Examples of "regional" common knowledge
August 2, 2016 8:47 AM   Subscribe

A family member has been visiting the Chicago suburbs for 15 years and just experienced a tornado siren test for the first time. After recovering, the question was asked, what other things do people do, know, accept, etc. it isn't given a second thought by locals, but would be unexpected, unusual, etc. to outsiders?

Even just looking up information on the sirens, it seems like "civil defense siren" is a more universal term, but we just call them tornado sirens. Totally normal, unless you don't live in an area that has tornadoes.

I've seen things like the regional maps of terms like soda (incorrect) vs. pop (correct), and assume pop culture stuff like everyone in Chicagoland knowing the phone number for Empire Carpet by heart will vary, but what are pieces of "common knowledge" may only be common in a given area?

Not restrained to Chicago or the Midwest or even the US; just looking for examples of things that seem totally normal when you grow up with them, but maybe actually be unique.
posted by hankscorpio83 to Society & Culture (274 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Surface streets" means "not the freeway" in Los Angeles, but I learned after moving away that people in other regions don't use that term.
posted by something something at 8:48 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Noon sirens in the rural midwest.

Traffic lanes which change direction depending on the time of day, which seems insane, except in Nebraska.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:49 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


I grew up in Vermont. We don't have toll roads. The concept of carrying change for driving didn't enter my naive little mind until I took my first road trip out of state.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:53 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Air quality warning days.
posted by northernish at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Right-of-way at traffic circles in New Jersey is determined by "local custom". Straight out of the driver's manual: "In most cases, the circle’s historically established traffic flow pattern dictates who has the right-of-way."
posted by backseatpilot at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [39 favorites]


Earthquake drills, from a Californian. We had one at work and the people who didn't grow up here were a little baffled.
posted by brainmouse at 8:56 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I've spent almost my entire life in the NYC metro area and was totally unprepared the first time I encountered a highway with 20 miles between exits instead of like, 1 mile.

Also the dramatic variation of liquor laws from state to state. Drive-thru liquor stores; who knew?
posted by lalex at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Shabbat sirens in parts of Israel.
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Robo calls after an earthquake that issue a warning about tsunamis... Rural Northern CA.
posted by cairnoflore at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Massachusetts and other states along the New England coast often issue Red Tide warnings during the warmer months, which was something I had never heard of until I moved here. Red Tide is an algal bloom that can make people sick; swimming and shellfishing are generally restricted when it gets bad.

Military bases will play Reveille in the morning and the national anthem in the afternoon. Reveille is generally ignored, but in the afternoon the whole base comes to a standstill during the national anthem. Cars are expected to stop, pedestrians halt and put hands to hearts and remove hats. None of this is explained to outsiders.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


Here in Northeast Florida one of the things that always astonishes visitors is the suddenness and ferocity of afternoon thunderstorms. It'll be sunny one minute, pitch black and raining sideways the next, and then sunny ten minutes later. It's not at all uncommon to see this in your mirror on a daily basis.
posted by saladin at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


Everyone in Michigan knows exactly where they live on their right hand.

Military bases will play Reveille in the morning and the national anthem in the afternoon.

That's Retreat, not the anthem.
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


Things I find weird when I visit New Jersey:

Many intersections don't allow left turns. You turn left by making a right turn onto a "jug handle" road that curves around and brings you onto the road you want.

You can't pump your own gas. (Also true in Oregon, though I believe now there are some exceptions there.)
posted by Redstart at 9:03 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's Retreat, not the anthem.

Not at the Air Force bases I've been to, it's always been the anthem.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:03 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


funeral processions (not one you're in). the rules are laid out in the driving manual but I never encountered one 'in the wild' until after a decade or so because they are so uncommon where I grew up (suburban L.A.). It took me a while to figure out what was going on and remember the protocol.

Come to think of it, I had the same problem with school busses: I didn't live somewhere where they stop and let kids out by the side of the road until recently.
posted by dness2 at 9:06 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just the term you used Chicagoland is a good example. When I moved to Chicago from the Tri-Sate area (NY, NJ, CT) it took me a good two years before I knew wtf people were referring to when they used Chicagoland.

Here in Westchester County you will hear the occasional nuclear power plant evacuation siren tests. I call it the kiss your ass goodbye signal, but I don't think that is the official name for it. Also, you are only expected to evacuate if you are in a 10 mile radius of the plant. I have had visitors asking about the long loud siren that went on for minutes.

I think posted speed limits and actual traffic patterns is another one. I know that on the LIE (495) that 55 really means 70.
posted by AugustWest at 9:07 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Another New Jersey thing; knowing "what exit" you're from, and being able to use that as a guideline to determine where in the state someone else is from.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:09 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I work on a military base. When in a line for any services on base like the post office or the MVD, people in uniform go to the head of the line.
posted by answergrape at 9:10 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


There are monthly sirens tests for the Sequoyah Nuclear Power plant in Tennessee - at least there were when I was growing up near it. Also evacuation routes marked on road signs in the area. I assume the same is true for other areas with nuclear plants.
posted by frobozz at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


My Floridian relatives are bemused by the "Pittsburgh left" every time they visit.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


Around here (Boston), "stand right walk left" on an escalator is practically gospel. I gather that in other parts of the country this is treated more casually.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


Back in the '90s I was in a building and experienced my first earthquake. I was an a fairly interior office, and it was over fairly quickly, so I only got to the "WTF?!?!" moment, but the folks closer to the exit door started evacuating. One of the non-natives had heard "shelter in doorways" and so, for a brief moment, blocked the exit because reflex told him it was the safest place to be...
posted by straw at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Vermont:

Town meeting. The first Tuesday in March (except in towns that have established a different day for it.) It's where the town's budget for the upcoming year is approved, usually by a voice vote. Various other town government questions may come up for a vote, too - whether to adopt zoning, for instance.

There is essentially no county level government in Vermont. People like local control. This means that your little town library is not usually part of a larger library system and your little town elementary school is often not part of any larger school system. It's common to have a school district that consists of a single elementary school. (This is changing, though, as the state is strongly encouraging formation of larger districts.) There are about 280 school districts in Vermont, serving a total student population smaller than many single districts in other states.

To my kids, a wooden covered bridge is a pretty ordinary thing. There are two within a mile of our house. They think it's funny that tourists take pictures of them.

Maple sugaring is something pretty much everyone knows about here. Many people either make a little syrup themselves or know someone who does. If you're at any kind of meeting or gathering during sugaring season, people will be talking about whether the sap is running, when they're going to be boiling, etc. You see sap tubing all over and I suppose a lot of people from other places don't know what it is.
posted by Redstart at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


The differences in street layout can be surprising and confusing. I grew up in a twisty suburban area in the South and was floored by Chicago's phenomenally well-planned grid system. Then we moved to the Boston area, where the streets are meandering and off-kilter and weird naming conventions like this happen (count the streets named "Hancock").

As an aside: "pop" is wrong and will always be wrong, you're welcome
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2016 [19 favorites]


No carryout alcohol sales on Sunday in Indiana. It's such "common" knowledge that most stores don't even bother to put signs up or otherwise indicate that it's not permitted, leaving out-of-staters to be embarrassed when they get to the checkout line to be told they can't buy the beer/wine/liquor in their cart that day.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:27 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


In the area around New York City, when you say "The City" you mean Manhattan specifically.

In Massachusetts, you call Cape Cod "The Cape." I've come to understand that most people outside of New England don't even know Cape Cod is what you call the "arm," and when I say I'm from "The Cape" they can't fathom what I'm talking about.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Let me give you one better on tornado sirens. The tornado sirens in southern IL are completely different from the tornado sirens in the west St. Louis, MO area. As a Southern Illinois native I was really bemused by the MO sirens. In IL, the siren part is different and there's also an automated announcement that this is a tornado warning. In MO, you just get whooping sirens, no explanation.
posted by possibilityleft at 9:31 AM on August 2, 2016


I never knew that I was pronouncing Nevada wrong until I moved here.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:33 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I had an internet friend from England once whom I was talking to one day about where I lived and where I had lived before that. I said my old hometown is three hours northwest of where I live now. She commented on how US people always describe distances by the amount of time it takes to travel rather than using actual linear measurement terms like miles or kilometers.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:34 AM on August 2, 2016 [33 favorites]


I grew up in coastal Georgia. Only newbies and panicky schmucks evacuate for hurricanes, unless you have a family house farther inland.
posted by phunniemee at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Until the thread last week I literally had no idea that there were special things associated with a 7th inning stretch, or that they varied regionally! I live in Atlanta, which is certainly not a world-class city but is, somehow, a city.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine was backstage at a hippie music festival in the late 90's. Around dusk, the Swedish bassist, Jonas Hellborg, started saying that he thought someone had dosed his drink with LSD. Reason why: he saw fireflies everywhere.
posted by thelonius at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2016 [31 favorites]


Here in the south, when there's an approaching funeral procession (or one coming up behind you), it's customary to pull over on the side of the road and turn on your headlights in solidarity, and as a show of respect for the family. It's a nice custom, but baffling if you're not from here.
posted by jhope71 at 9:43 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


In Alaska, "Outside" means the contiguous 48 states. People can be from Outside, and people can go Outside. Hawaii is our warmer soul mate and not part of Outside.
posted by rhapsodie at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2016 [26 favorites]


One from living in Germany as a kid - public transit is more or less on the honor system. When you buy your (single-ride or daily) ticket, you're supposed to validate it with a little machine either on the platform or in the vehicle. Occasionally you'll see transit police asking people for their tickets and checking the validation stamps. I've seen this described in tourist guidebooks, but have never seen signs on trains, ticket vending machines, or on platforms.

I was traveling to Munich a couple years ago for work, and stopped in to a produce shop to pick up some strawberries for a snack. There were a couple other patrons in there, but no queue and the employees didn't seem in any particular hurry to help out. I picked up a clamshell package of strawberries, walked up to the till, paid, and left. I didn't realize until they started talking to each other as I was leaving the shop that there was in fact a line and I was supposed to wait for an employee to grab the produce for me and bring it to the register.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:50 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Many Minnesotan cities have snow emergencies during and after significant snowfall, with each city having very specific rules on where and what side of the street you can park on, depending on which day it is of the snow emergency (this is so snowplows can plow all the way to the curb, unobstructed by cars).

We're not very good at remembering this ourselves, given how many cars are towed during the first big snowfall of the winter. We usually average a couple snow emergencies a month between December and March.
posted by castlebravo at 9:50 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Calls to prayer strike me as a rather obvious example of this.
posted by mykescipark at 9:52 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


In Memphis, there used to be a very restrictive ordinance against car horn honking. Seriously, it was against the law. So even now, we rarely use the horns in our car, and it's considered very rude to do it. We might give it a little tap if the light turns green and you're on your phone, and if there's a dangerous situation, but that's about it.
posted by raisingsand at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, butter sticks have different proportions on the West Coast (previously). I'd never seen a stubby stick until I was about thirty.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Kansas liquor laws are insane. They've changed since I've lived there, but I remember people talking about 3.2 beer, an expression I'd never heard before, which referred to alcohol percentage and where that beer could be sold (grocery store versus liquor store). "Liquor by the drink" was not legal - except in private clubs - so many restaurants had a regular section and a club section. Some counties ("dry" counties) still operate that way.

Not sure if the "blue laws" are still in effect in all of Missouri, but on Sundays, you could only buy food and prescription drugs. Grocery stores would be open, but sections with non-food items would be roped off with signs saying "not to be sold on Sunday". This was in the 1970s and 1980s.
posted by FencingGal at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Someone I knew in college was from Georgia and had never been up close and personal with fresh snow until coming to Chicago. He was stunned when he first saw a snowflake and learned that the intricate symmetric structure was real and not just something out of a Disney movie.

People who haven't lived in Arizona seem to be surprised to hear that flash floods are common here.
posted by egregious theorem at 10:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Growing up in North Carolina it was accepted practice that life more or less took a pause for the ACC basketball tournament. We'd even stop instructional time and watch games during class. Asking people what the church they go to and 1) expecting there to be an answer and 2) using that to place the person in a socio-economic class probably isn't particular to the South, but there's place where it wouldn't be a thing at all. North Carolina outside the cities at least used to be a very slow driving place. The five miles an hour over is basically the minimum speed thing I'm used to now, used to be flying down the road in the left lane speed.

Travelling once in New Mexico I got a dire warning from the car rental person that I could become dehydrated in the heat without seeming to sweat because the sweat would evaporate before I noticed it. As a person from the high humidity east coast this never even occurred to me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


In the Denver area we give directions using East, West, South, North, which I think is confusing to visitors or new residents. The mountains are to our West, so we navigate the city with that in mind. Instead of telling someone to take a left on a certain street we say "Go South on Colorado Blvd, then head East on 13th."

When my husband first moved here from Nebraska he asked someone what time it was. She responded with "5 of 3", which completely confounded him. To us it means "2:55."
posted by GoldenEel at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Outsiders often pronounce Oregon differently than locals (locals say Oreg'n, outsiders say OreGON).

In Italy it is considered really bad form to touch produce until you've bought it. Either you point at it and get the shopkeeper to handle it for you, or you need to wear gloves when you pick it up.
posted by hungrytiger at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Homecoming Mums in Texas gave me a serious WTF when I first learned of them (and I'm from neighboring Oklahoma).
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:11 AM on August 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


Great answers everyone! This has kicked up some local (Chicago) things I didn't realize!

Lutoslawski: I-90 also has reversible lanes that flip between "inbound" in the morning and "outbound" in the afternoon.

