Here I am in my backyard in sunny South Florida—a resort-like refuge for emigrants from destitute places like Cuba and New York City.
Naturally, every area has its unique culture. I’m having a great time here, but there are a few South Florida characteristics that require some adjusting.
1. Boats. Everyone here has boats in their backyards. Or swimming pools. Or both. If they have both, though, they also usually have an ocean. Whatever floats their boats.
2. The beach. The beach is everywhere. It is not a novelty.
3. Car sunburns. I need to wear sunscreen here all the time—even if I’m only going to be in the car. The sun’s powerful Florida rays strike even when I’m moving at fast highway speeds, protected by a roof and a visor. With my 45-minute commute to work twice a day, I’ll get tan even without the beach. But if I needed the beach, I could very easily find one (see #2).
4. The need for a jacket. I can’t let the nice weather fool me; I still need an extra layer of warmth here. When getting ready to leave the house, I grab my jacket. I leave it in the car until I get to the office. I don the jacket on arrival at the frigid, air-conditioned office. When leaving the office, I take the jacket off. Basically, I’m the epitome of a Floridian tourist with my sunscreen, camera and a sweatshirt around my waist.
5. Lack of pantyhose. I haven’t done quite enough research, but I’m pretty sure that the stores here don’t sell pantyhose. Or at least the CVS near my house doesn’t. I mean, I know it’s hot here, and I know flip-flops are the new gym shoes, but how are you supposed to wear nice heels to work without pantyhose? Maybe Floridians have magical feet, or feet that are so tough from the hot, sandy beaches that they can wear any type of shoe without any nylon help.
6. Hair and humidity. A Floridian friend of mine told me that once I got to Florida, my hair would never be the same again. How true it is. I may not be as smart as Einstein, but my hair often seems to lean in that direction. The frizz is annoying, but, hey, it’s all relative.
7. Grandparent getaway. Everybody has grandparents in South Florida. Your grandparents and your roommate’s grandparents probably played Mahjong together before the two of you even met.
8. Jews. There are quite a few of them in this area—way more than in Chicago, to my surprise. Consequently, there are plenty of synagogues, tons of great kosher restaurants and, ehhh, many, many Israelis. Maybe that’s why the drivers are so terrible (see #10).
9. Language. If you’re an all-American, Wonder-Bread-eating, native English speaker, you should probably buy a Spanish dictionary. Or a Hebrew or Haitian Creole dictionary. Better yet, learn to mime.
10. Transportation. There is no such thing as “rush hour” in South Florida—traffic is constantly bad. Slow-moving cars, incompetent drivers (Israelis?) and an impossible-to-navigate highway and interstate system make for a fun commute to work—one that would probably be quicker if I took a boat. Oh, yeah. So I guess everybody but me has a boat.