Americans Are Sharing The Biggest Culture Shocks They've Experienced When Visiting Other Parts Of The US

·21 min read

If you live in the US, you probably know that other states and regions can be WILDLY different than others.

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So, when a Redditor asked Americans, "When you travel from state to state, do you feel culture shock or do you feel like it's sort of the same culture, and why?" it started a conversation about the BIGGEST culture shocks Americans experienced while visiting other parts of the US.

the US flag
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Here are some of the most fascinating — and funniest — ones:

1."I went from California to Nebraska. There's so much corn. Corn being grown, corn being talked about, corn in decor. Corn. Corn. Corn. Where I’m from, it’s weed."

"So, that was a weird change, but I think for someone who grew up in 'Children of the Corn Nebraska' coming to weed country 'Wild West North California' might be more of a shock LOL."

u/lazymarp

corn being harvested
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2."You can definitely see differences in peoples' attitudes. We moved from Illinois to the Boston area, and I was working as a restaurant manager. I would apply my typical Midwestern friendliness, but the people on the East Coast just didn't get it until they got used to it. I would walk through the dining room and ask if I can take peoples' trays out of their way for them, and people would straight-up ask my why I want their trash."

"Then, we moved back to Illinois and now to Texas, and the people here are sometimes over-the-top friendly. Before COVID hit and we would go out to eat, it wasn't out of the question to have a table near you strike up a conversation with you."

uHotsauceMcGuyver

close up of someone holding a tray of food and a drink
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3."I grew up in New England and moved to the South. It’s not that New Englanders are impolite or rude. People from the Northeast generally equate minding your own business, not intruding in another conversation, letting minor trespasses go without confrontation, etc. as being polite. It’s still very strange to me how much information people here seem to word vomit to total strangers — it seems insincere."

"If you bump into someone walking past on a sidewalk, in New England you’d get/give a quick apology or acknowledgement, hand wave, and no eye contact. In the South, I’ve had the other person grab my arm and force eye contact to give a very detailed apology. I’m accustomed to it now, but it’s such over-the-top behavior compared to what I grew up with."

u/stormysees

a man tapping a woman on a shoulder as she has her hand up to keep walking
Jackf / Getty Images / iStockphoto

4."I was born and raised in California, I lived in Alaska for 18 years, and have spent a total of two years abroad. Alaska is technically a part of the US, but it absolutely feels like a different country."

"It broke my heart to leave Alaska, and moving back to my hometown was a culture shock that I’m still adjusting to. California summers are a rip-off — dark by 9 p.m., and it’s too hot. In AK, I could get off work at 8 p.m. and still go on a long hike with no lack of light, and it was rarely too hot. But, damn the winters are hard, and California winters are much nicer. There was more diversity in my Alaska home than my rural California home, and I really miss that. The best Korean food I’ve ever had was in Alaska, and not even LA or SF had better; I guess I need to keep looking! But Alaska’s fruit is terrible, and I have fresh, lovely fruit in CA."

u/winter_laurel

a group of hikers pointing to the top of a mountain
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5."NYC was overwhelming in the best way. I come from the deep South, and meeting so many people of different cultures in one place was amazing! I met people from Nigeria, Morocco, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Japan, and so many more. Also, for New Yorkers, so much wild stuff goes on regularly, and they don’t even flinch. There are many people on the sidewalks. And after 3 a.m., Times Square is a place for the homeless to sleep. It was eye-opening."

