Thinking of moving to ND here is what you need to know
It seems the word is out and ND is the place to be, we have jobs, affordable housing, and great communities to raise children. But you want more than rumors and second hand stories from others about what its like up here so here it is North Dakota.
North Dakota is a large state bordering Canada, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana. We have 7 main 'cities' from biggest to smallest: Williston (a big oil boom town), Fargo, Minot, Grand Forks, Bismarck (our capital), Dickinson and Jamestown.
Williston: This once sleepy town has been turned into a wild wild west oil boom town and here you can meet people from every single state in the country. While it is true there is work to be done on the oil rigs, people from all over the country have flocked here for that exact idea. They have swamped the town and and there is NO PLACE TO LIVE! if you are lucky enough to find any non existent housing a 1bed apt goes for around $2000 a month. People have come with their moterhomes and with the idea that they will just sleep in their car for a few months or camp out. There is NO room. any land owners WILL charge for you to park/camp on their land, and yes it will be around $2000 a month to camp. Everything is expensive there, and I kid you not when I say it looks like the wild wild west. There are not enough police to combat all of the incoming people and crime rates have gone through the roof. Please read ND in a nut shell below to understand a bit more about what living in this state was/is like, it explains some of the psychology behind the North Dakotan. Here Williston is facing a different kind of issue that is the issue of an incredible number of people not knowing how to live in ND (we do have many unwritten rules of behavior conduct) and we lack the resources needed to combat such issues. For example ND doesn't really have gangs, at least not the kind you see in places like Florida or California, which means when the gangs of FL and CA come up here for the oil boom the police don't have the resources to deal with them, and there are not enough locals to help out, and the new comers are so used to this they hardly pay attention to it. Making it look like the wild wild west. That said there is a possibility of making money and even a job at McDonald's will get you $15/hr, but such openings are less and less as the entire broke country of the USA tries to cram itself into this state.
Fargo: Once the biggest town in ND, This is where I live. It borders the town of Moorhead in MN and when here you will frequently hear this area being called Fargo/Moorhead, the FM area, and the Red River Valley. The Red River is our north flowing river that separates ND from MN, it floods often, like every year. and every year the FM community pulls together and sandbags. In the 2011 floods we made 2,000,000 sandbags and stopped the river which crested at 39 feet, all of the sandbags were volunteer made, and stacked. So community volunteerism and helping your neighbor is a big thing around here, and if you live here you are expected to help out. Our view is this is everyone's home so lets keep it nice. There are 3 colleges in this area NDSU, MSUM, and Concordia so there is a fun youthful atmosphere, actually its the most liberal town in ND! There are plenty of student discounts and many events going on at the Fargodom (our giant football dome) here you can see popular musicians, football games, monster truck rallies, circus's, and so much more. Part and full time work is plentiful. The cost of living $300-500 for a 1bed or studio, $500-600 for a 2 bed. Milk is $3.10 a gal, Bread is .99, gas is $3.59. My rent is $550 a month for a 2bed apt near campus, but the farther from campus you get (and by this i mean more than 1/2mile away) the cheaper it gets, this includes the down town area. Some apts in the down town area are very posh and will run you $600-$800 for a 1 bed. but most are reasonably priced and amenities are often included (water, heat, and sometimes cable). So if your looking for a vibrant environment with a good majority of the population between the ages of 18-30, affordable housing and a variety of available jobs then Fargo is the place to go.
Minot: This town is both getting hit with the oil boom and recovering from a major flood. This town is growing and growing fast, but in the spring of 2011 there was a big flood and it wiped out the town. Thank goodness for this years strange mild winter because many people are still living in FEMA trailers (tiny tin trailer cans that wont hold up against our winters). They are rebuilding and will be building more for the oil boom, but for now the town is still 'under construction'.
Grand Forks: Similar to Fargo but slightly smaller. Grand Forks has the University of North Dakota and baring another name change the fighting Sioux. Cost of housing is generally $400-500 for a 1 bed, $500-600 for a 2 bed. It also has a youthful atmosphere thanks to the college but not as many activities such as bands, and events due to the lack of Fargodom. But that said they still have plenty of exciting things going on. There are many jobs part and full time as well.Also you will be at very little risk of flooding. Grand Forks and East Grand Forks (that's the MN side of Grand Forks) have a diversion plan after the 97' Flood took out their town. So no sandbagging needed here. So the main things to know about Grand Forks is vibrant atmosphere, jobs, and affordable housing, and little to no flooding.