Which leads to the fact that no one calls it I-90, or any other highway by number. It's always by name, and then on top of that, using nicknames ("the merge", "the junction", "the circle", etc) as points of reference. I assume most places don't require guides to understand traffic reports.


DevilsAdvocate: No alcohol sales before 11am on Sunday in Illinois, but it seems to be posted in most places I've seen. Still, pretty silly. :)


thelonius: LOL - fireflies caught out the Californian visitor too, but I don't think she was concerned about being drugged!


backseatpilot: I got caught out in Toronto with improperly validated (or not validated) tickets on a train. I'm still not sure what I was supposed to do, since I thought I followed the directions, but I definitely didn't do it right. Just a shake of the head from the person checking though!


castlebravo: 2" inches of snowfall here, and you'll be towed if you leave your car on the street. CA visitor had no idea.


Metroid Baby: I... can't even.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:13 AM on August 2, 2016


Grew up in Chicago, talking about expressways. Nowhere else have I found anyone to use the term expressways. Still use the term today, though it confuses some people.

I do use 'surface streets' when describing a way to get around town without getting on the expressway, but I'm not sure where I picked that up.
posted by hydra77 at 10:14 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Place names I didn't know how to pronounce until I found myself living near them:

Yakima, WA (YAK-i-maw)
Barre, VT (like berry}
posted by Redstart at 10:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Alternate-side-of-the-street parking in NYC
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Italians must be baffled by a world filled with people queueing in an orderly fashion. Who am I kidding, they don't give a shit.

Here's the secret gleaned after many years of living here. When there's not a number dispenser (post office, grocery store bread/ deli counters, etc.) the general thing to do is ask in a loud voice "Chi è l'ultima?". Asking who the last person arrived/in line is means theoretically you only have to remember the person in front of you.

Culturally accepted line jumpers are the pregnant and elderly/invalid. Any other line jumpers outside of that category are assholes and you may call them out on it.
posted by romakimmy at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


In Massachusetts, you call a shop where you buy alcoholic beverages a "package store" or a "packie." I don't think anyone anywhere else uses that term.
posted by xingcat at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


When I lived in Virginia, it took me a while to understand what ABC On and ABC Off meant. The concept of an ABC store at all is unique to certain states. Also, when I first went to the Burwood Tap in Chicago and heard the someone ask for a "Togo cup" I was flummoxed.
posted by AugustWest at 10:21 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Californians have 'freeways'
They understand what highways are but not turnpikes or expressways.
posted by vacapinta at 10:22 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Michigan Left always baffled my out of state friends in college.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Homecoming Mums in Texas gave me a serious WTF when I first learned of them (and I'm from neighboring Oklahoma).

Mums were definitely the big deal on Homecoming, but on all other Fridays during the football season, the cheerleaders also sold football ribbons -- ribbons about 12" long and 3" wide that had the football players' pictures on them, scores of recent games, locations of upcoming games, etc. They were like $1 and served both as a display of school spirit and a fundraiser. The ribbons on homecoming were massive -- probably three feet long and 5" wide -- and had a lot more stuff printed on them. They were meant to be attached to the mums.

I have googled up and down and can't find a picture of anything like the football ribbons I remember.

Another Texas localism: It was standard practice to leave shoes outside after working in the fields or in the garden, etc. But you never, ever put those shoes back on until you first checked to see if something was living in it. There was one summer when a toad took up residence in my dad's mud shoes and had to be evicted every time he wanted to put the shoes on.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Things that have puzzled my wife about Minnesota, my home state, during visits:

-booya (a gathering where you make a big vat of stew, usually put on by firefighters)
- meat raffles
- Midwesterners in general can usually tell the difference between "summer storm" and possible tornado weather

Also when traveling on I-35 in southern Minnesota, everyone knows where Cabela's is and uses it as a frame of reference. You would say you are 30 mins past Cabela's, not the town it's in.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Has anyone mentioned passing on the shoulder in Texas, which is basic common courtesy (like the one-fingered wave), but totally illegal everywhere else?
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Thought of a couple winter-related ones!

Around here in Massachusetts, most towns have blue flashing lights attached to the traffic lights at major intersections. When they're on, it means there's a snow emergency and parking restrictions are in effect. I had never seen those growing up.

Many towns around here will also leave barrels of sand or salt out at major intersections. I'm actually still not entirely sure what the etiquette is surrounding those - are they just for people to use around that intersection if conditions get bad, or can I take a scoop home to use on my sidewalk if I run out of my own supply?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Americans misunderstand the Canadian (and British) "sorry". They think we're apologizing for something, which is understandable. But it's only a verbal tick. We don't actually feel regret or remorse when we blurt out "sorry" in a random situation.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2016 [23 favorites]


It took me an embarrassingly long time after I moved to Maryland to realize that the "inner loop" and "outer loop" of the Beltway did not refer to separate ring roads but merely the set of lanes going one direction vs. the set of lanes going the other direction.
posted by drlith at 10:34 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Knowing when to forget everything you've learned about pronouncing place names is a classic, global local signifier—where I'm from, anyone who correctly pronounces Cairo, Des Plaines, Athens, or [New] Berlin reveals himself to be an outsider.
posted by Polycarp at 10:38 AM on August 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


(hydra77, I picked up "surface streets" vs "expressway" when I lived in Chicago, so it's possible you did too)
posted by drlith at 10:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Houston highways have different names depending on the section to which one is referring. I've lived here 22 years and it still makes me crazy. I found a quick list here:

Gulf Freeway: I-45 between downtown and Galveston
North Freeway: I-45 between downtown and The Woodlands
Baytown East Freeway: I-10 between downtown and Baytown
Katy Freeway: I-10 between downtown and Katy
Southwest Freeway: 59 between downtown and Sugarland
Eastex Freeway: 59 between downtown and Kingwood
South Freeway: 288
Northwest Freeway: 290
Beltway: Sam Houston Tollway and Beltway 8 names are used interchangeably
Hardy: Hardy Tollway
West/South/North/East Loop: western, southern, et al, sections of 610
posted by blurker at 10:45 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Shabbat sirens in parts of Israel.

Also parts of Brooklyn where it scares the shit out of people bc they're using tornado sirens for them.
posted by griphus at 10:48 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Oh, another thing about states with a lot of snowfall is, never let your kids play in the snowbanks by the road because that's where the snowplow dumps.

Also snow-related in Pittsburgh is the "parking chair" left in the street to claim your spot. I know Chicago does this too. Oddly, the Twin Cities don't seem to , even though they get just as much snow.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:54 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Tucson, back in early 90's, some of the streets that ran east/west had a middle turn lane that for a couple of hours in the morning were one way only (i.e. not a turn lane any longer). Then, for a few hours in the afternoon, they switched to be one way only in the other direction.

We called them the "suicide lanes"
posted by The Blue Olly at 10:54 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


After moving to the mid-south US several years ago, I puzzled over the signs outside Virginia bars proudly proclaiming they had "liquor on and off". Who would advertise that they were frequently out of stock, I wondered. Then I (finally) realized it meant they sold liquor for consumption on the premises - i.e., by the drink - as well as off the premises - i.e., a package store.

Also in southern Virginia, vanity plates with two sets of initials (presumably for the couple that owned the vehicle) are/were very common. Hardly ever see that anywhere else.
posted by DrGail at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Please" in southern OH instead of "huh" or "what". Direct translation from the German "bitte", which is used the same way there.
posted by brujita at 10:58 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Driving out in the countryside/farmlands...If the car you're following suddenly moves across the center line and into the oncoming lane, they aren't out of control. They are about to turn left.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:04 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


no right turn on red in nyc busts people every time.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


West/South/North/East Loop: western, southern, et al, sections of 610

And you can be going southbound on the West Loop and westbound on the South Loop. Loop 610 is circular and the West/South/North/East names refer to the section of the highway relative to the city of Houston, not the direction you are driving.
posted by beaning at 11:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


My husband, born and raised in Florida, was astonished out find out that you can't go car shopping on Sundays in Chicago (where I'm from).

Many people not familiar with Florida often confuse "Tampa" with "Tampa Bay," which are not interchangeable terms. Tampa Bay is a body of water. The Tampa Bay area is a collection of cities and towns spanning roughly four counties. Tampa is the city proper. If you say you're "staying in Tampa Bay" when you visit Florida, locals assume you're sleeping in an underwater hotel in the Gulf. ;)
posted by _Mona_ at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, as it turns out, candlepin bowling is basically a New England thing. It is not until I went to college that I learned that everywhere else has different pins and bigger balls.
posted by sutel at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Since a lot of other people have mentioned liquor laws, Pennsylvania may take the cake for most convoluted alcohol-buying system.

-Six-packs of beer come from convenience stores or carry outs that are licensed to sell it.
-Cases of beer come from special
beer distributors, which only sell larger amounts.
-Wine and hard liquor come from state owned stores that are typically closed or have very limited hours on Sundays.
-No wine or liquor in grocery stores, ever. (All those good cheap Trader Joe's wines my friends in other states talk about? Not here.) A small number of grocery stores can sell beer if they have it in a completely separate area from the food, but this is by no means universal.

This confuses the hell out of anyone coming from states with more lax booze laws, but I've been living here for all but a few years since I've been of age and know how to plan a beer run by now.
posted by ActionPopulated at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


In Seattle there are entire neighborhoods of intersecting streets on a grid, without any stop signs whatsoever. The locals know that the right of way is determined by who gets there first, not by any signs. If two cars come to an intersection at the same time, the one on the right has the right of way.

Drivers from other parts of the country are often floored when they discover this, because in many places if you come to an intersection and you don't have a stop sign, you can proceed through the intersection confidently knowing that you have the right of way and traffic on the intersecting street will be obligated to stop.
posted by mammoth at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Shopping legislation in Scotland vs England. Scottish people are surprised that supermarkets can't open 24/7 in England; English people are surprised that you can't buy alcohol in any shops (doesn't count for bars) between 10pm and 10am.

Scottish and Northern Irish money often gives outsiders pause, most especially Northern Irish.

Edinburgh's one o clock gun can be a surprise for non-locals who aren't expecting it.
posted by Vortisaur at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


The British version of the American "how are you?" is "ya alright?" or "alright?"

I was used to America, where someone asking "are you all right?" is a serious inquiry. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that coworkers, friends, fellow students, etc. were not in fact asking me a serious question about my health--I spent a couple months slightly worried that I looked ill.
posted by Automocar at 11:48 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Upstate New York: Cow crossings, cow road signs, and "hay" used as a verb.
posted by jgirl at 12:02 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you're in Britain, there is a queue for the bar even if it just looks like a random huddle of people. The process can be fairly intricate, but at a basic level, when you arrive you should note who is there ahead of you, and indicate them to the bar person if they try to serve you first.

Same process can also be the case for bus stop queues in some parts of the country.
posted by Helga-woo at 12:11 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Speaking of butter, I encountered a butter lamb at a grocery store around Easter for the first time when I moved to Chicago.
posted by kittydelsol at 12:12 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


My husband, born and raised in Florida, was astonished out find out that you can't go car shopping on Sundays in Chicago (where I'm from).

All dealerships in Indiana are closed on Sunday, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:12 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


In San Francisco, they test an emergency siren every Tuesday at noon, and if you work/live there, you stop noticing it pretty quickly. This Californian once got caught unawares by the Chicago tornado sirens signaling an actual approaching tornado, that was fun.
posted by knuspermanatee at 12:21 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


In Florida, we brew unsweet tea and sweet tea seperately. Basically we put sugar in the pot with the tea while boiling so it melts but in Ohio, you can't seem to find sweet tea anywhere - they would just bring me unsweet tea and sugar packets (disgusting and NOT THE SAME THING!)
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 12:26 PM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


In Hong Kong...

- the signs and announcements in subway stations tell everyone to stand still on escalators but EVERYONE stands on the right and walks on the left
- if someone calls you "uncle" or "auntie" it doesn't mean you are being treated as a relative or even with any additional respect at all; it's a translation from Cantonese
- people in shopping districts with suitcases aren't as likely to be travelers as daytripping shoppers from mainland China
- Typhoon Signals, which the government meteorological agency issues during typhoons, run from 1 to 3 to 8 to 10; there is no Typhoon Signal 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 9.
- an elaborate hand-signal system to show a taxi driver that you are willing to pay over the meter or that you'd like to cross the harbour is employed by those in the know (wavey swoopy hand motion going vaguely downish = harbour crossing because we only have tunnels, not bridges, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon!)
- restaurants know that almost no one in the city has space at home to entertain so even local/small/neighborhood restaurants will have a cakeage/corkage fee for diners having a "gathering"
- taking the tram is, most of the time, slower than walking
- no suckling pigs are allowed on the subway - an issue at Chinese New Year given that 90% of journeys in the city are made by public transport!
posted by mdonley at 12:28 PM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


In Hawaii, all the local kids know not to stand under a coconut tree.
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:33 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thirding "surface streets" as also a Chicago thing.

Here in NL, it's customary that in June when the kids graduate high school, they hang their backpacks on the flagpole of their house (or just outside the front windows if they don't have a flagpole). It's very baffling to be wandering around and suddenly notice that like every third house has a random backpack flying with the flag for some reason.
posted by sldownard at 12:35 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Blue laws are always good ones.

Colorado's already been mentioned, but we have some pretty great ones.

We recently changed the law so that you can buy liquor on a Sunday now, but you still aren't allowed to sell a car. Because of this, a lot of people go to car lots on Sundays to get an initial look around, knowing they won't be harassed by salespeople.

