Photo: Igor V. Podkopaev/Shutterstock

10 Commandments for Living in Michigan

by Michael Diaz Dec 2, 2016

1. Thou shalt enjoy an outdoor winter activity.

We can have snow in six of the 12 months of the year in Michigan. If you don’t find an outside activity, you will at some point succumb to cabin fever or seasonal affective disorder.

You don’t have to cross-country or downhill ski, snowshoe, figure skate, play hockey, or even snowmobile if you don’t want to, but pick something. Maybe for you it’s ice fishing or sledding. Maybe your hidden talent is snowman building or ice sculpting. I don’t care what your thing is, just find it and do it for your own mental health.

Me? I like to gear up in all of my warmest clothes then walk through the snow drifts in my yard as if I’m Luke Skywalker trudging across the surface of Hoth. You do you.

2. Thou shalt love the Lions despite how awful they are.

We all know that the Lions are going to lose and they’re going to lose HARD. Maybe not today, maybe not next week, but one of these weeks when it looks like they’ve finally got the team firing on all cylinders they will create a new and spectacular way to lose terribly.

It’s been this way since the 50s, and honestly, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. We know it. They know it. Everyone knows it, but we’re not going to change because the Lions are our team, warts and all (bust mostly warts).

3. Thou shalt be a beer expert.

We’ve now reached the point in Michigan where every single resident is pretty much the brewmaster of their own microbrewery.

Hyperbole? Certainly, but there’s a reason why Grand Rapids has been voted “Beer City, USA” more than once, because there are literally dozens of microbreweries within the greater GR area, and that’s just the second largest city in the mitten state. There many more in Lansing, Kalamazoo, Holland, and Detroit. When it comes to a premium brew in Michigan, our cup does runneth over.

With so many excellent beers to choose from it’s an absolute must for people to quickly become a beer expert just to read the beer menu, let alone enjoy what’s on it. I don’t care if you love stouts, IPAs, or have just jumped on the sour bandwagon, know what you like but come to that preference through experience.

4. Thou shalt swim.

Michigan is surrounded by four of the five great lakes (Michigan, Huron, Superior, and Erie), never minding the fact that one is never more than six miles from a lake or a stream. Michigan natives are taught to swim at a young age. I learned at nine while living on a lake and my friends came over frequently to do what? Swim!

When you’re always in the water from May until September you learn how to swim, quickly.

5. Thou shalt appreciate Vernor’s.

I’m not even saying that you have to necessarily LIKE ginger ale, but respect the simple fact that Vernor’s is homegrown in Michigan, born in Detroit!

You may not like it, you may not even drink it, but you at least respect its humble, grab-em-by-the-bootstraps origins. Perhaps if you leave the state one day and inquire as to a proper ginger ale you will see that the ubiquity of Vernor’s within Michigan is not true throughout the U.S.

And then you will want one and you will know.

6. Thou shalt know how to play Euchre, Rummy, and/or Cribbage.

Cards: it’s something we do, often at a picnic table or on a deck during the summer, perhaps a good craft beer nearby. If there are four people playing there’s a really good chance they’re playing Euchre, and you’d better learn how to play it.

I learned to play Euchre in college, not because someone wanted to show me how to play but because he so desperately wanted to play and couldn’t find anyone else.

Cards here are brutal, even when money isn’t involved. If you’re not playing either Euchre or Rummy, chances are you’re camping somewhere and playing in a cribbage tournament near some sand and firepits, or maybe at a fish fry, or at deer camp. There are usually multiple generations represented and someone is shuffling cards for the next hands.

7. Thou shalt appreciate a good hot dog.

I’ve heard people say (and by ‘people’, I mean my mother) that Michigan has more stringent laws about meat and the contents of said meat than most other states. Is that true?

Who knows, I’m not going to argue, when again Michigan is the home and birthplace of another wonderful delicacy: the Coney Island Dog.

“But isn’t Coney Island somewhere in New York?”. I’m sure there’s a fascinating story about why particular style of hotdog in Michigan is called the “Coney Island”, but I’m not here to tell you that. I’m here to tell you that you have not lived until you’ve tried a natural-casing Koegel slathered in that Coney Island sauce.

And no, it’s not chili. Okay, it kind of is, but don’t call it that.

The best coneys are found predominantly in the greater Detroit area, though now that I have said that, I am sure to have sparked at least a few arguments about who makes the best and whether or not they actually originated in Flint.

8. Thou shalt know and respect the “Michigan left”.

In Michigan don’t you ever think, let alone attempt, to come to a busy intersection and just turn left. Aww, Hell no!

You need to learn and master very quickly that you go past the street that you want to turn onto until you reach a designated left turn lane where you can then turn left and back toward the street you wanted, but now you can turn right onto, which is much safer.

Have mercy on that poor soul that comes up to a busy intersection and tries to turn left there, as those that surround you will unleash a cacophony of horns and hurled insults.

9. Thou shalt know how to drive in the snow.

True, there is that very first snow where suddenly everyone that has lived in Michigan for their entire lives collectively forgets that snow and ice are slippery and then everyone crashes into a snowbank.

Then we all laugh, shake our heads, and tell ourselves how completely stupid we all are.

But then after that we suddenly become arctic pioneers traveling the frozen tundra within vehicles, laying waste to the ice and snow as we expertly navigate slick curves and turns.

10. Thou shalt know how to pronounce our names correctly.

Learn how to say each of these correctly under penance of a severe bout of being laughed at:
Muskegon, Mackinac, Dowagiac, Trufant, Bete Grise, Clio, Ypsilanti, Tahquamenon Falls, Saline, Charlotte, Hamtramck.

There are many more, but definitely master those first.

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