Welcome to Miami: Four Local Customs That Outsiders Just Don't Understand

Categories: Listicles

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As the world's-only claustrophobe/agoraphobe combo, I considered Miami to be a geographic nightmare when I moved here two months ago. Being down here means being down here -- it would take double-digit hours of high-risk driving for me to escape from Florida's trenches. If I took I-75, I would have to traverse the terrifyingly named Alligator Alley, and if I took I-95, I'd be whiteknuckling it through the most dangerous stretch of Interstate in the country. Excepting like, the bottom of the Grand Canyon or some places in Alaska only accessible by helicopter, South Florida is probably the hardest place to escape from in the United States.

So, forget civilization. Now that I've ended up in the Magic City, it's probably best to embrace its magic, which means accepting geographic isolation and its effect on native Miamians. As Mark Twain once wrote, "Customs don't concern themselves with right or wrong or reason." That's more true here than anywhere else. Here are the four customs I've found the hardest to adjust to as an outsider:

besitos.png
Besitos
I'm not sure if my parents weren't affectionate enough with me as a child or what, but this new system of salutation definitely constituted problem for at least a month. As such, I would walk around in a low-level panic at all times, dreading the possibility of meeting anyone. When I had to introduce myself, I fully committed, conflating the forcefulness of lip-to-cheek contact with a demonstration of respect for my new acquaintance. As it turns out, that kind of thinking is a good way to end up either hurting old people who are unprepared to have the entire weight of your body draped over them, or to have a lot of random bar bros mistake your naive enthusiasm for ... lascivious intent?

In every other place I've lived, handshakes are a litmus test. If a stranger doesn't respect you, that's put out in the open within the first few seconds of meeting them. A limp handshake is offensive while a firm grip is affirming. Simple. But how am I supposed to judge little baby kisses, which are little and baby-like by definition?

vicecitycopy.jpg
Driving Like It's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in Real Life
Historically, I've been pretty reticent to use my car horn. A person could be speeding toward me while going the wrong way on the highway in a car covered in "Baby Onboard" signage, and I'd probably be like, "I don't know, beeping seems excessive here. I will now flash my lights and trust this settles all matters of civic responsibility." But in Miami, if you aren't willing to run a red light across six lanes of traffic into a crosswalk full of senior citizens, you're likely to face the disapproval of your driving peers in the form of a beep-boop symphony.

Does defensive driving exist here, or do Miamians look at life as an open casting call for Fast and the Furious 9? To those who keep hating on my admittedly grandma-esque driving: You aren't Vin Diesel, there are no bonus points for Tokyo drifting underneath a semi-full of Jupiña, and putting a tailfin on your 2003 Honda Civic does not disguise the fact that you drive a 2003 Honda Civic -- nor does it make you Ryan Gosling from Drive.

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17 comments
raffy981
raffy981

We give besitos because most of us grew up around real loving families and because it's just our custom... we drive fast and loco because distances are long, this is no Kansas (and have you seen how many cars are in any highway/street at any time of the day?) people like you (newcomers) and the huge amount of tourists that we get don't seem to be in a hurry at all -and/or have no clue of where they're going- so we got to drive like that to get where we want to before we miss our novelas or a tweet from Pepe $. But don't worry, you'll get it in a couple more months when "season" starts...  The "religious artifacts", well, I could go on and on about this one but I really will have to refer to my previous comment where I mentioned that "we got to move" so the ones that really do not use them, do the same thing that me as a guy, would do when passing the tampon section of the store: keep walking, again, not Kansas, not a place to "investigate" what they have, not another Orlando park... its just a store. I think its a great advantage to live in a city where you can find almost anything you need in almost any store, not sure that you think the same way though...  The kids: well, if you are so "kidphobic", then, I would have to refer you to the start of my comment... the part where I speak of growing up around loving families (and friends also)... if you get mad because a kid touches you, how will you even going to act when a niece pukes on you?? And to tell you the truth, I have no clue of what you are talking about there because I do not recall having rugrats climb over me and I actually laugh my ass off when I see a kid getting smacked in a store aisle when they deserve it, and yes, I do believe they need it just as I needed it when growing up. It made me a better person and not just a whiney one... 