As to our liquor laws, these are being phased out right now, but nobody is allowed to have more than one license to sell packaged liquor. This means that each grocery store has only one approved store where they can sell beer and wine. 3.2 beer doesn't count as beer, though, so chain grocery stores do sell that. (It used to be legal to drink 3.2 beer at age 18, so we have a long history with watered down beer.) This law has had an upside, too, though. The one license rule opened up the liquor store market for small family businesses. So an immigrant family can come to Colorado, find a good location, and make a decent living running a liquor store. Also, because we don't have places like Walmart and Kroger all selling the same stuff, it opened up the market for small breweries as well. In Colorado, you don't have to make a deal with some huge multinational company to get your product on shelves. Like I said, though, they're phasing this out while trying to protect those markets somewhat, so fingers crossed.

Also, most people outside of Colorado, New Mexico, and parts of Oklahoma and Texas don't know what green chili or even roasted chile peppers are, which freaked me out hard when I discovered that. Every Fall, we have little operations pop up along the roadsides roasting green chiles, and weirdos from other, suboptimal locations don't know what they are.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:30 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


In Massachusetts, you call a shop where you buy alcoholic beverages a "package store" or a "packie." I don't think anyone anywhere else uses that term.

That second work means something really different (racist term theoretically referring to someone from Pakistan) in the UK. The same type type of shop in the UK is an off-licence (i.e. they have a licence to sell alcohol to be consumed "off the premises", as opposed to a bar or pub) or an "offie". If you said you were off to buy some beer "from the packie" here you would get some extremely strange looks, at best.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:37 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


This may be a bit obscure for this thread, but I was just talking to some moms in my (Pacific Northwest) baby group about how their families from the southern USA think it's deeply weird that they're still breastfeeding babies that are 4-5 months old. Whereas on the west coast I feel like if you stop before a year lots of people volunteer an excuse for why they stopped "early", usually a medical reason. I'd say this was a generational thing, but my mom breastfed me for over a year, and my friends said it wasn't just their parents but also their cousins and friends who thought they were weird.
posted by town of cats at 1:45 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


In Michigan we have "party stores," where you buy liquor, beer, wine, chips, snacks, milk, etc.- things to eat or drink at a festive event. A 7-11 is a specific brand of party store. This has no overlap in content with "party supply stores" where you get streamers, balloons, themed paper plates, etc. Totally not understandable when I lived in Boston or California.
posted by holyrood at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is sort of anti-local knowledge.

I too grew up in Vermont. It is cold there by October 31st and the sun has started going down by 6pm.

When we watched "E.T.", I had no idea why these kids were getting dressed in tutus and capes and going door to door in broad daylight. The idea that you did not have to work a Squall jacket (because you have both a "parka" for winter and a second fall "jacket" that's only good down to say 20F) and sweatshirt into. Why was Drew Barrymore going around the neighborhood in what clearly must have been the middle of the summer? Look! It's warm and light! That's not what Halloween looks like!
posted by maryr at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


There is essentially no county level government in Vermont.

This is true in most of New England. The only time I need to know my county is Massachusetts in taxes and jury duty.
posted by maryr at 2:00 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I got to tag along with my sister when she voted recently in Australia, and apparently they have a tradition of "sausage sizzles." Super delightful, and I can't figure out why America isn't doing this yet.

Other parts of the country probably also have a covert way of telling someone that their zipper is down, but here in Pittsburgh, it's "Kennywood's open."
posted by punchtothehead at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


> Everyone in Michigan knows exactly where they live on their right hand.

Not everyone. Some don’t live on the hand.

In my area, up to recently, there was a loud explosion every day at high noon. The local iron mine, blasting the next 24 hours worth of ore for digging. Audible fifteen miles away.
posted by yclipse at 2:10 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Things my Southern California-raised SO was shocked by in rural Virginia: fireflies, roadside fireworks stands (even though the good stuff is across the border), pronouncing Jamaica, VA like the country, general prevalence of historically significant places, legality of certain types of firearms
posted by a halcyon day at 2:13 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


In the Denver area we give directions using East, West, South, North, which I think is confusing to visitors or new residents. The mountains are to our West, so we navigate the city with that in mind. Instead of telling someone to take a left on a certain street we say "Go South on Colorado Blvd, then head East on 13th."

Also common to Chicago, where the lake is always East.

Oh my god, Party Stores! The bane of my google-mapping existence in northern MI! Because if your Illinoisan ass googles "liquor store" in Indian River your map tells you the nearest one is 154 miles away and that is NOT what you want to hear when you're on the way to a BBQ.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:20 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's a stretch of several blocks on Broad Street (the main artery through the city) in South Philadelphia where people park in the median of the road like so. It's technically illegal but almost never enforced. There was a bit of an uproar recently when they temporarily banned median parking during the DNC.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:26 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


More anti-local knowledge...

Growing up in New Orleans, it was very disconcerting to learn that not many other places believe in "go-cups": Pour your remaining alcoholic beverage in a plastic cup, leave the bar with it and take it to your next destination (usually another bar).

It took a long time to learn about planning ahead in other cities so I could buy my needed alcohol for Sunday on Saturday because New Orleans area stores always sell beer, wine and liquor and it's available at grocery stores not the ABC or package store.

And as children, we could not believe that almost everyone else was at work or school on Mardi Gras day. It seemed ridiculous that we were the only ones watching floats, catching beads and eating fried chicken at 8AM on a random winter Tuesday morning.
posted by narancia at 2:37 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I remember visiting my soon-to-be college in Pennsylvania during senior year. All of a sudden an EXTREMELY LOUD HORN starts blaring groups of three long blasts. Nobody acknowledges this---it's as if they can't hear it at all! Later someone explained to me that the borough had a volunteer fire department... not uncommon in PA.
posted by tss at 2:39 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


holyrood: MIND. BLOWN. I really didn't understand why the "Five Corners Party Store & Pizza" was a grammatically valid name until just now.


yclipse: I actually just asked some co-workers from the U.P. what they do and they did the standard "Michigan Hand", then put their other hand above to make a U.P. left hand. Not quite the same. :)
posted by hankscorpio83 at 2:45 PM on August 2, 2016


Things I didn't know about in Toronto, coming from Glasgow:
  • Flat fares on buses, rather than saying your destination and paying a variable fare.
  • Government-owned alcohol stores.
  • Everybody has to fill out a huge tax return every year, and there are ads for tax software and “tax season” is a thing.
  • Sales tax not included in prices, so you end up shambling around with kilos of shrapnel in your pocket.
  • A pedestrian can't cross a four way intersection with lights diagonally.
  • Cars can turn right on red, in theory, at least.
  • Everybody knows what direction the roads go in.
  • You do not talk about the midweek hangover at work, and there's no support-and-cover culture for the mortally hung-over.
  • Everything is de jure metric, but de facto not.
  • “Cottaging” is not soliciting for sex in a public toilet.
  • Advertising is very simple, frequently depicting the product and saying why you should buy it.
Things you wouldn't know about Glasgow:
  • We don't have a castle, and please stop asking us about it. If we're feeling particularly vexatious, we'll give you misleading directions, and the next person you ask might just play along.
  • The correct response to meeting (most) drunk people in the street is good-natured encouragement.
  • Navigation is traditionally done with pubs as waypoints.
  • Do not be on the subway when a Rangers game gets out.
  • Don't cross the road in the middle of an Orange walk.
  • Don't wear football colours to go into a pub you've never been to before.
  • If someone asks you what football team you support, they're not asking you literally what football team you support, but if you say “Rangers” it means you're Protestant, and “Celtic” means you're Catholic. In the wrong place, the wrong answer could get you hurt.
  • Weather forecasts are guidelines at best, and it could always rain. Someone without a jacket is a tourist.
  • Cars don't slow down for pedestrians.
  • A clear day anything over about 15°C could be considered “taps aff” weather.

posted by scruss at 2:54 PM on August 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm from LA, and last year visited New Orleans. Upon arrival at the airport I used the bathroom and then washed my hands...and was just FLABBERGASTED at the way the water felt coming out of the faucet. Basically every faucet in every (public, at least) buildling in LA is set up for low-flow, to conserve water. I had no idea people in other places got this luxurious volume of water just flowing over their hands. So fancy!
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:01 PM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


In rural Idaho, the government puts up signs telling you to make sure you have "defensible space" around your home.

Given stereotypes about rural Idaho, you might think this has to do with keeping outsiders away from your compound, but it actually refers to making sure that firefighters can keep wildfires away from your home.
posted by Hatashran at 3:07 PM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Two road things that tripped me up when I moved to the west coast.

Seattle: a dashed white line does not always mean "two parallel lanes of traffic moving in the same direction." Unless it's rush hour, on many streets the right lane is legal parking. So you'll be driving merrily along at 35 MPH when, suddenly, a wild parked car appears.

San Diego: The local geography (hills and whatnot) prevent many straight line streets. Where geography gets in the way of the ideal road plan, the segments on either side of the obstruction are given the exact same name. For example, these two addresses on the "same street" are 1/2 mile apart but take 10 minutes to drive between.
posted by rouftop at 3:11 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Civil defense sirens used for tornadoes, nuclear disasters, and Shabbat have been mentioned. They're commonly used on the west coast of the USA as tsunami sirens. They're also used in my neck of the woods as lahar alerts. People visiting the area are often concerned after noticing the signs.
posted by edeezy at 3:16 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Already mentioned, but it's very weird that drivers in Oregon and New Jersey aren't allowed to pump gas their own gas.

Lutoslawski: "Traffic lanes which change direction depending on the time of day, which seems insane, except in Nebraska."

We have those in Washington DC, most prominently the Rock Creek Parkway (which goes a step further and reverse direction of the entire roadway at certain hours, with two-way traffic in between).

mdonley: "In Hong Kong...the signs and announcements in subway stations tell everyone to stand still on escalators but EVERYONE stands on the right and walks on the left""

Also in Washington DC, the tourists clog up standing on the left side of the escalators while the locals stand right and walk left.
posted by exogenous at 3:41 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Don't know if it's a Massachusetts-in-general thing or just Worcester: almost no local street signs, plus a lot of so-called 'private' streets that are sorta/kinda public? Public enough so anyone can drive on 'em anyway but almost no public maintenance so there are some truly epic potholes. And with almost no local street signs (I've been told it's to save money) heaven alone knows where in the heck you are anyway!
posted by easily confused at 3:47 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


How to use local transit! I can't even tell you how many cities make this opaque to outsiders. Few or no signs, guides, help, anything. You can buy cards in the station. You have to buy the refillable card at the grocery store/post office/special machine/preorder from the government. It takes cash. It doesn't take cash. It gives change. It doesn't give change. It takes coins. It doesn't take coins. This machine only sells new cards. That machine only gives refills. You tap the card. You swipe the card. You just show the card to the attendant. You have to swipe the card when entering AND leaving the station. No, you don't have to swipe the ticket; you just carry it. Yes, the card is refillable. No, the card is not refillable. You tell the driver where you want to get off. You pull the yellow cord right before the stop you want to get off at. The bus stops at all stops even if nobody is waiting. The bus only stops if you pull the cord. You tell the driver your stop when you get on the bus. The bus or train is a local because the lights are yellow. The bus or train is an express because it ends in an even number. Everyone just knows that train is an express! All the trains on that track are local; all the ones on that track are express. The direction is indicated by north-south-east-west on the vehicle. The direction is indicated by the name of the last stop on the line. You can tell the direction by the side of the road the bus stop is located. There is no direction indicated. Yes, you can get free transfers. No, you can't get free transfers. You pay a flat fare. You pay by time of day. You pay by zone. You pay at the start. You pay at the end. You don't pay. Into infinity....
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:31 PM on August 2, 2016 [102 favorites]


In New Hampshire, you can buy beer at gas stations. Gas stations!
posted by ostro at 4:38 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm an American, and I was recently in rural (southwestern) Ireland where there are basically no traffic lights at all, just very efficient roundabouts. While we were waiting at a rare red light, I asked our Irish driver if there was "left-on-red" in Ireland. He said, very slowly like I was a complete idiot, "No. Because the light is red." When I explained that we have right-on-red in many US municipalities he was utterly baffled. I guess most US drivers know that it's potentially a thing, even if it's not legal in their area?
posted by nev at 4:42 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, for Washington DC:
* Almost all the museums, plus the zoo, are free. On a hot day you can just dodge in, luxuriate on a cool marble bench for a while, and then dodge back out. Having to pay for museums elsewhere took a lot of getting used to.
* Not having AC at home is considered a serious hardship.
posted by ostro at 4:46 PM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Agree with Mo Nickels about public transit. I grew up in the Bay Area but not in an area with decent public transit. When I moved back as an adult and had to learn BART/Muni, I was confused. Not all the Muni stops are clearly marked at all (some just with a bit of yellow tape on a pole). The BART map has colors indicating the lines, but the trains themselves aren't colored—I've had more than one tourist ask me which is the "blue train."
posted by radioamy at 4:53 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


In the Philadelphia area, New Year's Day is Mummers Parade day, and it used to be pretty inescapable on local tv. During the rest of the year, mummers play other events and parades, so most folks have encountered them in some context, but explaining them to someone outside the region is... entertaining.

I assume that outside of the Northeast, the Macy's Day Parade is known by something slightly more logical, like its official name?
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Midwesterners in general can usually tell the difference between "summer storm" and possible tornado weather

The siren means be aware of what's going on, not rush to shelter right now.

Much like those signs posted along the highway, it's merely a suggestion.

Which may be another regional rule. In MI, speeding (barring certain areas that you learned to anticipate) and jaywalking are expected.

OH seems to be strict for speed limit endorsement. We tell the international Post-docs that speeding is generally good in MI, but don't do it in OH (maybe they're just strict for MI plates?).

