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5 Things About San Francisco That Confuse a Midwesterner

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By Ryan Kellett

Lost in the Fog: Five Observations of An Out-of-Place Midwesterner

As a longtime resident of the Midwest, or as some politely put it, “fly over country”, from a young age I was indoctrinated with a few core principles: winter is six months long and not a day shorter, when someone lets you into their lane you must give the wave, no exceptions, and there is no reason to live anywhere farther than Chicago.

That last principle may come as a surprise, then, when you hear that I decided to leave those rolling plains behind for the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Such a far move has been an eye-opening experience for me; like my local Tim Hortons running out of Boston creams, I have had to improvise and adapt to these new circumstances on the fly. However, nothing could have prepared me for the contrast between the San Francisco lifestyle and that of my humdrum Michigan background. Here are five noticeable differences I’ve seen between San Franciscans and Midwesterners.

1. We Love Small Talk

In the Midwest, you can learn a person’s hopes, fears, and probably even their credit history just from passing by on a leisurely walk and striking up a conversation. The same goes for anyone you encounter in any aspect of your life. Checkout clerk at your local market? That’s Cindy, her nephew just got back from study abroad. That barista over there at the coffee shop down the street? That’s Nathan, he’s working on his standup comedy career on the side. To contrast with San Francisco, I once said “cute dog” to someone walking their pup at Alta Plaza Park, a literal dog park, and she looked at me like I was a serial killer.

2. We’re Incredibly Polite, Borderline Pushovers

My Midwestern comrades and I will happily bend over backwards if it means assisting you in some form or fashion. I’ll have the door already pried open before you even acknowledge my existence yet. So far I have yet to see that same willingness from residents of the Bay, but it’s probably because they have a little more self-discipline than someone like me who says sorry for every little thing, even if I did nothing wrong and you just happened to slightly glare at me.

3. We Eat Well, But Probably Not Good

Where I grew up, any food I was holding between two buns was something that either moo’d, clucked, or oinked. I also ate my weight in gluten probably every day. Despite California’s status as ‘the breadbasket of the world’, I have seen health-conscious restaurants with gluten free menus flourish. Maybe they are simply exporting all that bread to the loaf-loving community I call home, but one thing is for certain: I worry that as my cholesterol levels and risk of heart attack goes down, so too does my sense of heritage.

5. Highs & Lows To Us Are Life Metaphors, Not Streets

The topography of the Midwest represents its people pretty well. Fairly flat and stable, no surprises. In San Francisco, it’s…a different story (the topography I mean). Catch me in hiking shoes (size 10 if they’re roomy) as I summit a small mountain to get a breakfast sandwich.

5. ‘Big Tech’ Just Means Fixing Our Parents’ Wifi

While us Midwesterners still have a great spirit of entrepreneurship, it’s more along the lines of ice cream flavors or trashy personal injury lawyer commercials. If you say you still need to pay off the .eth gas fees before your web3 launch, I’m going to assume you’re having a stroke. Nonetheless, Midwestern manners don’t take sick days, so I will still say “Good for you!” and continue on my merry way wheezing up the sidewalk, glutenous breakfast sandwich in hand.

There you have it! Five perplexing contrasts between the San Francisco and Midwest identities. If you have any quibbles, or you are a lost Midwesterner yourself, feel free to reach out and we can meet up and chat about it. Just nowhere too hilly please.

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  1. Tim Pierce
    July 12, 2022 at 12:07 pm — Reply

    Welcome, my fellow Michigander, or is it Michiganian. Been here over 30 years, arrived when neighborhoods like The Mission were family oriented and friendly. Genuine people are harder to find now, but they do still exist. Continue to smile and say good morning like you were raised to do, and you’ll be fine.

  2. Maryam
    July 12, 2022 at 5:17 pm — Reply

    Sincere question- when you say you live small talk & will bend over backwards to be polite to someone, you are talking about white people right? Asking about the average Midwesterner, not you specifically…

    • Patrick Sanders
      July 14, 2022 at 5:38 pm — Reply

      Polite is polite and stop being racist. You might think that EVERYONE ELSE is racist but what you just said proves that you are too. I’m white and am polite to everyone, not just those who are melanin deprived. So grow up and start looking at the world with less hate in your heart.

      • Patrick Sanders
        July 14, 2022 at 5:40 pm

        My previous post was aimed at Maryam, not our local Michigander.

    • Tim Pierce
      July 14, 2022 at 5:58 pm — Reply

      Although I’ve been gone from Michigan for over 30 years I still maintain friends and family ties. So, speaking on behalf of “the average Midwesterner”, those who are blessed to have lived in a multi racial environment (of which there are plenty), will likely respect and be polite to everyone.

  3. Alanna Rhodes
    July 14, 2022 at 12:35 pm — Reply

    I enjoy you

  4. Luciano Mezzetta
    July 14, 2022 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    The great majority of San Franciscans are great people. Those who feel oppressed by white males of European descent are pieces of shit. They probably came originally from Brooklyn.

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