13 Things that about Texas that Surprised me (after I moved back from Tokyo):

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.

No cloud pictures today. Here's a picture of me feeding birds.

No cloud pictures today. Here’s a picture of me feeding birds.

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.

My sister's dog. We like messing with it.

My sister’s dog. We like messing with it.

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.

Other things alcohol doesn't mix with include cars, Japanese exams, and airplane flights

Other things alcohol doesn’t mix with include cars, Japanese exams, and airplane flights

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.

She didn’t.

“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.

Or like 111 degrees. Big difference.

Or like 111 degrees. Big difference.

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.

I would rather be stranded out in the Arizona desert than work in another super-conditioned building...

I would rather be stranded out in the Arizona desert than work in another super-conditioned building…

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. 

Instead we all drive go-karts!

Instead we all drive go-karts!

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.

Uncle, Cousin, and Fiance learning more cool ways to die

Uncle, Cousin, and Fiance learning more cool 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.

Basically, this is Texas

Basically, this is Texas

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.

Oyster farm off the coast of Ishinomaki

At a Oyster farm that was destroyed during the March 11th tsunami. Oh yeah. And I have blonde hair.


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.

[Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele]

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

17 Comments on 13 Things that about Texas that Surprised me (after I moved back from Tokyo):

  1. I was born and raised in Houston and now I live in Sugar Land.I used to hate Houston but now I’m finding out all these cool things about it that I never knew like… there were Japanese rice farmers in the past (which means Japanese Americans actually have a history in Houston) There is a town named after once of the rice farmers called Mykawa.

  2. As a someone who lived in Texas from the time I was in the second grade until I graduated college and entered into the Air Force, I was also one of those who spent many years living away from Texas, except for the occasional trip home for Christmas. After having lived elsewhere for almost 25 years (and having either lived in or visited all States except Connecticut and 8 foreign countries), I still remember the time, back in 2000, when my wife and I drove from Washington D.C. (I was stationed at the Pentagon) to my new assignment in San Antonio, TX. As we neared San Antonio, it was nearing sun down and we both just stared at the beautiful Texas sky and our surroundings – mesquite/oak trees and rolling hills – we looked over at each other and I said, “Welcome, home, honey.” We’ve now lived in San Antonio for 14 years, and have no plans on moving. We’re home.

  3. lol – not national pride – state pride. I’ve lived in several states and Texas takes the cake when it came to state pride. In most other states, people who buy the Florida-shaped pictures and South Dakota cups are tourists. In Texas, Texas products are bought by Texans. My bro-in-law lives in Texas – his wife (the native Texan) likes to brag that it’s the only state that can legally secede from the union.

    As for the accent, I think when you are used to an accent, you lose the ability to really hear it. I remember taking a class in college and some students complaining about the professor’s thick Spanish accent. Being a Floridian, I was used to it and literally didn’t even realize she had one.

  4. TAKASHI MORI // 21 November, 2014 at 12:11 pm //

    I am Japanese who has lived in Texas more than a decade. I have even purchased a condo in San Antonio, and this will be my last place. I love Texas and Japan. It is funny that people consider Texas is like another country sometime not as a state.

  5. I’ve been in San Antonio for eight years, am dying to move back to Japan (I was stationed in Central Japan in 2010-2011).

  6. CGfromTX // 31 May, 2014 at 4:14 pm //

    Dry heat?! Clearly you’re not from Houston or San Antonio

  7. I know this is late, but I was actually doing a google search about Texas and this popped up so I clicked.

    As a fellow Texan who came back from Japan for a time I can relate to much of this. But to be honest, one thing I’ve noticed about us Texans abroad is how much we love our state regardless of our differences in ideologies. We’ll boast about it until someone says, “I’m thinking of moving there” and then the change happens.

    I’ve done it without realizing it. I’ve seen so many Texans do it, especially Austinites. When someone says they want to live in Texas then we start going, “Oh well, it’s too hot. You have to drive everywhere”. Anything to sway them not to go. And if they keep insisting we might push others states with “I think you’d be happier in California or Oregon”

    It’s hilarious to watch.

    I appreciate a lot of things about Texan now that I’ve lived away from it. I took a lot for granted.

    • How neat. Glad to hear this kind of stuff pops up on Google search.
      I agree, I love Texas – but when my Japanese friends (or other foreign friends) talk about moving there, I’m typically a bit skeptical, warning them about the lack of public transportation and the occasional bigot.

      It is nice being able to bond with other Texans abroad, though :)

  8. I lived in Austin for about four months and it was… OK. (And Austin isn’t even Texas, let’s be honest.) I agree that it’s a dry heat (we in VA do humid very well) but 100+ degree temperature is still sheer torture.

  9. Don’t take this the wrong way but..

    there is no amount anyone could pay me that would induce me to live in Texas.

    • Awwww, that’s so sad. Texas is wonderful!

      • I wouldn’t want to live in 99% of places in the US just for being so pedestrian unfriendly, without even getting to other reasons. The kind of wanton laziness you describe, “why walk when I can burn gasoline along a long expanse of concrete?” is exactly the kind of irrational sentiment that makes me want to hit my head against the wall. I’ve spent a lot of time having conversations with people in other countries, trying to convince them, “No, not all Americans do or think X way, in fact, I agree with you about it!” Etc..

  10. Very similar to my reactions when returning to Georgia – except for the Texas flag thing, of course.

    I have been to Texas once (not counting lay-overs in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport). When I was in high school we drove over from Georgia – which took two days – to visit two of my aunts that lived there at the time. The Houston area didn’t seem all that different than the South, but the Dallas area seemed a little strange with the lack of tall trees and all.

    Eat a little extra Mexican food for me, will you?

    • I will :)

      All in all, I love Texas, but after studying Japan and Japanese culture for so long (to blog about every little thing), it was a little bizarre to come “home” and not understand things. I guess I just wasn’t looking before.
      I do agree on the lack of trees in Dallas. I remember that much.

      Texas takes quite a while to drive through :)

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