I was a Washington D.C. native turned Miami resident. Here are some pearls I’ve learned in my first year here.
1) When someone says the phrase, “A cold front is moving in” and they say it with fear in their eyes, you become frantic and check the forecast and see that it’s going to be 59 degrees.
This news causes mass panic down here. The boots will come out, and the fur coats are pulled out of storage.
The weather forecasters will even tell you to bundle your children up before they go to the bus stops. Most people won’t leave the house unless they have to.
I laughed at everyone until I found myself sheepishly putting on a sweater, jacket and even a hat in 60 degree weather. It had only been 2 months and I was already a Floridian.
2) People here sing a lot more. Maybe it’s the sunshine or the ocean that puts people in the singing mood.
No idea why, but now I’m doing it. In D.C. I never would’ve been caught dead singing anywhere in public. I can’t sing. I can’t stress this enough. NO SINGING CAPABILITY.
I was walking around Walgreens yesterday and I was halfway through my rendition of a Whitney Houston chart topper before I realized I wasn’t singing it in my head, but out loud.
What’s strange is no one thought I was odd and even stranger I went ahead and finished the song.
3) I’m an aggressive driver now. You have to be down here. It’s a survival skill.
The drivers here are reckless. They make crazy, drastic moves and usually while holding their cell phones to their ear or while texting. If you see an elderly driver, just let them do what they need to do. Get the hell out of their way.
People here don’t thank you when you let them merge in front of you. Why should they? The attitude is that you better let them go or else.
If you don’t, they’ll just go anyway and try to hit you in the process. Especially if their car is bigger than yours. I’ve had many SUVs and trucks try to mow me down. I’ve just learned to move out of the way.
Just let them get in front of you. You’ll live longer.
I’ve never seen driving like this. It’s routine to see people changing 4 lanes over in one drastic move. It’s like everyone just got their license and is angry about it.
I saw a guy get out of his car while waiting for the draw bridge to go down and get a bottle of Hennessy out of his trunk so he can drink it straight from the bottle while he waited. This is normal behavior down here.
4) I now commonly use the phrase at work to my co-workers, “F@# this. Let’s just go to the beach” and I can mean it year round since the beach is less than 4 miles away. So actually “f@@ing this” and going to the beach is no longer an impossible feat.
In D.C. I would look up at the sky on a tough work day and wish I was at the beach which was 100s of miles away and even when I got there chances are it would be too cold. I would go home and make a drink and put an umbrella in it and pretend I was there.
5) I find myself speaking Spanish-even to people who don’t speak Spanish. Spanish isn’t my first language or even my second. I just like it.
Oh, and If you look like you’re remotely from any other country other than the United States, people will assume you’re a native speaker and will converse with you in Spanish. Just go with it. Better yet-learn Spanish.
6) I tried fervently to like coconut water.
People here love coconut water. It’s like an addiction. I didn’t get the memo.
There’s all kinds of flavors of coconut water. Mango, Pineapple, lemon…I watched people buy it by the gallons and swear it’s the nectar of the gods.
There are a lot of health benefits to it. I tried to like it. But I just can’t. It makes me queasy.
Except coconut water already inside of a coconut with rum mixed in is good and okay by me. But that’s another story.
7) I tried Jamaican food. Where has it been all my life?
I discovered the magic of a Cuban steak sandwich with little shoe string potatoes mixed in to the sandwich.
Why has no one told me about this until now? Why? Shoe string potatoes in a sandwich. It’s so simple yet genius at the same time.
Oh, and the best Cuban food can be found at the little mom and pop places hidden from sight.
Word of advice: finish all your food. If you don’t the cooks will come out and demand to know why you didn’t like your food. They will want an explanation. I left a scrap of food on my plate and they made me feel like I was 5 years old again and I didn’t finish my dinner. I wanted to cry.
Finish your food. You don’t want this guy mad at you.
9) Pollo Tropical is like Chipotle with an island twist.
