At heart (and by birth) I’m Texan. I’m proud of it. But I also haven’t spent a ton of time in Texas since high school. One year in Ghana, two years in Japan, two years in Pennsylvania. I move a lot.
However, after fourteen months of studying in Tokyo, something incredible happened. I got culture shock when I moved back to Texas. I guess the technical term is “reverse culture shock” (don’t ask). Whatever it is, I got it.
I found myself looking around in amazement and thinking “Wait, is this really Texas? How come I don’t remember _____?”
So I made a list of all the things that have surprised me about being back in Texas. Some of them are related to the people, some to the food, others to the location, and one to the climate. Enjoy!
13 Things that Surprised me about Texas (after I moved back from Tokyo):
1. The clouds are beautiful
You know that saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone?” Well, I didn’t even realize the clouds in Japan were unimpressive. They were just clouds. On my first day back in Texas, while my mom was driving me back home from the airport – I just sat in silence staring at the clouds.
They were enormous. Flowing. Layered. Soft and bold; white, grey, and somewhere in between.
2. Fashion isn’t very important
One of the problems I had in Tokyo regarded fashion. I follow basic trends and love dressing up – but I found the amount of time that went into a daily makeup routine (Anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half) and the cost that went into each outfit (designer goods for hundreds of dollars apiece) ridiculous. And degrading. For more on that, click here for my post about the love / hate relationship I have with high heels.
Texas is the other side of the spectrum. Of course, you see the traditional “redneck” with a cap, grey shirt with the sleeves cut off, dirty dark jeans, and leather cowboy boots or the “teenage girl” with hair in a bun, workout short, and a sports T-shirt. Texas has its own fashion. And it doesn’t involve high heels, baby doll dresses, lace, and “overly effeminate” makeup.
It’s refreshing – but also a bit disconcerting. And boring.
3. People have (soft) accents
Whenever people tell me “Grace you don’t have an accent,” I always bite my tongue and say “Thank you”
(Is that a compliment? I’m never sure)
Sometimes I say “Well, wait until you’re around me when I’ve had a bit to drink” – like alcohol is a magic juice that brings out my hidden Texas accent.
To be honest, before a couple days ago, I had never heard a Texas accent. Ok, yes I have heard them. Probably. But I had never registered a Texas accent. My parents weren’t born in Texas; half of my high school was spent out of country – the other half was spend in an elite boarding school where white women were the slim minority. Not to mention my fiance has a very real (and very adorable) Japanese accent.
What exactly does a Texas accent sound like?
I found out on the plane back. I saw seated across a wonderful woman with short white hair. When I woke up part-way through the flight and heard her talking to the flight attendant, I whipped my head around to look. She sounded exactly like my Aunt Linda (not actually my aunt, my grandmother’s sister). We chatted for a while. A couple minutes later, I dropped in my Aunt Linda’s name – in case the woman knew her.
“But you sound exactly like her!” I said, excited. “That’s so interesting.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Darling, I have a deep Southern Texas accent.” She squinted at me. “Are you sure you’re from Texas?”
4. It’s not actually that hot outside
In my childhood, summers were awful. My parents didn’t use the air conditioning enough, the sun was a million and one degrees, and you could fry eggs on the pavement outside.
But it was also dry heat. And children exaggerate everything.
And Tokyo? Tokyo was humid (which, to be fair, is a lot worse than dry heat). There is also a noticeable lack of central air conditioning. Furthermore, my fiance’s parents don’t believe in using the living room air conditioning.
They just thought we could “sweat it out,” which is probably why I lost so much weight in Japan. Thanks future mom and dad.
5. The air conditioning inside is ridiculously cold
Umm, is it necessary to keep the inside of Wal Mart below freezing? I thought you were all about cutting costs. And when my friends who work at the library have to wear sweaters to work (and tell me horror stories about their fingernails turning blue from the cold after they forgot their jacket at home), something is wrong.
Sweating won’t kill you.
6. Every fourth restaurant is Tex-Mex
I love it. Yum, yum.
7. Things are like really, really far apart
Grocery store? Ten minute drive. Shopping? Fifteen minute drive. Pool? Fifteen minute drive. The closest store to my house is a good five minute drive – and we live in the very center of town!
8. No one walks. Anywhere. At all. Even if it’s close.
So when I said the closest store is a five minute drive away, I lied. There is a gas station/liquor store down the street.
My parents wanted me to pick up some stuff for a family party and told me to drive down to the gas station. My dad tossed me the keys.
“But, it’s only like a five minute walk away.” I protested. “I don’t want to drive.”
My dad just looked at me. “… why would you want to walk…?”
I don’t know. Because I’m weird. Because I didn’t have a car in Japan and got used to biking miles to the grocery store (sorry, kilometers) to get the special weekend sales. Because sometimes when I head up to an intersection in my parents car, I get confused about the lane I’m supposed to turn into (Japan drives on the other side of the road). Or maybe because the gas station was a five minute walk away.
9. No one rides their bikes, either
Though, to be fair, I won’t bike in Texas either. I don’t trust the drivers. I know what kind of tests you have to take to get a license (basically none); I don’t want some teen driver accidentally running my bike over.
There are much more glamorous ways to die.
10. Parking spots are enormous (Actually, everything is just unusually large)
You know that saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas?” It’s true. Serving sizes, parking spots, the people at Wal Mart, trucks, beauty queen hair, and purses. All of it is bigger in Texas.
11. There are Texas flags all over
Why? I don’t know. National pride, perhaps.
In school, we learned Texas is the only state in America permitted to fly the Texas flag at the same height as the American flag (but not higher than an American flag). All other states must fly their flag two inches below the American flag (I don’t know how true this is).
12. I saw no fewer than three cop cars on the ten minute drive to the grocery store
Why are their police officers everywhere? No one knows. Oddly enough, the increase in police presence doesn’t make me feel safe. I’m sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
13. There are a lot of fake blondes
I used to dye my hair blonde. I mean, I only went full out blonde a couple times (and regretted it immediately after), but for most of my life between the ages of 14 and 21, I had either blonde hair or bright blonde highlights.
Because living in Texas taught me blonde is better. There are so many bottle blondes (fake blondes) walking around that a young, impressionable girl like me gets the mistaken idea that blonde is always better.
Just a couple months ago, I realized blonde is NOT, in fact, always better. Brunette and black hair look great on me too. I don’t know why it took me until my 21st birthday to figure this out, but better late than never.
Does anyone else know weird, “unique,” or surprising things about Texas? This can be anything from an observation to a fact to a question.
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