Moving to a different area of the U.S. can leave you wondering if you accidentally dropped into another country where people call shopping carts “buggies,” soda turned into “pop” and everybody pronounces the name of a popular street the wrong way.
Don’t worry, though. You’re not the only one confused by U.S. geographical quirks. Here are six stories from regional culture shock survivors.
1. Talkative Midwesterners.
Naomi Hattaway found that her errands took twice as long when she moved from the Washington, D.C. metro area to Columbus, OH.
“Everyone here talks to each other,” she says.
Grocery clerks comment on Hattaway’s mango selection, urging her to try a pomegranate next time. The dry cleaner offers a review of the shop next door.
“Even the delivery driver comments on our newly planted phlox as he drops off our package from Amazon,” says Hattaway.”
When Aileen Smith moved from a suburb near Chicago to a farming community in Wisconsin, she assumed that people were constantly mistaking her for someone they knew.
“A wave or a friendly comment are just how people in rural Wisconsin live side by side,” says Smith. “It took a few months for it to not be forced on our end to reply in kind or even to initiate. We did adjust to it and have completely embraced it.”
2. Quirky phrases and strange foods.
When Zoe Meeken moved to Pittsburgh, PA, she was baffled when a coworker asked for the “sweeper” to “redd up” the office. (Translation: “Where’s the vacuum? I’d like to tidy up the office.)
In Pittsburgh, restaurants load up salads, pizza and sandwiches with French fries. Drivers have to perfect the “Pittsburgh left,” where a person making a left turn at an intersection stoplight darts immediately ahead to turn before the facing, stopped driver, the second the light turns green.
3. Just getting the job done in NYC.
When Megan Zavieh, a native Californian, moved to New York, she encountered what outsiders might view as unfriendliness.
“It’s not, though,” says Zavieh. “The grocery store clerk may not say hello or look you in the eye, but they’re not being rude. They’re just moving along and getting the job done.”
4. “Bless your heart?” Not exactly.
Zavieh lives in Alpharetta, GA now, where she says that “people are wonderfully nice but the pace is annoyingly slow.”
One thing she’s learned is that when a Southerner drawls out a “bless your heart,” that person isn’t wishing you abundant joy and peace. The term is actually a disguised insult, meaning,
“Oh, isn’t it so cute that you didn’t know that totally obvious thing that the rest of us know,” says Zavieh. “You really don’t want someone to say it to you,” she says.
5. Friendly Floridians.
When Jennifer Hancock moved from Los Angeles to Manatee County, FL, she once refused help from two men standing in line behind her at a store when they offered to help carry a heavy book case she bought.
“No one in Los Angeles would offer to help unless they had an ulterior motive,” she said.
Then the men followed Hancock into the parking lot.
“We can’t stand it,” they told her, taking the heavy furniture and lifting it into her car. “They told me to have a nice day and walked off,” says Hancock. Nothing like that had ever happened to her in Los Angeles, Hancock says.