You wouldn’t get it, you’re not Midwestern

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Emma Johnson

Ranch dressing and card playing… what’s more Midwestern than that??

When one enters a new region of the country, they have to hone in on their senses and pay attention to what the region’s society is. From vocabulary to recipes to different forms of leisure, it can be a lot to take in. If one is traveling on the East coast, the sound of the stereotypical Boston and New Jersey accents fill the air, along with the aroma of freshly caught seafood. In California, beach tans and windblown hair peppered with the salt of the ocean stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For those who live in the cluster that resides in the middle of the country, what are the stereotypes? Compiled below is a list that you can share with U.S. residents next time you step out of the Midwest.

No. 1: Within five minutes of entering the Midwest, I can guarantee that someone will drop the legendary word “ope.” This miniscule word can be used in a multitude of situations. Bump into someone? “Ope, sorry!” Trying to get to your seat at a concert? “Ope, I am just gonna sneak past you.” Get a poor grade on a test? Shrug and say, “Ope.” This vital vocabulary word can be used optimistically, pessimistically and for every emotion in between.

No. 2: Besides the usual activities of hunting and fishing, family reunions have to include some activities that all ages can participate in. In the summertime, cornhole is brought to every barbeque, block party and birthday. This beanbag game can turn into day long tournaments that last into the night. When the weather starts to chill and the snow piles high, the Hoyle deck of cards is set on the dining room table. If your relatives and grandparents did not teach you how to play pinochle, cribbage or gin, are you even Midwestern?

No. 3: When the long awaited summer arrives, the weekend evenings are consumed by barbeques. The only thing eaten more than steaks is ranch dressing. Ranch can be found in any fridge and is used on everything from salads to pizza. For a dish that warms the stomach, casseroles and hot dishes are common on the table in the fall and winter. Filled with a veggie, a starch and a protein, recipes for several versions are in a grandma’s or mother’s recipe box.

No. 4: Road trips, while fun in retrospect, are boring in the moment. In the Midwest, miles of corn fields stretch in all directions. No city skylines can be found. Billboards blur as one speeds past them. Sometimes, one will be lucky to spot an abandoned farm or a field of cows. While this breaks up the monotonous stretch of time, it is perfect for zoning out and listening to music. 

No. 5: If one thinks that driving down a stretch of highway is simple, they are mistaken. Driving in the Midwest should be classified as a sport. In the winter time, patches of black ice can spring up, keeping the driver on guard. Deer can bound across the highway, making nighttime travel cautious. Traveling by a patch of woods at night in the winter? Only the tough can survive the challenge. 

No. 6: City life and rural life are drastically contrasted, even though there might only be a 12 mile difference between them. In a big town, a graduating class could be upwards of 400. Meanwhile, one’s cousin could have a class of 20, and that might be the highest it has been in eight years. City students complain about being late to school since they could not go through the drive-thru before school. The rural student was 45 minutes late because their truck was stuck behind a tractor. If one spends a day in a small town, they will be astounded at what they learn. 

No. 7: Midwesterners’ skin is as durable as they come. Arriving at school or work early in the morning, one will not wear a coat over their short sleeve shirt, even if a foot of snow covers the ground. They know that throughout the day, the temperature will rise 25 degrees. One can enter a building in a parka and leave with a swimsuit on. Closets are ever revolving, but thankfully, Midwesterners have adapted to fit the climate. 

No. 8: At the end of an eventful day, one will participate in the Midwestern goodbye. With a slap of the knees, one says, “I should probably hit the road.” As they start for the door or the edge of the driveway, an interesting snippet of conversation is heard. Fear of missing out kicks in and one rejoins the discussion. Thirty minutes after claiming it was getting late, one finally departs from the location. One may deny that they do not do this, but everyone does. 

No. 9: As much as one can try to forget their heritage and where they came from, the Midwest impacts those who reside in it. The coasts can ridicule us all they want, but nothing leaves a mark on a person like growing up in the Midwest.