We’ve all heard it before. No matter how far you travel, no matter the distance of time, space, and geography: “People are the same wherever you go.”
But also no.
Ultimately, people are driven by the same impulses and desires regardless of their race, creed, or height. We all like to eat and sleep.
But some people call soda pop “pop” and others call it “soda”. Then there’s the Norwegians, who call it “juice”. (We will never again speak of such terrors.)
The hard truth is that different peoples and cultures have different traditions. This is not surprising.
While the philosopher will be thrilled that all people are all the same, the writer will be aggravated that they are all different.
So, if your next writing project involves a person or place that you have not visited or are unfamiliar with, do not fear!
I have created a helpful list of the habits and traits of the people of America. I would have made a bulleted list of all humanity, but I don’t have the patience.
Here is a (very horrifically tiny) short list of the traits of Americans filed by locality:
Midwesterners are the most friendly and polite regional group in America. They love ranch dressing, casseroles are the normal dish, as are “bars”, which is anything sweet and bread-y (think cookies or brownies), that’s been cooked in a shallow pan and cut into squares. They call casual footwear tennis shoes, don’t like Chicago, and when the accidentally bump into you, they say “Ope”. There is a LOT of farmland in the Midwest, and most people are rural folk, but there are also some cosmopolitan areas, but they’re not very big in comparison to the cities of New England, or such.
Men and Women from New England are steeped in very old history and tradition. Their area has the longest history of western culture and occupation, after all. As a result, every ditch, pothole, and rise in the road has a specific story to tell, or is haunted by one ghost or another. Seriously, ghost stories abound like mice in New England. And although the landmass of New York City is seriously massive in a region that is not overly large, the city of New York is not overloved in New England. Most people hate the city. Also, being a nasty aggressive driver is the norm. Don’t forget that sprinkles are called “Jimmies” in New England. I don’t know why.
Sadly, I cannot find any info about what are the people and customs of the Western states. If you could fill me in, I would love that.
The West Coast
For starters, people in the West Coast area walk slower than most people, especially people from the East Coast and New England. They tip less, and are less inclined to find their worth in education and intellectualism. Surprisingly, there is not a West Coast accent or dialect, although they do tend to be more circumspect in saying unpleasant or when they disagree. For instance, while a Bostonian won’t hesitate to say he thinks your idea is stupid, a West Coaster will take 20 minutes to say something less abrasive in a very roundabout way.
The South has become something of a cliché, a place that everyone knows of a little and thinks they know well. In this sense, writing of characters from the south can become something like a fairy tale. Some of the cliches are true. Southern people have got the food game down solid. Everything is either sweetened, fried, or covered in butter. Hopefully all three. Nothing is as important with Southern cooking as flavor. People are very religious, are horrible at handling any form of snow, and love to have everything monogrammed. I don’t know why.
I hate making disclaimers, but I am forced to admit that I have very little exposure to regions other than my own, so what I have posted here is from research on the internet. Take what I say with a grain of salt, and if you ask, I will be glad to provide sources.
Take this info and make some good characters! -BW