"Then the flip side: I have family in Arizona, and they live in town with a population of less than 1,000. The town completely shuts down by 8 p.m. — even the ice cream parlor. They live so far outside of the town’s center that you can’t just run to the store if you forget something; the nearest gas station is at least 30 minutes away. Amazon doesn’t deliver to them because they live on an unnamed street. Giant mountains surround them, and there's a waterfall visible from their house when it rains. Just a totally different life out there."

u/maaack3nzi3

the people talking and walking down the street
Cavan Images / Getty Images

6."I moved from Utah to Ohio. Let me tell you, moving from Utah to any state that doesn't border it is a culture shock in and of itself. The Mormon population drops from the overwhelming majority to almost nonexistent."

u/hilfigertout

a welcome to Utah road sign
Andreykrav / Getty Images / iStockphoto

7."I moved from the East Coast to Utah for college and yes, the culture shock was huge. I grew up thinking I was pretty conservative, but as soon as I moved to Utah, I realized I was very, very liberal in comparison. Also, the parts of Utah I was in had so many chain stores and strip malls — just so much pavement instead of the green spaces I was used to."

u/Snapdragon_fish

a city downtown with views of the mountains in the back
John Coletti / Getty Images

8."I live in Texas, but my whole life, I've visited family in upstate New York, and there are a lot of differences. Everyone speaks their mind in New York because people get less offended by what you say. They have a totally different accent — less accent than most Texans. They don't know what 'having BBQ' means. They just cook on the BBQ grill sometimes."

"And this may be just where I was specifically, but once I was old enough to drink legally, the gas station workers seemed VERY judgmental when I bought a six-pack."

morphflex

a plate of Texas BBQ
Cavan Images / Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

9."When I was 13, I moved from LA to a small town in Nebraska. Sounds cliché, but it felt a lot like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. In this small town, everyone knew each other, school had full-size lockers and no locks — whereas our school had tiny, 4x4 lockers with locks built-in and often added on. People said hello when passing you. Football was a freaking religion. Fast-food restaurants were different and sparse. Differences dialect, too: People ate 'supper' not 'dinner' as the evening meal. Dinner was lunch. Soda was 'pop.'"

"They had tornado warning sirens mounted on telephone poles that they would blast Saturdays at noon to test. I often wondered what would happen if a tornado was sighted at noon on a Saturday, and everyone thought it was the test. So, yeah, definitely culture shock."

u/irvingstark

close up of a tornado siren
Cpcollinsphotography / Getty Images / iStockphoto

10."I've lived in upper Midwest, Atlantic/South, and West Coast, and I found differences in work life. The East Coast has been more accomplishment-oriented yet more favorable to employees in work-life balance. The Midwest was all about getting up early, hard work, and employers thought you should just be happy to have a job. The West Coast had a more chill attitude and was generous with benefits, but you're still working all night."

"I work in tech though, so mileage may vary."

u/yakshack

a person sitting at their computer and looking at a tablet
Sinology / Getty Images

11."I live in coastal Maine. Many tourists from all over the world and the US are shocked by how green everything is. Green as in there are trees everywhere. I never really understood that, because I thought everywhere has trees? But since traveling around a bit, I now understand why some people were so shocked."

"We don't have highways everywhere, only certain main streets are illuminated with street lights while most other roads don't have any, the air is very clean compared to other states — and yes, there are way more trees here than any other state I've been around casually. And I guess the seafood is nice."

u/BubbleSprites

a small pond with trees and grass surrounding
Cappi Thompson / Getty Images

12."I was born and raised in Michigan, and drove to South Carolina to visit a family member. Just the scenery is insanely different. I went from the grape fields of Michigan, to the corn fields of Indiana, to the terrifying twists and turns of Tennessee on a f**king cliff face."

"In Tennessee, we made a stop at a McDonald's for some food. The second we walked in, my now-ex stopped dead in his tracks and said to me, 'You do the talking.' The entire place was covered in orange for some university, and it was our first experience with thick Southern accents. South Carolina was also my first experience with a 'dry state.' I didn't even know this existed until visiting here.

Some other moments: Asking what pop they had at a restaurant, and having just blank stares in return. Churches on every single corner, even if they are just a trailer. Anything could be a church. Southern hospitality exists; I could not believe how friendly people were! And that palm tree with the star being EVERYWHERE. I have never seen a state symbol used so much, and with so much weird pride behind it."

u/Bipolar_Pigeon

McDonalds storefront
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

13."A few years ago, I flew from Pittsburgh to Miami in the middle of winter. It was nearly zero degrees outside when I got on the plane, and I was bundled up tight. When we landed in Florida, it was, like, 80 degrees. Everyone was walking around in shorts and T-shirts, people were lounging on the beach in bikinis and swimming in the ocean. I had never been to Florida before and was not at all expecting such a difference."

