Located in the north of the United States on the border of Canada, Detroit is well positioned on the Detroit River, making it a major port on one of the four major straits that connect the Great Lakes system to the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
The city used to be a major economic player in the US thanks to its booming automobile industry and was even nicknamed the Motor City. But due to industrial restructuring, the loss of jobs in the auto industry and a few other factors, the city went into sharp decline resulting in the loss of a considerable portion of its population. This drain resulted in Detroit becoming the largest US city ever to file for bankruptcy, but the city regained control of its finances and is pulling itself up by its proverbial bootstraps, once again attracting investment and people. In fact, the city's residents now proudly refer to it as the 'Comeback City'.
Living in Detroit as an expat
Detroit is the most populous city in the state of Michigan and has earned a reputation as being an American cultural hub, producing iconic contributions to the country’s automotive, music, art and design scenes.
The metro is still the cornerstone of the US automobile industry and home to the headquarters of manufacturing giants such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Aside from this, other large sectors include general manufacturing, technology, finance and healthcare.
Expats skilled in manufacturing, finance, IT, tourism, healthcare and exporting will find ample employment opportunities. The city’s automotive heritage is also still in high gear, offering ex-pats with experience in car manufacturing many great jobs.
Accommodation in Detroit is some of the most affordable in the US. Many newcomers choose to buy given the low property prices and the revitalisation of the city. With a range of freestanding houses and affordable apartments, the city truly has something for everyone.
Although the city’s public transport systems aren’t as extensive as other US metros, the mix of buses, trains and the tram system can take any commuter almost anywhere in the city. Taxis are also an effective way of getting around in Detroit, and cycling is a highly popular method of getting from point A to B. Most residents own a car, though road maintenance is almost a constant struggle with the varied weather patterns.
As in the rest of Michigan, low-income residents of Detroit may qualify for the Medicaid healthcare programme. This service provides either free or subsidised health insurance to those in need, but ex-pats will generally not be eligible. Healthcare facilities are generally of high quality in the city, but access to these services may be disparate between rich and poor neighbourhoods.
Cost of living in Detroit
The city's cost of living is still exceedingly reasonable, with reasonably priced public schooling, cheap accommodation and a generally great quality of life. Expats with cars should note that the city is quite large, which may influence the amount spent on petrol. Car insurance is also notoriously expensive.
Expat families and children
Parents moving to Detroit will be happy to find a great selection of reputable schools available, including private and international institutions. Faith-based institutions are also present, as well as those that focus on Montessori and Waldorf teachings.
For students, the city has two large universities, the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University, while there are many smaller colleges and higher-learning institutions dotted throughout the city.
There's also no shortage of entertainment. Known as a bastion of musical and cultural history, musos and culture buffs will certainly enjoy the lifestyle in Detroit – it is the birthplace of both Motown and techno, after all. The city boasts a host of great live music spots, and big artists never miss a chance to visit. Plus, the city's calendar is overloaded with fun festivals and other annual events that newcomers shouldn't miss out on. The city also has many museums that offer a deeper look into its history.
Climate in Detroit
A continental climate persists in Detroit, with very cold winters and generally hot summers. Snowfall and thunderstorms are not uncommon, making the weather throughout the year quite unruly at times.
Detroit is slowly shaking off the shackles of a reputation of urban decay that has plagued it for years and is now once again a buzzing metro with lively bars and eateries, plenty to see and do and a lively atmosphere of rebirth. It's no wonder the city is once again attracting new residents in their droves; it seems everyone wants to be part of Project Comeback.
►Read about the city's modes of transport in Getting Around in Detroit
Are you an expat living in Detroit?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Detroit. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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