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Welcome to My City:  Atlanta – Cultural Mecca of the South

04/30/2014

ANBE Michael Alfaro has worked for the OCC in the Atlanta field office for 10 months. Prior to moving to Atlanta, he worked at J.P. Morgan as a Private Banking Analyst.

Having spent my entire life in Miami, the Latin American “capital” of the United States, I didn’t know what to expect when I moved to Atlanta. What came to mind was country line dancing with cowboy hats and boots, a lot of Coca-Cola, Walking Dead-style zombies, and the Dukes of Hazzard running away from bumbling Sherriff Coltrane. What I discovered instead was a vibrant city with cultural prowess worthy of the title “Global City.” In just 10 months, I have discovered a burgeoning East Asian community (Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai); a salsero community that would make Miami dancers nervous; the proudest college football fans in the country (yes Alabama fans, Roll Tide!); and a family of OCC examiners to take refuge in.

Atlanta

Atlanta

What I love most about Atlanta is the dynamism of the city. Atlanta does not want to be pinned down. It takes pride in its Southern heritage, which emphasizes social solidarity, family values, and courage. Atlanta discredits any claim that it is just another city in the South. The monument that best represents the Atlanta psyche is the “Flair Statue” near the Georgia Dome. The Olympic monument is a celebration of the human spirit and a commemoration of the heroic potential of humankind to achieve the ideal, as the classical Greeks sought during the Age of Pericles.

The best-kept secret about Atlanta is the relaxing town squares scattered all over the metro area. The traditional Southern experience is only a quick drive to the old-fashioned antebellum plazas like Marietta Square or Roswell Square. When I first moved here, I spent a lot of time in these old-style squares to absorb the history and to gain an understanding of the people. When I need a still scene to retreat into a good book, Marietta Square always makes me feel at peace and centered with the world.

Whatever you do, be sure to get sucked into The Vortex at Little Five Points. Known as the godfather of all burger joints in Atlanta, The Vortex has been honored with “Best Burger” awards by a multitude of local and national publications since the day it opened. While you’re over there you might want to check out some of the thrift stores like the Junkman’s Daughter and find yourself some hipster gear so you can blend in with the scene. It might be a bit too quirky or trendy for some people’s taste, but you are guaranteed to have a good time.

My three favorite restaurants: I’m Cuban so I have to go with Mambo’s Café in Alpharetta. You can’t go wrong! The owner used to work at Versailles in Miami, so he is spot on with the cuisine (my mom would be jealous). Pho 24 is a must-go. It’s a Vietnamese place that’s open 24 hours, where you can get some of the tastiest vermicelli noodles or phở soup in town. Lastly, for you Southerners out there, visit Swallow at the Hollow for authentic barbequed pulled pork and ribs.

One last thing to mention is that Atlanta has a genuine group of examiners. I have had the pleasure of hanging out with some of my teammates outside of work. I am grateful that they warmly welcomed me like family. Southern hospitality is not just a credo here, but also a way of life.

Last Updated: 05/09/2014