Chicago expressway speed limits may as well not be posted.

Don't jaywalk in Seattle. They'll make you take a class.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:43 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Grew up in CT but close to the NY border.

We also have Package stores known as packies.

Italian Delis.

Most towns have a First Selectmen instead of a mayor.

All the weird regional food differences (New Haven Pizza vs other) variations on lobster rolls and chowders.

Most towns have a Volunteer Fire Department, and they have parades/carnivals in the summer.
posted by KernalM at 5:50 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


easily confused, I can confirm that private streets are like that in this part of MA, too: open to the public for travel but privately (i.e. usually not) maintained. The first time I turned down one, I was like "uh, is this unincorporated Somerville?"

Private streets everywhere else I've been are rare and usually mean you're in an exclusive fancy neighborhood and probably shouldn't linger.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:54 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


In Montreal if you hear steady honking at night in the winter time it means that impromptu snow removal is underway and they are about to tow all the cars on one side of the street. If you don't leap up and rush out and move your car it will be towed to some random location within a couple of blocks and you will be given a ticket.

The exercise of waking up, throwing a coat over your pajamas and rushing out to move the car can take place up to three or four times a night. But don't worry, you won't be sleeping much anyway as the honking tow trucks get drowned out by the noise of the two lane wide snow blower trucks which are followed by a column of heavy duty massive dump trucks that trundle up to catch the snow from the snow blower nozzle. Each ponderous pass will keep a light sleeper or someone unfamiliar with the system awake for half an hour to forty five minutes, and they may do both sides of the street, plus both sides of another major street that intersects nearby, so you get to listen to the convoy half the night.

I can sleep through this.

Montreal has two children's hospitals. If you are in a bad car accident with your child they may be taken to an entirely different Emergency Department than you are. This is somewhat scary. You have to find out of the kids have been taken to Hopital Ste. Justine or the McGill University Health Centre.

So when I moved to the province of New Brunswick, one of my first questions was, "Where is the children's hospital and how do I get there?" The answer scared the daylights out of me. There is no children's hospital in the entire province. The nearest hospital is the Isaac Walter Killam in Nova Scotia. I had no idea up until then that they would take kids in at a regular hospital, which would have a pediatric department.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:55 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Boston, where I grew up, cars are afraid of drivers, and will stop 15 feet away if you even glance at the curb from the sidewalk. Because everyone jaywalks.

In NYC, cars and drivers are in a detente. If you're in the midst of crossing, and a car is turning on to the road or approaching from a couple blocks away, it is expected to slow. If a car is already coming down your block, you don't jump out in front of it, it won't stop. Everyone jaywalks, but they check to make sure the street's clear first for the most part.

In California, people stand around at crosswalks waiting for walk signals when there isn't a car for miles in any direction. Cars seem to regard humans in the road as they would a bent traffic cone or a pothole --- irritating, but nothing you can't plow over if you give it a little gas.
posted by maggiepolitt at 6:27 PM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


A couple that come to mind:

In Germany, when you are paying the bill at a restaurant, they will tell you the amount, and then you respond back with the amount you'll pay (on the understanding that the difference in those amounts is a tip). It's also not unusual there for a waiter to come up and tell you their shift is finishing and if you can close off the bill now (if you want to stay, you'll start a new tab with the waiter taking over).

In South Africa, when driving on a road with one lane in each direction, you should pull over as close to the shoulder as is safe (and continue driving) if someone drives up behind you and is going faster, to allow them to overtake you.
posted by ryanbryan at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bay Area

Dunno if they still do this, but in parts of San Francisco, it's okay to park in the middle lane on a Sunday. The idea is that it gives churchgoers a place to park. I remember seeing this in the Mission District and a few other places.

The bus that goes to Marin (I think it was Golden Gate Transit?) won't necessarily stop at a stop, even if there are obviously people waiting. You have to sort of wave at the driver.

St. Louis

When you meet someone new, first thing they ask is where you went to highschool. It's how they size you up socioeconomically. It's also how they figure out of you have any friends in common. This happens even if you're not in St. Louis and haven't been there in years. You find out someone's from STL, and it's either the first thing out of their mouth, or if you're like me, you say, "Don't even ask." and then they ask you anyway. This serves as an effective reminder of why you left STL.

NYC

It's totally okay to ask someone what their apartment costs, but (like everywhere in the US) it's never okay to ask how much money they make.

Some native New Yorkers go their entire lives without ever getting a drivers' license. For some, it's a point of pride.

The corner store is called a bodega, and often has a deli counter. All cities have corner stores, but NYC is the only place I've been where the deli counter is so common.
posted by panama joe at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Candlepin bowling has already been mentioned, but I grew up in Maryland and was recently shocked to learn that duckpin bowling does not exist everywhere, and cannot be found here in Denver.

I'd also amend the previous comments about California pedestrian right of way to say that living in the SF East Bay, and especially walking in the neighborhoods around Berkeley, conditioned me to very different right of way expectations. Most cars stop as a pedestrian is even approaching a crosswalk, and stay stopped until you've crossed all the way to the median, if not the other side. It took me a really long time to get used to, and then we moved away and I had to relearn to triple-check that cars really were stopping when I wanted to cross the street.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:52 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Super Bowl is played during daylight on the West Coast and at night on the East Coast. The other feels surprisingly weird if you're used to one.
posted by zachlipton at 7:05 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


At Japanese baseball games, if you catch a foul ball, the ushers in your section will come and make you give it back, while in the US you get to keep it.
posted by zachlipton at 7:22 PM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm a Buffalonian who has lived in the south half my life, and I read a lot of novels from the UK, so I now have trouble remembering whether some things are geographically unique, or specific to my family, or something I only know from growing up on a diet of PBS and Canadian TV. Like, to me, a sofa is a couch is a chesterfield, and china cabinet is a breakfront, unless it's half-height, and then it's a buffet, but my clients here have no idea what I'm saying sometimes.

Dyngus Day is the Monday after Easter. It's a Polish & Ukrainian holiday that is apparently only huge in Buffalo, and not most other places. Pussy willows are a big part of it. Like how everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day in most other places, everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day, and everyone knows what it is. (Anderson Cooper was apparently mystified, then hysterical.)

Also Buffalo things -- we would never say we're in "Upstate New York" as the NYC people do. We're in Western New York (WNY). We have expressways, and the numbered ones (and others) are preceded by a definite article: the 90, the 290, the Scajaqueda. Also, downtown (and other) real estate ads will list the nearest Catholic church as a reference point.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:24 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


In Washington, D. C. and environs, you have to cope with motorcades of various kinds somewhat regularly, including presidential motorcades. The associated road closures cause traffic jams, and for security reasons, you don't get warned about the route in advance or get told which roads to avoid when they are going on.

I will never forget getting a ride home from work from a friend during rush hour (I was working near one of the major routes to Andrews Air Force Base, the home of Air Force One), around the same time as a motorcade. Rush hour is hell anyway when it comes to traffic in this area, let alone when motorcade road closures add an extra complication. We kept trying to take various routes to avoid the motorcade, trying to guess what route it might be taking and avoid it or get around it, but kept running into motorcade related road closures anyway no matter what we tried.

Here's a jpeg explaining what a presidential motorcade may consist of, courtesy of the article I linked above. When you are familiar with them you can usually guess by certain "warning signs" that a motorcade may be coming, and try to avoid it prior to the road closures. This can be a bit mystifying to people new to the area, as you can imagine.
posted by gudrun at 7:42 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh crap two more food things:
- Pasty, not like a stripper's; said pass-ty-- but baked meat/vegetable/gravy pouches. Not available or much known outside of the upper midwest and some random Scandinavian and British enclaves.
- Paczki, Polish fried dough with prune jam filling, said poonch-key, traditionally eaten only on Fat Tuesday to finish off eggs and butter and sugar before Lent. Available in nigh every grocery and party store and coffee shop in MI around that time of year (sometimes just rebranded jelly donuts with raspberry filling which is delicious and wrong but what ya gonna do), rarely found outside of upper midwest and Polish-heavy towns.
posted by holyrood at 7:55 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


This just came up and apparently not everyone has this...

We have fire horns. Different areas/intersections had a 3 digit code associated with them. When there was a fire you listen to the 3 digit blasts to hear where the fire was if you were a fireman. This originated before the firemen had phones but went on maybe until 2000.

bloot..bloot...bloot.............bloot..............bloot...bloot...bloot...bloot...bloot...bloot...bloot. 317 ??!

Check the code on back the calendar you get from the town hall... "Pearl and Pleasant! Let get our bikes!"
It was always the middle of the night (which to an 11 year old is about 9:30 pm) so super fun to go ride our bikes to the excitement.
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:56 PM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


In the Philadelphia suburbs, how to pronounce Welsh names. Bryn Mawr, Cynwyd, Uwchlan, Gwynedd.......thanks Welsh Quakers. Also just the influence of Quakers in general, like in the aforementioned nonsensical liquor laws, and how lots of people went to Quaker affiliated school even if they weren't actually part of a meeting themselves.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 8:33 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I rode past my stop on the Paris Metro because I didn't know you had to lift up on a latch to make the doors open. Also, needing to keep your ticket and put it into a slot to make the barrier open when you want to leave a station. I grew up in Chicago where the CTA trains have automatic doors, and you just waltz out of the station on arrival.

In Chicago, in the 1950's, they tested the air raid sirens (now repurposed as tornado sirens) on the first Tuesday of each month at 10 am. I always figured that the Russians would attack at just that time and everyone would ignore them.
posted by Joleta at 8:44 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


We had visitors from California who kept describing their driving routes as, "We were on the 35East and then took the 494, etc"--every major highway was prefaced with 'the.' Finally my husband, a Californian, told them, "We don't say 'the 494' and it's 35E!" Apparently an LA thing to add 'the' to the freeway numbers. When I lived in Washington, DC I remember people laughing at a radio ad that said, '[business] is just off the Springfield exit of the 495." Clearly made by a CA ad agency.

I find the convention of naming highways instead of using their numbers especially confusing for out-or-towners--the Dan Ryan Expressway or the Kennedy, for example. Also confusing-- long routes having different names in different jurisdictions--Route 50, Lee Highway, Leesburg Pike, for example.

The tornado siren is common here; 1:05 on the first Wednesday. When we first moved to this St Paul suburb in Dakota Co, not only did the siren shriek, we got a female voice telling us what to do--take shelter now, this is a test, whatever. Quite weird and had a sort of 'throw down your plows, take up your arms; the revolution has arrived" vibe, particularly if they went off in the middle of the night. They don't talk anymore; now it's siren only.

Minnesota also has no car shopping or liquor buying on Sunday. Local jurisdictions also can have municipal liquor stores run by the town or whatever. This means the variety & number of liquor stores varies by town. So, in a town with municipal liquor, chances are there will be no Trader Joe's or World Market type stores because the city or town has a monopoly. In non-municipal liquor towns, there is no liquor sold in grocery stores either (in spite of endless bills/debate in the Legislature), so grocery stores who sell liquor have separate entrances to the liquor sections & often 2 transactions are required. And second the snow parking regulations--every city is different and woe betide if you don't know night plow routes from day plow from downtown. St Paul's regs.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:12 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Colorado has a lot of "no double turn" traffic signs and three years in, I'm still not exactly sure what that means. (I think it might mean that you can only turn from the turn lane, not the center lane, but that seems...too simple. Like you shouldn't need specific signs for it.)
posted by ThatSomething at 9:43 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Growing up in Northeast Florida: knowing that a "hard freeze" means you need to get out the buckets and/or plastic sheeting for your plants if you don't want 'em to die overnight.
posted by zebra at 9:43 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


In San Francisco the only people (pedestrians) who cross against the lights are tourists. Here in Portland the tourists are usually the ones waiting patiently for white-guy-says-walk while locals cross randomly, often without looking.

The law in Oregon says that once a pedestrian steps off the curb, they immediately have the right to cross even if it's not a marked crosswalk. This is great when you're a pedestrian but terrifying when you're a driver. Everyone here jaywalks, often without looking for cars.
posted by bendy at 10:12 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


At a sort of "meta"-level I think this speaks to how particular and idiosyncratic this sort of thing can be: it was about 16 years ago that I moved away from Minnesota to Montana, but still the moment someone starts talking about 35E and 494 I get pangs of nostalgia about going into "The Cities" to visit a museum or an arboretum or the Twins for a ballgame.

It's particularly weird when I'm back there visiting family during the summer and the tornado sirens go off during their monthly tests, as described above as something that's normal over there (but unheard of over in Montana). Half my brain is familiar and feels nostalgia, the other half is unaware and panics for a moment. Like I'm trapped between worlds and don't know how to process two realities.
posted by traveler_ at 10:58 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is in Mo Nickels' list of transit variations, but I was confused as hell when I rode a Pittsburgh bus route where you put your cash in the farebox as you get off the bus. This didn't apply to all routes in the system, just certain outbound commuter routes. The idea was to board everyone quickly downtown and have them pay a few at a time as they reach their separate destinations.
posted by aws17576 at 11:58 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, I haven't seen anyone mention the Chicago alley honk yet either. (I prefer the short, polite double-tap (bee-beep!) but some people go with a loud blaaaaarp. These people are incorrect and also wrong, despite their hearts being in the right place.) Non-locals are often baffled why people honk so damn much in an alley, of all places.
posted by sldownard at 12:54 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, DC and motorcades. What cows in the road are to rural areas, the President in the road is to DC.

Also, you CANNOT eat on the Metro. My information is a few years out of date, but there was definitely a time when this rule was really enforced. Apparently other places it's no big thing?

