Breaking Down Utah County Stereotypes

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Anybody who has lived in Utah longer than six months knows that there is an on-going debate between Utah County and Salt Lake County as to which county is the superior county to live in. Before I dive into the various arguments, lets take a look at some facts about both counties.

People In Utah

When you look the basic numbers, you can clearly see Salt Lake County has the bigger numbers when it comes to size and population. Not a surprise considering it’s home to the state’s capitol city. Utah County has a lower age average, probably due to the high amount of college students. When it comes to the dating scene, Utah County is by far the better place to meet new people. Utah County also currently has one of the best economies in the state and it’s only growing. Many would also be surprised that Utah County has a slight edge over Salt Lake County in average household incomes. Ironically, Utah County leads in people living in poverty.

Diversity in Utah

One stereotype that you can break here is that “if you don’t want to live in a place where everyone is white, leave Provo.” Data shows us that Salt Lake County is just about as white as Utah County with both counties being over 80% white. Both Salt Lake City and Provo are referred to as “melting pots.” You may ask how that is so with Provo being almost 90% white, but keep in mind BYU brings in a lot of students from all over the world that are not residents. The high population Provo/Orem has of college students can skew this data quite a bit.

Religion In Utah

This is probably no shocker to anyone. Even though Salt Lake City is home to the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah County has significantly more members of their church. You could come to the conclusion that regardless of the county, if you aren’t Mormon you likely aren’t religious at all.

Provo Buzz ran discussions and polls on several social networks. They asked people from both counties on what there opinions were when it came to living in the two counties. I will attempt to use those opinions of both sides as well as data/facts to break this debate down. Let’s answer some common statements you’ll hear about Utah County.

“Provo is so boring. There is nothing to do there!”

This is an interesting statement that many make just because it’s the only thing they know how to say. This question depends heavily on who you are. If you are an active homosexual, I will admit, you will probably spend more time in SLC as it is known as one of the top gay friendly cities in the U.S. There are several gay bars and clubs that Utah County simply doesn’t have.

Are you somebody who enjoys to drink and go to dance clubs? I’m shocked at how many people I meet from Salt Lake County that honestly believe the Provo area doesn’t have bars or dance clubs. They do! They are all over the place, in fact. While Salt Lake County certainly has more bars, it’s no issue to grab a cold one with some friends when living in Provo. Let’s also not forget the popular Provo music scene Utah County has that Salt Lake County lacks.

Generally it’s members of the LDS church that live in Salt Lake County that make these oxymoron statements about Utah County. What’s funny is that the stuff you are “allowed” to do as a Mormon in Salt Lake County you can do just as easily in Utah County. Whether it’s going to the movies, the mall, a nice restaurant, a sporting event, concert, you can do all of that in Utah County. So I almost want to laugh when a Mormon living in Salt Lake County says Provo is “boring.”

“People are so judgmental in Utah County.”

This is probably the most common statement you hear about Utah County. This statement is generally made by U of U grads who dislike BYU. The university is stereotyped as having a “h0lier-than-thou” mentality. Are there people with that mentality at BYU? Absolutely. Is it accurate to stereotype an entire county off of a portion of a college in Provo? Absolutely not.

Many of the “horror” stories I hear about living in Provo I can tell are extremely exaggerated. Sure, there are plenty that are real and unfortunate. When I hear these stories of being “judged” by other people, I always ask where they lived at the time. 99% of the time they will tell me it was when they were attending BYU and lived on or near campus. If you haven’t lived outside of the “BYU area” in Provo, you can’t really say you’ve lived in Provo. It is a completely different world. I’ve lived all over the Provo area. Whether you are white or black, Mormon or non-Mormon, NOBODY CARES. I can’t speak for how life is on BYU campus. I’m sure it could be different, but the actual city of Provo and all of Utah County is way different.

I was surprised to see how many Salt Lake residents jumped to defend Utah County on this one when reading responses. While there were many stories of disliking living in Provo (all of which were when attending BYU), many jumped to say that they were treated with much more respect in Utah County than they are now getting in Salt Lake County. These answers were coming from non-Mormons. So you don’t have to “drink to the Kool-Aid” in order to fit in when living in Utah County.

“People in Utah County are so cheap.”

You got me on this one. While there is still a large chunk on high spenders living in Utah County, I would certainly agree more people are hooked on coupons in Utah County than in Salt Lake County. I hate it. I’ve had discussions with business owners who have locations in both counties. Every single one of them sees better sales in Salt Lake County. You could make the argument that it is because Salt Lake County has a much larger market. But I personally think it’s because of all the Utah County college students that feel if they don’t get married before the age of 22 they will go to hell. You can read more of my thoughts in my “From First Date to Engagement…In Two Months” article. Essentially, these kids get married and have kids so quick they feel they have to live on coupons in order to survive. Part of the coupon craze is due to several BYU business students who feel the need to start the next big coupon company. You can read more of my rant on that in my “BYU: Founder of a Million Coupon Startups” article.

My Conclusion

I love Salt Lake County, in fact, most people in Utah County love Salt Lake County. Downtown Salt Lake City will always be a fun place to visit simply because it’s the capitol. Downtown Provo is growing faster than ever and while it’s going to bring a ton of new entertainment and diversity to the city, SLC will always be SLC.

What doesn’t make sense is why all these “closed-minded” people in Utah County love and accept the people and life in Salt Lake County, yet the “open-minded” people in Salt Lake County completely reject and stereotype everything about Utah County. I’m not saying everybody in Salt Lake County feels that way. That would be unfair. In fact, majority don’t feel that way. But we can all agree that more people in Salt Lake County dislike Utah County than vice versa.

Utah County is a fantastic place to live and recent publications from major magazines are starting to prove that. With a growing tech presence that is catching the nations eye, and a growing Downtown area, I think many of these Utah County stereotypes aren’t going to last much longer.

What are your thoughts on this ongoing debate? Please leave your thoughts and comments below!

Photo by Dan Thomas

Mike Romero
Mike is a self employed Dad who for some reason can't leave Utah County. When he's not writing about life he's out living it. He enjoys wakeboarding and long walks with the wife.

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