Besides the point that I give besitos, drive fast -and honk- don't buy "weird religious stuff" and embrace little rugrats because once, I was one of them, I think you really need to get out of your bubble... you obviously never lived in a big city and are going thru the phase of a newcomer were you think this things are "305's only" and get very impressed by them... but we forgive you. Well, not really,  we just don't give a crap when people talks smack about our city because like it or not, we live in a place that the whole world wants to go to... and I agree with the kiss comment that somebody gave: we don't really kiss, sometimes we don't even touch cheeks... and when somebody extends that courtesy to you, you should embrace it and not put it under "weird customs of Miami" because it is a a tradition that over 1 billion people have... but of course, how would you know that?? 

If you want to talk about "Miami customs", I would suggest this other 4: 

1) anywhere you go you speak english y te responden en español...

2) how can it be that if you're going 70 to 80 on a 55MPH zone right next to a cop, you don't get pulled over unless is a trooper??

3) what? locals don't really go to the beach?

4) really? great lunch for 5$?? and why does people forget Starbucks 5$ latte after they try a cafe con leche or a cortadito for 1$? 

there, work on those, they seem to be a lot less insulting than the ones you picked...

Que tengas un buen dia! 

PS: by the way, Miami Water is an after shave, no seas tan come pingaaaa!!!



vicequeenmaria
vicequeenmaria

Ah, a story told over and over again.  The naivete of new arrivals ... always (foolishly) comparing Miami to other cities, as if other cities were paradise, too, as if Miami doesn't have a right to stand on its own.  A little xenophobia, maybe?

If you were a true agoraphobe, you wouldn't be driving *anywhere* and it would be difficult to maintain a job as a writer. I know, from personal experience.  What gives?

Marion Blohm
Marion Blohm

too funny true but funny and you are right johnny i am sure that most major cities have these customs.. but i like that people think that us miamians are so unique that they always write stuff like this.. makes me laugh

ckinsobe
ckinsobe

 Please note that besitos are not a lip to cheek thing, they are a cheek to cheek thing while smacking your lips as a kiss. A Canadian friend of mine would drive me nuts by always smacking his lips on my cheek and leaving a wet spot, eeeewww. Just stare right ahead when you do this, please!

gmoreno3412
gmoreno3412

I started reading the article anticipating funny, quirky, or even peculiar anecdotes unique to our beautiful Magic City (of which there are many). Now that I'm done, I'm still trying to find those.  Instead of questioning whether the author has ever even been down to the Magic City, I'm just going to assume that she hasn't been here long enough... or may just hasn't gotten out enough.  Allie, this city has aloooot more material for you, why don't you consider taking another stab at this article some time in the future. In the meantime visit Little Havana, Hialeah, Coconut Grove, Kendall, South Beach... any one of these will give you enough material to write for weeks.

I'll be looking forward to a W2M; Local customs that outsiders just don't understand Part II

sallyelizabeth9
sallyelizabeth9

I would say this article is mostly true. I travel a lot and I can tell the stark difference between the 305 and every other city in America (especially driving style-wise), but the one thing I disagree with is that it's not the kids' fault they don't know what personal space is, it's there rude parents who have no concept of it. Everyone in MIA knows at least one person who either needs a driving course or a manners 101 class....or both.

I'll never forget I was at a store down here and a lady decided to pick up one of my items off of the moving belt right in front of me and decided to inspect it with her grubby hands. It was infuriating. 

Palangana
Palangana topcommenter

Nobody honks in Miami.  Miamians are afraid to honk.  I don't know why the misconception keeps getting repeated that Miami is a honky town.

Johnny Sterlin
Johnny Sterlin

Am I the only one that think this article is absurd, and an over kill. If you were looking for sensationalism, guess you got it . It was more comedy than veracity as your cited 4 customs are also part of most major cities in this great country. You did get assistance though......

Cheryl Ducat Wiedenfeld
Cheryl Ducat Wiedenfeld

Love the article, the only thing I would say is that while agreeing with you about the lack of parenting, it is NOT exclusive to Miami!

Tony Miller
Tony Miller

^ these adults get cars and the circle continues.

Ric Frambach
Ric Frambach

funny, but all true ! children who don't understand personal space grow up to be adults who don't understand personal space...

Nadine Hays Johnson
Nadine Hays Johnson

Very funny! You forgot to mention how a group of people will stop in the middle of the aisle in a store, making it impossible to pass by and then act insulted when you say excuse me and attempt to go by them.

carydawn
carydawn

I used to drive like that in Mia. I live in Atl now and they don't play that, cops everywhere.

Palangana
Palangana topcommenter

@Johnny Sterlin I just checked and, yes, you're the only one.

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