1. The obvious one is the landscape. After being in Massachusetts (we lived just south of Boston, by the way) for a few weeks, I began to realize that that “feeling” I got whenever I drove around town was actually claustrophobia. Yep, claustrophobia. At times I felt like I was going down a toboggan chute – narrow road surrounded on either side by close, tall, dark trees. For a girl who was used to being able to look around and literally see for miles, this was strange and somewhat creepy.
2. The radio stations. Call me crazy, but this was one of the first big differences I noticed upon returning to Indiana (probably because I was in the car at the time). The stations in the Boston area are hands down much, much better. It seems like every 4th radio station in Indiana is a religious station. There’s nothing wrong with a religious station, but I’d like a little more variety, please!
3. The stores and restaurants. Indiana has a lot more chain stores and restaurants, or so it would appear. Wal-Mart, Meijer, Target, Bob Evans, Papa Johns, Fazoli’s, McDonalds, Burger King – they are much more prevalent out here. If I’d wanted to go to a Super Wal-Mart in Massachusetts, I had to drive a good 20-25 minutes on the interstate (though within a 3 mile radius I would’ve had numerous choices for Dunkin’ Donuts!). Now, there’s a Meijer and a Wal-Mart practically in our backyard. Same with the restaurants. I feel like there are McDonalds everywhere around here. In Massachusetts, it almost seemed like a matter of pride to the towns that they only had local, independent eateries. I really miss that. Don’t misunderstand – I don’t have anything against the chain stores, but I’d like to see a little more local flavor.
4. The cute turns of phrase. I’m sure that New Englanders don’t think that their phrases are “cute”, but I did! Calling a patient gown a “johnny”, a water fountain a “bubbler”, “elastics” instead of rubber bands, “tonic” instead of soda (or pop), and calling it a “carriage” instead of a shopping cart (which Chris insists on calling a “buggy”). The words go on and on 🙂
5. The people. I heard from several sources that people in Massachusetts just aren’t as nice as in the Midwest. Ridiculous. Yes, maybe taken as a vast majority you will find more jerks and rude people in Massachusetts, but Massachusetts residents in general are very nice. I refused to listen to reports about New Englanders and their standoffishness and insisted on making my own opinion. I’m so glad that I did. If people “warn” you about them, take it with a grain of salt. There are rude people everywhere you go.
I will say this, however – Midwesterners are more verbal. Not necessarily more outspoken, but they’re much more likely to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger than people in Massachusetts. Upon moving back here, Chris and I both had a lot of experiences of people offering us advice while we were shopping (how friendly is that?) and for me personally, of a woman sitting next to me in an office and proceeding to very nicely tell me about South Bend and the great places to visit. After 10 minutes of talking to her, I could tell you all sorts of things about her life (where she went to college, what she did for a living, where she lived, where she used to work, her full name, where her brother used to live, where her sister worked, that her uncle was in the wrestling hall of fame but that he’d never been to visit the football hall of fame, and what her restaurant tastes were, including the fact that she couldn’t eat any combination of chocolate and pecans). Some people might be bothered by that, but it’s what I’m used to – friendly, neighborly chattiness.
6. The roads. I’m not talking about road conditions – I’m talking about their layout. The Midwest is so easy to navigate. When we moved to Massachusetts, I got lost constantly, even in our own little hometown. Finding the library there was an adventure! Here, everything is on that nice, easy grid layout and after about a week in South Bend, I felt familiar with the place. The way I understand it, the roads in Massachusetts just sort of developed – from deer path to cow path to foot path to horse path to wagon trail to cobblestone road to now. Makes for some “interesting” twists and turns. There’s also the little issue of street signs – I had the feeling that whoever was in charge of them in Massachusetts just decided, “Eh, what the heck – we don’t really need ’em!” I swear, Chris and I would turn on to a road and drive for miles before finally finding a sign that told us what it was. It was irritating at first, but you get over it.
7. The drivers. Massachusetts drivers are terrible. I know that everyone says that about their city or large metropolitan area, but I’m not kidding. I felt a distinct shift in driving styles as soon as we crossed the Massachusetts state line, and so I decided to do a little research. According to all of the insurance company reports, Massachusetts is the 2nd highest in the nation for car accidents and incidents of road rage. What’s #1? Rhode Island, of course – that tiny little state that was only 30 minutes south of where we lived! Translation: lots and lots and lots of Rhode Island drivers in our area, mingled with all those crazy Massachusetts drivers. So when you say that your drivers are the worst, let me tell you: they aren’t. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have that honor.
