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I moved from Wisconsin to New York City five years ago.
I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and both of my parents are Midwesterners as well.
Many New Yorkers don’t know much about the Midwest, and they definitely couldn’t find my home state on a map.
When I tell people I’m from Wisconsin, it always gets a reaction. People usually ask lots of the same questions, such as “Did you grow up on a farm?” or “Where is that?” or “Wait, is that a state?”
Oftentimes, their inquiries show just how underrated and underappreciated the Midwest is.
I had to adjust to the fact that people don’t greet each other on the street.
When I walk around my hometown, saying hello to everyone you pass is common courtesy. In New York City, such friendliness would be viewed with suspicion. Even making eye contact with someone you don’t know is a breach of city etiquette.
There’s also a practical reason why greeting strangers doesn’t happen here — there are just too many people. You’d be saying “hello” or “good morning” multiple times for every step you took.
It takes much longer to travel short distances in New York.
The island of Manhattan is only 13.4 miles long. That’s a drive that would take about 20 minutes in the Midwest. But getting anywhere in the city takes much longer because of traffic and frequent subway delays. It continues to baffle me how traveling a few miles can take the better part of an hour.
Most people don’t own cars.
Access to a car is pretty much a necessity to get anywhere in the Midwest, unless you’re in a city like Chicago with its “L” metro system. In New York City, most people I know who own a car are constantly thinking of getting rid of it.
Parking is difficult to find in the city — especially as car ownership has spiked during the pandemic — and it’s expensive. Public transportation is a slower but sufficient and cost-effective replacement.
I was also surprised to find that many of my born-and-bred New Yorker friends never learned to drive, simply because they didn’t need to.
In the absence of cars, foldable shopping carts are infinitely useful.
I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone use a foldable shopping cart before I moved to the city. When I first bought one to use for large grocery trips, picnics, and other errands, my friends joked that I looked like a grandmother while pushing it down the street. Now they ask to borrow it, so the joke’s on them.
Umbrellas are a must in New York.
I didn’t have much use for umbrellas before I lived in New York. If it started raining while I was out somewhere in the Midwest, I could just run a few feet from the exit to the parking lot where my car would shelter me from the storm.
In New York, you don’t want to end up in a torrential downpour with five blocks and an avenue left to walk to your destination. It’s not fun. I’ve learned to keep an umbrella handy at all times.
There are beautiful state parks and hiking trails just a short distance outside the city.
When I moved to New York City, I didn’t know about the natural beauty of the rest of New York state or how close it was to Manhattan. I’ve enjoyed discovering the gorgeous views and getting some fresh air whenever I feel a little homesick.
There’s cold, and then there’s Midwestern cold.
Grocery stores in New York City are much smaller.
Quite frankly, grocery stores in New York City are terrible compared to grocery stores in the Midwest. They’re much smaller, more expensive, have a narrower selection of items, and are less aesthetically pleasing. I miss shopping in grocery stores the size of football fields.
New Yorkers are a friendly bunch.
New Yorkers have a reputation for being a little rough around the edges.
While it’s true they’ll often get annoyed if you walk too slow or cut in line, New Yorkers are just as friendly and down-to-earth as any Midwesterner. When I first moved to the city, locals were happy to give me directions or hold open doors while I was carrying heavy loads. And in times of need, New Yorkers will be the first to step up and do what needs to be done, directing traffic in blackouts or administering first aid to someone in distress.
New York City still feels like a small town sometimes.
New York City has a population of more than 8.3 million people, according to Census data, but I still run into people I know all the time.
New York is a place where some people move to reinvent themselves and start over, but it’s also a place that everyone seems to pass through. I find it comforting to bump into old friends the way I used to in my hometown of 23,000.