I was a little nervous, because I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what was in Utah. I did some research online before I left, and I had one visit with my dad before I drove out with my sister across the country.
I was shocked at the beauty of my initial visit here in November 2013, and after that visit, I was 10x more excited to give this new place a try.
The first few months were a series of failures on my part to fit in to the culture that was distinctly different than anything I was accustomed to in Florida.
For reference, Florida is an eclectic mix of people. To the North, the panhandle is a lot of communities that would fit in “The South”, along the coasts, there are beach-y, laid back towns, in the middle of the state there is Mickey Mouse World (Tourist Central), and to the south, Miami is a culture in itself. It’s a weird mix, but I feel like there is enough diversity in the larger cities, that it’s hard to find yourself on the “outside” of any group.
This is a pretty funny illustration and description to a native Floridian, like me:
Utah is very different culturally than Florida. Since I’m not from here, I’m going to try to articulate some of the lessons I’ve learned here from my East Coast/Floridian/outsider perspective.
1.) This is not a dry state.
The first question that people ask me at the hotel when I’m working is: Isn’t this a dry state?!
The answer is no. Utah is not a dry state, but there are liquor laws that are stricter (and different) than other states. In fact, we have some great breweries (Squatters, Red Rock) and cideries (Mountain West) in town!
Recently, we visited Snowbird’s Brewfest! A drink or two with a view 😉
Getting a Drink in Utah: A Quick Guide (Source):
- “Utah beer” (the kind found in grocery stores) is 3.2% alcohol by weight, but by volume—the standard measurement—it’s 4.0%.
- You can get high-point beer—that is, any beer over 4.0% alcohol by volume (ABV)—at most bars and restaurants, but it must be served in bottles. Anything on tap is 4.0% ABV.
- Buying it to go? Full-strength beer, wine, and liquor can be purchased to go from state liquor stores, breweries, distilleries, wineries, and some hotels and resorts. State liquor stores are closed on Sundays and major holidays.
- You can buy 4.0% beer practically everywhere: grocery stores, gas stations, arenas, festivals, etc.
- If you’re drinking at a restaurant, you’ll need to be “dining” in that restaurant in order to be served alcohol. But that doesn’t mean you need to order a full meal. You can order just a single appetizer along with your drink (the app can be shared with your group). Ordering food is not required at bars and clubs.
- If you’re drinking at a restaurant that opened after July 2012, your bartender will mix your drink out of view (for the children…or something). This is jokingly referred to as “The Zion Curtain,” and is not in effect at bars and clubs.
- Your cocktail can contain up to 2.5oz of liquor. You can have more than one drink in front of you at a time, but you can’t have a “double” or “sidecar” (don’t ask us why).
- At restaurants, you can buy booze beginning at 11:30 a.m. At clubs and bars: 10 a.m.
- Last call is at 1 a.m.
2.) Most businesses are closed on Sundays.
Looking for a bite to eat on Sunday? Better look up those business hours!
This is me every time I forget to check Sunday hours, and I show up to a place that’s closed…
50 years ago, almost every business in Utah closed on Sunday. Though times have changed that, many businesses still remain closed on Sunday.
In Florida, I can only think of 1 store off the top of my head that’s not open on Sunday: Chik-Fil-A.
Sunday business is influenced by operational costs, customer demand, and religious views of the owners and consumers. At this point most grocery stores, gas stations, and chain stores are open on Sundays. But as a consumer, I’ve noticed that many locally-owned shops such as coffee shops, restaurants, retailers will close on Sundays.
Save yourself the hassle, and check the business hours via their website or a phone call before you make the trip. 🙂
3.) Utah has its own holiday: Pioneer Day, July 24.
Poll– Anyone from out of state (with no connection to Utah): Have you heard of Pioneer Day?
Yeah, until I had moved here, I hadn’t either.
Pioneer Day is a state holiday that commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
Huh. Pioneer Day’s celebrations remind me of Independence Day’s in many ways: it’s in July, there are usually BBQs, parades and fireworks, and many businesses close in celebration.