Bismarck: The capital of ND, ironically one of the least populated 'big' cities in ND. There is a college here, but over all the town is not nearly as vibrant as Grand Forks or Fargo. Bismark also has not fully gotten hit by the oil boom, which means housing is still pretty affordable but be forewarned, many apts in Williston and Minot gave their residents little warning for a rent increase from $550 to $2000 a month, once the oil boom came. Bismark is next. But for now you should still be able to find a few jobs, and decently affordable housing. But if your looking to travel a lot watch out in the 9 months of winter for the road closures that will close down the 94 highway (the only main road in/out of Bismarck) don't worry we only close the highway for a day or at most a couple of days during a blizzard or in high winds.
Dickinson and Jamestown: Sorry guys I've only ever driven through these towns, both have colleges, and Jamestown is a quick 1 1/2hr drive to Fargo if there is something going on at the Fargodom. But they seem like nice towns and the prices to my knowledge are about the same as in Fargo maybe a few cents more.
Other towns of ND: There has got to be hundreds of tiny towns in ND these have a population of usually 20-400people. These are the town that still use a 1 room school house, and your graduating class might be 7 people. These are often farming towns where every body knows each other and a trip to walmart on a Saturday once every few weeks is considered a exciting family outing. Think little house on the prairie and Mayberry (the Andy Griffith show)when you think of these towns. The people are often good hard working no nonsense people. They worked hard all their lives and show them respect because they will put you in your place if you mouth off. These communities are very small and very close and if you move here you will be the talk of the town. These places are great places to raise a family, safe, quiet, and small. This is also where most of the young ones learn their work ethic. You will see board teens here but you wont see things like street gangs or much graphiti kinds of vandalism, why because those kids are worked to bone tired, and when you work from 4am-9pm in the summer your just to tired to stay out all night causing havock. Teens will be teens and all of us have plenty of crazy stories we did when we were young, but if ever caught watch out because its not just your dad who will carry out your punishment, if your grounded and sneak someone in the town will see you and inform the parents. This sort of working the kid to death and close community has created a very safe community with a great work ethic.
ND in a Nut Shell: Understanding North Dakota. (before the oil boom): This state is large and sparsely populated. The state is flat (with the exception of the bad lands in the south), very windy, the ground is fertile and the winters are long. North Dakotans' talk actively about the weather, it really is an exciting topic for us because its always changing. Our winters typically last around 9 months and the coldest I've ever seen it get is -50F, but don't worry if it does get that cold it only lasts for a day or so, most of the time the winters stay between a chilly -20F to 30F on very warm days; and when the weather hits a balmy 32F to 50F well we are out and about in our shorts and t-shirts. Our summers might be as long as 3 months long between June-August, during this time the temp. is normally between 60F to 110F. During this time the farmers (which includes most of the state) are out tending to their fields or animals, this time is especially useful if your looking for a job as a farm hand as many farms could use an extra pair of hands, however the North Dakota work ethic is you work till you drop and then you keep on working so if your looking for a easy summer job, working as a farm hand is not it. You will however learn a lot and get to do plenty of an honest day's work.
Hunting is a big pass time here in ND and some teachers will let their students out early in anticipation of the deer hunting opening weekend. Many of North Dakotan kids will have had their first deer kill before 14, and firing their first gun as soon as they grow into the child size rifles. For those who now think this state is full of crazy gun nuts who will start shooting everyone as soon as the sun goes down let me assure you this is not the case. ND is an incredibly safe state (preoil boom). We don't have 'gangs' and the term 'gehto' is used by the teens who are board. As far as shootings, my last school shooting was 4 years ago the culprit a 19yr old in the art building, the weapon a water gun. (Yes I'm serious, no the person wasn't trying to hold up the building, but someone saw a 'gun' and every student got 2 texts/calls every 1/2 hr from 3am-6am saying don't go to this building, wern't we all annoyed and rolling our eyes when we found out the biggest danger to us was getting wet). Now I'll tell you the reason why your not going to see something like columbine or Virginia Tec in these parts, it is because any shooter stupid enough to try and do a school shooting would be taken out before he got 5 shots off. Weather this is because another student would shoot him, or because all the guys would rush him and he would be out before he could scream. Either way our school shootings happen with a water gun. Gun safety is taking very seriously around here tho and your not going to see any drive by shootings done by North Dakotans, bullets are for deer not people. If a person is shot its likely for one of 3 reasons. 1) gun cleaning accident/accidental shooting often involving the person holding the gun shooting themselves 2) not wearing orange while hunting. 3) Trespassing on someone elses land. North Dakota has castle laws meaning if you break into some elses house they can legally kill you, and they will. So be smart and when you see the fence with a sign saying 'No Trespassing' and 'Trespassers will be shot', don't trespass on that land.
