Well, you’ve heard all the stories, about how the mosquitoes are a big as bees, and there is a snake in every bush, and an alligator in every pond. It’s 100 degrees everyday with 100% humidity. If the hurricanes don’t get you, the bugs will…….but……..
You’ve decided to move to Florida anyway. That last winter was just too cold (you ached all over), your car is getting rusty from all the slime on the roads, taxes are twice as high as anywhere else, and you’ve had enough. More than enough.
Other people you’ve known have moved down there, and they almost never return, except on vacations. When they do show up, they’re all tanned, and are driving a car that’s 2 or 3 years old, and looks like it just came off the showroom floor. There must be a reason why they stay.
That’s where this little article comes in: It might just help you adapt without going through some of the things others have had to learn the hard way. They say “experience is a great teacher, however, it’s better if it’s someone else’s.” In this case, mine.
I’ve lived in Florida over 31 years. From Tampa Bay, to Pensacola to Jacksonville. So, although that doesn’t make me a native, (just ask my sister-in-law), I do know a few things about it.
So, let’s get started:
1) The Heat:
Well, it does get hot. How hot depends a lot on part of the state you move to. Most if not all of Florida is sub-tropical. That means among other things, that the winters are relatively warm/ mild. It rarely if ever sees snow. North Florida for the most part, has a very distinct spring-summer-fall-winter. It might take a season or two before you can tell the difference. This last year, 2010-11 was one of the coldest winters for north Florida that we’ve had in a while, with more freezing nights then ever before. However, the temp usually will rise into the 50’s during the daytime, especially if it’s a sunny day. The summer of 2011 has been one of the hottest on record, however, everywhere in the US has seen a really hot summer.
When you get farther south, the distinctions fade, and around the middle part of the state, there might be 2 seasons. Summer and Winter.
Cooler nights, and “summer-up-north” like days. There are almost never freezes, although, it has been known to happen. Even in January, it’s not uncommon to have 70 - 80 degree days. We joke about having the heater on in the morning, and the AC in the afternoon.
Farther south like Miami or points south, it amounts to hot or hotter. The fact that Florida is a peninsula, means that there’s almost always some breeze blowing. The breeze tends to moderate the temperature somewhat, especially along the coasts.
2) The Humidity:
Consider this; When you live up in the snow country, chances are, if you had to work outside for any length of time, you’d break it up into sessions. You’d work for awhile, and then take a break inside to warm up and maybe have something warm to drink. Well, it’s the same down here, just in reverse.
There is a saying that, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.“ It’s good to try and plan your outside activities to avoid the middle of the day. From Noon, until about 2:30 - 3:00 is a good time to catch up on indoor chores. When you must work outside in the summer, you work for a while, and then go inside to have a cold glass of tea, or other non-alcoholic beverage, and sit in the AC for a while. Really, it’s not that bad. One word of warning, you MUST stay well hydrated. That means don’t skimp on the liquids. I almost always have a mug with ice and water in it somewhere nearby. When I first met my “soon to be wife“, she made what they call “sun-tea“. Take a 2 quart glass jar, put about 4 or 5 teabags, in it, fill with water, then set it in the sun for a few hours. Later, add a cup of sugar or 2 and maybe a piece of lemon and then enjoy. It’s some of the smoothest brewed tea you’ll ever taste.
Dress light. Light colored, and lightweight is the order of the day. Shorts and short sleeved shirts is a way of life here. The sun is hot! Hats and sunglasses are a necessity. You must protect your eyes, and your face/neck. My wife says you can always tell a Yankee….. They are either very white, or very Red. Use sunscreen, the higher the SPF the better, at least until you’ve been here awhile. A bad sunburn isn’t any fun at all, and can actually be hazardous to your health.
3) Bugs and other crawling critters:
While it’s true there are bugs everywhere, there are bugs anywhere. But, there are some things you can to ease the bother. There are some bugs that are more of a problem than others.
