1. Food.

This is number one for a reason, in that it’s really the only thing that matters. Unless you’re in Texas, California, or Mexico, the Mexican food – and good luck finding Tex-Mex – is going to suck big time. I don’t know what it is about this particular cuisine that’s so hard to replicate; if I can find decent Indian food in the middle of Europe, why have I seen queso made with cheez whiz and chips that feel like I could break a tooth biting into them?

It’s not just breakfast tacos and fajitas. Although there’s some variation of BBQ in almost every country, nothing beats the juicy brisket slathered with spicy sauce you can only find in Llano. After a year in Japan, I was looking for anything to satisfy these cravings… and came up empty.

2. Wide open spaces.

As the saying goes, Texas is one of the few places in the world where you can watch your dog run away… for a whole week. But it’s more than geography and a lack of mountains. We are one of the more populated states with 27 million people, but even in cities like Dallas and Houston you don’t see the crowds you might in Los Angeles or New York. This means a better chance of finding parking on a Friday night, and watching the sunset for hours and hours.

3. Other Texans.

We grew up together in the Lone Star State, and that gives you a sense of brotherhood (and sisterhood) even if we never met. It even took us a while to turn on Lance Armstrong, because he’s one of our own. Sharing a frown over traffic as we’re both stopped at a light, looking at each other sweating profusely in the Texas heat, and talking up our latest adventure to Enchanted Rock, Texans get each other, even if it seems like we don’t at times. And remember: we gave the world Beyonce.

4. Summer nights in loose clothing.

I was foolish to think I could enjoy the same kind of summer nights outdoors when I moved to San Francisco; in reality, it gets so cold there in June locals sometimes carry a change of clothes with them to adjust to the midday heat and the nighttime chill. In Austin, on the other hand, the temperatures can easily exceed 80 degrees after the sun goes down in the summertime, letting us enjoy Blues on the Green, walks down Congress and 6th Street, and gazing at the capitol building.

5. Driving by bluebonnets.

The Texas state flower is iconic for a very good reason. Even when you’re driving down I-35 at 70 mph, you can appreciate fields of blue on both sides of the highway and have a reason to stop and snap a quick picture.

6. Early morning swim in Barton Springs.

There are only a few dozen people on this earth crazy enough to swim in the cold waters of Barton Springs. Luckily, they all live in Austin.

7. Flags everywhere.

Some countries and states just aren’t as patriotic. Sure, you can see the local flags on government buildings and universities, but try finding an average household in Germany willing to put up a flagpole on their front lawn or over their garage. Texans, on the other hand, display the flag EVERYWHERE: on cars, houses, hats, shirts, boots, rings, tattoos, even airplanes.

8. Kolaches.

Other bakeries around the world may try, but the only other place you’ll find these are in the Czech Republic.

9. Alamo Drafthouse.

Even New York and LA have jumped on the bandwagon here. There aren’t too many places in the country where you can enjoy a beer and a proper burger in a theater while watching a classic movie in a plush seat. Even its namesake is enough to make a Texan longing for home.

10. Inside jokes.

Dad jokes may be part and parcel of Texas humor, but there are certain things that will make us laugh that other Americans just can’t fathom saying. Anything with Chuck Norris is fair game, as is making fun of our affinity for steak and big cars. As Jeff Foxworthy would say, “if you’ve had a lengthy conversation with someone who dialed the wrong number, you may live in Texas.”