1. You know the joys of hush puppies.
No seafood joint’s menu is complete without this Gulf Coast delicacy. My New Yorker brother-in-law, after trying them in my hometown’s canal-side upscale seafood restaurant, later asked, “Can we get more of those fried balls of dough?” That about sums it up.
2. You know the joys of Yuengling.
The nation’s oldest brewing company is actually distributed across the East, and if you grew up in Florida, you know it as the king of the upper-bottom-tier gas station beers.
3. You know there are three Floridas.
NoFlo (no one calls it that) is basically southern Georgia/Alabama. SoFlo (ditto) is northern Cuba/DR/South America and a retirement abyss. CenFlo (ditto) is a confused a-cultural region where all the tourist stuff is.
4. You’ve never paid for entry into theme parks.
Trust me — there’s always a way.
5. You know Gatorland, Cypress Gardens, Reptile Land, Dinosaur World, etc.
Florida was once bustling with a charming array of minor theme parks adults would try to convince you were just as cool as Disney when you were a kid. Some of them actually were.
6. You only occasionally care about Florida pro sports that aren’t basketball.
Even then, most people still don’t care about the Heat unless they’re from Miami, the Magic ditto Orlando. Otherwise, every Florida pro sports fan abides by a rollercoaster relationship with their teams: You love the Marlins until the Yankees gut their young talent, you pretend to care about the Dolphins on Sundays, you forget we have hockey teams, and no one watches the Jags.
7. Crazy-things-that-happened-in-Florida lists don’t surprise you.
I’ve read the last few years’ worth of these from Buzzfeed and thought they were funny in a quaint, nostalgic kind of way. I even went to high school with somebody on the list, and another who should have made the list after making CNN for getting his arm bit off by a gator.
8. You can’t breathe in higher altitudes.
Florida is practically below sea level. If you’re a native Floridian and have tried running up and down hills or hiking mountains, you suddenly realized what asthmatics must feel like.
9.You know where crocodiles come from.
No, there are no crocodiles in Florida. There are, incidentally, lots and lots of Crocs.
10. You don’t notice sweat.
In July in Florida, you can walk to your car, grab the phone you left in there, and come back inside to see fresh pit-puddles on your shirt when you pass the mirror. If you hadn’t seen it, you never would have known.
11. You’re just a little bit Southern.
Even the ones like me who moved off and eschew Southern-ness still at least crave BBQ, own shotguns, and obsess over the football teams of schools they didn’t attend.
12. You know Universal is way, way better than Disney.
When you grow up taking annual field trips to theme parks, you figure out after you’re like seven years old that unless you’re a girl who still wants to be a princess, Disney World kind of sucks. Everyone wishes they could go to Hogwarts, though — I don’t care how old you are.
13. FSU v. UF is the biggest rivalry in sports.
It doesn’t matter what part of Florida you’re from (well, maybe not way south) — your life was at some point in some way affected by the country’s biggest redneck football rivalry.
14. You know the Tampa shit-hole paradox.
Tampa is one of the more interesting cities I’ve ever been to, mostly because it’s a total shit hole while also being cool in a cousin-with-a-weird-social-disorder-who-makes-funny-jokes-about-your-uncle kind of way. This is also the anomalous sports city, and the only place you’ll find actual Rays, Bucks, or Lightning fans.
15. You think Tampa is a joke.
Everyone from Florida eyes Tampa with the skepticism with which they’d buy street food in an Asian island country. However, Tampians will defend their city like the parent of a highly spoiled and deeply idiotic child: You don’t understand — that’s just how he is.
16. You know where to find carnies in the off-season.
Gibsontown and Valrico are infamous carnie haunts. Wondering where you might find them? You guessed it, right by Tampa. (Non-Floridians, are you getting the idea about Tampa yet?)
17. You’ve had thong tans on your feet.
I personally hate flip-flops, but a lot of people wear them 12 months out of the year in Florida, giving them a lovely big-toe farmer’s tan.
18. You know Dexter was definitely not shot on-location.
There are not nearly enough armpit stains in Dexter’s long-sleeved shirts.
19. You’re okay with swimming anywhere there’s water.
Canals, ditches, ponds, lakes, oceans, retention ponds, reservoirs, swimming pools — you name it, most Floridians have swum it. Whether they lived to tell about it isn’t always a given, though.
20. A landfill qualifies as a hill.
NoFlo (again, no one actually says that) actually has hills since it’s basically, as stated, southern Georgia/Alabama. For the rest of us, colossal mounds of waste have to suffice.
21. The idea of snow tires is absurd.
You actually have to change your car tires for just a few months out of the year? Why do you even drive?
22. You have no idea what a radiator is.
I live 2k miles away now, and I still don’t know.
23. You have no idea what the Polar Vortex is.
Again, I still don’t know.
24. You say ‘up north’ and still refer to the South.
Sometimes this applies even after you move to a different region. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it while living in the Southwest to refer to South Carolina.
25. Turning on the heat just means turning off the AC.
In the in-between temperatures this might also entail opening the doors and windows, depending on your proximity to standing water.
26. You didn’t know your feet could get cold.
I went to see my sister in NYC in December one year with only a pair of Toms. I coped by doubling up on socks and walking in place.
27. Your thickest jacket is a flannel.
I have two winter coats: the one I got to visit my sister in 2009 and the absurdly bulky leather jacket my dad used to wear in the ’80s when he lived up north (Maryland).
28. 60 degrees is cold.
Mom: “It’s going to get down to 60 today. Better take your heavy flannel!”
29. You’ve been to Orlando for some reason other than tourism.
Concerts, college, conferences, field trips, internships, a job, just passing through…I personally lived there for five years (four for college), and I can tell you even the majority of people who live there moved there for a reason.
30. Long-distance travel gives you phantom E-Pass/SunPass syndrome.
Toll roads are a way of life in Florida. After moving away, I still sometimes feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m not paying money just to drive on a highway.
31. You know the ‘secret’ to removing love bugs from your car.
Soapy water and dryer sheets, according to my mom. (Does driving through a cloud of love bugs remind anyone else of the Millennium Falcon entering hyperdrive?)