"It was a huge juxtaposition to what I was experiencing just a few hours earlier."

u/supahfligh

a group of people running out of the ocean
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14."The difference between North and South is absolutely wild. My parents had to fly to Georgia from New England to attend a funeral, and it killed them just how SLOW southern hospitality is. They're rushing as best as they can to get to the funeral on time because their flight was delayed, and the locals didn't get the concept of rushing. Just getting through the checkout at a pharmacy with a couple items in a totally dead store during a weekday took 20 minutes because the cashier just... couldn't move faster or wouldn't stop making long and meandering conversation in between every item. People even talk slower down there."

"On the other hand, my mother finds the state we live in now a big shock from growing up in Jersey. She says the people here are really cold and unfriendly, which really is about keeping to yourself and not bothering others, so you can all just get your errands done."

u/GhostsofDogma

a cashier ringing someone up
Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd / Getty Images

15."I live in California, and just going to Oregon caused some shock for me. We stopped at a gas station, and I'm waiting for mom to get out of the car and pump the gas, and this guy comes out and does it for us. AND they clean your windows?! I thought it was awesome!"

"Another big plus was that Oregon doesn't have sales tax."

u/t00nland

close up of someone grabbing a gas pump
Mladenbalinovac / Getty Images

16."I've lived on the West Coast and the East Coast (New England), and there are differences; it wasn't a shock, but it felt off. Then I visited the Midwest (plains states), and it was like I was in a different country. The dialect, the prices, the conversations, the hospitality expectations, the bumper stickers were all different. No recycling and Styrofoam was everywhere — I don't think I've seen an eating establishment give out Styrofoam cups since the early '90s, but there they were."

u/OPs_other_username

styrofoam cups
Wwing / Getty Images

17."I’m from Northern Florida near the capital. Something a lot of non-Floridians don’t know is that in Florida, the further you go north is the further you go south. Basically, the northern part is the most 'southern' part, and Central and Southern Florida are more big, city-metro vibes."

"People from different regions of the US always seem to be very fascinated with our accents. I went to Vegas for a few days and was asked where I was from several times. I personally don’t have as strong of an accent as most people from my area because I went to speech classes growing up, but it made me aware that even though subtle, I have a uniquely Floridian southern accent."

u/Tipsybandit97

a water-side sidewalk in Florida with skyscrapers
Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

18."Oregon to Pennsylvania. In PA, where there's a high Amish population, and places are closed on Sunday — that includes major restaurants and big company chain stores. I went to Ocean City, Maryland last year, and on the way down, it was a Sunday. Some towns were ghost towns, except a few Amish on their horse and buggy. Nothing was open except McDonald's and gas stations."

u/Andilee

a horse and buggy going down the road
Juanmonino / Getty Images

19."Sometimes there's actual culture shock within the same state. As a native of Western Pennsylvania, traveling to Eastern or Central PA entails a weird change in culture mostly centered around what food I can find readily available. Here in Pittsburgh? Nobody's ever heard of birch beer but over in Harrisburg, the stuff is EVERYWHERE. Same goes with things like Middleswarth potato chips, various restaurant chains, Hershey's ice cream, and supermarket chains that exist on the other half of the state, but don't exist here."

"It does give me a weird 'Isn't this the SAME STATE?' feeling, and I'm having a difficult time articulating why the two halves of the same state feel so distinct from one another, even though I live here.

1) You also have the whole Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish culture, that simply stops existing on the western half of the state, but is absolutely everywhere to the east.

2) If you were to check that old 'soda' vs. 'pop' map, this state is divided right down the middle, with pop on the west and soda on the east.

