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Cities

People are sharing their eye-opening stereotypes of American states

People are sharing their eye-opening stereotypes of American states

It all begins with a tweet from comedian Alison Leiby waxing rhapsodic about New York City's bodegas.

"People who live outside of NYC and don't have bodegas:" she wrote, "where do you go to buy two Diet Cokes, a roll of paper towels, and oh also lemme get some peanut butter m&ms since I'm here, why not."

For those of us not from NYC, a bodega is a corner store. If I'm not mistaken, bodegas are a bit less like 7-11 chain stores and more like unique, locally owned and operated mom-and-pop shops, but basically a one-stop store for all your basic needs. Debate ensued about whether or not bodegas really are special, or just another name for a convenience or grocery store. Apparently, bodegas often have cats living in them, so that's a thing.

But something else interesting came out of the discussion—a whole thread about stereotypes of various American states and regions, and it is at once entertaining and eye-opening.


It starts with a biting stereotype about Appalachia shared by writer Sean Thomason. "When I tell people I'm from Appalachia they ask me about incest and if we've got shoes yet." Not a surprising jab, but still pretty awful.

Then people started sharing their own experiences with assumptions and jokes about their home states, and it's pretty fascinating. Having lived in eight different states myself, I've seen firsthand how many stereotypes are totally exaggerated (most) and how many are actually based in reality (always fun to find).

Let's just start with the elephant in the room—Florida.

Poor Florida gets a lot of flack for being Florida, but Floridians seem to take it in stride.

New Jersey, as it turns out, actually has greenery and not everyone is in the mafia. Who knew?

Oregon actually does live up to some of its stereotypes. I've often joked about how Portlandia is only a slight exaggeration of what Portland is like. (Don't get me wrong, I love it there—but it's definitely quirky.)

However, as this person points out, there's also some surprising realities about Oregon that you don't hear about as much. Like that it was founded as a utopia for racists who wanted an all-white place to live.

Mississippi has it rough, unfortunately, thanks to actual statistics.

Though some of those statistics are actually surprising, like its high vaccination rates.

Some states, like Minnesota and North Dakota, get a lot of comments about their accents. (Accents are one of those things that I always assumed were exaggerated until I lived in different places and was delighted to find out Whoa, people really do talk like that here!)

West Virginia has a socioeconomic reputation that isn't accurate for everyone who lives there. (Though there is something to be said for the low cost of living.)

And as this person pointed out, some people might want to look in their own backyard before making jokes about another.

Kansas has had eight decades of "Wizard of Oz" references to contend with.

And the Lone Star State is certainly more than horses and guns. (Though several Texans joked about the gun stereotypes being true. Texas gonna Texas.)

I lived in Iowa for a while, so I know the pig farm references are rooted in the fact that there are a whole lot of farms in the state. And the mall with the ice rink? Yeah, everyone knows that mall.

The bigger issue is the confusion between Iowa, Idaho, and Ohio. I've been to each of those states and can attest that they bear little resemblance to one another and aren't anywhere near one another, but that doesn't stop people from mixing them up.

Ah, Utah. A stunningly gorgeous state with incredible National Parks and otherworldly landscapes that prompts people to immediately conjure up pictures of polygamy.

Does Oklahoma have tornadoes? Yes. Is that all Oklahoma has? Don't think so.

Sarah Palin did a bang-up job of creating her own category of Alaska jokes, but being so far north, people are often surprised to find out that the climate of Alaska actually varies quite a bit and isn't all snowy all the time.

Hawaii is definitely unique among states, but not as unique as some people might assume. They do use American money. Because, you know, it's America.

California is interesting in that it's almost like it's own country in many ways. It's incredibly huge and incredibly diverse. Some stereotypes about some areas do hold water, though as this person pointed out, those stereotypes aren't generally seen as negative.

And yes, we do see California a lot in movies and TV so a lot of it feels familiar, but it's worth noting that not all parts of California are like L.A.

On the flip side, we rarely see anything or anyone from Wyoming, to the point where the main jokes are about whether or not people even live there. (Having driven through it several times, Wyoming is full of pristine landscapes and not a lot of people. But the cities and towns that are there are just as developed as anywhere else.)

The whole thread was an interesting exercise in acknowledging stereotypes, celebrating different state identities, and recognizing that what we imagine different states and regions can't capture the complexity of those places or the people who live there.

There are things to love and things to not love every place you live. And the United States really is like a big patchwork quilt of cultures and quirks that make each part of it unique. Amanda Vink wrote, "Reading these comments, I get the feeling most people just want to be proud of where they're from." It's true, and a good thing to remember when we feel tempted to make jokes about different places.

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