Midwest Culture Shock

Hello and happppy weekend!!! This trip back to Ohio for a wedding was absolutely perfect. It was a fantastic reminder of why the Midwest is so great, and but wowzers mctrowzers sooo different… we haven’t been back in the summer since we moved and we had a definite culture shock returning. (Also I should clarify – this is a small town in OH, the culture shock would probably be less in a big city like Cincy or Columbus). I thought it would be fun to record some of those observations since what used to be our norm is now foreign to us! I actually made a post when we first moved to California highlighting the CA culture shock I initially experienced. It shows how quickly your perspective of “normal” can be shaped by your environment. I should also add this probably could also apply going from many urban to rural areas and does not cover all of CA nor all of Ohio. I will be working on my recap this weekend, but for now I’ll just leave this list of shockers here. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts!

  1. Driving in the left hand lane as a single driver. In CA, we have to drive in only the right lanes if you are alone in the car, the left is for carpool lanes strictly.
  2. As soon as we were on the road with our rental car, we were asking, “where is everyone?!”. The lack of traffic on the road made us wonder for a second if there was some sort of natural disaster. I miss those open roads!
  3. Food prices. Food is insanely cheap comparatively. I think DJ and I have just gotten used to the exorbitant prices to eat out and it was refreshing to see a more forgiving bill.
  4. Hearing people talk about fishing, barbecues, and buying a home. Buying homes out here is, well, just not an option. Hearing people my age discussing buying homes was mind boggling.
  5. Along with the lack of traffic, there is the lack of food options. (But it doesn’t mean there isn’t great food- as you will see!). While I was there, the same place was suggested to eat for dinner three separate times, and the same breakfast place two separate times by all different people. LOL! That would never happen here considering the multitudinous options.
  6. Less Diversity. Something I loved immediately when we moved out here was just the melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc. It’s just not as naturally diverse in the Midwest- and the difference is pretty striking upon returning.
  7. Seeing people you know at the grocery store… and the local coffee shop.. and the bank… and everywhere. It’s a small town, and you inevitably at least recognize someone everywhere you go!
  8. We aren’t considered “young” for being married. Most of my friends are married, engaged (or on their way to being engaged), and popping out kiddos. In CA, most people don’t get married until late late 20s, early 30s (if that), and we are certainly an anomaly.
  9. There is not a Starbucks (OR PEETS) every half a mile, so plan your coffee trips accordingly 😉
  10. There are certainly way more trucks than Teslas. DJ’s truck is considered a commercial vehicle here, hah!
  11. People eat dinner so early! We have adopted more of a 7/7:30 pm schedule for eating in the West, but most in the midwest schedule dinner for 5:30/6 pm.
  12. Thunderstorms are intense. I forgot how scary it can be driving in a torrential downpour. I do not miss driving in that rain, but I do miss the storms!
  13. The pace. There was something so beautiful, refreshing, and perspective forming about the slow pace and emphasis on what matters most in life- family, friends, faith and making memories. In Northern CA sometimes it feels like everyone is just rushing, always in a hurry to get somewhere and do something (but in reality everyone’s just sitting in traffic). There is a bit more of a concern and emphasis on occupation and education here too. Those things still matter in the midwest obviously, but it just seems that those priorities are different. It was a nice reminder for me, and maybe it all goes back to the slower pace. <3 (**also not saying this applies to everyone in NorCal, but just my observation**).
  14. Everyone is so friendly & strangers actually talk to one another.
  15. PLASTIC BAGS FROM THE GROCERY STORE. And without paying 10 cents?! Woah. woah. woah.
  16. Space! There is so. much. space. And grass!
  17. Country music plays everywhere. LOVE IT.
  18. Fashion is different here than in the midwest. Midwest fashion is brighter, more floral, and relaxed. In NorCal, fashion is more monotone dark colors, sleek, and form fitting. Denim is worn on the bottom in the midwest, and as a jean jacket in the Bay.

