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Expats to Repats: How Mike Sweeney successfully turned his wife into a Buffalonian

Six years ago Mike Sweeney’s then-fiancee, Danielle, made an agreement with him. She said she’d give Buffalo a one-year trial period and see where things stood after that.

“After all this time, getting married in 2011, having a house, a dog and a kid — I can’t foresee any scenario where she’d leave even if she wanted to,” jokes Mike, 34.

Mike first met Danielle in a bar close to her hometown of Rutherford, N.J. He told a friend that same night he was going to marry her. But first, he had to make sure she’d be open to one little detail.

“On our second date I told her that I fully intended to move to back to Buffalo one day,” Mike says. “She responded casually with, ‘Oh, yeah? That’s cool.’ She obviously wasn’t thinking we’d get married, so she wasn’t overly concerned at the time about moving.”

The couple eventually visited Buffalo together for the first time in the summer of 2008. Mike remembers how Danielle’s eyes expanded as they drove down Elmwood Avenue, taking in all the shops, restaurants and bars. She was legitimately surprised, he says, that Buffalo was a real city. Hoboken Engagement 2010

In 2010, Mike and Danielle ultimately decided to give up on their fast-paced, paycheck-by-paycheck life, which included a 500-square-foot apartment, a 90-minute commute and an overworked schedule. They were tired of being tired.

“We were both working 60-plus hours a week but struggling just to get by,” Mike says. “I think we both thought that is what it took to live in a city.”

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Name: Michael and Danielle Sweeney
Ages: 34, 32
Current location: Elmwood Villiage
Previous locations: Dublin, Ireland; Jersey Shore; and Hoboken, NJ
Love most about Buffalo: Affordable, entertainment, sports culture, friendly
Doesn't miss most about New York City: The rat race

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After moving to Buffalo however, they soon realized that city living didn’t have to mean penny-pinching and dwelling in small quarters. Now, they both work at jobs they enjoy — Mike works for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and Danielle works at McGorry Law Firm —and they live in a spacious home right in the Elmwood Village.

“Everything we could possibly desire from a large city is available right here,” Mike says. “The jobs are here. The housing is phenomenal, whether you want historic or new or urban or rural. The entertainment is here. The food is most definitely here. Four quickly changing seasons, which make you appreciate each one more than the last, are also here. And all of this is available in a much more friendly and affordable environment than anywhere else we’ve ever been.”

Mike should know. After graduating from the University of Rochester in 2004, he spent time overseas in Dublin, Ireland, and then came back to the U.S. to the Jersey Shore, and eventually Hoboken, N.J.

Throughout the five-plus years that he lived in the New York City area, Mike says, he often frequented Buffalo-sports-affiliated bars or taverns, where he could watch the Bills play amid good company, and attend Sabres away games in East Rutherford, N.J., Manhattan or Long Island. Sports are yet another commonality he’s always appreciated about Buffalonians.

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One morning in early 2010, as Danielle was walking down the street, a stranger passed by and said simply, “Good morning.”

“It scared the heck out of her,” Mike said, laughing. “People in New York City don’t do that. If you look a stranger in the eye, they’ll ask what your problem is. But if you look a stranger in the eye in Buffalo, they’ll say hello. Stand next to them for 10 minutes and you’ll undoubtedly find a common connection.”

These days, Danielle welcomes the neighborly attitude of Buffalo like a warm blanket in the middle of winter. And if someone says hello to her on the street, she simply replies with a heartfelt smile of her own.

"Growing up, I never envisioned myself ever living in Buffalo, much less living here and loving all it has to offer," she adds. "I love the direction the city is going and the affordability of it all.  Who knew Buffalo would be the place I wanted to be?"

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