Community closeness is also very important in ND, due to the cold winters, outragious floods, and all that comes with living in ND. Communities become very close by necessity. In the rural areas there wont be a plow coming to plow you out after a blizzard dumps a foot or 2 of snow on your farm. And unless you have a snow mobile you wont be able to get to town and if you do get to town there is no guarantee that the store will be open. Which means you be very nice to your neighbor that has a plow on the front of his truck so when the blizzard comes he will come help you out. This is seen in the cities too, for example in Fargo the whole town comes to sandbag during the spring flood, if you help your neighbor they will help you. And really if your young and strong helping sandbag the little old lady's house is just the right thing to do, and she will probably bake you some amazing homemade cookies :). We give all that we have for our community and only take what we need, this way there is always enough for everyone.
Friendliness of ND, yes it a real thing, we will say hello and ask how your day is going to complete strangers, and we will wave to say hello to people driving by. People are kind and will likely give you the shirt off their backs if you need it.
Political views, religious, and demographics: Primarily ND is a conservative, if your liberal best to stick to a city like Fargo, Grand Forks, Williston and maybe Bismarck. If you prefer a lively political debate or even just like to get a rise out of people who have different views then you, PLEASE STICK TO THE CITIES. Lively political debates or getting someone all riled up in the rural areas just for the fun of it is not done, and you don't want those farmers mad a you. Religiously you have your Catholics, and Lutherans. Yea that's it, The cities will offer some other Protestant churches; but those with other religious views other than Christian your going to want to check out that specific town to see if it has your specific house of worship, and the cities are going to be your best bet. For the most part North Dakotans are decedents of Germans, Swiss, Swedish, Scandinavian, Norwegian, and even a few Dutch and Irish. So yes blond hair blue eyes abound. Now this is not to say we don't have some diversity. Fargo and Grand Forks actually have a fair amount of New American population most from various African countries. There is also many from China and India due to the colleges and Native Americans; and lets not forget about our oil boom which you can literally meet someone from every single state in one town (Williston).
So that's ND, I hope you now have a better idea of the state. If you would like to know more specifically about something, please feel free to msg me. If your from here please feel free to add something you think I might have missed. This is not based on any sort of study or imperial data, or meant to offend or scare anyone, but simply my own observation and experience. Truth is if you really want to know ND there is only one way to find out and that is simply to come up here. I hope this helps give people a better general idea and if you do decide to come up here let me be the first to say Welcome to North Dakota!
I'm going to tack on a little about Minot since I'm from here.
After the flood there was people from all over trying to come in a "help rebuild". By this I mean people that didn't pass the background checks that were setup. It was so bad that people were not able to work for two or 4 days after they got here. The bad thing about this? There were still lots of bad people that stayed up here.
Crime in Minot went through the roof. Women were being snatched in parking lots. It happened at walmart enough times that they had a boarder partrol vehicle parked there until things died down. We even had the ATF here helping the MPD out.
Now, does this sound bad? Yup, it does, but then winter came. The crime did die down a lot. Enough that I don't worry about my gf being out and about by herself anymore (but she does have peper spray). I don't know how bad things will pick up again or if they even will but I would think about this if I were you.
There isn't a heck of a lot to do around either. We get the state fair, but concert wise that's about it. There are plenty of recreational activities to do lilke hunting and fishing.
I hate to sound like I'm slamming the town, but the flood and the oil activity took it's toll. There is no place to live and the rent is pretty bad. $2000+ for a house easy. A shitty apartment is around $700.
I would suggest going to fargo if you want affordable living. Bismarck won't have it for much longer and if fargo get's hit by the boom then it won't happen for another 10-15 years.
But this is just my two cents