Photo: Nan Palmero
1. Driving culture
There are going to be universal rules for American drivers: obey the speed limit within reason, use the left lane only for passing – I’m surprised how few people know about that one – and don’t tailgate anyone. In Texas, despite the big pickup trucks, high speed limits, and insane traffic in the urban areas, people are generally courteous… most of the time. A friendly wave or taillight flash to someone who lets you pass is always welcome.
2. Spanish speakers
You are inevitably going to encounter people from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and maybe even El Salvador when you’re in Texas. Quinceañera dresses are easy to spot in shops. Texas’ population is about 40% Hispanic, meaning it’s beyond inappropriate to look at Spanish speakers as though they don’t belong.
3. Cultural events
This may very well be your first rodeo if you’re coming to Texas for the first time, but there’s more to this state than wrangling cattle and riding horses. The Texas State Fair is held in the fall and draws crowds from Midland to Beaumont. Austin’s music scene is displayed during festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. There are even two famous Renaissance fairs popular amongst Texans: Scarborough near Dallas and RenFest outside of Houston.
4. Southern customs
Just because we’re Texan through and through doesn’t mean we haven’t incorporated some of the American South into our habits. We have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day and candied yams for Thanksgiving. Our famous actors may win you over with their “yes ma’am”s and politeness to put on a good face onscreen, but plenty of other Texans follow suit with that good ol’ Southern hospitality and skilled small talk. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to open a door for an old lady.
5. Gun culture
Despite rumors in the media and propagated in Hollywood, living in Texas isn’t as much of a wild west shootout as you would believe. Many people own firearms and stand by them – they are sold next to liquor stores, after all – but it’s not as though you’re guaranteed to come across someone wearing a holster every day. If this really does make you uncomfortable, you might as well wander over to Walmart and buy a piece of your own.
6. Know the lingo
Don’t assume we’re all slow talking rubes. We do talk slowly, but that’s beside the point. Texans have a tendency to leave the endings off words, e.g. fixin’ to, eatin’, playin’. We also like softening harsh vowel sounds; “to” becomes “tuh”. We know words; we have the best words. Ask anyone.
7. Gas station food
You haven’t truly understood Texas until you’ve tried to make a whole meal out of a stop for gas and lotto tickets. It’s not even limited to chains like Buc-ee’s. The Czech Stop Bakery serves pigs in a blanket right off the highway between Waco and Dallas, and mom and pop shops are usually stocked with a supply of corn dogs and greasy foods.
8. Distance in time, not miles
Mention kilometres or Celsius in Texas and you might get punched in the face, or at least labeled a “libtard”. Though Texans are perfectly aware it’s about 300 miles between Dallas and Houston, we don’t typically think that way when it comes to driving. Rather, it’s a good day’s journey to head to Amarillo, and you can be in San Antonio before lunch.
9. How to survive a natural disaster
Californians have their earthquake drills, Texans prepare for tornados. Hopefully you won’t be passing through the state during bad weather, but it never hurts to be knowledgeable. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, Texans were freaked out enough when Rita was supposed to travel farther inland; gas stations were overwhelmed, grocery stores’ shelves were emptied, and thousands headed north. In the end, Houston escaped the brunt of the storm, and Austin received little more than a light shower. We may not be prepared for a major hurricane or two inches of snow, but we weather it together, as Texans.
10. Complaining about the heat
Just don’t do it. Everyone is sweating. Some of us actually prefer it.