“Fire Ants” These little critters are everywhere. While they don’t sting, they have a venomous bite that will really cause a lot of pain. The best thing is to avoid them. Do you remember how you used to lay down on the lawn and look up at the sky? Not a good idea here, unless you choose your location very carefully. The beach is always a good choice.
“Mosquitoes” These critters don’t like the sun, so usually, if you stay out of the woods, and away from swampy areas (how?) you will miss most of them. Bug repellant works somewhat. In the evening is when they really become a nuisance. Sitting on the front porch in the evenings is nice, if it’s screened in. They must have standing water to breed, so, it’s a good idea to be sure there isn’t any on your property. Ponds are ok, if they also have some fish in them to eat the larva.
“No-Seeums” These little pests are just a little, black dot on your arm, but it feels like they have jaws as big as a gator. They are so small they can pass right through some mosquito netting. They are rare in north Florida, but, very common in the middle and southern sections.
“Snakes’ There are snakes just about everywhere, and some of them can do you harm. However, they will pretty much stay to themselves if left alone. But, be aware that there are or is liable to be snakes: in high grass, in swampy areas, near lakes, and sometimes where you least expect them. There are some 50 species of snakes in Florida, but, only 6 are considered a hazard to humans. The others are actually beneficial in that they eat bugs and rodents. If your not sure if a snake is venomous or not, stay away. Most will avoid humans if they can.
“Alligators” Most people when you mention Florida, think of Sun, Bugs, and Alligators. Maybe not always in that order. Alligators are somewhat like other wild things, that if given a choice, will stay away from humans. However, in the last few years, their habitat, along with several other species, have been growing smaller and smaller because of human encroachment. It seemed like for awhile the developers down here were trying to cover every square foot of Florida with houses and/ or pavement. Any body of water, or stream could have a resident “gator". Where we lived in Tampa, there was a river in back of our property, and we used to hear them at night. I thought we were pretty safe, in that we had a 4 foot chain link fence in the backyard, until I saw a picture of a 6 foot gator climbing a 4 foot fence after a dog. I never saw a gator back there, but we did hear them. In all the time I’ve lived in Florida, I’ve only seen about 2 in the wild.
While it’s true we do have hurricanes, some years more than others, I like to look at it this way.
Up in snow country, you know for a fact your going to have snow, and depending where your from, sometimes you’ll be up to your armpits in snow. You know they are going to salt the roads, and it’ll eat your car alive. You know that it’s going to be colder than a well diggers you-know-what. You know taxes are high.
Down here, we might have a hurricane and we might have a tropical storm. Personally, I like the odds.
Also, there are many things you can do to minimize the damage if one does strike around you. We live on high ground, and some 60 miles from the coast. I don’t think flooding would be a problem. So, if it’s a minimal storm, we probably will stay put, however, if it’s over say, 100 mph, it’s time to lock it up, grab our bags and pets and important papers, and go visit relatives in NC. And above all, we will leave early.
5) Reasons to live in Florida:
No snow, therefore, No salt (except on the beach), no snow tires.
No state income tax.
It’s a “right to work state”. That means you can’t be forced to join a union to hold a job.
Lower cost of living.
Nice Weather all year round.
6) Things to do:
There are people from almost everywhere here. Therefore, drivers have all different kinds of weird behaviors, that were perfectly normal where they are from. To us, they seem, well, strange to say the least. I’ve said all that to say this; Don’t be surprised at anything you see. If “Bubba” is on a 4 lane road, in the right lane, and suddenly decides to turn left………well, it might be the way it’s done where he’s from . Don’t laugh….. I’ve seen it. Get used to it.
For some reason, they like to put intersections on curves and hills down here. I have never figured that one out.
There are some places here where a red traffic light doesn’t mean stop, it means 3 or 4 more cars can go through. We used to joke about, “How can you tell a Jacksonville driver?” The answer, “He’s the 4th car through a red light.”
Since the advent of ticket-writing cameras at some intersections, a big dent has been put into people running red lights, (now they're having accidents from people rear ending people who slam on the brakes to stop) just be fore armed with the knowledge that it’s not a good idea to make a "jackrabbit" start through a traffic signal that’s just turned green. Get used to it.