4.) If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.
Ah, Utah weather. Lovely and unpredictable. In spring and fall especially, the weather can be very bipolar with a beautiful warm sunny day turning to cold and wet slush within a matter of a few minutes. The first year I was here, it snowed in June! It was very weird.
This is photo was taken on June 18, 2014. You wouldn’t know it from the scenery, though!
Earlier this year it was a spring day, 75 and sunny, and a few clouds in the sky turned into a hail storm within my 10 minute drive to work. By the next hour, the roads were dry and people who hadn’t seen it were none the wiser.
As a side note from this point, the seasons are a very distinct winter, spring, summer, fall. I look forward to the changes every year. The weather will range from 110 degrees and dry in summer to snow storms and below freezing in the winter.
Lesson learned? Be prepared, especially in spring and fall.
5.) Many drivers don’t use their turn signals.
I know! It seems like every state says they have the worst drivers. I’m not saying that Utah has the worst drivers, because they aren’t, but they do have some weirdly inconsiderate drivers here.
For instance, if you’re driving on the highway, and you put your turn signal on, you may find the driver on that side speeding up, making it difficult for you to merge over. In Florida, I haven’t seen that as a persistent problem (Florida has other problems). They also tend to not use their turn signals… which is very frustrating!
I also feel like people tend to follow too close behind and/or they cut you off. I’m sure this is my inner granny driver self venting. The lesson here is just pay attention as you would in any driving situation!
6.) Fry sauce and funeral potatoes
Utahns have their own special foods!
First, fry sauce.
What is fry sauce, you may ask? Fry sauce is a regional condiment served with fries. It is usually a combination of one part ketchup and two parts mayonnaise. I personally do not like fries (I am super weird, I know), or ketchup (ditto)… So this doesn’t affect me much, but it’s something you should know if you’re ever visiting.
Fun tidbit: A local chain in Utah, Arctic Circle, claims to have invented “fry sauce” but that is not a proven fact.
Another popular traditional Utah food is “funeral potatoes.” I haven’t had the opportunity to eat them (I’ve only heard of them so far) yet, but Wikipedia came to my rescue to enlighten us!
Funeral potatoes (also known as Mormon funeral potatoes) are a traditional potato casserole that originated in the Intermountain West region of the United States. Mormon people call this dish funeral potatoes because the casserole is commonly served as a side dish during traditional after-funeral dinners, such as those planned by members of the Relief Society (LDS auxiliary organization). Funeral potatoes are also served at other social gatherings, such as potlucks, typically in areas with a significant Latter-day Saint population in the Mormon Corridor. (Source).
From what I gather, they’re a cheesy-scalloped baked potato casserole. Sounds pretty yummy and comforting, right?
7.) Inversion is a problem.
I discussed inversion in my Valentine’s Day post back in February, but it deserves to be mentioned again in this post!
Time for a quick story of my introduction of inversion–
When I first moved to SLC back in January 2014, one of the first days I was here after my sister left, I decided to go on a run in the park about a half mile from the house in Sugarhouse.
Sugarhouse Park is gorgeous in every season, winter included, and I felt like getting out of the house, even though I had a little cough leftover from the cold Katie gave me on our trip. I started running, and realized it was much harder to run in SLC than in Florida. I thought at the time it was a combination of things: running at a high elevation (from sea level), leftover head cold, the cold weather, etc. Well, after my run, my lungs were burning. It was a terrible feeling. I couldn’t breathe, my lungs burned, I couldn’t stop coughing. I was told later that I was probably running in inversion.
I was confused because I’d never heard of inversion. In extremely simplified terms, it’s poor air quality that happens during the winter in SLC since the city is situated in a valley between two mountain ranges. Some Utahns that exercise outdoors during the winter months choose to wear pollution masks that help filter out the nasty air while they exercise.
The RZ Mask is an example of what you might see people wearing during the winter:
Utah is beautiful most of the time, but this is my least favorite part of their seasons.
7.) No, not everyone is LDS (Mormon).
