Are All Americans the Same?
In the last year alone, I’ve managed to live in almost every single region of the United States. West, Pacific Northwest, Rockies, Midwest, South–you name it, and I’ve probably lived there for a month or two.
The experience was eye-opening and made me realize an extremely important fact: not all Americans are the same. In fact, the US does not feel like one country at all. Each region is so culturally and geographically different that, when I travel from coast to coast, I have to remind myself that I’m still in the same country.
So… how are these regions different, exactly? How is a west coaster different from an east coaster? What else makes these regions so vastly contrasting?
West Coast (aka California)
People from the west coast are friendly. They smile. They take life at a leisurely place. They stop to enjoy the roses. West coasters like to keep it casual, and can usually be found in a coffee shop or at a bar wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and some flip-flops. Sunglasses are a must.
The west coast is, compared to other regions of the US, also quite diverse. With the Mexico border nearby and the Pacific ocean connecting the west to the Asia Pacific, it’s easy to find great Mexican and Asian food just about anywhere. The diversity (particular in California) is refreshing.
Drawbacks can be found in the rampant growth of materialism popping up in the big cities in California (lookin’ at you, LA and SF). Also, people on the west coast, in their efforts to be friendly, may actually appear fake. They may converse with you in a bubbly voice and ask you out to dinner or an event, but in truth they really want nothing to do with you. It can also get tiring pretending to be friendly and happy all the time.
Pros: Laid-back vibe, friendly people, epic natural beauty (beaches and mountains, oh my!)
Cons: Crazy California drivers, fake people who are nice to your face but hate your guts, high cost of living
Mountain Region (aka Rockies)
My home. I usually like to lump Utah/Colorado/Idaho with the West Coast, but when I do this Californians usually laugh at me. Plus, these states are in another time zone, so I guess the Rockies are ‘officially’ a separate region.
The people in the rockies are quite similar to the west coasters. Compared to Californians, however, locals in the rocky mountain range are more down to Earth. We don’t have fancy Hollywood or Bay Area tech jobs, which has helped us keep income inequality at a reasonable level. We’re not as materialistic as the big city Californians, either.
Plus, thanks to the rocky mountain range, the natural beauty here is–no other way to say it–quite epic.
Pros: Laid-back vibe, majestic nature, friendly folk, low cost of living, not as fake as the Californians
Cons: No diversity, pace is a little too slow (shit needs to get done!), snow sucks
The Midwest was HUGE CULTURE SHOCK FOR ME. As someone from the West Coast, I have experienced more culture shock in the Midwest than any other region in the USA.
First, there are no mountains. Midwest is super flat. Second, Midwesterners have a great sense of family and community, which is great if you’re from there–but really sucks if you’re new to the area. Midwesterners are skeptical of those who fall outside of their ‘in’ group, thus making it quite difficult for a new transplant to fit in.
People in the Midwest are also EXTREMELY friendly. You know how I said west coasters are friendly? Well amplify that by 10, and you have the Midwest. Everyone says hi to you on the street, in the elevator, or at the store. Someone is always willing to outstretch a helping hand. People are smiling. The kindness here is not bubbly and overdone like California–it feels wholesome.
Pros: Friendly people
Cons: Can be insular, crazy cold weather, no mountains, lack of diversity
Ok. I’ll admit that I have never really lived in the South until moving to Texas (which may not even be part of the south–it might be a region all its own–but for convenience sake we’ll lump it into the South). Before moving to Texas a quick visit to Tennessee was the only experience I’ve had in the south.
People in the south are friendly without the California fake. They’re charming and straightforward. Texas in particular is a no BS kind of place. They give it to you straight, but in a friendly sort of way. I’m totally charmed by the accent.
I’m blown away by southern manners. Addressing people by ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ are the norm here. My coworkers all sit with impeccable posture. Table manners are top notch.