I could probably go on. Both places are two entirely separate worlds. They each have pros and cons, and I wouldn’t trade living in CA for the stage we are currently in. But it was a great reminder that no doubt, OH will always be my home, and I’ll always be a midwest girl at heart.  <3



xo <3

mack marie signature

30 thoughts on “Midwest Culture Shock

  1. I just moved back to Ohio from northern CA, and I can definitely agree with most of your observations. The cheaper food and housing prices are a godsend, and I was ecstatic that I got to see a real thunderstorm that didn’t result in any wildfires! Everything’s always on fire in the part of CA I was living in.

    However, up here in the Cleveland area there’s considerably more diversity than in many parts of Ohio. In fact, Cleveland is infinitely more diverse than the tiny town in CA I was living in. So I had the opposite experience as you in that regard.

    Lastly, I have to say that Ohio (at least northeast Ohio) smells better than the part of CA I was in; that’s literally the first thing I noticed when I moved back. The air was fresher, warmer, and not full of a certain type of smoke that comes from burning a certain plant.

    I don’t like all the urban sprawl in my part if Ohio though, since I got used to being able to walk places in CA.

    1. Thank you SOO much for sharing your thoughts!!! Aren’t thunderstorms pretty fun there? We are keeping our fingers crossed the wildfires don’t get much worse here. Last year we literally woke up smelling smoke.

      Yes definitely cities probably have much much more diversity . That’s a great point! Im sure there is a huge difference when you consider the rural vs. urban census. And in CA there are parts that are less diverse too I’m sure!

      Agreed!!! Ohio has such a nice fresh scent – it literally SMELLS like home to me! And if you go on the lake it gets even better !

      The convenience of walking and food nearby is one of the pluses of living here, but so many great things in OH too. I hope you enjoy your time there 🙂 stay cool, it’s a hot one there. Really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts!

      1. I LOVE thunderstorms here! They’re big enough to be fun, but they don’t usually produce tornadoes – at least not in the northeastern corner of the state.

        I really hope the fires aren’t too bad for you this year. I was living in a little town on the coast in Humboldt county, and last year there were several days when it seemed like the sun never rose: there was so much smoke in the air that it stayed dusk-like all day. Really crazy.

        Yea, I imagine that the degree of diversity is really dependent upon where one is in each state. I’d guess that CA is more diverse overall, however.

        I totally forgot about the lake! Lake Erie and all of the islands in it are a nice substitute for the Pacific Ocean: the water isn’t as cold during the summer and it’s less likely to kill you (no tsunamis). I’m gonna miss the seals and otters though.

        To sum it up, both CA and OH are great states. I hugely appreciate the lower cost of living in the latter state, however.

      2. Very well said!! Couldn’t agree more. I just looked up Humboldt and you were DEFINITELY in the thick of it last year- yikes! Glad you won’t have to this time around. Thanks for the awesome convo. Have a great rest of your weekend.

  2. I find myself mentioning the price of iceberg lettuce in New York often. it’s weird some of the things you notice when you come from out of town!

  3. Fantastic post! Thanks for taking the time to think and write about both places in a loving and observant way. Funny about the same restaurants being mentioned- what dinner place was mentioned? And have you been to Kingfish? Keep sparkling!

    1. Thank you Aunt Jean!!!! I started writing my recap and then decided just to make this an entirely separate post because the thoughts just kept rolling. Was wonderful being home but I wish we could have seen you all! And it was Burntwood Tavern and first watch! I haven’t heard of Kingfish, but we should all go next time 🙂 Miss you guys!

  4. Oh gosh. I think I’ve been on the west coast too long because when strangers talk to me, I’m like “bet they’re visiting from the midwest” LOL. I really enjoyed this post, Mackenzie. I’m from the midwest too so this was so funny and true for me. Except we get to have free plastic bags here too. 😝

    1. Hahahah, when we first moved here especially people asked us alllll the time where we were from. Thanks for reading & glad you can relate!! Free plastic bags in LV?! No way! Haha, I stockpile them and bring them back in my suitcase, lol!