3) It's divided that way too for sports teams (Steelers/Penguins/Pirates to the West, Eagles/Flyers/Phillies to the East), and it's divided that way for convenience stores (Sheetz on the west, Wawa on the east), and too many other weird little things to list.

4) Even dialects and accents vary wildly between the two halves of this state; take your average joe from Philadelphia and someone from downtown Pittsburgh, and you'd think they were from two different countries."

u/Nulion

Wawa storefront
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20."I live in Dallas and even downtown, it's kind of expected you hold the door for people following behind you. It doesn't have to be a full-on stand aside and let them go in front of you — just catching the door for the next person thing. Also, if you bump into somebody, you kind of apologize quickly, say excuse me, etc. I went to Chicago and held the door, and people would give me a...distrustful look. "

"Leaving the Cubs game, people just brushed by without paying any mind. It was very interesting. I don't have any hang-ups about one being better than other. It's just different."

u/Taasden

close up of someone's hand on a doorknob
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21."Moved from Illinois to Colorado a few years back. Here are my biggest shocks..."

"1) Clubbing wasn't much of a thing here, but breweries are.

2) Unlimited or a ton of PTO was standard for every job I applied to, compared to two weeks back in Illinois.3) Office environments were wayyyy more laid-back. Every job I had in IL was business casual (button-down shirt/polo and dress pants) with maybe casual Fridays. Here, it's usually jeans and a plain T-shirt with most wearing shorts in the summer.3) Working hours are better here. 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. is more like 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.-ish, as long as work gets done. I'm usually one of the last ones to leave on Fridays at 4ish in my office of 70.4) People seem more down-to-earth here. Back in IL, your job and career ladder seemed to rule a lot of people. Here, that's skiing, camping, and hiking. Jobs are a means to pay for the stuff you want to do rather than your sole identity."

u/caverunner17

close up of a beer flight
Peter Cade / Getty Images

22."There's a culture difference between different regions, but the BIGGEST culture difference in the US is between cities, suburbs, and rural areas. I grew up in a small town in Oregon and live in New York City, but if I drive 20–30 miles up I-87, the areas I see look a hell of a lot more like where I grew up than they do the city."

u/abunchofsquirrels

a dirt road
Grant Faint / Getty Images

23."Going from Southern California to small-town Wisconsin is definitely a shock. I feel like rural places, even 30 minutes from a major city, are at least 4–5 years behind on trends, and the people are more concerned with what’s going on in other people’s social lives than what’s happening in the communities. In Southern California, many people don’t know more about their neighbors than either a first or last name. In smaller towns, people basically learn your life story, what you’re allergic to and what your blood type is before they come over to shake your hand and offer you a welcoming casserole."

u/ladyretra

close up of a casserole dish
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24."California is big on image and what people think. New England is the opposite. A Californian wants people to acknowledge they helped you without having to do it; a New Englander will help you but doesn't want you to tell anyone. If you're doing poorly at work, you will find out in California by being suddenly fired secondhand; the person who actually makes the decision is afraid to do so to your face."

"And they won't use the word 'fired' or even 'terminated'; it'll be mealy-mouthed nonsense like, 'We have made the decision not to move forward with your employment at this time.' In New England, you make a mistake, and you are firmly and clearly told that you made a mistake. If you're fired, your manager will personally tell you so in a conversation."

u/Jim_Carr_laughing

close up of someone opening an envelope that says you are fired
Kittisak Jirasittichai / Getty Images / EyeEm

25."I lived many years during my childhood in New York and currently live in California. I visited the deep South, and I actually found it (politics aside) closer to the Northeast corridor than California. Here in California, people are very athletic. Extremely large distances, and everyone is hiking, bungee jumping, scuba diving, rock climbing, etc. on weekends. It's a very sporty vibe, which threw me off. Like, people will be fixing their boats on their Jeep, driving 10 miles to a random state park, and cave-rafting is a normal idea for a weekend — with a granola bar for lunch."