Again with the heat -- heat exhaustion at Memorial Day parades is a serious concern. Groups whose performance is at all strenuous often have specially designated members walking around pouring water down people's backs. And even so, at my suburb's parade you would see performers peel off, lie down on someone's lawn, and hyperventilate.
posted by ostro at 1:18 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm from southern Connecticut, and it's new HAven, not NEW haven.

I also recall getting a lot of days in October off for Jewish holidays! That was awesome.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:46 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Australian things, of great surprise and garnering delighted respect from my British husband.

Everyone knows that snakes come out in hot weather only and can be scared off in scrub with reasonable degrees of noise/vibrations from your footsteps.

Also- basically being able to recognise a rip and knowing what to do if caught in one.

This is just very common knowledge for school children here but my husband thinks I am some kind of bush guru because of it.
posted by jojobobo at 2:49 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Rochester NY area: how to pronounce "Chili" (the town, not the food). Bonus points for "Skaneateles."
posted by thomas j wise at 4:25 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Fog horns...have not been mentioned making me wonder if they are still a thing. Time was when a lighthouse might have a very loud horn that sounded when visibility was so low the light couldn't bee seen. Not an amenity for local homes, if any, and might go on all day or all night.

Not so important in this age of GPS and AIS, so many they're called thing of the past.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:40 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh yes, better_my_heart, new HAven, CT! Mr. gudrun is from there and I remember him firmly correcting me on the pronunciation of New Haven early on in our dating life.

Newark, NJ and Newark, Delaware, are not that far from each other geographically, as distance in the U.S. goes with fast travel and communication, but are still pronounced differently. The Delaware one is "nu-ark", and definitely two syllables, and the New Jersey one is "new-irk", but the two syllables are not distinct and it can sound more like "nerk" when said quickly by North Jersey folks.
posted by gudrun at 5:11 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Hamilton, Ontario, we refer to the Niagara Escarpment as "The Mountain"

You either live "On the Mountain" or "Downtown" in Hamilton Proper.

But as you can see, from the pictures, it's a paltry "mountain" indeed.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:16 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Similarly: the towns of Beaufort, NC and Beaufort, SC are pronounced BOH-fert and BYOO-fert respectively. I went to high school in the town of New Bern, NC and you can usually tell who is from there vs even other North Carolinians by pronunciation. Locals say NEWb'rn while outsiders say new BERN.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:18 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, the "jughandles" instead of left turns in New Jersey actually serve a purpose (speaking as a former Exit 5 person).
posted by gudrun at 5:20 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you're not from San Diego you are likely to mispronounce 'La Jolla'. Also you probably won't know what people mean when they reference 'TJ'
posted by vacapinta at 5:25 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite questions ever:

It's a parking lot on the southbound 101 this morning
February 28, 2006 6:04 PM

Why do people in Los Angeles usually refer to their numbered highways with "the" (for example, US 101 is "the one-oh-one")?


Freeways in SoCal are "The 10," "The 5," "The 101," etc. and never "I-10," "I-5," etc. The exception is California State Route 1, which runs all along the coast. Locally it's known as Pacific Coast Highway but referred to as "PCH."
posted by Room 641-A at 6:38 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


St. John's Newfoundland has a weather dependent holiday in early August. On the first Wednesday on August if the wind is calm enough for rowing all shops and most offices on the city are closed for the day and the Royal St. John's regatta goes ahead. A decision is made regarding the holiday at 6:00am that morning, and if it doesn't go ahead, both the regatta and the holiday are postponed to the following day, again weather permitting.
posted by peppermind at 6:48 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Dunno if they still do this, but in parts of San Francisco, it's okay to park in the middle lane on a Sunday. The idea is that it gives churchgoers a place to park. I remember seeing this in the Mission District and a few other places.

It's technically illegal but only variably enforced, and never near many of the longstanding Catholic congregations. This is basically vestigial evidence of the power the Catholic church wields in San Francisco even still. (Semi cite.)
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:53 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


In St. Louis, access roads or frontage roads are called "outer roads."
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 7:08 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


From places I've lived...

In Tasmania, which unlike the rest of Australia is very hilly, if you get stuck behind a log truck on a winding rural road and the driver puts on his right indicator, it means it's safe to pass. As we drive on the left and the strict meaning of a right indicator is that the truck is about to turn right, this relies on your knowing that there's no actual road coming up on the right that he could conceivably turn onto.

In Canberra, you'll encounter more roundabouts in a day than in a whole lifetime spent elsewhere in Australia. The Federal Parliament is, appropriately, surrounded by a giant roundabout.

In Australia, you park on the side of the road in the same direction as the traffic. In Britain, you can park on either side of the road in either direction.

In New Zealand, almost all jams, spreads, peanut butter etc. are sold in plastic jars.

New Zealand Vegemite tastes subtly different to Australian Vegemite.

(Different English-speaking countries have different conventions around using "different to" and "different from", to the point where I can no longer tell which is used where.)

In Scotland, people say "outwith" for some (Australian) senses of "outside" (e.g. something can be "outwith your experience", but you wouldn't go out the door to "go outwith").

In Britain, Australian "pants" are "trousers". In Australia, British "pants" are "undies".

British people stopped saying "gotten" a couple of centuries ago. Americans and Australians didn't. If you're an Australian in Britain, it's okay once you've got used to it.

In Edinburgh, locals rarely carry umbrellas. The rain isn't usually heavy enough to justify it, and if it is then the wind will turn it inside out in seconds anyway.

If you drive over a recently resealed road in Australia and a car comes the other way, you should hold your hand against the windscreen to absorb the shock if the other car throws a blue-metal stone into it, so that you only end up with a stone-chip instead of a crack in the glass. In Britain, newly-resealed roads don't ever seem to have the same loose surface gravel on them, so nobody does this.

In Edinburgh, if you ask for vinegar on your chips (as in "fish and") it means you're from Glasgow or England. In Australia, it also means you're from Glasgow or England. Edinburghers have brown sauce on chips. Australians have tomato sauce on chips.

In Britain, your national insurance contributions will go on hold, affecting the level of your eventual state pension, if you are out of work for an extended period and don't claim National Insurance credits. In Australia, your pension entitlements aren't tied to what taxes or national insurance you've paid during your lifetime, only to your income, assets and length of residency at the time you reach pension age.
posted by rory at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


New Zealand Vegemite tastes subtly different to Australian Vegemite.

Correction: tasted. It seems they ceased local production in 2006.
posted by rory at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gotten Australian? I'm Australian (but not Tasmanian), I'm 60-mumble years old, and I swear I have never said "gotten" nor heard any other Australian do so. Maybe it's just Tasmanian? But of course this is still an answer to the original question.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:17 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a fun thread to read through.

An addendum to the Montreal snow removal system is that the parking signs are crazy and often take a few months to get used to.

There are a lot of words commonly used in English that come from French, my favourite being the "Dep", short for "Depanneur" which is a corner/convenience store. But you can also buy beer and a small selection of wine there. But only until 11pm. I miss them.

Downtown I always felt it safer to jaywalk than to cross at a light, at least you were paying attention.

Where I live now in the BC interior, you can't leave your garbage outside, even in a bin, or else you attract bears. Seriously, don't do this. There's a reason that every park has bear-proof garbage cans. Also not super common knowledge but it should be: Black bears are not really dangerous unless you startle them or piss them off somehow, but you still need to be cautious. Cougars are really what you should be scared of if you're out in the wilderness or on the edge of town, especially if you're small and by yourself. And avoid Grizzlies if you can.
posted by sauril at 8:34 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm in the North Carolina mountains, and AM radio is still a mainstream thing here--and a primary source of local news--not just a neglected space in the airwaves populated primarily by preachers and cranks. We don't get many FM stations and streaming's not an option for many people since cell coverage is poor and broadband is not widely available.

Also, livermush.
posted by xylothek at 8:41 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Wisconsin, it's common knowledge that as long as you're their parent or legal guardian, children and teenagers can legally drink with you anytime, anywhere. Even if the kid is in elementary school and you took them to a cocktail bar.

There may be other places where it's legal, but I've never been anywhere that normalizes underage drinking quite like we do here. Alcohol consumption at all stages of life is foundational to our cultural identity. Some of my very earliest memories involve sipping kiddie cocktails at up-north dives.

Also, you can't park overnight on any street in the entire city of Milwaukee without a parking permit. If you don't have a permit, you can call in your license plate to the police department so they won't ticket you, but you can only do it three times a year. There are absolutely no signs posted about this anywhere, you just have to Know.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


In Iowa, the county seat of Story County is Nevada, IA. It's pronounced "Neh-VAY-dah." You're instantly branded as an outsider if you say it any other way.
About 25 miles west of Nevada is Madrid, IA. That's "MADderd" - same deal.
posted by drhydro at 8:52 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Scottish pounds can be refused in England.
posted by srboisvert at 8:54 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, I just remembered another thing: my sprawly suburban neighborhood had no sidewalks and nowhere worth walking to, so we didn't have the kind of things you see in more densely-settled areas. I grew up thinking ice cream trucks and crossing guards were long-gone relics, like the milkman. But they're still around! I'm still impressed that there are people who stop cars so I can cross the street, and the cars actually stop for them, and this is a service the city provides us. It feels like such a luxury.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:13 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Massachusetts, you call a shop where you buy alcoholic beverages a "package store" or a "packie." I don't think anyone anywhere else uses that term.

Not true! Rhode Island is also home to the Package Store. Rhode Island is also home to coffee milk, which is not a kind of coffee; it is milk blended with coffee syrup.

Americans misunderstand the Canadian (and British) "sorry". They think we're apologizing for something, which is understandable. But it's only a verbal tick. We don't actually feel regret or remorse when we blurt out "sorry" in a random situation.

In Ireland, "sorry" means "move, please." My cousin's Australian husband lived here for two years responding "that's OK" before he got straightened out. He still gets teased about that.

Tourists in this country are routinely blown away by the fact that we pay for parking by text here. (There is also an app for this, of course.) The slightly older "pay and display" model of paying for parking used to really confuse my parents, who of course still pay for parking in their town with quarters in a meter.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:26 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, another Houston bit of strangeness is how they pronounce some of the street names.

There's an interesting list here, but my favorite is San Felipe, which is pronounced "san FIL-ip-py" rather than what one would expect (san fuh-LEE-pay). When we first moved here and asked why it was pronounced (to our ears) incorrectly, we were informed with a stern look, "Because we won."

(That would be winning the war of Texas Independence from Mexico. It's apparently still a big deal here.)
posted by blurker at 9:29 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I swear I have never said "gotten" nor heard any other Australian do so. Maybe it's just Tasmanian?

Possibly; or some other regional or class variation. From googling gotten + macquarie to see what the Macquarie Dictionary reckons, I see that some Aussies lump it in with "irregardless" as a loathed neologism (when it's actually an old word going back to Shakespeare). But I also see it on this Macquarie University page... so, it's used. Not in the UK, though.
posted by rory at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2016


One is taught in CA driver's ed that peds ALWAYS have the right of way (even when they shouldn't ), but if a cop sees you jaywalking you WILL be given a ticket.
posted by brujita at 10:03 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seconding Polycarp with the absurdity of town name pronunciations in Illinois. Also, Versailles IL is Ver-sails. Not like the one in France.

People who are used to driving on one lane roads know exactly where that ditch is and how far they need to pull over to allow room for huge farming machinery to go past.

An addition from my friend in Vancouver, BC: "At supermarkets we price stuff at a different weight unit than what we sell it at. Stuff will be priced in lbs for example, but then when you go to buy its sold in grams."
posted by WowLookStars at 10:34 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I grew up thinking ice cream trucks and crossing guards were long-gone relics, like the milkman.

Ah, this brings back a memory. I grew up in a smallish but rapidly growing Northern CA town. The first time the ice cream truck stopped on our block, I was 5. My mother was on the phone when I ran to her to ask for a dollar. She hadn't seen an ice cream truck since her youth on the East Coast (where they were "Good Humor trucks"), so she flat out told me I was pulling her leg. Luckily for me, the ice cream man turned his jingle on a moment later... Suddenly she was more excited than I was and got off the phone in quite a hurry. We shared a twin orange creamsicle.
posted by aws17576 at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Port Dalhousie in Ontario is pronounce daloosie, while in Nova Scotia the University is "dalhowsie". I grew up near St. Catharines, and found out after a lot of confusion that the street of that name in Ottawa is pronounced the Nova Scotia way.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


The weather in the San Francisco Bay Area (and generally along the California coast) is pretty unique. Here are a few things that can surprise outsiders:

* As you travel a few miles in a straight line, you can be in the fog, then under clear skies, then in the fog again.
* Summer temperatures usually vary by 25 degrees, and can vary by as much as 40 degrees, from the coast to the valleys.
* Near the coast, early summer is the foggiest time of year, and early fall (well into October) is the hottest time.
* It can get cold quickly when the sun sets. Locals usually pack layers for a day out.
* Rain is feast or famine. Some winters, we get a week or more of unrelenting storms. This rainfall doesn't pour like a Midwestern thunderstorm, but it steadily adds up and one such week can provide a third of our rain for the year.
posted by aws17576 at 10:51 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know if this is still true, but around 15 years ago when I was traveling in British Columbia I noticed that within every city/town, every gas station charged exactly the same amount for gas. The price might be different from town to town, but everywhere in the same town the price was the same. This is never the case in the US.
posted by Redstart at 10:54 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tokyo, Japan: Show up on the grounds of your apartment complex on the first Saturday of each temperate month for kusatori ("weed picking"). There will be no signs posted and if you don't show up and do your part, you will be gossiped about.
posted by Soliloquy at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


The town where I grew up doesn't get much wind (this isn't a very authoritative source, but I'm not really sure where to look for average wind speed), and I genuinely didn't understand what windbreakers were for until I went to college in Minnesota--I thought a fleece would be fine as long as it wasn't raining.

