What Americans think of each other

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.

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  1. Actually, Idaho is considered part of the Pacific Northwest.
    Idaho shares the Eastern mentality of both Washington and Oregon.
    Also, there’s plenty of skiing in Washington and Oregon (you had Canada in parens).
    From a Seattle point of view, the biggest difference between Oregon and Washington is that people from Oregon are 99% of the time nuts.
    Also, with a Norway is known for breeding nuts as well, according to family from there.

    Comment by matt — April 21, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  2. You forgot to add how much people drink in North Dakota because there’s absolutely nothing to do. ;] And how you can go for miles and miles between major cities across the north and midwest.

    Comment by Dakota — July 26, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  3. Dumb. Looks like you threw some shit on the wall trying to get a lot of views and comments.

    Comment by A. — September 26, 2010 @ 11:37 am

  4. umm…you forgot West Virginia. I’m curious to see where you would put it. Being from there, most people don’t even know it exists. It is clear they think you mean the western part of virginia. Proof? Statements like “Oh, I’ve been to the beach there once.” or “Oh, I’ve been to Richmond.”

    Personally, I’d put it in it’s own category called … the best state in the Union!

    Comment by matt — February 8, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  5. I think we’d all prefer to forget West Virginia.

    Comment by Killgore — March 19, 2012 @ 11:15 am

  6. You made no mention of how North New Jersey people don’t like those in the south (Those Jersey shore types), and how people in Bergen county tend to say they are from New York when they go other places (it’s right across the bridge) because they don’t want people to draw perceptions of the Jersey shore when they say where they are from.

    Cascadia (Oregon and Washington) is divided. There are thick mountains that chop the state in half. the Western coast is more progressive, secular, and wet, while the eastern portion is all desert and hicksville.

    While mentioning South Florida, you only talked about Cubans. There are alot of South Americans there too, plus you made no mention of the swarms of old Jews in the area.

    In regards to New England, you made no mention of how people from around NYC don’t like them very much and vice-verse.

    Iowa and Kansas are conservative states compared to the largely progressive Midwest and shouldn’t be grouped with them.

    Comment by person — March 26, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  7. Its an interesting subject – the whole idea of what other countries or states think of eachother in every continet. North America, specially the US because its a continet itself with many states with slightly different customs, food, dialects nad sometimes culture.For me as a european USA should be the heaven on earth even though we know its not the truth. Heaven on earth must be Antartica because theres no living humans there who can infect it and threat other living creatures to distinction. This giant state USA is created by most europeans. Most of the citizens in the US have their ancestors from Scandinavia, Polan, Russia, Italy, Ireland, the UK, France, Spain etc and it is in many ways, (at least from the beginning) a better Europe. I think though its strange that nobody have commented this interesting topic since the end of march this year. why is that?

    Anyhow I have heard that Boston and the nearby regions are a bit “unamerican” due to the rest of the nation. I dont know more than that and would really appreciate if someone could explain more about that.

    DailyCandor: I’m unaware of any perception of Bostonians being “unamerican” at all. Where did you hear that? Most of the world does seem to obsess about what Americans think, and they often get it wrong.

    Comment by Mattias Mushroom — July 12, 2012 @ 10:06 am

  8. Interesting.
    I have noticed that the Californians, through the eyes of European travellers, are not considered the most friendly Americans.
    One of my friend went to California and find them, generally, rude, not welcoming and even aggressive.
    In Europe, we sometimes forget the USA are a big country with diverse mentalities.

    DailyCandor: I’m a Californian and have never noticed this except for customer service. Please note that customer service culture is terrible in California and is not directed towards foreigners any more than it is towards the native born! (Most working in the service industry are trying to work for a startup or in the entertainment industry…)

    By the way, I would be interesting to see the same post concerning the view of the Dutch and the Poles concerning the other Europeans (English, French, Spanish, Italian…), since you have lived in both countries during a large amount of years.

    Comment by Alexandre — October 17, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

  9. Allow me to indulge:

    Philadelphia: The nation’s number one provider of impotent rage. Once threw batteries at Santa during an Eagles game.

    New York City: Liberal, intellectual. A home of the arts. The most self-important city on Earth. Assumes that everyone cares about what they ate for breakfast that day. If Twitter was a city, it’d be NYC.

    Buffalo: Chicken wings. Wide right. Wide right 2. Desperate for attention. Scared of being absorbed by Canada. Even more scared that no one will care.

    Boston: Half rich snobs, half hellhole. the sports version of NYC’s self importance. Insufferable during football/basketball season. Worships at the altars of Brady and Russell.

    Baltimore: Crime. Crime. Aquarium. Crime. The Wire. Edgar Allen Poe. Crabcakes. Crime.

    Washington DC: No one seems to think anyone actually lives there. Has a huge inferiority complex when it comes to sports and culture. Incredibly confusing to get around, which is what happens when you hire a French city planner.

    Atlanta: Great for music. Ted Turner pretty much owns the city. Nice airport. Terrible crime problems.

    Miami: Baseball obsessed Cubans and arrogant Heat fans. Beautiful weather. Jewish grandmothers.

    New Orleans: Great food. Great music. Terrifying poverty. Hurricane prone.

    Dallas: Oil barons, George W. Bush, Cowboys fans, and undeserved arrogance.

    Cleveland: Depression. Their river once caught on fire. Their sports are terrible, and when they leave they become good (Lebron does Lebron things, Browns moves to Baltimore/become the Ravens/win SB 2 years later) thus adding to sense of misery.

    Cincinnati: Slightly better than Cleveland, still dying inside. And no WKRP was not a good show.

    Detroit: Former automotive capital of the world. Former “Paris of the West”. Current America’s Hellhole in Chief. Baltimore meets Cleveland. Fodder for inspiring Cadillac commercials.

    Minneapolis: The Hold Steady. Michele Bachmann. Hilarious accents.

    Chicago: Freezing unbearable cold. Da Bears. Da Bulls. MICHAELLLLLL JORDANNNNNNNN! Kanye West. Ditka. Political corruption. Obama.

    Denver: Beautiful mountains. Nice people. National tragedies. Inspiration for South Park.

    Salt Lake City: Mormons. Their basketball team is named the Jazz. And of course when you think Utah you think Jazz.. Polygamy.

    Las Vegas: Sodom & Gomorrah for the 20th Century. Stuck in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra was all about it. Now Old Blue Eyes is dead and the economy is joining him. Now being lapped by Ibiza and Indian casinos.

    San Diego: I don’t think they even know what they’re all about. Beach people and a lot of Latino immigrants. Apparently all the news anchors are comic actors wearing bad mustaches.

    Los Angeles: Hollywood. The stars. The sounds. The sights. The boob jobs. The cocaine. The tabloids. The traffic. The smog. Everyone is prettier than you.

    San Francisco: Gays. Hippies. Gay hippies. Neat bridge. Chinatown. The 60s. LSD maaaan.

    Oakland: Gang violence. Music made about said violence. Football team that embraces said violence. Oddly charming.

    Portland: Hates Seattle with a fiery passion. Hipsters. Meth. The Malice at the Palace.

    Seattle: Coffee. Grunge. Weed. Rain. Ultra liberal. Pretends Portland doesn’t exist. Rain again. Loud Seahawks fans.

    Anchorage: Bears. Governors shooting wolves from helicopters. Bridges to nowhere. More bears.

    Honolulu: beautiful. gorgeous. tropical. absurdly expensive. imports everything except lava.

    Comment by ZakR — December 12, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

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