Drivers in Indiana seem to be a bit more patient, too… and slow. After being in Massachusetts, “defensive driving” takes on a whole new meaning. I find that I’m all ready to floor it when the light turns green, a side effect of having to head off all those ridiculous Massachusetts and Rhode Island drivers who seemed to think that a green light is akin to a red flag in front of a bull – GO!!!! They also have a tendency to think that a green light is a perfect excuse to turn across all lanes of traffic, regardless of whether or not you have right of way. I also find myself in awe of the long on and off ramps on the Midwestern highways. I swear, in Massachusetts the on and off ramps were so short that if you blinked, you missed them. Here, you can take your time and leisurely get on and off at your convenience. I’m not forgetting about the Midwest’s metropolitan areas, like Indy or Chicago. Their interstates are nothing compared to the ones around Boston. My mom thought that I was exaggerating until she came to help us move. Those ramps are short, and people do not know what it means to allow someone to merge… they just keep right on going in their lane, and if you end up on the shoulder and can’t get on the interstate and have to come to a complete standstill with your blinker on trying to get over, well too bad! I may sound like I’m bitter about this, but I’m really not. Learning how to drive out there was like a badge of honor and I actually kind of liked it, ha ha! I suppose that’s my inner race car driver shining through 🙂
And one more thing about the roads – I love, love, love how the exit numbers in the Midwest correspond with the miles! I missed that so much! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain – in the Midwest, if you know that you need to get off at exit 118 and you’re currently at exit 136, you can conclude that you have 18 miles between where you are and where you’ll get off. In Massachusetts, it may be 50 miles between those 2 spots, or it may be 10. Ahhh, the little things that we take for granted!
8. The weather. I was all geared up for a harsh, cold, New England winter, and it was pathetic. Puny! People out there were all bundled up because it was 18 degrees with a windchill in the single digits. Big deal – in the Midwest, we’re used to far worse than that. I would be walking around with my friends, and I’d be wearing a coat, no gloves, no hat, and no scarf, and they thought I was nuts. They’d be wrapped up from heel to head and be freezing. Of course the trade-off of this is that New England gets a lot more snow. It was nice to get a blanket of snow, all fresh and white, have it eventually melt, and then get another one. It’s too cold for that in Indiana (yes, it has to be “warm” for it to snow). Out here, it seems like you get one major snowfall which then turns to gray-black slush, which then freezes and is coated with an impenetrable layer of ice, making it such that you have “snow” all winter long… it’s just the same snow all winter long! You do get lots more ice out here, I’ll say that. And more wind. All that open farm land!
9. I have to include one last major difference – cost of living. I will be making approximately 60% of what I used to earn while in Massachusetts. When I told the nurse recruiter what my previous salary was, her eyebrows looked like they would rise off her forehead. Chris is making about 80% of his previous salary. This makes sense, though. Rent and home and land prices out here are so much lower. We’re paying half of what we paid in rent in Massachusetts. Our new place isn’t quite as nice, but for the price we’re paying, let me tell you that I think it’s fabulous. Also home prices – spending $350,000 in Indiana for a home gets you a really nice place. It would probably be 5 years old or less, maybe half of an acre to an acre depending on where you are in the state, perhaps a swimming pool, central A/C and heat, a 2 car garage, and 3 bedrooms with a living room, dining room, study, family room, and a great, big, fabulous kitchen. Spending $350,000 for a 3 bedroom home in Massachusetts would get you an ancient fixer-upper on a postage stamp plot, probably close to a busy road, maybe a 1 car garage, window A/C units, definitely no swimming pool, and high taxes all while surrounded by some scary neighbors. Yikes. Come to think of it, I don’t think you could buy a habitable home in the Boston area for less than $350,000 with prices being what they are nowadays.
Of course, we’re going to be leaving all of this behind us in about 9 months, so I’m trying to soak up the good stuff while I can. It’ll be interesting to write my “Indiana vs. New Zealand” post once we’ve moved over there!
So what about you, my lovely readers? Any of you have some big differences that you’ve noticed between the Midwest and New England? What about differences between other places in the country that you’ve lived? Do you agree or disagree with my synopsis, or do you have any of your own that you’d like to add? I’d love to hear them!