Moving from a major US city to a small town in the Midwest will likely introduce you to many new cultural norms.
I recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell me about their culture shock after relocating to a quiet Midwestern town from a larger city in the US. Here are some comments I got in response.
1."The mayo! In South Florida and New York, it’s a condiment you eat sometimes. ... In Ohio, it comes with everything. Huge cups on the side of your plate. Whole bottles on tables. It’s in the salad. It’s on all the sandwiches."
2."I'm living in the Midwest temporarily, but it is different from New York City in a big way. Mainly, it is very quiet here, and most people I've met have not lived anywhere else. The biggest shock for me is that it's not very diverse; it's mostly white and Christian, and I'm neither. Also, the locals understand more about the outdoors, farming, and hunting than I do. The people are really friendly IMO. It is a very conservative area, but I haven't run into anyone too hateful like I did in the South."
3."All the different uses of jello. Jello with pineapple and cream cheese, jello with strawberries and Cool Whip, etc."
4."Biggest shock for me was the food. I thought I knew good American comfort food, but theirs was to another level. It was also interesting to see how they had their own little language and words for things that I thought were called another."
"For example, when you bring over a casserole, they call it a hot dish. Or car tags are called tabs. Or when they say 'oofdah' — first time I heard someone say that I thought they were having a stroke lol. It was an experience living in the Midwest, but ultimately, I felt like I didn’t fit into their white suburbia because I stood out as one of the few minorities. I worked for a school with close to 100 employees, and I was one of four minorities. Beautiful weather, but not for me."
5."I moved from the east coast to Indiana. On the east coast, sarcasm is part of the language. Working retail, I used my sarcasm as a way to be humorous, but it was interpreted as being rude in the Midwest, so I had to adjust my strategy."
6."I lived in NYC and moved to a suburb of Minneapolis. As an organizer and activist, it was definitely challenging to have to be far more guarded about my politics. If we drove 10 minutes east, we'd be in a very progressive part of Minneapolis, but 10 minutes west were 'Trump won' signs... yes, in 2023."
"You also have to work a lot harder to build community around you. A lot of people there had never lived further away than Chicago and had their set friend groups. You have to really put yourself out there because few people will invite you into their groups. On the flip side, when you do find your community, like I did, it's the best. People care about close friends here the same way most people reserve for family members."
7."I grew up just outside of NYC and went to the Midwest for college. The biggest one for me was the way they cut pizza. Pizza was cut in a grid ('party-style') by default unless you were ordering from a major pizza chain or it was deep dish."
8."I moved from LA to a midsized Southern town. Later in life, I moved to rural Midwest and settled in major metro Midwest. Summers are absolutely the best in the Midwest, especially on the Great Lakes. Summer festivals, produce, weather, water activities, and extra long days in the sun can’t be beat."
9."I moved from Seattle to Lincoln, Nebraska, and I think this qualifies. Biggest culture shock is how friendly everybody is, second is how cheap houses are. I deeply miss good/varied restaurants and access to the ocean. Beyond that, I wouldn’t move back."
10."When I moved to a Midwestern suburb, I noticed that inclement weather is normal. People just deal with extreme weather without batting an eye."
11."I moved from Seattle to a midsized town in Missouri. I was amazed at the number of megachurches and how many people talked about their religion so much and so openly."
12."I moved from the LA area to a small, rural town in Wisconsin (10K population, and that's mostly because of the state university there). The biggest shock for me was going from being in the 'majority' (Hispanic/Latinx) in LA to being the only Latina in my entire middle school. Up to that point in my life, I don't remember ever truly experiencing racism, but that town changed that quickly. Don't get me wrong, Wisconsin is beautiful, and I love it, but growing up in that town was rough."
13."I’m from New York (downstate), and the biggest thing for me was feeling like there was no sense of urgency. Whether that was walking, driving, talking, etc., I constantly found myself asking, 'Am I the only one with somewhere to be?!' Sometimes, I still do."
14."How many people cannot understand any 'foreign' accent. Not even in a xenophobic or racist way (although those types exist, too) — for many, their brains just cannot understand the faintest of accents."
15."I've ping-ponged. I grew up in the Midwest, moved to the east coast, moved back, etc. People are friendlier at face value but less open-minded, and more likely to reject you if you don't fit into small-town values. Big city folk may come off as rude at first but may be more accepting of the types Midwesterners are currently voting against. This is why I left and am leaving again, and this has been my experience. But the chili is good."
16."Everyone has kids. If you don’t have children, you’re in the minority at best, and the only one at worst. All life revolves around children's activities."
17."When I saw the deductions on my first paycheck, I called payroll because I assumed the state taking less than $10 had to be an error."
18."I moved from just north of Houston, Texas, to a small village in East Central Illinois, and the biggest change has been traffic. When I first moved to Texas in 2008, my commute was 20 minutes each way, but the area was overdeveloped so quickly that within three years, it was 40 minutes, and by the time we left in 2020, it could be over an hour. The entire area was built up at top speed without any public transportation and without even expanding existing roadways to accommodate the growing population. Now, my commute to work in a neighboring city is 15 minutes each way and never varies."
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.