I have lived in many different cities in my life: Mattoon, Ill., Interlochen, Mich., Seattle, Tulsa, San Francisco, New York City, Champaign, Ill., San Diego and now Des Moines.?

















From that, you might have concluded that I was an army brat. However, I left home early at an early age to pursue my dreams of ballet. Of all the places I have lived, I find Des Moines the most fascinating – and the best. Des Moines is like no other place on earth. I am different from many "Des Moinesians." I don't have family here, nor was I born here, and I am not like many native Iowans who returned to raise a family.

I am an Iowa immigrant. I never set foot into Iowa until my family of five (and an 80-pound German shepherd) piled into a Ford Excursion and drove from San Diego to Des Moines. "Why did you move from San Diego to Des Moines???" the natives ask. A job transfer moved us here, and it was an adjustment at first. Quite a shock, actually. No beaches, no warm winters and no surfer dudes. However, now that I have been here nine years, I have an immigrant’s perspective on why Des Moines rocks.

The people. They’re just amazing. Strangers talk to you as you walk down the street, and there are actual conversations in the elevators. The topic is usually the weather, as it should be. From 100-plus degrees in the summer to 10 below in the winter, it's a lot to talk about.?
Safety. When we first moved here, I couldn't believe that people left their cars running while they went into a convenience store strangely named "Kum & Go." Soon after moving here, I also witnessed a black Escalade with its engine running, parked in the Target lot. CRAZY!

People are considerate. A great example of this is when you are at a four-way stop and others motion you to go ahead of them even though you showed up late to the party. And people actually stop at stop signs.

People call you back. This is great, especially if you are in sales. I get a big grin on my face when people call me back just to say "no thank you."

Commute time. The average commute time for Greater Des Moines residents is about 11 to 14 minutes, and I often chuckle when the morning newscasts include traffic "delays."

Family. Many people who live in Iowa were born somewhere in in the state. They may have left for a bit to go to college or for a short stint in another city. However, they chose to come back and raise their family here. And for good reason.

Giving back. The Des Moines community rallies around nonprofits in a big way, not only with their money but with their time and energy.

Community. I couldn't believe how many times the doorbell rang when we moved to the area. For several days, we were showered with cookies, brownies, presents and good will. I felt like a new family member.

Work ethic. It is true about Midwesterners. They are a hardy bunch. Everyone works 24/7.  It could be because there is not a surfing beach to visit over lunch hour, or what companies out in San Diego call "board meetings."

No wonder Des Moines has received a gazillion national recognition awards, such as the best place to work, best place to raise a family, etc. I am just a little worried that the word is going to get out and too many people will want to move here! Can you stand a few million more immigrants like me?

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Katherine Harrington
Senior Account Executive, Business Record