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I will be totally honest, I had never visited Iowa before we moved here. It’s been such an experience living in a different state… a Yankee state, at that! I thought it would be fun to share some of the quirks I’ve noticed about life in Iowa.
Southern accents are unique
I don’t think I have a Southern accent by any means (have you heard my Louisianan sisters-in-law?! Haha!) but according to everyone here, I do. I refer to things such as buggies (shopping carts), tollers (garbage bins/toters), coke (a soda of any flavor)…. heck, even the state of Iowa I pronounce as Ahh-wah! My accent is the secret weapon of my office whenever we have upset people stop in, because it’s hard to be mad at someone who sounds like a Southern Belle 😉
Snowmobile signs are a thing.
Living in the South, I had heard snowmobiles were a thing, but I thought they were just for recreational purposes. Apparently, people actually drive snowmobiles in wintertime!
There are gates on the interstate for snow closures.
Snow closing a major interstate in Kentucky is pretty rare, so I was surprised to see gates on the entrance ramps of the interstate to stop incoming traffic when the snow is too heavy.
There are farms that “farm” nothing but wind!
I first saw a windmill farm in the mountains of California last year, but I had no idea they had windmill farms in Illinois and Iowa! Now that I think about it, it makes sense since this is Tornado Alley after all. It was super creepy driving past all the blinking windmills late at night. The local colleges even have programs for maintaining the mechanics of the windmills!
Other types of gasoline exist besides unleaded and premium.
The first time I pulled up to a gas pump in Iowa, I spent a good 5 minutes trying to decide which type of gasoline to get. Super unleaded gasoline (E-15) is more common here in Iowa than the “regular stuff” (E-10) since the former has a higher ethanol content (and ethanol is made from corn.) In fact, the gas station near my house doesn’t sell the “regular stuff”; the gas stations that do, sell it at a much higher cost (around $2.50 a gallon.) Even the super unleaded gasoline is more expensive than I’m used to! Both Andy and I drive 2001 model vehicles, so we were hesitant to switch to the super unleaded gasoline at first, but it seems to be doing okay in our cars so far!
It’s a state law to have a license plate on the front of your car.
I didn’t realize that many states require drivers to have license plates on the front of their cars until we moved here. Andy and I keep waiting for the day we’re pulled over for not having the front plate! Since we’re here on active-duty military orders, we’re able to keep our cars registered in Kentucky, which is a “back plate only” kind of state. Also, it’s always a game for us to see which vehicles in town aren’t from Iowa or Minnesota. So far, we’ve seen only 4: my car, Andy’s truck, Andy’s coworker’s car, and the Marine recruiter’s car!
Driving is crazier than I had expected!
I had expected driving to be easy here since we’re in a rural area, so I was shocked to find out that’s not quite the case. People tailgate like it’s nobody’s business! Seriously, at first I thought it was just because I have a Kentucky plate on my car, but my husband’s boss (who has Iowa plates) said it’s just the way of life here. I constantly have to be on guard for drivers riding my bumper (Andy literally could not see a car behind him one time, it was following him that closely!)
Another thing on the topic of driving: stop signs in residential areas. Many residential areas, mine included, do not have stop signs at intersections. The few that do have yield signs instead of stop signs (and we all know how often people actually yield.) I honestly didn’t know towns like this existed until Andy pointed it out to me when we were house-hunting. Slightly off-topic story: he actually totaled his first vehicle in northern Nevada when a tourist from Salt Lake City didn’t stop at an intersection that all the locals knew was the “side street” since the guy, like me, assumed if you don’t have a stop sign you automatically have the right of way. So whenever I’m driving around town, I also have to be careful to 1) remember to stop at all 4-way intersections in the residential areas and 2) look for cars that don’t stop or do a rolling stop. In fact, just a few hours before I started this blog post we almost had a wreck over this same situation!
Iowa State’s team is called the cyclones but their mascot is a cardinal.
On the list of “things I will never understand about Iowa”, this is #1. Like, why not just have a giant tornado as your mascot?! Then again, I come from Kentucky where one of the state school’s mascot is the Hilltoppers which is literally a giant red blob. I still don’t know if I should root for the University of Iowa, Iowa State, or University of Northern Iowa so I just give up and say “Go team!”
There is a tax on bottled and can beverages.
To encourage recycling, bottles and cans have a 5-cent deposit. When you return them to the recycling areas at local stores, you get deposit back. I learned this when I asked the Walmart cashier, “What is this extra 5-cent charge on my receipt?” It’s so hard to remember to bring my drinks home so I can get my money back instead of just throwing it in the recycle bin at work. Speaking of recycling, we have curbside recycling here in town, but they’re incredibly picky about how you sort your recyclables.
There’s a limit to how much garbage you can place on the curb.
This is a quirk Andy and I didn’t expect, but is apparently common in most cities in the US. You can only place so many garbage bags on the curb, whereas since we lived in military housing on base in Kentucky, we were used to people placing entire pieces of furniture on the curb with no issues. Here, we have to buy a tag from the grocery store for each extra bag; if it’s a large piece of furniture, we have to call and see how many tags it will require.
Pets have to have a city license.
In order to “legally” keep our pets here, we had to pay for a city license for each of them in addition to keeping all of their shots up to date. You can bet we paid for only 3 years of our pet license’s and that’s all since we’ll be moving again in 2020.
What are some of the quirks about where you live?