Hello, all of my fellow mystical Florida babies! No matter where you are in the world now, there’s something to be said for growing up in a place full of oranges and giant mouses, lots of lightning and beautiful winters. Hundreds of thousands of people look to move to Florida as their “retirement” home after using it as a vacation destination for years, but over 200,000 babies are born in Florida each year (of which I am one, birthing class of 1992).
So whether you were born in the Sunshine State or moved here when you were a kid to be raised here, this one’s for you.
27 Signs You Grew Up in Florida
1. You know the “scorching hot lava car” dance where you have to gingerly put each cubic inch of your skin onto the seat until it gets used to the second degree burns. Also related to this is the “OH MY GOD DON’T TOUCH THE SEATBELT” screech which happens when you forget that the metal part of the seatbels is burning with the fire of 1000 suns and you need to let it cool down.
2. Not understanding places without air conditioning.
I moved to England and was all, “what in the world is going on here?” You don’t even believe it’s possible to live in a world without air conditioning, and the sounds of air conditioning commercials is the soundtrack to your childhood.
3. Speaking of air conditioning commercials, you remember this specific one and can recite it word for word.
“Says tommorow’s going to be hotter?”
Yes, HOTTER, you scream in your head/out loud, THIS IS FLORIDA WHAT DO YOU EXPECT.
4. You got really disappointed every time a trip to Disney World would be the prize on a Nickelodean game show like Figure It Out.
I mean, Disney World is literally the best place on earth, but you were hoping for somewhere more exotic like Hawaii or basically any state that wasn’t your own.
5. Hanging out at the local 7/11 after riding your bike there to get slurpees was how you spent almost every summer from the age of about 10. Bonus points if you remember exactly what flavor you got or filled the slurpee all the way to the top before putting the straw in to make sure you got as much as possible.
6. You were really confused the first time you met someone from a landlocked state. It seemed highly improbable that they had never seen a beach before, and you were very dubious while checking out a map to verify. Hey, when you live in a state surrounded by beaches on almost all sides, it’s easy to forget the plight of the landlocked kids.
7. You have spent your whole life trying to figure out if you’re from the South, because geographically you are but culturally you’re not. Unless you live in North Florida, in which case you’ve spent lots of time explaining that you live in the northernmost part of the state which is closest to “the South.”
Raise your hand if you’ve done the “North Florida is the South, Central Florida is for the tourists, and South Florida is rich people and Miami” talk.
8. You went on at least one field trip to the theme parks when you were in middle or high school. Maybe it was Sea World when it was a still loved theme park, maybe it was Islands of Adventure to learn about “rollercoaster engineering,” or maybe it was Cypress Gardens (MAY SHE REST IN PEACE).
9. There was nothing that made your after school shopping trip with your mom better than getting a free cookie at Publix. She would also ask for free slices of lunchmeat and cheese for you even though she knew what it tasted like.
10. You knew that you weren’t allowed to wear hats indoors inside your school until it hit 60 degrees, at which point all bets were off and you were allowed to bundle up as much as you wanted because that was basically an Arctic apocolypse.
11. You are an orange juice snob and have a hard time consuming orange juice that didn’t come straight from your home state (NOT from concentrate, thank you very much).
12. Your family had annual passes to either Disney World or Universal Studios and you feel like you grew up running up and down Main Street or taking a spin on the Cat in the Hat ride over and over again. These aren’t just your favorite vacation spots, they’re your childhood, and you will defend them until you’re blue in the face to anyone who dares to suggest that they are overrated or “just for kids.”
“JUST FOR KIDS? HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF DRINKING AROUND THE WORLD?!”
13. The beach was a nice day trip or weekend getaway for your family, and you didn’t realize that other people spend like weeks at a time on a “beach trip” because they had to travel much further to get there. You thought everybody just packed their boogie board in the backseat after school and spent a few hours surfing the waves.
