Year One in the Mitten State

One down, unknown quantity to go.  A year ago today, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and took up legal residence in this corner of the Midwest.  All things considered, A2 is a great location, but the state and Michigander culture certainly have unique points.

As I've been repeatedly asked "So what are the differences between Michigan and Indiana?" I decided to whip up a list based on my experiences of this first year.

1. Speed Limits are Suggestions
You know you live in Michigan when the policeman standing on the shoulder of the freeway with a radar scanner doesn't blink when you cruise by at 15 over.  At this point, I wonder how fast one must actually drive in order to get pulled over?  Definitely, don't go the posted speed limit, because you'll get run off the road.

2. The Great Lakes Obsession
It's all about the Great Lakes.  (One might think there's nothing else to brag about?  See #4.)  "Unsalted and Shark Free" is the main tag-line, but the Great Lakes are important for industry, shipping, vacation, bragging rights, advertisement, and to keep the Michiganders contained.

3. Don't Insult Detroit
Unless you're a born-and-bred Michigander.  It's like beating up your siblings - you have every right to do it, but heaven help anyone else who tries.  If you're from out of state, don't say a word about Detroit, or they'll give you a defensive breakdown of exactly how the city is bouncing back.

4. Up North
Closely connected with the Great Lakes obsession is "Up North".  Everyone goes Up North.  Summer weekend?  We'll be Up North.  What I didn't realize until recently is that Up North is actually the very top of the lower peninsula, distinct from the U.P. or Upper Peninsula.  People on the U.P. are few and far between and are called Yoopers.

5. Hockey Octopi
Say that ten times fast.  Somewhere along the line, Detroit Red Wings fans decided that it was a good idea to throw a dead octopus on the ice.  Ostensibly, the tradition started as a reference to the 8 games formerly needed to win the Stanley Cup.  (There's more on Wikipedia - Al the Octopus and Legend of the Octopus.)  Because this is Michigan.

6. Book Paradise
There exists in Detroit the biggest and best bookstore I've ever visited.  John King's Used and Rare Books is stuffed to the gills with books of every shape and size.  It's absolutely beautiful, once you survive the drive into Detroit.  I wrote a post on the awesomeness of King's a while back, here.

7. Pączki, Anyone?
For the uninitiated, that's pronounced "poonch-key", and it refers to the plural of a rich jelly-filled doughnut which is universally consumed in this corner of the world on Shrove Tuesday.  The singular of the word is pączek.  Yes.  I didn't realize until I moved here that south-eastern Michigan is very, very Polish, which is easily apparent when the frozen-food aisle in the grocery is stuffed full of pierogi.

8. Paradise and Hell
You can tell that Michigan was not entirely settled by Polish Catholics, because there exists a Hell, Michigan, and a Paradise, Michigan, but no Purgatory.  Michiganders enjoy much amusement in telling you to "Go to Hell" and then politely explaining that you should take M-36 to get there.

9. Drive South to Canada
Michigan is the only state in the US where it is possible to get into Canada by driving south.  Via the tunnel or bridge in Detroit, I could pay a visit to our neighbors in about two hours.  Crossing the border on the eastern side of the state is apparently standard procedure for Michigan's teenagers wanting to take advantage of Canada's younger drinking age.

10. Built-In GPS
Michigan is very roughly shaped like a mitten.  If you ask someone where they're from, they'll happily hold up their right hand, and right before you think they're going to smack you, they point to a particular wrinkle on their palm.  "Right here!" they proudly exclaim.  For instance, I live in Ann Arbor:

I definitely miss Indiana, but it has been quite a fun experience exploring this new state!  There's much more to see and discover, so this next year should be great, now that I'm more comfortable in my adventures.