Things I’ve Learned Living in Metro Detroit

It’s hard to believe I only moved to Metro Detroit a year ago. It definitely feels like much longer, especially after everything that’s happened since. I feel like I’ve experienced a lifetime in this area, and I still haven’t visited every corner of it.

However, I have noticed some quirks of the region and its people.

Being Called “The Motor City” Does Not Ensure Quality Roads

I cannot tell you how many times I mutter “maybe someday they’ll build a road through here,” as I’m driving and praying my car doesn’t fall apart from the torment it goes through on a daily basis. I find myself constantly wincing as I hit each bump that looks deep enough to sink a ship! Michigan is known for its horrible infrastructure, but I’ve never driven on worse roads than in this region. Pot holes, foot-wide cracks, pushed up asphalt, uneven pavement, shoddy patching jobs, and more are unavoidable. It’s incredible how bad the roads are, and even more incredible how they never seem to be repaired (although a main thoroughfare — and the worst of these roads — is being worked on now). How to avoid the worst? You eventually learn which lanes to drive in, and when to switch into others!

Food Options are as Diverse as Each Community

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be astounded by what you can eat in and outside of Detroit. And I’m not talking about your must-have Detroit Coney Dog. It was only last year that I took my first bite of chicken shawarma and loved it. Apart from the typical American chains, I can tell you where to find authentic Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Greek, Lebanese, BBQ, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese eateries, and many of those are within a few miles of each other if not in the same plaza or strip mall.  In addition, certain cities are known for their international food choices! You want top-notch Polish food? Go to Hamtramck. Middle Eastern grub? Dearborn. There’s just nothing like the food diversity of this area (and Ann Arbor, maybe) anywhere else.

Eminem is Highly Respected

Musicians have come out of Detroit for decades, but in my one-year experience switching between radio stations while driving or enjoying the day, one seems to stand out above the rest. Eminem is a literal rags-to-riches story and he shined a light on Detroit brighter than anyone in the recent past. Before moving to this area, I would maybe hear his music played once a year. Detroit pop stations, however, not only play his songs regularly, but play singles I didn’t even know existed. Radio stations outside of Detroit just don’t have the same regard for Eminem, and have seem to forgotten this master of rap unless he’s on a track with a pop star like Rihanna. Slamming Eminem is basically insulting Detroit.

Many People Don’t Travel Outside of Their Area, Unless There’s a Reason

I actually worked with someone at my last job who was born and raised in one area of Metro Detroit and had never ventured north of a certain main road in his zip code. When I asked why, he looked at me strangely and said, “why would I?” Although I was a bit surprised by his answer, he kind of had a point. Because you have access to everything you need within a certain mile radius at all times, there’s no reason to spend the gas or time in traffic venturing out except for visiting friends, traveling to a specific destination that has only one location, or navigating around highway construction. Even so, as a lover of exploration, I find it strange.

Yellow Traffic Light = Green Traffic Light

Unless you desire to get flipped off by the people behind you, don’t begin slowing down at a yellow light if you have more than two seconds before it flips to red. Yellow lights mean hurry up, especially on long stretches of road that extend through multiple counties or in left turn lanes. You’d think this would mean chaos on the streets, but it actually works because it’s become a general guideline and it does help keep traffic moving during rush hour when traffic lights stay green for less than 15 seconds.

Car Shows/Cruises Dominate Summer Weekends

Being the home of The Big Three, this is completely understandable. There’s a remarkable amount of history to be found in cars, and locals are oh-so-proud to be showcasing it as they participate in these events. Each community has their own and with so little weekends in the summer, you can visit multiple shows or cruises on a Saturday. The most famous of these is probably the Woodward Dream Cruise, which attracts thousands of participants and spectators. You know it’s getting toward summer when classic and sports cars are out on the roads, and its likely you’ll see some of the most exotic, rare, and literally one-of-a-kind specimens at these events.

Going “Up North” has a Very Different Meaning

Because Detroit is so far south in Michigan, to many who live in the area, going “up north” for the weekend doesn’t mean the same to people who live elsewhere. It’s all relative. For me, “up north” means going to or past the top third portion of the Lower Peninsula; Gaylord, for example, or Petoskey. However, many residents here think it means going as far as Frankenmuth, or maybe Midland if they’re ambitious. It’s also rare for me to  hear of people venturing to the west side of the state, where the lake shore is much more beautiful. I often wonder how many Detroit-area natives have been to the Upper Peninsula or even Mackinaw City.

You Only Say You Live in Detroit if You Actually Live in Detroit

This is true unless you’re speaking to someone who’s not from anywhere near the area. Detroit can be used as a general term for people who wouldn’t know Wyandotte from Wixom. However, you don’t live in Detroit proper unless you’re officially within the city limits, and it’s weird to say you do to someone who lives and/or grew up in Detroit or its outlying cities. And saying you live in a township is perfectly acceptable, whereas you wouldn’t anywhere near my hometown.

Do you experience some of the same traits in the area where you live? Share them with me in the comments!


—Photo by Justin McKee

About Karin

Journalist, singer, reader, movie fanatic, photography buff, GVSU alum, wanna-be-Brit, Crohn's fighter, Coca-Cola addict, animal lover, not a kid person, hater of winter, Michigander
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