Pros: Friendliest Americans I’ve ever met, love the frankness, culture here is vibrant, manners
Cons: Lack of diversity, CRAZY drivers, too many guns, humidity
New York, D.C., Boston metro areas of the Northeast
I probably have no right even attempting to write about the East coast because I’ve never lived there. I can’t speak for all the states on the East coast (and it’s rude to lump them all together, considering Florida and Rhode Island are vastly different), but based on my limited time in these big East coast cities, I want to throw in my two cents.
Those from the East Coast will run you over to get to a meeting. Pace of life is fast. Go-go-go. No time for pleasantries, no time to say hello, no time to talk about the weather. It’s not a smiley place and, for the most part, you feel like no one gives it a shit about you. Deal with it. Friendly doesn’t exist here.
But wow. Great nature. Culture is vibrant and alive. Diversity is everywhere. You can smell the ambition in the air. Shit gets done here–and it gets done fast.
Pros: Great for the ambitious, don’t need a car, diversity, architecture, great nature, fast pace of life, strong sense of culture..
Cons: Cutthroat, inequality, people are aggressive, fast pace of life, cold winters, humid summers
So What Area is the Best?
Really depends on your personal preference. If you’re a go-getter who wants to make something of yourself, maybe the East Coast is right for you. If you want a slower pace of life with a good tech or media job, perhaps California fits the bill. If you want a nice community to raise your family, maybe the Midwest is where you want to be.
I’m still not a huge fan of US cities (especially after my stints in Japan and China), but I have to admit the diverse regions of the USA create a wealth of options for those looking to move here. We have epic mountains in the West, metropolitan powerhouses in the East, beaches on each coast and a unique sense of culture in each particular region.
Personally, I’m a Rockies girl through and through. I love me some mountains. However, the slow pace of life and lack of opportunities has drawn me to other areas of the USA.
Where Have You Visited in the USA? Do you have a favorite?
11 thoughts on “Are All Americans the Same?”
I think you are dead-on about California and the West and the Midwest. But…
Look, I know you Westerners have a tough time remembering all the teeny-tiny states back east, but you can’t lump in New England with D.C. Or New York with D.C. Or the South with Texas (mostly). As a former East Coaster who knows I-95, I can’t let such rampant “lumpism” go unchallenged!
New Yorkers are an in-you- face breed of their own and Boston don’t play. Okaaaayyyy, I suppose to non-natives Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are similar, but rural New Englanders won’t accept you for a generation, even if you do vote for the Red Socks, while in Boston folks are more welcoming and diverse (unless you take the parking space that they spent an hour shoveling free of snow).
And there are so many similarities between D.C. and L.A., thanks to Hollywood and politics — they both run on rumors and people in the know are nice if they think you can help them make it. But, yeah, on the East Coast if you aren’t five minutes early you are late, unless you are south of D.C., in which case Southern Time applies, yes, ma’am! (So true, your comment on how the South will sir and ma’am you to death.)
Miami is technically southern, only it’s not, it’s like a mini-NYC/ Boston/ Jersey/ Havana in a bikini.
And Texas? They are Special, as they will remind you constantly. “We were the only state that was a country and that’s why our flag can fly just as high as the Stars & Stripes!” But they are also remarkably bad at any history not involving Texas (blame their ridiculous white revisionist history textbooks!) and so that’s a bunch of hooey — California & Hawaii were also their own countries. Texans are, I think, the only Americans who still put state over country. Kind of like Republicans putting party over country…
Haha, touche! I knew I would get blowback on this post cause I’m lumping A LOT together. I need to add on a disclaimer and also bring up Hawaii and Alaska.
Yeah I was afraid to mention the East Coast because I have almost no experience there, so you showed me up! I guess in general Northeasterners just seem more in-your-face and direct than those on the west coast who try to be cool and casual. Northeasterners are also better dressed.
Plus, there can be drastic differences when comparing rural and metro even in-state. Like Portland is a liberal playground, but the rest of Oregon is quite conservative. I’m sure in the Northeast there are a lot of areas like that as well.
