I'm third generation Floridian, an identity I've often caught myself apologizing or compensating for when meeting new people. I'd try really hard to convey my cultural intelligence or other aspects of my "normalcy" to make up for that fact that I was born in one of America's most judged and loathed states. But...why? Well, because people tend to get a lot wrong about other people from Florida.
I feel like hating on Florida is pretty boring. Kind of in the same vein hating Nickelback is for uninventive people who lack even trace amounts of creativity or worldly interests. For whatever reason, scoffing something like, "Pssh, Florida, right?" has become as common and empty as, "I know, right?" What are you saying even? Anyway, as a person who was born and lived in Florida for 22 years, I feel qualified to vouch for its non-terrible tendencies. Regardless, when the truth slips in front of a new acquaintance — where I'm from, that is — then the garbage assumptions surface. I can feel the judgement wash over me like the cigarette butt-laden Daytona surf.
Really, though? It just makes the person immediately wincing look silly, because clearly they have so much information 100 percent incorrect. (Though the parts in which they suspect I know proper sunscreen application, how to identify snakes that could murder us both, and have no fear when eating foods boiled in old beer barrels on the side of the road — those parts are true. Because hailing from Florida is actually pretty badass.) But when people are ignoring our inherent awesomeness, here are some examples of things people always get wrong about us:
We chug sweet tea
Personally, I find the stuff pretty upsetting and way too sugary. Sure, lots of people dig it, but it's more popular in the northern part of the state. Part of that is thanks to the cultural divide of the state. Namely, North Florida is more The South proper, and South Florida is more culturally diverse with a culture more akin to parts of Western Europe. The South tends to more favor stuff like sweet tea, grits, egg salad, etc. That kind of practice doesn't enjoy such popularity in more southern regions. Florida's a big state, and you can't just make a blanket assumption on the whole thing based on a portion.
That we can't handle "real winter"
We can handle whatever the hell is thrown at us. For crying out loud, we grew up in a land overrun by tiny, modern dinosaurs and ruthless hurricanes that'd regularly wash away any outdoor toys we forgot to bring safely indoors. Winter, albeit unpleasant all-around, is just another danger we are totally capable of surviving. We may not be experienced with taking it on but that doesn't mean we can't. (Some of us already do. Although we're from Florida, we don't always stay there.) It's called layering. We know what's up.
We rock sandals year-round
Again, this is a huge generalization. Sandals are certainly more common in that area, but like I said: many of us move. And as far as I can tell, there aren't sweeping numbers of Floridians living elsewhere who hang onto their home state identity so hard they will risk pneumonia or New York City trenchfoot (a thing I just made up but it might also be real) to prove this by their footwear.
We go barefoot in public frequently
There is a difference between grabbing your mail and stocking up on groceries (above we have Shakira showing off what are colloquially known as Jiffy feet, and meant to sorta demonstrate the latter practice in barefootness). Although we do tend to develop a tendency to ditch shoes altogether, we're not all total monsters about it. Plus we, unlike you, know it is absolutely nonnegotiable to don a pair of flops when sauntering down to the surf from your beachside Airbnb. It might not be hot now, but upon return, that sun-baked asphalt is gonna scorch the first few layers of skin clean off your little marshmallow feet. Pssh, tourist.
We have exotic pets
Admittedly I have known friends with the occasional pet squirrel, but I doubt that's an exclusively Florida thing. (Squirrels happen. Everywhere.) We aren't training our darling iguana menagerie for a circus performance, nor are we laying down on the ground to allow a swarm of pet palmetto bugs descend upon our receiving bodies. For the most part it's the boring ol' dog or cat protocol, although those do sometimes get eaten by exotic alligators out back. But that is different. We don't keep the alligators.
We're all from Miami
How? The geography of Florida just...guys. That doesn't make sense.
We love Creed
They were formed in the state capitol city, but...no.
We can all surf
Most of us can pop up on a longboard if given a good 18 test runs to "warm up," but it's hardly a rule across the state.
We love college football...aggressively
Specifically, people think you're either a Florida State University Seminoles fan or a University of Florida Gators fan. And absolutely NEVER, under NO circumstances, does a person root for both. I grew up in Tallahassee, where FSU is stationed, and I have no personal connection with any of the school's athletic efforts (much to the chagrin of anyone familiar with Tallahassee trying to relate to me by bringing up Nole football). The truth is, many Floridians are lukewarm on football or have floating school allegiances. It's easy this way, I promise.
We're bad drivers
Sure, we tend to speed on interstates, especially in cities like Tampa and Miami, but we can also tolerate getting stuck behind a snow bird or retiree at the drop of a Publix sub. Not to mention, we have the profound prowess of being about to navigate vehicles despite torrential downpour (an event which happens nearly every single summer day around 4 p.m.). We might be not the best parkers — parallel parking was not on past driving exams, and many parking lots offer pretty simple diagonal parking because we are not monsters here — but that isn't the point.
We've been to Disney World 999 times
I never even visited Disney until I was already 12. I know that isn't even a Florida-only universal experience, but I do know Disney gets old quickly for many of us. Theme parks are chill in small doses, but overall out attitudes toward them are not any more maniacal than any other state. Some folks dig it, others skip it. Simple.
We shot guns as children
We probably learned to drive at a young age, but guns? That's far from the truth. Despite the state's soft laws around owning firearms, I have personally never shot a gun, and I'm almost 30. It happens. Or I mean, it doesn't happen? A lot of us aren't into guns, even if our homestate overall kinda is.
We'd never touch food that isn't fried
We're gonna be picky about our mimosas
We may have grown up with truly the most perfect orange juice available, but if there's champagne, we'll drink it anyway.
We're far from classy
Did you completely miss that thing I just said about champagne? Just because we grew up biologically wired to use SunShades in our cars during the summer doesn't mean we can flick a perfectly on fleek pinkie nail the eff out.
We're racist/homophobic/violatilely religious
This might be the worst one of all. Unfortunately these negative prejudices exist across the world, regardless of state lines. Florida is no worse than any other place regarding these obtuse ideas. Yes, they exist, but it's not unique to here — and neither is the rest of the state's ability to tune these people out.
We wanna commiserate about how weird/awful/*insert-other-negative-adjective-here* our homestate is
Even if we bring it up, it's kinda like complaining about a lover. Since it's ours, we're allowed to interject snarky comments here and there. But others? This will not be tolerated. Others are allowed only to lust after countless spring breaks immortalized by just as many airbrushed T-shirts (and maybe a few sentimental shards of glass bongs that are sadly no more).
We wanna commiserate about how weird/awful/*insert-other-negative-adjective-here* people of our homestate are
This is just kinda dumb. Even the other day, someone said in front of me about some dude, "Well, you never wanna date someone from FLORIDA." I mean mugged and they said, "You know what I MEAN." No, I don't. Because I'm from Florida and I think everyone should want to date me. (Kidding. But not really. Love me.) Folks from Florida are tolerant, innovative, intuitive, and yeah, we'll take the wheel during this freak thunderstorm. Because ultimately, being from Florida ain't so bad.
Images: Pexels; Giphy(18)