I've lived in Phoenix, Arizona (with the exception of a few years in Los Angeles) since I was a teenager. And since I grew up in Minneapolis, there wasn't much of a “culture shock” for me. Most of the people I've known in Phoenix are from the midwest, such as Iowa, or Minnesota. Or their parents, or grandparents, were. And if their family goes back in Phoenix beyond that, they have been in a city that has been immersed in Midwestern culture for a very long time, so they don't find midwestern behavior, or culture, all that unusual.
Of course, if you've never lived anywhere else in your life, you will deny that there is any culture at all. I am a believer that people all live in tribes and just call themselves “the people” and never consider that they have a “culture” or an “etiquette” at all - that's just the way things are done.
But if you've lived elsewhere, you know that every place has its own etiquette, and culture. That is, acceptable behavior. And since most of us don't want to feel stupid, or make social mistakes, it's important to learn the culture for a particular area. The good news is that if you're from Iowa, or Minnesota, or anywhere in the midwest, Phoenix will be immediately comfortable. If you're from elsewhere, you need to look out for a few things. Here they are:
• In Phoenix, we don't honk the horn of our cars. Whether this is the exaggerated courtesy of the midwest, or whether it's because it's a good way to get shot at, people don't honk in Phoenix. If you've lived in New York City, for example, honking is an acceptable behavior. I've even known Phoenicians who were reluctant to honk even if someone was backing up into them. When you hear honking horns in Phoenix, you are hearing outsiders.
• In Phoenix, we don't hug. Even though Arizona is right next door to Hollywood, going around hugging everyone will mark you as an outsider. In Phoenix, we give a hearty handshake. This is Western, and Midwestern, behavior. If you like to hug, this may seem kind of stand-offish. It is.
• In Phoenix, family is important. This is a the strong influence of Hispanic culture. This was the only “culture shock” that I experienced when I moved from Minneapolis. Where I grew up, relatives were to be avoided, as people who would want to borrow money, or something. In Phoenix, I watched my friend Miguel walk down the street by his house and point to where a cousin lived, an uncle, etc. And I never heard the term “shirt-tail relative” in Phoenix. If family is important to you, you will do fine in Phoenix. If not, try it, it's kind of nice.
I've made it a point to hang out with “locals” whenever I have moved to a new city. But really, you'll never actually fit in. You'll always be a little bit of an outsider. Here in Phoenix, even after all of these years, I am still very Minneapolis to the locals. When I go back to Minneapolis, I am very Phoenix.
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