This is an extension of an earlier post: What Europeans think of each other. I’m sure this will get as many attacks as that one did.
Let me start off by saying that, because the US is a young country, and people move around a lot, and we share a common language, nationality and (federal) legal system, the differences between an Alabaman and a Georgian are not going to be as great as those between an Albanian and, well, a Georgian (the Caucasian version).
Because I was raised in southern California, New Jersey and North Carolina, but have spent most of my adult years in northern California, I have a more objective perspective than your average American. (I probably spent most of my formative years in NJ and think mostly like a New Jerseyan, but still consider myself a Californian, strangely). Take this for what it’s worth (i.e. not much).
Californians – Northern: Considered “the land of fruits and nuts” by most of the rest of the country, especially by midwesterners who are afraid of anything that isn’t beef jerky. There’s some unsaid envy of the state’s technological and entertainment prowess, and its weather and beaches, as evidenced by plenty of schadenfreude at its current budgetary woes (not anything unusual for those who have lived here for a while). Northern Californians are said to think Southern Californians are a bunch of fake-and-baked bleached bimbos. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe Northern Californians (San Franciscans, in particular) are just jealous of the truly warm weather of the South. Some will tell you it has to do with water rights. They’re lying.
Californian – Southern: This is the land of Hollywood and Baywatch. There is a certain glamour and joie de vivre that Northern Californians lack, although other Americans are pretty safe when they say SoCal folks are preoccupied with appearances. Dressing well and being in shape are of paramount importance; living a healthy lifestyle is more popular here than anywhere else in the States. Megachurches dominate, especially in conservative Orange County, a dubious challenge to the hedonism of the area (the religious are just as shallow, if not more, than the non-religious). Southern Californians are proud of the fact that they don’t take things too seriously. They’re lying.
Pacific Northwest: I’m putting Washington and Oregon together here, and Seattle and Portland dominate the impression we get of this rugged, cold region of the country. Oregon’s said to be a blend of rednecks and hippies; I heard a comic say once that it’s the only place you’ll see a hybrid car on blocks. Both have the cool intellectual heritage of Northern Europe, in contrast to the Latin feel of Los Angeles and the Southwest. It rains often, and people don’t mind getting wet. Getting outdoors and hiking, biking and skiing (in Canada) are popular. People are relatively quiet.
Southwest: This area includes Arizona, Nevada (parts), New Mexico, and western Texas (at least to me). Think dry, arid, lots of cactus and tumbleweeds, the stuff of movie roadtrips and Spaghetti Westerns. Everything either has an Indian (Native) or Spanish name, and even though the old white people here are conservative, they don’t mind it. Lots of space, weird insects, arachnids (including scorpions and black widow spiders) and snakes. Old people wear cowboy hats and bolo ties. It gets absurdly hot in the summer, and freezing cold at night.
Upper Midwest: This includes the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and maybe Nebraska and Kansas (the Great Plains). People I know here are almost always of German or Swedish stock, or Norwegian if they’re from North Dakota. Cold, cold, cold and boring, boring, boring. It’s relatively progressive (proximity to Canada?) and Minnesota, at least, is relatively well-to-do. Wisconsin is famous for cheese, and both Minnesotans and Wisconsonians hate being confused with each other; neither has an issue with Iowans or Canadians. Dakotans are considered idiots (it’s claimed it’s their Norwegian blood). The Great Plains states – Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas – are considered 100% rural and agricultural: mile after mile of corn fields.
The Rockies: This is Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, with a bit of special case for Utah. Majestic red rock, crisp air and a bit of the pioneer spirit. Lots of skiing, and a general love of the outdoors. Utah, with its heavy Mormon population, is a bit different – relatively poor, religious, no alcohol, no working on Sundays, “family friendly”, etc.
Midwest: I’m including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan here (maybe western Pennsylvania, too). These are considered the Rust Belt of the country. A bit cold and flat, a lot of erstwhile industry that might have not adapted well to changing times. I lived in Ohio for a couple of years and found it boring. Chicago is a nice exception, but the rest is the pits: it feels like everyone lives in the suburbs and there is no civic life whatsoever.
Southern Midwest: I don’t know what you would call this region, but I’m including Arkansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee. These are a hybrid of Southern (they speak with a Southernish accent) and the Midwest. Very conservative but without the polarized racial dynamics of the South (at least it seems that way to me). Known for being a bit rednecky, especially in the areas near Appalachia.
South: Includes Louisiana (except the Creole New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida, and South Carolina (arguably North Carolina and Virginia, since they were part of the Confederacy, but they seem a bit different). Considered lazy, fat, uneducated, racist and stupid by most other Americans–or, what Europeans think of Americans, in general–although there is a vestige of respect for their literature and plantation-like elegance. Of course, there are some incredibly intelligent and open-minded people here, but they are outnumbered. Atlanta is an exception in many ways.
East Coast/Eastern Seaboard: I’m subtracting out New England and putting that in a different category, so this includes New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC, and arguably Virginia and North Carolina. Former engine of the Industrial Revolution in the US (along with New England) and still very progressive, wealthy and technologically-advanced. One of the “coastal elites” that the flyover states dislike but still depend on for government handouts. Heavy Italian, Jewish, Irish and Eastern European influence to the culture.
New England: Includes everything from Maine down to Connecticut. They have their own accent, and a brusque coldness to their demeanor. “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire has a defiant libertarianism, while its neighbor Vermont has a hippie-like relaxed nature. Connecticut is wealthy, Rhode Island is tiny, and western Massachusetts and Maine are considered the boondocks. All have architecture reminiscent of their namesake, and I personally can’t help thinking of witch burning and the Scarlet Letter – a severe form of Protestantism that’s mellowed out in recent times.
Outliers: There are 3 that come to mind: southern Florida, Alaska and Hawai’i. Perceptions of each: Southern Florida is Cuban-dominated, sunny and festive. Alaska is remote with tons of lumberjacks and breathtaking scenery. Hawai’i is tropical and full of surfers. These are all no-brainers, and plenty of non-Americans might have similar perceptions.
Anything I missed or I was wrong on? Please share below in the comments.