Also weather-related: my first Minnesota winter was brutal, and when the snow finally melted I was disheartened to see all the mud and dead grass. That feeling paled in comparison to the next spring, when I realized that mud season happens every year.

(other things that were new: the feeling of the inside of my nose freezing in the cold; serious thunderstorms; fireflies, which I had never thought about much but always kind of imagined to be a myth. I took for granted wild blackberries (the most delicious invasive species) and recyclable can and bottle deposits.)
posted by Vibrissa at 11:22 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


In SoCal the "Three Day Rule" is, you don't go in the ocean for three days after a rain because of bacteria and pollution runoff, but a new study shows it may actually be a 10-day rule in some areas. Also, if you're visiting the beach, those are not "creeks" those are storm drains and you want to plant your towel far away from them. And if the air smells like poop and you see surfers and kite surfers fleeing the water you should get out, too, because something nasty just came out of those storm drains.

There's an interesting list here, but my favorite is San Felipe, which is pronounced "san FIL-ip-py" rather than what one would expect (san fuh-LEE-pay). When we first moved here and asked why it was pronounced (to our ears) incorrectly, we were informed with a stern look, "Because we won." (Emphasis mine.)

I can confirm that this was not a one-off. I got the same answer when I moved there. :(

One is taught in CA driver's ed that peds ALWAYS have the right of way (even when they shouldn't ), but if a cop sees you jaywalking you WILL be given a ticket.

This is true. Also true: in the 40 years since I took driver's ed I don't think I've ever met a white person who has gotten a jaywalking ticket.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:37 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think there's a carry-out outside of DC that carries mumbo sauce.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 11:48 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


You've met me. :-)

When I was in jr. high a bunch of mostly white kids got off the RTD near the school, crossed against the light and were promptly given tickets by cops investigating something at an apartment nearby.
posted by brujita at 11:54 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was not part of this; mine was for crossing against the light on the way to the Y.
posted by brujita at 11:56 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I got used to police/army checkpoints and bomb scares when I grew up in Northern Ireland.

I was surprised when I first visited England and the police weren't armed.
posted by knapah at 2:04 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am still shocked every time I go somewhere where the local pedestrian crossing norm isn't "look both ways, don't be an asshole", ie jaywalk only if there isn't visible traffic and use a crosswalk at busy intersections.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:29 PM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


When you order New Mexican food in a restaurant in New Mexico, you'll be asked "Red or Green?", referring to what kind of chile you'd like. "Christmas" is an acceptable answer.
posted by gteffertz at 4:14 PM on August 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Church bells commonly chime the quarter hour in England. You know which quarter hour from the length of the chime (a quarter, half, three quarters or the whole of the Westminster chimes?), and the number of times the bell then tolls on the hour tells you which hour of the day it is.

Centuries-old buildings are commonplace in the UK. Churches, castles, private homes... even my secondary school dated back to the 17th century. (There are plenty of new buildings too, obviously, but it's easy to take for granted that *of course* the village church is Norman or there are Roman bricks in the remains of the town wall.)

In the Netherlands, there's a siren that goes off at noon on the first Monday of the month. I lived there four years and never found out why.

In Japan, summer has a sound effect: the screaming of cicadas in the trees.

Japanese railway platforms have markings to show you where the doors will open, and which is the first-class carriage. Station name signs by the tracks show the direction of travel and the name of the next stop as well as the current one. On-board announcements tell you which side the doors will open, and a jingle plays on the platform before they close. Japanese tourists and expats must find trains elsewhere in the world perversely and bewilderingly unhelpful.

German friends were shocked that the default for bottled water in the UK was still, not sparkling.

In the UK, when they ask you at a cafe or sandwich shop "eat in or take away?", it's not just so they know whether to give you a bag or a plate: they're legally obliged to add on sales tax if you're eating in, so it costs you 20% more.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:29 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, and every year we celebrate the anniversary of the thwarting of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament by letting off fireworks and burning a guy, or rather a Guy, in effigy. Good clean fun for all the family. Fireworks are very much a cold-weather thing in the UK - 5th of November and, latterly, New Year's Eve.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:37 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


For the people debating and discussing what US military bases play in the mornings and afternoons -- it seems to vary a little by location and quite a bit by service. The Air Force Bases I've been on have played Reveille in the morning, with Retreat in the afternoon. The afternoon Retreat was followed immediately by the National Anthem.

The Navy base I work on now plays Reville in the morning at 8AM, immediately followed by the National Anthem. All cars are supposed to pull to the side of the road, all people are supposed to stop, come to attention, face a flag (if one is near), and be respectful. Civilians should hold their hands over their hearts. Military of course remove their covers. In the afternoon at 4PM, Retreat is played, followed by the National Anthem (again). Same procedure as the morning.

Of course this is entirely my own observation and your mileage probably will vary.
posted by orangewired at 6:07 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


My observation wrt bodegas/delis in NY is that delis have a sandwich counter.

In Germany if one wants tap water the word is leitungswasser (and the server may refuse to bring it....especially in a brewery?!). Asking merely for wasser will result in being brought mineral water.
posted by brujita at 6:58 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Chatting with some foreign colleagues this week, it dawned on me that the general home buying process as we do them in the US or at least in my state is not universal to the Earth! My colleagues told me that in Finland, they would not hire a licensed inspector and make demands/negotiate repairs before a sale; on the other hand, the buyers might come after them years later if a problem were to develop, whereas here it would be really hard to make demands after a sale is complete....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:14 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


In much of US cannabis culture, a spliff containing tobacco is a rarely-invoked specialty option rather than the default. Blunts rolled with cigar wrappers are a distinct class of consumption mechanism.

All of the places I have been in Europe, a standard joint is laced with tobacco (or, not infrequently, it is more that a hand-rolled tobacco cigarette is laced with bud or hash). Local stoners cling fervently to a broad range of folk beliefs about the use of tobacco in this context: It helps the herb burn more evenly, it makes the smoke less harsh, the temperature is optimal for THC uptake, it will mask the smell, etc. Openly questioning the tobacco provokes howls of disbelief; rolling a j without any is well-nigh unthinkable.
posted by brennen at 8:30 PM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Fostoria, OH is the only place I've ever seen a drive-through convenience store. Everything you'd expect at your local Circle K, Speedway, or Pilot, but you don't get out of your vehicle.

Remington, VA is the only place I've ever experienced regular drunk driver checkpoints. Friday nights, the cops were out with their roadblock. 600 people in residence, but they wanted to be sure they caught the drunks.

Athens, KY is pronounced AY-thens. Buena Vista, VA is pronounced BYOO-nah VIH-stah. Butt Hollow Rd. in Salem, VA is not pronounced as one might expect, but closer to buh-TALL-er.

After working in a convenience store in Tucson, AZ, where beer and liquor were both sold 6 a.m. til 2 a.m., moving to VA with its ABC store confused the hell out of me.

The few times I couldn't avoid driving on the Beltway in DC, I was absolutely terrified. The posted speed limit was 55 mph. You could find folks driving anywhere from 40 to 90.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 8:30 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


gteffertz beat me to the red chile/green chile/Christmas thing (Christmas means you want both red and green chile). Also, in NM, it is correctly spelled "chile."

Other New Mexico things: how to pronounce the names of towns like Madrid (MAH-drid), Tesuque (tuh-SOO-key), Pojoaque (poh-WOK-eh), and Abiquiu (AH-bih-kyoo). The "a" in the first syllables in Madrid and Abiquiu are pronounced like the "a" in cat or flat.

Also there's Zozobra.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:42 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Texas, the word "bayou" is pronounced "bi-oh" and a "puh-cahn" is a nut but a "pee-can" is something you take on a fishing trip.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought everyone ate scrapple for breakfast.
posted by 445supermag at 9:56 PM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Maine, at least when I was a teenager, it was completely normal to use Canadian change interchangeably with American. There wasn't a lot of it, certainly nothing like a 50/50 mix, but you might easily have a couple of quarters or pennies in your wallet.
When I went to college in Massachusetts, I had a mutually frustrating conversation with the cashier at a convenience store where I tried to convince her that this weird elk quarter was just fine and she insisted that that was money from a different country, and not, in fact, valid in the US.
Not loonies or twoonies, though.
posted by Adridne at 7:47 AM on August 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Not being able to pump your own gas in Oregon has been mentioned before, but I just wanted to reiterate how weird it was when I moved out of state. I traveled a lot within Oregon but not outside of it when I was growing up, so it was just the way things were everywhere we went. I didn't learn to pump my own gas until I was 22. And now, when I take my Texan husband back home, I always have to tell him, "okay, roll down the window and say 'fill it with regular'" -- because that's how you say it!

Strange pronunciations keep coming up too. Austin, Texas has its share of unguessable street names: Guadalupe, Manchaca, Burnet...
posted by liet at 9:02 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Akron, the devil strip is the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street.

Sauerkraut balls are something found only around this corner of Ohio.
posted by slogger at 10:17 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I speak as an Angeleno but this applies anywhere in earthquake country: don't hang things over the bed. There are a lot more earthquake safety tips, of course, but there's a good chance that by the time newcomers sit down to figure out the details they've already unpacked and hung that heavy and pointy framed artwork.

Being from the land of sudden, unexpected natural disasters, the year I spent in Houston was the year of Andrew and I had no idea that supermarkets and other places gave out hurricane-tracking maps or that people had hurricane parties.

I think a lot of long-time California residents know what Botts' Dots are.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:01 AM on August 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Port Dalhousie in Ontario is pronounce daloosie,

Reminds me of another oddball pronunciation for an Ontario town name, Delhi Ontario. Despite what wiki says I've heard most people pronounce it like Del-high as opposed to Del-EEE.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:58 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, locals used to give directions to the Swan's Island Ferry as follows. "Follow the Road. Make the right at Reed's Store, go down to the water towers, and hang a left until you get to the ferry."

The water towers were dismantled in 1980. Reeds store burnt down in like 1987. Those exact directions were still in use when I left town in 1994. Legitimately, there weren't that many roads and if a tourist couldn't find the water on an island - while not surprising... well...
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:01 PM on August 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I grew up in the deep south (USA).

I was an adult before I realized that, in some parts of the world, anthills are not red.

(The dirt in the deep south is a hard red clay. I knew not everywhere had red dirt, but somehow I didn't connect that with anthills. I just kind of thought it was a feature of anthills. Certainly makes 'em easy to see!)
posted by telepanda at 12:21 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here's a couple:

One for Michiganders, specifically Detroit; I have left many of my friends flabbergasted by explaining that the "Devil's Night"/Arson stuff they've seen in movies is not entirely theatrical, and was actually a major problem at one point. (I've explained it as "well, we had all these .. extra buildings ... see..")

Another for New Mexicans; where your signal you've become a local is when you find yourself going outside because it's raining.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 12:40 PM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, and generally only in New England does one have a selection of snow shovels with the diversity of a golf bag. Everyone else just seems to make do with whatever shovel they've got, but New Englander's will have the right tool for the particular task at hand (icy, wet, dry, thick, light, etc.)

(along with at least one shovel they don't actually use or like, but are keeping around just in case.)
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 12:55 PM on August 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


San Antonio TX is located in Bexar County. Locals know that this is pronounced "Bear", and outsiders may take a while to connect what they read with what they hear.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:31 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


More Upstate New York:

Delhi, in Delaware County, is pronounced "DELL-high."

Cairo, in Greene County, is pronounced "CARE-oh."

When people from the city move in and rip on these pronunciations, we do not like it.
posted by jgirl at 3:00 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The name of DC suburb McLean, Virginia is pronounced "mac-LANE," not "mac-LEEN." The American voice of the Waze app gets it wrong, but the British voice pronounces it like a NoVA native.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:40 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Unless I missed it, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the grid street numbering system in Chicago. I applied for a driving job but didn't get it because I couldn't easily translate numbers into locations.
posted by teponaztli at 7:27 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't even think about how to pronounce "Puyallup" anymore and the thing about getting ticketed for jaywalking here is so widely known that in 18 years of living here I've never once even tried.

Also, summer doesn't start in the PNW until both: A. July 4th has passed and B. The Rainiers* are in the stores. This year, summer did not start until about July 10th.

*this is a local variety of cherries that are really no good and taste awful and really you'd hate them so don't worry about searching them out just to try out how awful they are.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:13 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Growing up, I knew intellectually that gambling was illegal outside of Nevada, but it still took a bit of time to get used to walking into a convenience store and not seeing a row of slot machines.
posted by logicpunk at 9:51 PM on August 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Leasehold real estate is common in Hawai'i but virtually unheard of on the mainland.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:59 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]




Black squirrels rather than greyish ones are the norm in some parts of the US.

Grassy hills being yellow instead of green during much of the year is normal in California but startled me when I first moved out here--that would not be normal in Maryland.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:17 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yay! I love this thread! Some more Boston-area stuff (some of which applies to greater New England):

- When it snows heavily, people will dig out their on-street parking space and put a plastic lawn chair or other household item in the space. Do not move/take the chair. If you move/take that chair, you will be killed.
- A pizza place that is called a "House of Pizza" will serve you wonderful, magnificent, greasy Greek pizza. Houses of Pizza are like beacons in the night.
- Pronunciantion of towns:
Concord: conquered, not Concorde.
Berlin: BURR-lin, not like the German city.
Woburn: WOO-burn or "Wooh-burn" like a dog say "woof."
Quincy: QUINzee
Peabody: PEAb'dee
Billerica: Bricka
Methuen: Meh-THOON
Haverhill: HAY-vrill
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:27 AM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I once was infuriated when I booked a hotel room to visit Missouri. When I said a sincere "Thanks for all your help," and instead of "you're welcome" or "my pleasure," I got back "Uh huh" (kind of drawn out and slow and with an undertone like a teenager's 'What-EVER').

