Regional Differences

Something a frequent traveler notices pretty quickly is regional differences. Sometimes it’s clothing related—I’ve noticed (and I’m sure I’m not the first) that New Yorkers wear a lot of black, while in the South there is way more color. Or it could be local vernacular, like saying “y’all” in the South or putting “the” in front of highway numbers in California, i.e. The 101.

So I don’t know if this counts as a regional difference, if it’s just a state difference, or what it could be considered, but I think it’s interesting. The last time I went to Nashville, as I drove down Elm Hill Pike, I noticed the cars around me looked funny. Something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Once I finished my meetings, I walked outside, and realized—the cars don’t have license plates in the front! In Texas, cars are required to have license plates in the front and back. Are there other states that only have plates in back? I have to wonder—what happens if someone from Tennessee is driving through Texas. Do they get in trouble?

After a quick Google search, I found this eHow page that talks about it a bit. Apparently almost half of states only require a license plate on the back of a car. It’s crazy to me that I’ve traveled around the country a LOT for years and this is the first time I’ve noticed this.

Readers, have you ever noticed a state or regional difference that surprised you?

Follow Road Warriorette on Twitter!


  1. On my first visit to Minnesota I learned from a local that there are only three other states: Back East, Down South, and Out West.

  2. Florida does not require them “up front”

    There are certainly differences in terms of dress–i.e. business casual in NYC (slacks with blazer and button down) and ATL (chinos with button down or even polo)…

    I’ve encountered plenty of timing differences, salutations and titles, even different handshakes.

  3. “soda” vs “pop” terminology varies by region

    Food, absolutely. Think grits, regional BBQ styles, and others.

    Driving, for sure. On an Idaho road, when a lane is closing ahead, everyone falls politely into a merger process and NOBODY blasts by to cut in at the front. Well, that used to be … now there are so many Californians it’s probably no longer true. 😉

  4. I have a hard time with the Michigan Left. I’ve been traveling to Detroit/Dearborn a couple of times a year for the last ten years, and coming from Dallas, where we don’t have any traffic rules (at least not any that people pay attention to), the Michigan Left it can be frustrating.

    I understand that it’s safer and I’m sure that if I lived there I’d adjust, but I don’t think that I’d ever get used to it. It’s certainly different….not different bad, just different.

  5. Ha! I’ve only ever lived in Georgia and Tennessee, so I think cars look funny with liscence plates on the front.

    I think the liscence plates work the same way that drivers liscences do- as long as it’s legal and registered in one state, it works in others.

  6. Iced tea. In the south, you need to specify sweetened or unsweetened when ordering at a restaurant. In most other regions of the country, it only comes unsweetened. Growing up in Mississippi, I thought that “sweet tea” was normal. After living in New Mexico for eight years, then moving to Louisiana, it took me a while to remember to request unsweetened when ordering.

  7. An odd one – In addition to no front license plate, North Carolina also requires panhandlers to register at the city’s office, and wear a reflective vest. So, if you’re panhandling without a vest or permit, you get a ticket or something.

  8. The things I have noticed over the years is the front plate on cars. Ohio require a front plate in fact some of our police cars now have a scanner on them that checks the plates for stolen vehicles or warrants. As a disabled person, my Ohio handicap plates do not allow me to park in handicap spots in Indiana and a couple other states do not have a reciprical agreement. My handicap plates can not be used in handicap parking spots in Canada. I have to get a temporary Canadian placard at the U.S. Canadian border.

    The difference in speech patterns between different areas of the country. There are 4 different speech patterns just in the State of Ohio.

  9. I’ve lived all over, but the most interesting oddities were in Alaska. For example, everywhere that ISN’T Alaska is “outside”. Another weirdness–“changeover”–when you exchange your summer tires for your state-mandated studded ones in the fall. The fact that Costco sells literally everything….coffins to skis, to clothes, to food, to blinds, to snowthrowers. Costcos outside are just not the same. It was an interesting three years, I’ll give you that 🙂

  10. Speaking of license plates: a friend of mine is from a rural area in North Carolina where the word “license” is treated as a plural noun, as in “His license were revoked.” The word is used this way in the courtroom by educated people so it’s not merely a class dialect. We’ve never heard of this usage outside of this two-county area.

    And Wendy/#11: yeah, once you live in an area long enough you can definitely notice different patterns within a state. There are several different accents within North Carolina as well.

  11. It’s not the michigan left but as a naturalised european the fact that people overtake on both sides on the highway drives me nuts. It feels so dangerous, and worse than being illegal in most european countries is actually socially unacceptable to boot.

    When in Rome of course do as the romans do, but after 15 years driving up and down these glorious states it still gives me the willies.

  12. I personally am familiar with differing State rules regarding front plates, NY reuires front plates. I actually received a zoning use violation from the New York City Buildings Department for an illegal dump because the inspector saw a vehicle missing front plates. You guessed it, the vehicle was not dumped, it was just from a state with no front plates.

  13. My favorite is soda vs pop vs coke. In Texas, you’d ask for a “coke” and the waitress would ask you what kind – in PA, it’ll get you a Coca-cola.
    Pittsburgh has the Pittsburgh Left (if you’re at a light with no left turn arrow, you can turn left before the oncoming traffic starts – even though they have a green) – among other things. In the DC metro area, no one knows how to drive because there are so many people from so many different areas of the country (and world) – and they don’t all get along….

  14. Speaking of the DC metro area, proper escalator etiquette (i.e. stand on the right, walk on the left) is something the DC metro area takes very seriously.

    After living there for 4+ years and then moving back to the northeast, the lack of proper escalator etiquette in Boston and especially NYC is extremely annoying.

  15. shhh! i don’t have a front license plate. my car wasn’t designed with space for one, and they’d have to drill into my bumper to secure one. i haven’t gotten around to it. fingers crossed i won’t get in trouble.

    i learned that “hella” is a northern california thing.

  16. “All y’all” as a plural for “y’all” here in Texas. Never hear it used that way in the lesser 49.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.