And yes… Texas. I feel it, haha. The Texas flag is EVERYWHERE. And when it comes to rampant capitalism and state power I think that Texas takes the cake.
When I wrote this post I actually included the pacific northwest, Texas, and other regions separately–but then I realized my post was 2,000 words long, haha! Had to lump it together to condense it.
I mainly wanted to write this post for myself because it’s been on my mind. I think it’s interesting how different Americans can be based on region… I’ve really been mind-blown this year.
Rocky Mountains = my home, the place I love (7+ years)
Hawaii = my home, but not my home (childhood+)
Pacific NW = serious love/hate relationship (6+years)
P.S. everywhere is flat after the Rockies 😛
“You mean that hill over there?”
Sniff, I’m glad you love the rockies as much as I do. It’s weird, even after living around Asia all these years and moving around the world…. in the end, I want to be back where I started (in the rockies).
PNW is awesome. I actually wrote a separate section for it, but then my blogpost became a book, haha.
Hope you’re settling back into Thailand well!
Ugh. The PNW is not awesome. You just visited and had a good time. Hahahahaha. But I had my worst job, worst date, worst relationship there. But, I will say, it’s got beautiful scenery, waterfalls, nature (love Springtime!), good eats and POWELL’S BOOKSTORES.
Ages ago, I stumbled upon a rant on Craigslist about PDX and I died laughing. It was the worst place to make new friends and date. The Williamette Weekly even admitted this.
Of course, this was years ago, so it’s quite possible with the influx of Californians fleeing their home State to move there that things have changed.
I also found PDX incredibly segregated and white. Now, I don’t mind white, but it’s pretty damn white. Blacks lived in the North PDX and the Latino and Vietnamese immigrants lived past 72nd street on the East side.
Sorry, I must stop rant now. Glad you liked it. I imagine it must be a really groovy place to visit. 😛
Haha I can see how PDX would incite your wrath. Weather does suck, and people there seem kind of grungy.
I think there are definitely more transplants in PDX now–and the locals hate it. When I flashed my California drivers license there I got sooooo many dirty looks.
I think after living in the deserts of California, I was overwhelmed to be in a green city. Plus, I could get around PDX without a car. That was pretty awesome.
Portland is super white. My husband is Chinese and I often found him to be the only minority… anywhere. It is still very segregated, and unfortunately, gentrification is pushing all the latinos/blacks/asians out from the city center.
I liked Portland a lot, but I can see it’s downsides as well. It’s hard to find a perfect place. I guess I really value nature and I was happy to finally live in a place where I could go on a beautiful hike at a moment’s notice.
PDX has A LOT going for it, for sure. I really adored the parks and walkable neighborhoods. Even if it is a bit Stepford Wives.
Have you ever watched Portlandia? God, they nail it.
OH, yeah, the weather. Super depressing. But when its sunny everyone is suddenly friendly. Hahahaha.
That’s why the Rockies are THE BEST PLACE. Snowy but sunny. People are nice, but not too nice. MEXICAN FOOD sooooo yummy. Nature is f’n awesome out there.
I love the diverse landscape of Utah and to a lesser extent Colorado, NM and Arizona. But Arizona has an incredibly lively desert. NM has its gems and of course, COLORADO, my love.
Even in a small country like Spain the landscapes and the people are very different in the north and the south, so it is only logical that in a such a big place as the US the differences are even bigger. I have never been there, though, so I might be a bit guilty myself of having in my head a standard idea of how American people are xD
You should write a post about how people in Spain are different! I’m really curious. I remember you wrote one similar about China a few years back (I think the difference between North/South?), would be great to learn about Spain.
Yeah, agree with Autumn. Not only that, Boston and rural Maine are so different, as well.
Haha ok, I’m going to edit this post. I was obviously out of line to give any kind of comment on the East Coast. This west coaster now knows her place!