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Geography 🌎 Florida -- Southern, Northern or what?


Dear Leader
Staff member
For some reason, when I describe the Florida where I live, it doesn't sound like the Florida that most Floridians I've met are familiar with, even those living in the same metropolitan area.

I'm in Ocoee, a middle-class western suburb of Orlando. (From a current planning perspective, Ocoee's not bad for a typical American suburb -- tough design regulations, low signs, lots of landscaping, that sort of thing.) However, you'll hear a lot of southern accents in Ocoee. These are Florida natives, mind you, but they sound like they're from Georgia -- Ocoee could just as well be a nice suburb of Charlotte or Atlanta. Head west to Winter Garden, and the accent intensifies, while the culture outlook heads further south of the Mason-Dixon -- people flying Confederate flags, big "3"s on cars and garage doors, old-school country music playing in the background at every restaurant, and so on. Apopka seems to fall between Ocoee and Winter Garden in its "Southernness."

In the rest of the Orlando area, though, folks sound like they come from "up north," talking in typical Midwestern accents. Away from west Orange County, there's little evidence of "Southernness." Few 3s, few accents, few Stars and Bars -- I could just as well be in Des Moines, only it's sunnier. When I tell "East Side" or "North Side" residents that I live in Ocoee, the result is usually a snicker and a comment about hicks. Apparently, I live in some detached enclave of South Carolina or Alabama, surrounded by damn Yankees.

So, what's more normal in Florida -- Southern culture or Northern culture? Is Florida a Southern state, a colony of the north, or something else?
Although I have been to Florida just once in my life, I can say that it is not a rare thing to see in a local Upstate New York newspaper the weather forecast for Florida.


Florida is not normal

I was Born and raised in Pembroke Pines back when development ended at University Drive, (it stretches now to US 27!) and dairy farms dominated. My high school McArthur in Hollywood was named after the local dairy and kids always used to find cow bones when building sand forts in the housing developments. Of all the families in the neighborhood and in school I remember only a handful were 2nd or 3rd generation floridians, the rest were from the Northeast.

My folks are from Philadelphia and moved to Broward in the late fifties, my accent was S. philly/with some funky southern phraseology throwed in. I picked up Spanglish when working in the old hick outpost of Hialeah(a real planning and zoning nightmare). When the French Canadiennes discoverd Hollywood Beach the sunburned overweight Quebecois in teeny bikinis dominated the scene. My folks now live in Fernandina Bch which everyone knows is really south Georgia, a brother lives in Coral Gables which is more Caribbeann/Euro/so.American than miamuh cracker and the in-laws are on the Gulf Coast along with every other midwestern retiree. Another bro married a petite French Canadienne and now lives in Winter Springs their kids speak french and spanish and go to school with other "native floridians" black brown white and yellow. My sisters and I all left the state to find our fortunes and men elsewhere.

Hicks aren't a southern specialty, jeez why my neighbor I'd consider a Michigan hick (burns all his garbage including oil filters and mattresses) is on the sex offenders list for being naughty with a teenage step daughter and drives a monster truck with no muffler).Ok he's worse than a hick .

But Florida is one huge melting pot of ethnicities and the lines between southern and northern are too blurry to discern anymore.
I left the sunny state in 1989, I love the rural country side of west michigan but if I were to retire I'd consider Hollywood by the beach, its funky, has charm and a minimum of highrises. Also worth mentioning are the three bona fide traffic circles along Hollywood Blvd, ignore the painted lines and follow your own "line" second and third gear screaming and sliding around the circles bang it into fourth and fifth (I used to drive a VW GTI) and you're at the beach in minutes! Used to set the blue shrunken heads spinning! Ah the memories.
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Florida is like five different states connected by a narrow strip of land. You have the Conch Republic in the keys, "Las Americas" between the Keys and Ft. Lauderdale, Superburbia between Ft. Lauderdale and the I-4 corridor, the "southun hoss" plantations in north central Florida, and the "Redneck Rivieria" along the panhandle. My experience (26 years in the state) has been that inland areas north of Port St. Lucie tend to be colonized by rednecks, retirees and fugitives from America's Most Wanted.

Curious how the transition from Colorado to Florida is working out for you Dan...I may end up returning in the future to be closer to my family.