advocacy organization. A local joke is that there are five spectator sports in Boston: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and politics.
Speaking of sports, Boston is one of the best sports towns around. Not just because of the professional teams mentioned above, but also profesional soccer. Dozens of college teams.
People in Boston can be pretty reserved. In can be hard to make friends around here. But once you do make a friend, they're generally yours for life. People take friendship very seriously here. Best way to make friends is through something like college, or getting active in something you enjoy like an environmental advocacy group, local politics, etc.
There is always a lot to do in Boston -- concerts, comedy clubs, museums, theater, classical music, dance. It's a great city for family activities with the Acquarium, Children's Museum, Museum of Science. Lots of great outdoor summer activities: free concerts at the Hatch Shell (also Pops 4th of July concert), free concerts at City Hall, even just hanging out on the Esplanade on a summer afternoon. You can bikeride almost anywhere. Parking a car can be another matter!
But all in all, I think Boston is one of the most livable cities in US and I've lived many places in this country.
Answered By: Barbara H - 6/2/2007