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The 10 Biggest Culture Shocks Of Moving From Chicago To Vermont

If you grew up near Chicago—like I did—then you know that when you’re looking at colleges, everyone pretty much expects the same thing; Big 10 schools like Indiana, Michigan State, and the University of Illinois are practically magnets for Chicago high-schoolers. No one would bat an eye if someone said they applied to those schools. But you should have seen the looks I got when I told people I applied to the University of Vermont. To Chicagoans, Vermont is like a half-forgotten, mysterious world whose greatest exports are maple syrup and Bernie Sanders. I saw Vermont that way too. I had no idea what to expect my first few months living there. But I never could have imagined how different it would be. To say I went through some extreme culture shock would be a gross understatement.

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1. There is no flat. There is only uphill and downhill

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I didn’t know what to think when I was walking around during my first week of classes. I could not walk ten feet without either going uphill or downhill. It was pure insanity.

2. Things burn down here . . . for real

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I have never heard of a single thing burning down in my entire life until I moved to Vermont. And it didn’t even take very long! I think I lived here for maybe three weeks before a barn at Shelburne Farms burned down. I didn’t even know things burned down anymore! I mean, come on people. Were we the only ones who learned from the Chicago Fire?

3. Soft-serve is wrong

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Saying soft-serve here is dangerous. They don’t have soft-serve; they have "creemees". Theoretically the "creemee" has an extra couple percentages of cream or fat, thus making the texture creamier than your standard soft-serve. Have I been able to taste the difference? No. Am I uncomfortable telling people I’m in the mood for a creeme? Yes.

(Don’t tell my native Vermont friends I said that. They’ll hurt me).

4. Umm . . . do you even know where "the south" is?

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I was completely lost in lectures until I finally realized that directions are used in respect to Vermont’s position in the country. I could not figure out how my professor thought that you would find snow in the south, until he elaborated.

By “the south,” he meant to say Connecticut.

5. Extreme politeness makes walking through doors an ordeal

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It takes me an extra 30 seconds to get in or out of any building on campus. Want to know why? I’ll tell you. Whenever I walk through the door and I see someone coming my way, I hold the door open for them. But these are double doors, so when that person saw me, they opened the door on their side to let me through. Now we are both holding the door open for each other, completely stuck—and neither of us know what to do.

Everyone probably knows I’m not from around here, because I just don’t hold the door open for people anymore.

7. Everything is maple flavored

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I thought being able to order Maple Frosted Donuts at Dunkin Donuts was just an isolated incident. But the longer I’ve stayed here, the more maple I’ve seen. Maple creemees, maple toffee, maple crème brûlée—even scallops served in a maple mustard sauce! Where I’m from, you put maple syrup on your pancakes and waffles. That’s it.

8. So. Much. White.

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Almost everyone in Vermont is white. It’s a miracle if you more than one person of color in an entire day. Honestly, even I’m uncomfortable with how white-washed the state is. All I want is to see a little color here and there … is that too much to ask?

9. Bernie is Vermont's messiah

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At the mere mention of his name, almost every Vermonter feels the passionate need to proclaim their eternal love for the senator, before finally sitting back with a dreamy—almost enamored—look in their eyes. But I didn’t fight this one too hard. After all, it’s Bernie.

10. The airports

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Burlington International is nothing short of a vision of a better world. The last time I flew home everything went perfectly: I arrived half an hour before boarding began, found my gate waiting for me at the top of the staircase, proceeded through security as the only one in line, then sat in a rocking chair until they called my group. O'hare, you should take some notes.

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