I mentioned that one of the questions I got when I first moved here was: Isn’t everyone a polygamist? Well the other question is “Isn’t everyone Mormon?”
The answer is no. While Utah has the highest concentration of LDS population, only about 60% of the state identifies themselves as Mormon. That’s 40% of people who are not!
Salt Lake City has the lowest population of Mormons in the state of Utah, and actually has a very active LGBT community, which creates an interesting cultural mix.
8.) Salt Lake is a black hole.
Salt Lake is oddly like a black hole. I’ve met many people who have moved here from other states, and haven’t ever moved since. I mean, who could blame them? There are gorgeous views, plenty of outdoor recreation activities, lots of family values, the cost of living is cheap in comparison to other mid-size cities, and there are lots of places you can road trip to in a day’s drive (Yellowstone, Denver, Grand Tetons, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Arches, Zion, Grand Canyon, to name a few).
Did you know that Utah was named Best State with Work/Life Balance? The factors that tipped the scale were:
1) Utah residents work the fewest hours on average per week in the country: just 36.8.
2) Utah has the highest marriage rate in the country (56%)
3) Unemployment rate is the seventh lowest in the U.S.!
All of the factors that came into play in the study were:
- Commute time (Shorter is better)
- Hours worked per week (Shorter is better)
- Married population (Higher is better)
- College educated (Higher is better)
- Unemployment rate (Lower is better)
- Religious population (Higher is better)
- Things to do per capita (Higher is better)
In addition to work/life balance, Salt Lake has been on a few “best of” lists in recent years. My favorite on that list? National Geographic’s Best U.S. Hiking Cities list! SLC ranked #1!
9.) Many Utahns think that anything more than a 10-15 minute drive is too long.
Brighton is going to roll his eyes when he sees this one. Salt Lake is blessed by having most things within a 10-15 minute drive of their house. So whenever something hits that 20 minute commute mark, it’s not nearly as accessible. We have friends that live in Draper and Sandy (suburbs of Salt Lake), and I feel like they live really “far” from our house located just north of downtown Salt Lake.
10.) The cost of living is low and the population is ever-growing.
The cost of living is about the same as the St. Pete/Tampa, FL area according to recent numbers. In comparison to Seattle, WA, the cost of living is about 25% less! I would consider SLC to be a mid-size city. I often feel it’s about the same size as St. Pete, which is why I feel comfortable with it. Many companies looking to expand are starting to open offices in the Salt Lake/Provo area since the cost of living is lower there than in say, San Francisco or Seattle.
In addition to relatively low cost of living, the population is ever-growing in these areas. In December 2014, the Washington Times via the Salt Lake Tribune found that Utah’s population grew twice as fast as the rest of the country. This is partly due to the high birth rates, and youngest median age.
Utah is on track to nearly double its current population of 2.9 million people by the year 2050.
Utah residents thought that it had to do with people moving from out of state (like me!) moving here, but it actually is the high birth rates of the state. As a result of the growing population, suburbs have popped up from one end of the valley to the other. (See map above)
11.) The Utah accent and “clean” cuss words!
Okay, in general, Utahns don’t have a strong accent… but they do say certain words in a particular way.
Mountain = Mow’un Sale = Sell
Meal = Mel
Tooele = Too-ill-uh Wash = Warsh
You won’t hear these from everyone, but you might notice the trend if you’re here long enough. The other one that I have noticed is the phrase “just barely” everywhere! It’s the worst!
Example: “I just barely put that order in.”
Why couldn’t they say “I just finished putting that order in,” or “I just put that order in.” Barely is not necessary! If you visit or live in Utah, listen for this one. I promise you’ll notice it too!
The last point I’ve noticed is that Utahns have their own versions of curse words. When I moved here and started at my internship, I was surprised that adults used the phrase “freakin’ heck” instead of the more offensive version. Coming from a college town, it was a little bit of a culture shock.
Here are some examples you might hear:
10. Shut the front door
12. Oh my gosh
If you visit or move here, be conscious of this as you might offend the locals.
What Utahisms have you noticed while visiting or living here? What did I forget? 🙂