Another thing to get used to is, one road may have more than one name. In Pensacola, there is one road that has 4 different names as it wanders cross town.
Many times a road changes names at an intersection, sometimes on a curve.
Get used to it.
7) Things NOT to do:
a) Don’t never, ever say “That ain’t the way we did it up north.”
b) It’s not a good idea to be walking around your yard barefooted after dark. More so in the southern parts of the state.
c) Please don’t put on a fake southern drawl. It sounds silly as H…, and locals will spot it with the first words out of your mouth. Give it a year or so, and you’ll have an honest one of your own, and probably won’t even realize until you go north on vacation.
Oh, by the way, when someone says “Ya ‘ll”, it’s singular, meaning one person. As in “ya ‘ll have a nice day”. “All Ya ‘ll” means everyone, or a group. As in “Are all ya’ll going to the dance”.
8) Misc. Information
Southerners know their summer weather report:
Heat/Humidity - Humidity/Heat
Southerners know their vacation spots:
The beach - The rivuh - The crick
Southerners know everybody's first name:
Honey - Darlin' - Shugah
Southerners know the movies that speak to their hearts:
Fried Green Tomatoes - Driving Miss Daisy - Steel Magnolias - Gone With The Wind
Southerners know their religions:
Bapdiss - Methdiss - Football
Southerners know their cities dripping with Southern charm:
Chawl'stn - S'vanah - Foat Wuth - N'awlins - Addlanna
Southerners know their elegant gentlemen:
Men in uniform - Men in tuxedos - Rhett Butler
Southern girls know their prime real estate:
The Mall - The Country Club - The Beauty Salon
Southern girls know the 3 deadly sins:
Having bad hair and nails - Having bad manners - Cooking bad food
Only a Southerner knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit, and that you don't "HAVE" them,
you "PITCH" them.
Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."
Only a Southerner can show or point out to you the general direction of "yonder."
Only a Southerner knows exactly how long "drectly" is, as in: "Going to town, be back drectly."
Even Southern babies know that "Gimme some sugar" is not a request for the white, granular, sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl in the middle of the table.
All Southerners know exactly when "by and by" is. They might not use the term, but they know the concept well.
Only a Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor's trouble is a real crisis, they also know to add a large banana puddin'!
Only Southerners grow up knowing the difference between "right near" and "a right far piece." They also know that "just down the road" can be 1 mile or 20.
Only a Southerner both knows and understands the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.
No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn.
A Southerner knows that "fixin" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.
Only Southerners make friends while standing in lines, ... and when we're "in line,"... we talk to everybody!
Put 100 Southerners in a room and half of them will discover they're related, even if only by marriage.
Southerners know grits come from corn and how to eat them.
Every Southerner knows that tomatoes with eggs, bacon, grits, and coffee are perfectly wonderful; that red eye gravy is also a breakfast food; that scrambled eggs just ain’t right without Tabasco, and that fried green tomatoes are not a breakfast food.
When you hear someone say, "Well, I caught myself lookin'," you know you are in the presence of a genuine Southerner!
Only true Southerners say "sweet tea" and "sweet milk." Sweet tea indicates the need for sugar and lots of it -- we do not like our tea unsweetened. "Sweet milk" means you don't want buttermilk.
And a true Southerner knows you don't scream obscenities at little old ladies who drive 30 MPH on the freeway. You just say, "Bless her sweet little heart"... and go your own way.
To those of you who are still a little embarrassed by your Southernness: Take two tent revivals and a dose of sausage gravy and call me in the morning. Bless your little heart!
And to those of you who are still having a hard time understanding all this Southern stuff....bless your hearts, I hear they’re fixin' to have classes on Southernness as a second language!
Southern girls know men may come and go,
but friends are fah-evah !
Your gonna love living in the south, however, for the few who don't, they usually go back north as far as North Carolina, where they're called "Half-backs", but that's another story.
© 2010 - Present