  5. Hello Mackenzie, its amazing how our old norms do become foreign in a new state! I will remember not to drive in left lane if i go to CA alone . I cant imagine having to sit in the traffic you do on a regular basis, it must have been nice in Ohio! Buying a home , like in NY was not an option for us, it was the main reason we moved to Minnesota , also that we wanted to be close to one set of parents/grandparents. I am sure the food bills add up in CA , also if there are taxes on it too. I It is less diverse , but you have many cultures where you are . I experienced seeing all the people i knew when I was back home recently! People I had not seen in years I would meet on the street , coffee shop and yes grocery store! It reminds Me of the song about being famous in a small town! Trucks definitely are the norm in the midwest, when we were in NY you would not see many there either. It must be great to come home to the more relaxed pace . You are right, people are rushing to sit in traffic! It is refreshing to say hello to strangers and it not be, well strange!! I am guessing you need to be online to hear country in CA ? You can be proud that Ohio will always be your home , it is the midwest values that have made you the person we love visiting at this blog. Thank you for the post , hugs, Terri xo.

    1. Hi Terri! It was SO nice to fly down the roads in OH. I guess most big cities vs. small rural towns could apply this list to most of them too! Isn’t it fun running into old friends in town? Something just special about being home. DJ amazed me when we went to NYC and he drove his massive truck through the city. Minus getting stuck in the intersection one time he did a fantastic job. I would have had a panic attack haha. Thanks for your sweet thoughts and words <3 XOXO

  6. I can relate to this. The differences between New York and NH are night and day. It is crazy. But both have their special place in my heart. SO happy you got to go home! <3

    1. Right?! I think any small town vs. urban center would relate to this. Thanks girlfriend!! XO

  7. It’s crazy to read about all of the differences!! It’s funny you mention the age of marriage cause being 29 when I got married kind of made me feel old since so.many of my friends were already married but then it makes me sound young compared to CA. ha As far as the home thing, we have some friends that live in Nashville who have purchased homes & OMG I don’t know how they do it. I mean, when my hubs & I house shopped, I was SHOCKED at how little your money buys you…

    1. GIRL- you are SO YOUNG for getting married on this coast, haha. I always remind my midwest friends of this. Yeah- I don’t know how people do either! So nuts. Something I love about living in an apartment right now too- just easier. When kids come along- I get it, but for now.. this is perfect 🙂

  8. Oh man, I had no idea about #14! That’s crazy! When we were in the Outer Banks this summer, the grocery stores only had brown paper bags, but with no handles. We were like whaaaat?!

    It seems like Ohio is a good culture shock, minus not having Starbucks or Peets every half mile and the copious amounts of food options you have in Cali!

    1. Isn’t that so funny? It’s always the littlest things that bring the most surprise! And yes- definitely good culture shock, it’s so funny how the “norm” becomes foreign! I think the hardest thing when we move one day will be leaving the food behind. But I think that means I’ll have to step up my cooking game hehe

  9. LOL this made me laugh because I practically live like that now. My town isn’t that small, but compared to a bigger city it is. Our lack of food options, diversity, and things to do drives me crazy! I feel like town shuts down at 9 pm and 10 on the weekends. 🙂

    1. Tehehe- yup! That about sums up where I grew up! Something very special about those small towns though <3

  10. Fun to read Mackenzie!! Our daughter moved to Chicago, met & married John and now they live near Madison, Wisconsin. And I can see all the things you mention when we visit them there. We’re in So. Cal so I mostly notice how green green everything is in Wisconsin and lakes wherever you go!! It’s beautiful!! I think whenever I meet someone here who is particularly nice, often they are from the midwest!! Such kind people there. Fun insightful post!!

    1. Thank you, Rhonda!!! Thanks for affirming that there is some truth to it too– I sometimes wonder if my perspective is just based on the exact trajectory I’m on in life, ya know? I hope they are enjoying Wisconsin! I love that you think people from the midwest are friendly too 🙂 I do miss the camaraderie even among strangers ! Thank you tons and tons for sharing your thoughts. XOXO

      1. Great post. I know both places have their benefits. Love the food in SF (bread!!) and the green woods and lakes in WI. Thankful to be able to enjoy both. Happy weekend! xox

      2. Yessss the bread! Especially clam chowder in the bread— tooo goooood! Ooo WI sounds so beautiful too. Hope you are enjoying your time there (if you are still there now!). xo

      3. Oooo I will have to look that place up! Yummmy! I have been so on the go recently, but am finally having a tiny bit of free time to get posts up 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what you are up to too!

Let's chat!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.