Hello, Chatterbugs and Beekeepers!
It may be difficult for those who have never been to the United States to comprehend just how different life is in each state, especially when American movies and TV shows tend to focus on New York and California. In addition, like in other countries around the world, we hold, celebrate, and suffer from many regional stereotypes that affect people’s perceptions.
For more English practice, check out this NPR podcast with transcript on why people create stereotypes.
I am from the state of Florida, officially nicknamed the Sunshine State . This makes me a Floridian. With a massive area of 170,311 square km (or 65,757 square miles), Florida has multiple cultural regions. Nevertheless, when people hear the word “Florida,” they often associate the state with stereotypes of having many retired senior citizens, sensational crimes that inspired the Florida Man Internet meme, and unfortunately one of the country’s highest number of COVID-19 cases.
So I decided to share some more light-hearted information about my home state that you might have not known before. Please note that this is solely an informal opinion piece with heavy Central Floridian bias.
1. Florida has the best orange juice.
More than 90% of orange juice in the USA is made from Florida’s oranges. The state is also the world’s leading producer of grapefruit… but I chose to focus on oranges instead because grapefruit is not my favorite. Back to oranges! Early Spanish explorers like Juan Ponce de León planted the first orange trees in Florida in the 1500’s. Now, you will see groves with countless rows of orange trees if you drive around Central or South Florida. So make sure to have a glass of orange juice if you visit! But be warned: You will become an orange juice snob and no other orange juice will ever taste the same way again.
2. Florida is home to NASA’s most well-known spaceport, or a site for launching spacecraft: the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
You can learn about space exploration from their interactive exhibits and see space shuttles up close and personal in their Rocket Garden. Check out this calendar to catch the next rocket launch you can watch there live.
3. A true Floridian experience is not complete without a Publix sub.
Publix is a supermarket chain founded in Florida that operates only in the Southeastern United States. The sub sandwiches, sometimes referred to as “Pub subs,” that they serve in their delis are famous for being delicious. I think the surprising thing about a Publix sub is that you do not expect a sandwich from a grocery store to be so mouthwatering good. Publix subs even have their own fan pages and products.
4. Floridians coexist with alligators and manatees.
There are about 1.25 million alligators living in the state of Florida. There are also about 1,000 American crocodiles in the state, but they can only be found in South Florida. In addition to living in the marshes, swamps, rivers, and lakes of Florida, you can also find alligators in retention ponds (artificial ponds to hold stormwater) and golf course ponds. So be careful around any body of water as there is probably a gator in it! But you can be rest assured that alligators rarely attack humans, which is why Floridians are used to seeing and walking by them without fear.
About 6,300 adorable manatees can be found in Florida as well. Manatees (sometimes known as “sea cows,” even though they are closely related to elephants) like to swim in Florida waters as they need warmth to survive. Florida manatees are vulnerable to extinction, especially due to water pollution and collisions with boats in their habitats. Because of their protected status, you can only legally swim with wild manatees in Crystal River following strictly enforced guidelines like just floating and passively observing.
5. Flip flops are the state shoes of Florida.
Ok, so there is no such thing as “state shoes,” but if there was, flip flops would definitely be the Floridian’s choice. Depending on your cultural background, you may think flip flops are reserved for the beach or for lounging around the house, but in the state of Florida, flip flops are standard. You can wear them practically any time, anywhere.
6. Floridians are accustomed to hurricanes.
Florida has been hit by more hurricanes than any other state in the USA - a whopping 121 hurricanes since the year 1851. Hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th. Floridians are used to stocking up on water, canned food, and batteries and boarding up windows with plywood. Floridian children grow up knowing Hurricane Days, when school is cancelled, instead of Snow Days like kids do living in northern states.
7. Amusement parks give special discounts to Florida residents.
Theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios give sweet deals to Floridians. It is also common to hear a Floridian get into these parks for free because they know someone who works for one of these companies. Oftentimes, park employees receive free tickets to give to up to 10 people.
8. With 17 out of the 30 top cities for lightning, Florida is the lightning capital of the USA.
Despite being called the Sunshine State, Florida has incredible thunderstorms. More people die by lightning strikes in Florida than in any other state. If you’re a storm chaser, then the best time to see as much lightning as possible is in the month of July.
9. Swimming pools are a big deal in Florida.
If a Floridian doesn’t have their own pool, they are still in luck because there are many public pools, whether as part of community centers or apartment complexes. Most pools of private homes are covered with screened enclosures to keep insects out. Because swimming pools are everywhere, there are many pool parties for children and adults. I even have group prom photos taken around my friend’s pool!
10. Gatorade was invented in Florida.
In 1965, the sports drink Gatorade was originally made by researchers at the University of Florida to hydrate their student athletes on the Gators American football team. This is why the drink is called “Gator-ade.” It was scientifically formulated to replace fluids and electrolytes lost due to physical exertion. After drinking Gatorade, the Gators won more games and soon, other college football programs started ordering the drink. Today, Gatorade is distributed in over 80 countries.
I hope you learned at least one new thing about Florida from this Chatterpost today!
- Orange juice
- Kennedy Space Center
- Publix sub sandwiches
- Alligators and manatees
- Flip flops
- Florida resident park discounts
- Lightning capital
- Swimming pool culture
I’d love to hear from you!
- What do you think about regional stereotypes?
- What fun facts can you share about your hometown or state/region that people might not know about?