I found this so extraordinarily rude that I raged about this to anyone who would listen, and seriously contemplated calling the person's manager. Then when I actually got to Missouri, the WHOLE TOWN said "Uh huh" instead of "you're welcome."

I've since encountered this in a couple of other places in the US. I'm fairly sure it's not intended to be rude but I still find it hard to swallow.
posted by Frenchy67 at 6:39 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sepulveda Blvd is the longest street in L.A. County and it is pronounced seh-PULL-veh-duh, not seh-pull-VEE-duh. I think this may be the biggest (or easiest) tell that someone isn't from around here.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:48 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bowie, MD -- pronounced like the knife; not the pop star.
posted by schmod at 7:02 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Washington, D. C. and environs, you have to cope with motorcades of various kinds somewhat regularly, including
My boyfriend and I both live in DC -- last year, we were vacationing in San Juan, and were in a cab on the way back to the airport, and got stuck in motorcade traffic on La Avenida Constitucion.

Motorcade traffic on Constitution Avenue. Like we never left home.
posted by schmod at 7:06 AM on August 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


In North Carolina, bars can serve liquor by the drink only if their food sales exceed 30 percent of total receipts. Otherwise it has to be a "Private Club." So pure bars around here require you to buy a one-time membership (usually less than $10) or get a member to sign you in before you can drink there. Which can be perplexing for out-of-towners, wondering why they have to have a member sign them in to your standard issue shitty dive bar.

I grew up in Asheville, NC. Actual locals pronounce it as if it rhymes with "Bashful." (This is fairly common throughout the Appalachian/Blue Ridge region. My family in Virginia will tell you something similar about Wytheville, Virginia --prounounced like Wistful, but with a lisp) Also Leicester is still Lester not Lee-Cester, so long as you're in Buncombe (Bunkum) County (different rules may apply if you're from Madison County).
posted by thivaia at 7:47 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Growing up, I knew intellectually that gambling was illegal outside of Nevada, but it still took a bit of time to get used to walking into a convenience store and not seeing a row of slot machines.

For me, it took like two years to realize why convenience and grocery stores sounded different. And also to figure out why I always had so much more change at the end of the week.
posted by Etrigan at 8:10 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


California is full of Spanish place names the locals pronounce nowhere near the way they would in Spanish. Coming from Chile, I hard a hard time learning to pronounce 'Vallejo' (a common surname, pronounced 'Vah-yeh-hoe') as Va-ley-oh, for example.
posted by signal at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wooster, Ohio, is pronounced like Worcester, Massachusetts, and is home to the College of Wooster, not Wooster College. This has led Wooster students to embrace the cow as a secondary mascot, and the college bookstore to sell shirts which read "Wooster is not in Massachusetts" on the front and "Thank God" on the back. You also learn to differentiate different Amish sects based on their buggy styles and signage.

In other collegiate matters, the core of the University of Virginia is known as the Academical Village, the entirety of the University's property is known as Grounds (not campus), and it is a faux pas to refer to undergraduate students as "freshman", "juniors" and the like. The preferred nomenclature is "first-year" or variations thereof.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 8:42 AM on August 5, 2016


so even local/small/neighborhood restaurants will have a cakeage/corkage fee for diners having a "gathering"

I'm in Victoria, Australia, so familiar with corkage, but "cakeage" omg that just...uh...takes the cake. How I love this thread.
posted by moody cow at 8:53 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


overeducated_alligator's answer reminded me of this one.

Still more Upstate: In Chenango County, New Berlin is pronounced "New BURR-lin."
posted by jgirl at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2016


Another New Jersey thing; knowing "what exit" you're from, and being able to use that as a guideline to determine where in the state someone else is from.
Pedant: I grew up in NJ, about 20 minutes from the nearest Interstate, so "what exit" was pretty dependent on which direction you were coming from, and which highways you took to get there. I don't actually remember any of the numbers. (Coming from the south, I usually get off of the Turnpike at New Brunswick, which I think is #10 or 11?)

Other Jersey-isms that I didn't think about until I left the state:
  • Everybody knew that the state was weird about pumping gas, so that one almost doesn't even belong on this list.
  • Deer in the suburbs. The spectre of Lyme Disease was pervasive while I was growing up, to an extent that I've never seen replicated elsewhere
  • Availability of good pizza.
  • Availability of good diners. Diners as community gathering places, and generally serving the role that bars, Starbucks, Waffle House, and fast-food joints serve elsewhere
  • Proximity to good beaches. After moving to DC, I dated a guy from Michigan who had never been to a beach.
  • Transit, but only commuter trains.
  • Jug handles exist. U-Turns at red lights are never allowed.
  • State politics are very idiosyncratic, and don't follow national trends.
  • A very large percentage of High School seniors leave the state to go to college, and don't return
  • Beer and wine aren't sold in grocery stores
  • Nobody really comments about how insanely weird Bergen County's blue laws are.
  • There are a lot of immigrant communities, and nobody really talks about segregation.
  • All land is incorporated. All land is part of a city and a county.
  • County governments don't do much

posted by schmod at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


On intercity trains in Britain, the end of the train nearest London is the first class section (the down end), because all the main lines to London terminate there, so it leaves passengers travelling in first class with the shortest walk on arrival.
posted by ambrosen at 12:45 PM on August 5, 2016


Oh, dang, just saw this, which reminded me of another thing:

long-gone relics, like the milkman.

There are still milk deliveries in the Denver metro area. We're down to two competing companies where I live right now, but they never went away here, and I have no idea why.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:21 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here in East Tennessee, saying "I don't care to do that for you" means exactly the same thing as "I don't mind doing that for you." This causes confusion and more than a little hurt until visitors catch on.

A couple of years ago, we bought a big compressor and needed a new 240v line dropped from the power pole to our shed. We should have known to buy our electrical permit at the local market & deli but instead, like fools we went to the power co-op office instead. This has since changed and now you go to the power company to buy permits, but apparently the change has ruffled some feathers.
posted by workerant at 1:54 PM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh there are a lot of New Orleans ones. Directions are based on water. There's the Westbank, which is to the east. Things are either upriver, downriver, lakeside, or riverside. The grassy space between lanes of traffic is called the neutral ground, not the median. Tchoupitoulas is a street along the river that tourists commonly mispronounce. Kids sit in parade ladders (a homemade cross between a ladder and a highchair) to watch parades. These are usually left out overnight on the neutral ground as placeholders for the family's parade spot. Touch them and you die.
posted by domo at 1:55 PM on August 5, 2016


Rhode Island still has some milk deliveries, too. My in-laws' neighbors have a dairy delivery box on their porch and I thought it was just hipster nonsense (which Rhode Island also has), but apparently it's still a thing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hawaiian islands have windward sides and leeward sides. GoVistHawaii has this definition: "In general, the north and/or east sides of each Hawaiian Island tend to have the windward climate. In contrast, the south and/or west sides of the islands are leeward" but I totally defer to anyone who has a better explanation. I couldn't keep it straight while I was there.

On the island of Moorea in French Polynesia the houses have "bread boxes," which are basically mailboxes for baguettes (!!) They are delivered fresh from the bakery early in the morning. Truly paradise.

(Caveat: the above may not be limited to those particular islands.)
posted by Room 641-A at 4:01 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Windward and leeward are standard descriptors for islands (and sailing ships). In Hawaii the climate is affected because the Trade Winds drop their water when they hit the windward side of each island and thus the leeward side is nice and dry and touristy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


University of Michigan = "U of M"
University of Texas = "UT"

Your regional university results may vary.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:01 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


University of Virginia = UVA
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:23 PM on August 5, 2016


And University of Vermont = UVM. (It stands for Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains.)
posted by Redstart at 7:02 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, every town has at least two places called Brothers' Pizza (or Brothers Pizza or Brother's Pizza). I'd always assumed this was the case everywhere in the US, but I guess it's mainly a "large Italian population" thing.

Saying "quarter of three" to mean 2:45 is a thing that I heard a lot growing up near Philadelphia too. My wife is from Michigan so I've had to start saying things like "ten to" and it takes a conscious effort.

In Japan, there's actually a weekly show on prime time that is more or less exclusively about stuff that's unique to one place but that locals think is universal. Stuff like "in Okinawa down south, the tourists are the ones who don't wear shirts to the beach" or "this one town has this popular food that seems pretty crazy but is actually super tasty." We watch it basically every week. ^^
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:15 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


A Canadian friend once confided to me that he never realized that five-pin bowling was a specifically Canadian thing, since he'd never been to a bowling alley that was tenpin-only.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:20 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I grew up in Fresno AKA Fresberg, in the middle of California's Central Valley AKA The Valley, we used to have Tule fog ("two-lee") in the winter. I remember walking to school under a bowl of fog with maybe 20 yards of visibility. They used to close schools out in the country because the fog was too thick for the school buses to run.

Driving in the fog was a scary experience, especially on the freeway: you had to drive slow enough to be kind-of safe but were always worried about getting hit from behind some idiot driving full-speed. Every few years there would be another 50-car pileup on the 99 freeway that goes through the Valley.

I've been going back to the valley every month or so for the past twenty years but haven't seen any fog for at least the past ten. I think it's a combination of warming temperatures and farmers pumping all the water out of the ground. I miss it. Under the fog everything was quiet and you could hear water drip-dripping from the ash trees.
posted by technodelic at 9:20 PM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I grew up in Phoenix. Every summer we'd have monsoon season - it's the rainiest time of the year. We've had lots of flooding this week because of it, actually (I had to wade home two blocks in knee deep water the other night...) And even if it didn't rain, there was still a good chance of getting haboobs. A lot of people from outside the state have no idea what I'm talking about when I mention monsoons and haboobs.

I didn't realize until a few years ago that not everyone knows what javelinas are. My cousin moved to AZ from back east- anywhere east of the Rockies is back east- and was pretty shocked the first time he saw one. Same with Gila monsters. To us Arizonans they're just one of the myriad of desert animals we learn about in school and on field trips to the Phoenix Zoo or Sonoran Desert Museum, but I've met a lot of people as an adult who have no idea that venomous lizards exist in the United States.

Now that I live in Northern Arizona, I've learned some more local quirks. One of my favorite foods is Navajo tacos. I haven't met too many people from outside the Four Corners region who know what they are. Another popular local term is rez dogs- the majority of the dogs in animal shelters around the Navajo and Hopi reservations here are strays picked up on the rez. I've confused quite a few people by telling them my dog is a rez dog, with them assuming I'm just shortening the word "rescue".

Prescott is pronounced "press-kit", not "press-cot". The Verde in Camp Verde is "vur-dee".
posted by mollywas at 1:12 AM on August 6, 2016


I have the dumbest one! My Kansas-native roommate and Illinois-native me arrived in North Carolina for grad school and we both immediately freaked out that our little grad student cars were having their engines fail, making just TERRIBLE noises at irregular but frequent intervals.

Took us a couple weeks to figure out that's the sound of HILLS making your engine work harder. Doh.

When I moved to Peoria I was bemused to discover that hummus is srs bizns and everyone has ultra specific preferences and will go to special stores and even the supermarkets make it fresh in the deli from local recipes (because the area had a huge wave of Lebanese immigrants after the Civil War and remains very Lebanese). People have die-hard allegiances to any one of several Lebanese markets or restaurants for their hummus and they fight about it at parties. Sometimes you have a potluck and seven different hummus partisans bring their preferred hummus (and leave you the leftovers). Now when I go to other places I'm always disappointed in the hummus because it's just mass-produced and nothing to have fisticuffs over, and I forget that taking hummus so seriously is a local quirk.

I've had my husband in the Midwest for twelve years and I still haven't taught him what tornado weather looks and feels like, nor does he have any idea how to find tornado shelters when out and about. To me this is as natural as breathing. At least he doesn't go stand near plate glass windows anymore to look at the clouds like a recent transplant with a death wish. He has tried to race tornados home, though, not realizing that STORES HAVE SHELTERS or that you can't freaking outrun a tornado.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:11 AM on August 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


People in New York City stand "on line."

I gather that the other shibboleth by which you may recognize a Noo Yawker is "coffee" (/KAW-fee/). If I try really hard, I can almost distinguish the vowel sound non-NYers use for the "o", but I can't replicate it.

Chinese food comes with a bread roll in East Boston. (Specifically in Eastie, not Boston proper.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2016


Living on the west coast, what exactly do you do if there's an earthquake?

Living in the north, how do you dress for cold weather... and how do you drive on snow or ice?

More specifically: you can't pump your own gas in New Jersey. (Full service only, by law.)
posted by talldean at 1:48 PM on August 6, 2016


Yeah, I rarely heard cardinal directions living on Oahu. Everything is described as mauka/makai, or towards a landmark, like "Diamond Head of X"
posted by ctmf at 3:43 PM on August 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Travelling outside of Chile, there aren't necessarily mountains always, and even if they're there, they're not necessarily to the East, so how in hell do you orient yourself?
posted by signal at 3:46 PM on August 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not sure if the "blue laws" are still in effect in all of Missouri, but on Sundays, you could only buy food and prescription drugs. Grocery stores would be open, but sections with non-food items would be roped off with signs saying "not to be sold on Sunday". This was in the 1970s and 1980s.