I love the sauce bar. I’m a saucy girl. I’ll fill up those little sauce cups with every single sauce they have. People here love sauce. They have an entire sauce bar dedicated to you saucing up your food. They have hot sauce, salsa, yellow curry, a white sauce with cilantro, and others.
They even give you a bag to hold all the sauce you grabbed to make sure your sauce doesn’t spill and its safe and protected. Sauce is important down here.
My pet name for this place is just, “Pollo”.
Them: “Where are you going for lunch Caroline?”
Them: Complete understanding of what you’re talking about.
10) When you ask for iced tea and you want unsweetened you have to specify unsweetened. Otherwise they’ll automatically bring you sweet tea. Up north the default tea was unsweetened. Here, its sweet tea.
Tea so sweet here that one sip will enter your soul and you’ll soon have such a sugar rush that they will have to scrape you off the ceiling with a spatula.
Unless you’re body is ready for that, for the love of all things holy and good ask for unsweetened.
Me? I like to be in control of my sugar/iced tea ratio. I decide how much sugar I get. I decide! Leave it up to the sweet tea gods and it’s Caroline on the roof fixing a loose shingle on a house that‘s not even hers.
11) Aventura traffic is a force to be reckoned with. If you can drive through there, you can drive through anywhere.
If it’s the holidays, it’s even worse. Pack a lunch for the drive if you have the audacity to drive anywhere near Aventura Mall during the holidays.
A legitimate excuse to being 45min late is, “I had to drive through Aventura to get here.” The person you’re late meeting will just nod their head in complete understanding and all anger will drain away from them.
12) Seeing someone shopping at Whole Foods in 6 inch platform hot pink stillettos, a red mini skirt, a green tank top and bleached blonde hair teased high to get closer to heaven is normal. No one looks at this person twice. In fact, why aren’t you wearing that too?
13) Walking down Lincoln Road in the middle of June during the day will make you sweat more than doing a 2 hour hot yoga class on the “hot side” of the room. Do yourself a favor and wait until sunset.
That way you won’t have to crawl into Starbucks completely dehydrated and begging for iced tea, water or an IV drip.
14) School zones are 15mph. If you go more than that they will get you. I once went 16mph and a flashing sign told me I was going 16 and said, “SLOW DOWN!”
I was only going 16mph! What did the sign want me to do? If I went any slower I’d have to just get out of the car and get a cup of coffee.
When I turn my car on, it’s already going 5mph. When I put my seat belt on its already going a crazy 10mph.
If I sneeze it may go 12mph. At 16mph, I’m considered an unhinged race car driver.
15mph when you’re already late is torture. Yes, I respect the school zones but I’m always thrilled on a major holiday or “teacher work day” when I can drive down the street without my car making fun of me for going so slow. The slow pace hurts my car’s feelings.
15) Cuban coffee.
Where has it been all my life? Where? Tell me why no one told me? I’m so upset.
I think back on all the wasted years of not drinking Cuban coffee and it brings a tear to my eye. Why????!!!!! I have a lot of catching up to do.
When I first starting working here I saw a co-worker feverishly mixing something in a mug. I asked her what she was doing and she innocently said, “A bit of coffee and sugar.“
They take their Cuban coffee seriously here. She mixed it up and poured a small shot glass amount for everyone at work.
I took a sip. I hit the ceiling.
I took a second sip and I remembered where I left my charm bracelet that I lost in the 7th grade.
I took a 3rd sip and I believed that all dreams can come true.
By the time I was done, I was in love with everybody and wanted to cure world hunger.
If everyone on earth drank Cuban coffee there would be no crimes or hatred in the world. Just saying. Think about it.
16) Plantains are in everything and everywhere. Get used to it. And Yuca too. Don’t get me started on fried yuca.
Put them in your cereal, your pasta, next to your chicken or under your pillow so they can invade your dreams.
Living down here is different. I don’t understand it all. But I’ve learned to just go with it.
Mostly I just love it here!