"When I visited the South — Georgia and Carolina — I found the culture to be very comfort-oriented and familiar to folks from New England or the mid-Atlantic. People on rocking chairs on their porch sipping beer. Enthusiastic about real hot meals with seafood and vegetables, making sure everyone is wearing comfortable clothes. Cool architecture and historic buildings. Cool haunted stories with a long history of generations. Lots of museums and literature. People really celebrating the culture, history etc. of the place in a relaxed comfy manner."

u/EmpRupus

someone holding ropes on the ground while some rock climbs
Tyler Stableford / Getty Images

26."The culture shock is more pronounced when you’re a person of color too. I moved from a very diverse part of Los Angeles to a rural part of Washington state with 85% white folks. Feeling othered like that really helped me understand what being a person of color in America meant. I didn’t realize others saw me like that until I got smacked in the face with it."

u/swimmingmoocow

close up of someones feet walking down the street
M-imagephotography / Getty Images / iStockphoto

27."I moved from Texas and to LA. I didn't notice the culture difference until, after living in LA for a few months, I went back to Texas. EVERYONE was nicer. Most people in LA aren't doing what they want to do: Waiters want to be actors, retail workers hate their jobs, no one makes enough money to live comfortably, and it really shows. There doesn't even seem to be much customer service or anyone going out of their way in the slightest to help someone else just because they can."

"Trader Joe's is all about customer service, and it seems like this magical place where everyone's nice, but that's actually more of the norm where I'm from."

u/Notsureiffuturamafry

an employee folding clothes
Carlina Teteris / Getty Images

28."Lived in Texas and Kentucky most my life. While living in New York, however, I learned that being polite is a huuuuge sign of passive aggressiveness or disrespect to most. 'Yes, sir' can be heard as 'F**k you. I gotta do it, but I'll let you know I hate it, sir.' I always got complimented and even was given tips for being decent enough to show respect. I was super confused."

"I figured being a cashier, customer service was real, but there? Nah. You scan, bag, scram. Coming back to HEB was nice."

u/This_User_Said

a customer and employee laughing and having a conversation in the store
Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

29."I used to live in the northern cities of the US, and when I moved to Nevada, it was a total culture shock. People were a lot nicer and really open. In Minnesota, when you're short a few dollars at gas stations, you would leave empty-handed, but in Nevada, people will come right up to you to give you money."

u/ElongatedOak

close up of someone handing over cash
Wimol Wongsawat / Getty Images / EyeEm

30."I live in Texas, so there's definitely a culture shock in any direction. West is New Mexico with a beautiful blending of American Indian and Spanish vibe. A trip East leads to Louisiana and the French Canadian or Cajun ambiance. South is the country of Mexico, which is also beautiful and amazing for so many reasons. But North to Oklahoma is the biggest culture shock of all because it's like going back in time to America in the 1950s."

u/T-Don-Thompson

Welcome to Oklahoma road sign
Pabradyphoto / Getty Images / iStockphoto

And finally...

31."As a South Carolinian who has lived in a lot of different States, here’s what I noticed..."

"1) They don’t serve cold tea in December outside the South, and if you order iced tea from a place that actually has it, they probably won’t serve it presweetened.

2) Barbecue served in states that are not famous for their barbecue will be covered in sickly sweet ketchup. Don’t order it unless you’re at a highly recommended barbecue joint.3) Manners are different in different regions. In some places, the rudest thing you can do is waste someone’s time. In others, not acknowledging someone’s existence is the height of tackiness. But people are just as willing to help you anywhere.4) Other people don’t call shopping carts 'buggies,' and some Northerners will fight you for calling all carbonated sugar water 'coke.' But only a-holes will pretend not to understand that tennis shoes and sneakers are the same damn thing. Also, 'fixing to' isn’t a common way to say 'about to' outside the South, and people will laugh at you for using it (they’ll actually just laugh at/disparage your accent and dialect more generally)."

u/noregreddits

close up of sneakers
Vlad Nikonenko / Getty Images / EyeEm

Americans, what culture shocks have you experienced when visiting other parts of the US? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.