Just to reassure everyone: You can definitely buy liquor on Sundays in Missouri, since like 1975, apparently. Although I feel like I remember seeing some stores that still wouldn't sell liquor on Sundays as a kid in the '80s. But yeah, no worries now.
posted by limeonaire at 5:10 PM on August 6, 2016


In Houston, on Sunday you can't buy hard liquor at all or beer and wine before noon (or as I called it, afterchurch.) I worked at Whole Foods and there would be a huge rush before the store closed on Saturday so everyone would have beer for Sunday football.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:33 PM on August 6, 2016


Oh, no one's mentioned the garbage truck music in Taiwan yet? You don't have to be from Taiwan to develop a reaction to it; a week's visit is more than enough, once you realize the persistent mobile music is not from an unusually large number of ice cream trucks.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:32 PM on August 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


The 5pm song, in many places in Japan. People just ignore it without comment. In fact once I waited for it to be over, then asked "what was that?"

"What was what?" So normal it didn't even register.

It's actually pretty clever, it's a daily test of the emergency speakers, but substituting the tune Yuyaku Koyake for the annoying sirens.
posted by ctmf at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2016


In San Francisco, there are sections where BART and MUNI both operate as subways, and both use the same stations, but have different and non interchangeable tickets and entrances in said stations. This is incredibly confusing for tourists.

Also In a lot of other places with subways, the subway runs until after the bars close. That is not true in SF, where the subway stops running around midnight.
posted by gryftir at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


ctmf, the sirens are, to my understanding, at least nominally intended to serve as signals to farmers that it's time to get up/take a lunch break/quit for the day, at least in more rural farming communities. The songs also vary by municipality — where I worked for four years, the noon chime was "Love is Blue"
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:54 PM on August 7, 2016


Where I grew up in New Jersey, the Fire Company blew the siren at noon. Don't know if they still do. I rather suspect that it was an attempt to make a necessity (testing the siren) into a virtue.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:10 PM on August 7, 2016


I grew up in the South and have lived in a lot of other places and had to adjust to a lot of local quirks (currently missing SF Bay Area transit customs and figuring out how to keep the Colorado sun from killing my skin and hair). But living in Salt Lake City for a couple years in the late 90s was definitely the steepest learning curve so far:

-Fry sauce, y'all. This has since spread to surrounding states, but not too far out to the rest of the country.
-I was super confused when, my first week working at an outbound telemarketing company, they shut the phones down on Monday nights to avoid disturbing people participating in Family Home Evening.
-I'm still not convinced that my friends who grew up there weren't pulling my leg when they told me it's traditional for school students to ask each other to dances via elaborate pranks.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:04 PM on August 7, 2016


They aren't fireflies in Tennessee y'all, they're lightning bugs.
posted by Cocodrillo at 3:37 AM on August 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Houston the frontage/service roads alongside freeways are called "feeder" roads. (Or just "feeders.") Being from L.A. I'd never heard any of the terms because our freeways are elevated.

(Also there are crazy U-turn lanes there.)
posted by Room 641-A at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


A few more Massachusetts things:
128 (not Route 128, just One Twent- Eight) runs around Boston. It is concurrent with I-95 for most of the trip and the signs these days almost exclusively say "I-95". Everyone still refers to it as 128.
The Southeast Expressway is a chunk of I-93 to the southeast of Boston. If it's backed up to the gas tank, you're in trouble.
They actually have rotaries. (What everyone else calls roundabouts.) Learning to drive in one is a crucial skill. I remember being surprised that I didn't see rotaries anywhere else in the country when I was growing up.
posted by Hactar at 10:04 AM on August 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Back to the great pop vs soda debate: In Virginia, where I'm from, and some other parts of the south, we say neither. It's Coke until more information is required.

Me: "Hey, I'm going to the vending machine. You want a Coke?"
You: "Sure, hey thanks!"
Me: "What do you want?"
You: "I'll have a Sprite."
Me: "Coming right up!"

Mom: "Stevie, I put some Cokes in the fridge for you and your friends."
Stevie: "Hey guys, who wants what? We've got Sprite, Dr Pepper, and Mountain Dew. Motherlode!"
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:04 PM on August 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Code-switching in conversation (using multiple languages in the same sentence or convo fluidly) comes super naturally to me and folks in my culture/country of origin (South & South-East Asia), but it freaks out my monolingual Western friends. My (White Aussie) matey bugged out when he watched a snippet of some Indian dance music competition where the judges talk in both Hindi and English - he was all "how the hell do they do that?!" and I'm thinking "uh, it's natural?".

Squatting for toilets seem to be a thing that escapes White people for some reason. Squatting can't be THAT hard, geez.

In Australia the magpies will get you and everyone knows to avoid them.
posted by divabat at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Urban deer. I live in small town in BC and we have deer everywhere. They have learned to wait for cars to cross the road and even seem to favour crosswalks. They hang out in town and have no fear of humans. Tourists often go crazy when they see them, we don't give them a second look unless they are trying to get into our gardens.
posted by ssg at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am surprised nobody has mentioned the definite article in freeway names. If you're from Los Angeles or now all of California, you probably call it the 101, the 5, the 210, the 405, etc. People elsewhere do not do this and will think you're weird if you don't call it just 101 or 5, like it's a name and not a thing.

In my defense, is there another 210 freeway? No? Then it's THE 210.

Also, "for here" vs. "to stay." West Coast, "for here or to go?" East Coast, "To go or to stay?"
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:24 AM on August 10, 2016


I was talking to a couple from Toronto about the hilarious way Californians use the definite article for highways and got blank looks. Apparently it's a thing there too?

Also, "for here or to go" is what we say in the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:38 AM on August 10, 2016


Yup, the definite article is used for highways in Ontario - at least the "400-series" highways. The 401. The 400. The 416. The 417. For non-400-series highways I would say "Highway 7" or "Highway 69" rather than "The 7"or "The 69".

--K
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:32 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait, who says "to stay" for eating in at a restaurant? I'm from Pennsylvania and lived in Chicagoland for a year and have never once in my life heard that phrase at a restaurant.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:03 PM on August 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's always been "here or to go" here in Brunswick, Georgia that I know, as well.
posted by JHarris at 5:20 PM on August 10, 2016


maybe "out east" refers to the Overlook Hotel
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:58 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I first saw a frontage road in MSP I thought it was the name of the street.

In the deep south people say sir or ma'am more often than please and thank you. In one bbq place the waitress pointedly ignored me until I said ma'am.

I slept through the 71 earthquake and was in IA at the time of the 94 one. Kids are taught in school to go under their desks and cover their heads .
posted by brujita at 7:09 PM on August 10, 2016


I was surprised when a friend of mine from Pennsylvania talked about paying property taxes on her car and having to pay to get the emissions test done on said car. Here in IL, we don't have personal property taxes and vehicle emissions tests are done for free.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:25 PM on August 10, 2016


Rumble strips on rural roads in Iowa. One of the things that makes RAGBRAI not only possible but popular are the well-built and (usually) well-maintained rural road network in Iowa, and they have two to three patches of rumble strips on roads leading up to stop signs. RAGBRAI riders have a particular gesture for indicating their location (palm down, shaking or wiggling fingers) to warn riders behind them that they're about to get a very bumpy ride if they don't avoid the patch. I've never seen them on roads (and I'm talking about the lane itself, not the shoulder) in Illinois.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:33 AM on August 11, 2016


Australians invented EFTPOS, and are heavy users of internet banking. I'm 28 years old, and have needed a cheque once - it still baffles me why I would write an IOU on a piece of paper and give it to somebody so that they could take it to their bank.
posted by cholly at 2:51 PM on August 11, 2016


Fries in the Netherlands ("patat") are most commonly eaten with a generous helping of "frietsaus", a slightly more vinegar-y variation of mayonnaise. Just ketchup as a topping is unusual, unless it's in "special" sauce, which is ketchup, the aforementioned frietsaus, and chopped onion. A variation of that is to replace the ketchup with peanut sauce (satay), which is called "war" sauce.
posted by monospace at 9:47 AM on August 12, 2016


One CAN use the Clipper Card for transit all over the SF bay area.
posted by brujita at 10:57 PM on August 14, 2016


Regarding bells and sirens in Japan, at least here in Chiba, there's a chirping sound every morning to mark 7:00 am. The first time I heard it, I had a job where I set my alarm for 7:30, but every morning, I'd here this chirping, and for months I wondered what the hell it was. I though it must have been some extremely punctual obnoxious bird. Nope. It's a little "hey there, it's 7:00 am" reminder. I quite like the five o'clock chime. Not a fan of the 7:00 am bird call.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:20 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


no right turn on red in nyc busts people every time.

that law was created specifically to bilk innocent New Jerseyans and I for one will not stand for it




what I mean is, New Jersey has right-on-red, and in drivers' ed class they specifically warned us that New York did not.


also a fun New Jersey fact: people not from here seem to think that the state is a filthy garbage state full of pollution and strip malls. The reason for this belief is partly that it's true but mostly that
  • the transit corridor for the whole Northeast region goes through New Jersey
  • so there's a huge amount of people going through New Jersey on their way to somewhere else
  • the specific highways involved (95 and 78) were built through NJ's factory and urban areas
  • there is a specific spot on that highway that smells like dirty socks
  • it just does
  • most people will know to roll up their windows at that point
  • but do you know what kind of people travel from New York to DC on a regular basis? people who work in either government or media
  • reporters, talk show hosts, congresspeople, lobbyists
  • they all think that New Jersey smells like dirty socks
In fact, there are several national/state parks and land reserves in New Jersey, including the Pine Barrens which is big enough to drive across it for two hours without any cell reception. And we have some beautiful scenic parking lots.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 9:54 AM on August 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also sometimes a "sloppy joe" IS NOT A SLOPPY JOE
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:16 AM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


In a big city, a friendly stranger who comes up and starts talking you, or even makes eye contact or says hello, is a potentially dangerous or crazy person, and should be ignored. In a small town, a friendly stranger who comes up and starts talking you, or even makes eye contact or says hello, is normal, and ignoring that person will mark you as potentially dangerous or crazy.
posted by ethical_caligula at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


On the highway from Denver up into the mountains, there are wide spots designated for putting chains on your tires. I don't know how widespread this is in the western mountains.

Laws regarding studded snow tires vary by state, from "none ever" to restrictions by month to I don'st know what.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:31 AM on August 20, 2016


In the Netherlands, breakfast is cereal or bread. Sometimes eggs, as an addition.
Lunch is bread. The question 'what's for lunch?' is never heard, because we know what's for lunch. Bread is what's for lunch. There are many, many tasty things to put on the bread. Sometimes there's soup as an addition to the bread.

Cake is never a dessert; it's a special treat, reserved for birthdays or other notable occasions. If someone offers you cookies, you take one and say thank you. Cookies are never eaten by the plate. You get one cookie with each cup of coffee or tea or glass of lemonade.

Squirrels are red, never black or grey.

Bicycles are mainly used for transportation, not sports. Bike helmets are only worn if you are a child or doing sporty things in a sporty way, in which case you will also be wearing specific sporty clothing; in all other cases, normal clothing is worn while riding a bicycle. People seen riding their bicycles in business attire are commuting and this is unremarkable. Many people own a city bike and a mountain or race bike.

On your birthday, you throw a party. You make sure there are snacks, cake and drinks and invite your friends over, because it's your birthday. They will generally bring a gift. Throwing parties for others is generally not expected.
On birthday parties, people sit in a big circle, eat cake and complain about the weather and parking tickets. In some regions, you are expected to congratulate all of the present family of the host(ess) as well.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:55 AM on August 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's one in this thread. Snow fence. You'd only know what it was if you had spent time in a snowy place.
posted by Redstart at 5:20 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, I've just thought of another - Got a TV? Then in the UK you would need a television licence, unless you could prove you watched neither broadcast television nor the BBC iPlayer.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:27 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


A few things I realized when I moved from the US to the UK:

• In DC and Los Angeles (and possibly other American cities) it is common to drop words like "Street" or "Road". Instead of "La Cienega Boulevard," you'd just say "La Cienega." I did this when I first moved to London and it took me a little while to realize you can't do that in an ancient city whose street names evolved over centuries. When there's Park Lane, Park Road, Park Mews, and Park Street, it's not terribly useful to just say "Park."

•  When I first started watching Olympics coverage on the BBC, I was baffled that I never heard the official Olympic theme. I finally discovered that it is not the official Olympic theme, but simply a piece of music that American networks treat as if it were. Few people outside the US have even heard that piece, and nobody associates it with the Olympics.

• It turns out that expecting your politicians to assure you that your country is the greatest one on earth is a uniquely American thing. (Or, at least, it's not a European thing.) Similarly, British politicians are not expected to wear little flags on their lapels at all times, and it now seems a little weird to me that American politicians are.
posted by yankeefog at 2:29 AM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


That's because the overwhelming national attribute of the United States, above wealth, above freedom, above democracy, is insecurity.

Here in rural Georgia, people talk about highway numbers, and once in a while names, as if everyone absolutely knows what they are. 341! 95! 82! 17! The spur! I never got used to that and I still forget what they are all the time.
posted by JHarris at 9:04 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


When there's Park Lane, Park Road, Park Mews, and Park Street, it's not terribly useful to just say "Park."

In Arlington, VA, the sadists who laid out the streets did things like naming parallel roads—a block apart—"19th Street" and "19th Road."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:54 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I moved from Southern California to New York City, I was stunned to see people hosing garbage off of the streets with hoses. Didn't they know there's a drought going on?
posted by TrishaLynn at 7:57 AM on November 12, 2016


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