1. The skunk ape
The existence of Florida’s cheap knock-off of Bigfoot is a bit like the Jaguars winning the Super Bowl: you know you’ll never see it, but it was always fun to talk to someone who believes they will.
2. Simultaneous attraction and aversion to any body of water
In Florida, you know that literally any of the countless bodies of water around you could contain poisonous snakes, mating alligators, violent turtles, ear-seeking amoebas, or scores of other malevolent beings. But when you bike by a lake and it’s 98F with 100% humidity, damn it if a quick dip doesn’t seem worth the risk.
3. Copious citrus with questionably legal accessibility
In parts of the state, you can just walk right up to an orange tree on the side of the road and take an orange. It’s probably technically illegal, but there is so much of it that no one really cares.
4. Live yard ornaments
In some parts of the state, it’s abnormal to go a whole day without seeing a sandhill crane strutting around like the badass it is in someone’s yard. While you shouldn’t approach then (they can be terrifying), they’re definitely cooler than plastic flamingoes.
5. Having three states in one state
Any Floridian knows that Florida is basically three distinct states with separate cultures, climates, and landscapes: north, mid, and south. If you wanted the beachy/carefree/vacation vibe, you just had to head south. If you wanted an extension of Southern culture in the US, northern Florida has you covered. If you wanted cows, theme parks, and orange groves, you hit up midstate.
6. Predictable discomfort
There’s a comfort in knowing what kind of discomfort to expect every morning when preparing for your day, even if it means most mornings you know you’ll be stepping into the atmospheric equivalent of a sweaty taint.
7. Technicolor foliage
If you have an affinity for dead foliage, look for a state where fall and winter actually happen. But you prefer inexplicable foliage in vivid fuschias, lemony yellows almost day-glo greens, growing in places you didn’t know it could grow. All year round.
8. Scapegoating Canadians, northerners, and old people in traffic
Native Floridians — particularly in south Florida — love to hate on all of these people in traffic, blaming every missed signal, stop-short, excruciatingly slow turn, etc. on any or all of them. Whether that blame-game is right or wrong really isn’t as important as the satisfaction of having an entire population to curse at when you get cut off on I-95.
9. Fun for free with Florida residency discounts
I moved out of Florida and recently came back to do the whole Harry Potter thing at Universal/Islands of Adventure. I’ve been to these parks several dozen times, and if it wasn’t for free, it was close to it. I can’t tell you how much of a chump I felt like paying full price for ticket — not that it wasn’t worth it to take the Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade.
10. The urban farms of Orlando
Few places get the kind of undue dismissal Orlando gets, but mid-Floridians know this is a town on the rise. From gastro pubs to speakeasies to urban farms, you may have to navigate a few strip malls and bail-bond shops to get to it, but there’s one of the most cultured cities in the southeast underneath it all.
11. Hordes of joints peddling fresh catches of snapper
Every state has seafood, but not every state has crappy, cooter, mahi mahi, and countless other fun-named fresh and salt water species with hush puppies and grits served on the side.
12. Swamp food being considered a delicacy
In my home town, some of the biggest draws at the “fancy” restaurant include turtle (the aforementioned cooter), frog legs, and alligator tail. You’re not a true (non-vegetarian) Floridian until you’ve had at least one of those, though swamp cabbage would suffice.
13. Smoking in bars
It was a shock to me when I left Florida and went to a bar where people couldn’t smoke, which, I guess is now most of the country.
14. College rivalry actually directing home décor and career choices
People let their stance in the FSU/UF rivalry college rivalry consume their conversations, home décor, career choices, and wardrobes.
15. The normality of absurdity
From a guy on bath salts trying to eat a baby to a giant snake literally swallowing alligators, what seems incredible to most people is just another blurb buried in the back of a newspaper to Floridians.