14. You had a dedicated boogie board storage space in your garage, which may have also held a skimboard depending on how cool you thought you were at the time.
15. You know the unbelievable relief that comes with taking a shower after coming home from the beach and the absolute horror that is a car ride back home sitting on a towel in the backseat (because your parents wouldn’t let you get the seats dirty, obviously) with your fresh sunburn and salt-soaked skin. Just thinking about it makes me feel uncomfortable.
16. Every high school activity was followed with a trip to Steak N Shake. Prom? Steak N Shake? School play? Steak N Shake. Awards ceremony? Steak N Shake.
This was the place where high school gossip flourished and you developed a healthy appetite for burgers and milkshakes at 2 am.
17. Your Driver’s Ed practice took place at your high school in a scorching school parking lot with lessons being taught by a strange combination of a gym teacher and the Spanish/History/Math teacher. And when you took your test, you basically just had to drive really slowly for a couple of minutes and then park in a regular parking spot with no other cars around you. Oh, and you had to do a three point turn which you turned into like a 12 point turn, but your instructor pretended not to notice.
18. You still don’t know how to parallel park or understand why anyone would want to put themselves or their passengers through that particular circle of hell. You will literally walk for like 2 miles to a parking spot so you don’t have to parallel park 2 feet from a building.
19. You’re an expert at doing a skin check to see if your moles have changed, are larger than the size of a pencil eraser, are multi-colored, or aren’t symmetric. You know that skin cancer is no joke and always go for the highest SPF you can find, even when you’re not in sunny climates.
20. Growing up with alligators was just part of life for you, and it wasn’t unusual to have a story about the time animal control had to remove one from your friend’s backyard or from underneath your school’s portable (check and check).
You still believe that you can outrun an alligator if you run in a zig zag style, though have not once looked this up to see if this piece of advice is actually true.
21. You have a healthy respect for lightning and can tell the different types. “Oh, it’s just heat lightning” is a phrase you’ve said a million times, and you know how to tell how far away a thunderstorm is by counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder.
22. You know that the best part about taking the FCAT was when you had a really nice teacher who would bring in snacks and breakfast items for you.
23. Even when you’re not in Florida, you refuse to swim in a lake because you’re not sure what’s lurking under the water. You also have been scarred for life hearing all the stories of brain eating amoebas in stagnant water, so you pass every time. You’ll stick to the oceans and your pool, thanks!
24. You took swimming lessons when you were barely able to walk and pool parties were a staple of your childhood (and adulthood). You don’t appreciate how uncommon backyard swimming pools are in a lot of states and can specifically remember your friend’s houses that DIDN’T have swimming pools rather than the ones that did.
25. You know exactly how to save yourself from a rip current because it was drilled into you over and over again (swim parallel to shore!)
26. When you had your first taste of freedom and were able to drive, you took off to the local TCBY or Coldstone or Bruester’s for ice cream with your friends. Because in Florida, the weather is right for ice cream all year round and why not take advantage of it?
27. You have never had a snow day in your life, but have had plenty of “hurricane” days.
28. You remember watching your parents tape up their windows with duct tape or board them up with plywood when a hurricane is coming into down and being somewhat concerned that they weren’t doing it right and the hurricane was going to whip through your living room and steal all of your toys.
29. You’ve spent at least one hurricane hiding in a closet in the center of your house with the mattress on top of you (shout out to Hurricane Charley and my safety-conscious mom!)
30. You know that Floridians fall into 3 camps – diehard UF supporters, diehard FSU supports, and those of us who just can’t bring themselves to care.
31. Regardless of your religion, you’ve been to a mega church at least once.
32. When you got to pick where to go out to eat for your birthday, Sweet Tomatoes was always in the running. The endless frozen yogurt was just too good to pass up.
33. No matter where you live in the world right now, you’re proud of surviving lightning, heat stroke, sunburns, alligators, rip currents, hurricanes and…well, Augusts.