Photo: Elena Efimova/Shutterstock

15 Things Michiganders Always Have to Explain to Outsiders

by Nicole Wildman Jun 21, 2016

1. Detroit is changing fast and we’re really proud of it.

Detroit may still be a little rough around the edges, but the new generation is turning it around. People are flocking to the city from around the country to open businesses in the affordable property market, and they’re very proud to be there. Rather than forgetting the city’s history, newcomers are repurposing the old into new while maintaining the Spirit of Detroit. Last fall, Pot and Box owner, Lisa, hosted Flower House in an abandoned home as an art installation project. Lisa had bought the home, plus one other, for $500 with the intention of inspiring others to think of these places as potential art and business spaces. She filled 15 decrepit rooms with 100,000 flowers before responsibly deconstructing the place. In addition to Lisa’s cool idea, Workshop is a business that builds furniture from the reclaimed lumber of Detroit’s abandoned and vacant buildings. Even the abandoned Packard Plant, which was once one of the city’s biggest producers, has been purchased and is on its way to restoration.

2. But Michigan is more than just Detroit.

Detroit may be our biggest city, but know that our state’s true beauty is actually hours from downtown. We’ve got towns like Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, plus national lakeshores like the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan (with their 10 miles of freaking beaches). Not to mention Mackinac Island and Pictured Rocks… Seriously, there is so much here and it extends way beyond our southeast corner.

3. U-Turns are illegal here.

So stop trying to make them. However, to make a Michigan left, you’re required to turn right at the light, turn around at the designated drive in the median, and go straight back through the intersection.

4. We still work in the auto industry.

In Metro-Detroit, everyone still either works in the auto industry, is related to someone in the auto industry, or has a close friend in the auto industry. So don’t trash the auto industry.

5. Alaska is the only place in the U.S. that has more coastline than us.

Between the Great Lakes and the Islands, Michigan’s coasts are one of the state’s most beautiful features. In the summer, Chicago residents crowd the southwest corner of the state, while Michiganders migrate “up north” to the coasts of the Great Lakes, the small lakes, and the U.P.

6. The Great Lakes are like freshwater oceans… kind of.

They may be lakes, but you can’t see from one side to the other. They have waves, and Lake Superior even has small tides. These lakes help to create our unique weather and are manned by the coast guard. Plus, they allow Michigan and Chicago to be accessed by water from the Atlantic Ocean, thanks to the Soo Locks.

7. Ohio is the worst.

Michiganders hate Ohio. It’s a huge, boring state to drive through, it has low-speed limits, and as much as Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are rivals, we all rally against Ohio State.

8. Michigan consists of two peninsulas.

The lower peninsula, shaped like a mitten, is easily recognizable, but the upper peninsula, which we call the U.P., is a gorgeous, snowy, and sparsely populated wonderland. And we will use our hands as maps for both peninsulas to show you where we’re from.

9. We have a lot of Polish, Dutch, and Middle Eastern heritage here.

The west side of the state has a large Dutch population, and every spring in Holland, Michigan, they host a gorgeous tulip festival. And some of the best Middle Eastern food outside of the Middle East can be found in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn’s also home to one of the country’s largest mosques. On the Polish side of things, we eat pączkis every year on Fat Tuesday, which are huge, delicious, sweet, filled donuts.

10. We love our 24-hour diners.

Nearly every town in Michigan has a 24-hour diner that serves greasy American food and Greek food: gyros, saganaki, coney dogs, chili fries, grilled cheese…

11. Yes, the winter is snowy. So what?

Depending on where you live in the state, snow between October and May is totally normal. It’s no reason to drive slowly. You’ll be fine.

12. Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit.

Nothing warms up until June, but when it does, our hibernation ends. Ann Arbor hosts the Festifools Parade, a huge summer art fair and Hash Bash — which is really fun and exactly what it sounds like. Detroit organizes a Tall Ships show, Riverdays and The Thunder Over Michigan air show is hosted in Ypsilanti and features the Blue Angels.

And we love to drink, especially when it’s nice out. We go to Traverse City for wine and Grand Rapids for beer.

13. We have one of the best places to see the stars.

In the northern part of the lower peninsula, Michigan hosts an international dark sky park. From here, you can see the Milky Way and sometimes, the Northern Lights.

14. We have amazing beer.

The day Bell’s Oberon is released every year is practically a holiday. Ypsilanti, Michigan is also home to the first all-kombucha based beer, Unity Vibration, that’s already been released nationally. Not to mention, Michigan is often listed as one of the top 5 states for craft beer, along with Washington, Oregon, and California.

15. As the home of the auto industry, we have only one in-state toll.

We also have terrible roads and little public transit. Therefore, Michigan drivers are excellent at dodging potholes. Driving is probably the easiest and most affordable way to get around our state, especially if you drive fast.

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