I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life. I’ve had a lot of good times and adventures here but sometimes the struggle bus pulls up, puts on its parking break, and encourages you to start tailgating. Here are the top five struggles of living in the Midwest.
Number 5: Towns have weird names, usually with a lot of vowels in them.
You really don’t need a history book to tell you that the modern makeup of the Midwest was influenced primarily by Native Tribes, the English, and the French.
Just drive down any Midwestern highway and watch the exit signs fly past with the improbable pronunciation of Native words, the just-as-difficult to pronounce smattering of French phrases, and towns with the same names as your suburban neighbors.
“Alright so what ya wanna do is take 63 up from Oskaloosa then head west on 80 through Des Moines until ya hit the exit for Stuart.”
And yes, that is an actual route you can take if for some reason you ever needed to go to Stuart, by way of Oskaloosa.
It’s not just in Iowa where the towns are named like this. Minnesota brings towns like Bemidji, Nisswa, and Owatonna to the table. But, when it comes to towns with TONS of vowels in their names, Wisconsin goes all out. They have tourist hot-spots like Kewaunee, Ashwaubenon, and Oconomowoc. These of course all sound ten times better when they are said in a traditional Wisconsin accent followed by a local catch phrase.
“Oh yah, she’s from Kee-WAH-nee, don’tcha know.”
Wisconsin also has a town called Fond Du Lac which is apparently French for “Bottom of the Lake.”
Illinois has a Kewanee of its own, albeit spelled a little different than Wisconsin’s.
South Dakota is home to the charming town of Eureka and doesn’t shy away from going all-out French with the township of Pierre.
North Dakota has native town names like Minnewaukan but then apparently stopped using that naming convention and decided to just name their towns after local hobbies like the township of Killdeer.
Then there’s Nebraska, who just took some names from the cities of more awesome states and ended up with knockoff versions of Madison, St. Paul, and Stuart. And you know Stuart, Nebraska has got to be WAY lamer than Stuart, Iowa.
Number 4: The radio sucks
Unless you’re living in one of the major cities, you’re stuck cranking your radio dial between identical stations that only play Top 40 Pop, Top 40 Country, or Christian Rock.
You know what confuses me the most about these stations? They all have wacky morning DJs who take requests from their listeners, but the requests are ALWAYS for the SAME music that they play ALL THE TIME!
Really? Susan in Bettendorf called in to request that Chainsmokers song? Why didn’t you just find it on YouTube, Susan? Or better yet, just check a different station! You know it’s probably playing on one of the other pop stations! How the hell is calling into the radio station, waiting on hold, and then requesting that the song be played AGAIN any easier than streaming it yourself!?
The weirdest call-in request I ever heard while driving was from a lady who said something like, “Oh hi! Could you please play that Jason Derulo song ‘Trumpets’ for my son? He absolutely loves that song.”
Look lady, even if your son is 3 years old and does a cute toddler dance to the song, that was a really weird request to make.
Ever the poet, Derulo’s lyrical opus includes philosophical musings such as “Is it weird that your ass remind me of a Kanye West song? Is it weird that I hear trumpets when you’re turning me on? Is it weird that your bra remind me of a Katy Perry song?”
Anyway you slice it, that’s a really weird song to dedicate to your son.
Number 3: A lot of people here seem to think we’re part of the South.
Maybe it’s because of the local popularity of country music that celebrates rural America, but there are small pockets of people that seem think that we’re part of the south. If you drive around you might spot a few confederate flags flying from porches or occasionally one mounted on the bed of a pickup truck.
At least in the south you can claim that the confederate flag is part of your state’s history and heritage but if you’re flying one in a state that was part of the Union, you’re just being an asshole.
The people who have them on display here will probably attempt some sort of mental back flip trying to say that this flag represents something else, but you can’t deny that the flag is really popular with white nationalists.
There are a few of those wackos running around the Midwest too. No joke, back in 2012 this white nationalist dude tried turning the town of Leith, North Dakota into a haven for white nationalists. They made a whole documentary about it. It’s on Netflix if you want to watch it. Just pull up your search bar and type “Welcome to Leith” in the box.
Oh yeah, apparently Iowa Congressmen Steve King (You know, that guy who’s always on the news for saying racist things) has a confederate flag on his desk.
And if you think it’s a little weird that a representative for a state where Iowans died fighting for the Union would display a confederate flag on his desk, you can pick up one of these shirts at RAY GUN.
You can also get one of these sweet shirts there if you want.
Number 2: Snow
Ok, you had to know that this was going to be on the list. In the Midwest it snows a lot, and it sucks. Sure, it snows a lot other places too, but the western states have more activities built around snow. They have dog sleds, skiing, snowboarding, and touristy sleigh rides. Plus, snow just looks better when it’s coating a quiet mountain town than it does when it’s laid out over a corn field with dead stalks poking out of it. I know it snows a lot in the Northeast too, but at least there you can drive out to the Atlantic Ocean and gaze out over the grey waves while you brood over a personal tragedy.
Ice fishing is REALLY popular around here, but I honestly think that’s more because it’s literally the only outdoor activity available to us in the winter. Yeah, there are a few “ski slopes” around. But they’re more of a “do it to say you did it” kind of thing with only three or so runs right next to a highway. And that’s a really sad substitute for a freaking mountain.
Plus, the worst part of Midwest snow is that there are only a few months out of the year where you can say, “Alright it’s definitely not going to snow this week.” Honestly, it’s March right now and we kicked off this week with one of the biggest blizzards of the season. And you know what? No one was surprised about it. Everyone saw the forecast and was like, “Yep. That’ll happen this time of year.” A few years ago, it snowed in May and that raised a few eyebrows. But generally speaking, you won’t be surprised if it snows anytime between October and early April. But don’t worry, you’ll get a few 70 degree days in February to help break up the winter season.
Number 1: People have no idea where you’re from.
People in major cities like Minneapolis and Chicago get it. If you go there and say, “Hi! I’m from Iowa.” They’ll give you a “Cool story, bro.” And move on. That’s because Iowa is close enough to those cites to be relevant. Several times when I’ve gone down to visit my family in Florida, I’ve introduced myself to someone, told them where I’m from, and then had conversations that I never expected to have.
I’ve been a part of this conversation several times in Tampa:
“So, where are you from?”
“Oh, I’m from Iowa.”
“Oh, Iowa…you guys have a lot of potatoes, right?”
No, we don’t have a lot of potatoes. That’s Idaho. Look, I get that corn, soybeans, and pigs aren’t much more exciting than potatoes, but how the hell is Idaho more well-known than Iowa!? We’re way closer to Florida than Idaho.
The closest I ever got to a correct identification during a conversation with a Floridian was when I told him that I went to school at the University of Iowa. The guy I was talking to smiled and responded with, “Oh yeah! The Cyclones, right?” And while that was close, it was not quite a cigar. If only he knew how people would would have reacted if he had said that anywhere in Iowa.