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20 Things Only People from Chicago Understand


Almost every big city you go to has a history and a sense of communal pride that is shared among its people. People from Chicago are notoriously faithful to their city and everything about it, from the smallest aspect to the greatest. Despite the less than stellar reputation it's had in the past, Chicago is still an impressive and awe-inspiring city to behold, and one that residents can attest to is worth living in.

Here are 20 things only people from Chicago understand:

20. How it got the nickname "The Windy City"

Just to make things clear, it has nothing to do with the weather. Regardless of the very real fact that the city is known to host almost every season in a single day sometimes, the nickname comes from the very real fact that politicians in this city seem to be filled with nothing but hot air. It might seem like a rather silly name to give a city for such a reason, but this is why Chicago was stuck with the moniker so long ago.

19. The irritation of being compared to New York City

The two cities are actually quite different no matter what anyone says. They're both large, both heavily populated, but that's about where the similarities end. For one thing, it's cheaper to live in Chicago than New York, and when it comes to talk of the cuisine, any Chicago native would put their finest against anything served in New York in a hot second.

18. What should really go on a hot dog

Ketchup is not an option in Chicago. Your hot dog is more likely to get "dragged through the garden" as the saying goes than to be doused in the sugary red sludge that so many people seem to enjoy on their hot dog. Yellow mustard, onions, pickle relish, tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, pickled peppers, and some celery salt are the acceptable ingredients on a Chicago dog. Anything else is just flat wrong.

17. Complaining about the weather

People all over the country like to complain that they have the coldest, the hottest, and the worst weather on record. Come to Chicago and every single complaint will die on your lips as you witness some of the hottest days and coldest winters you've ever seen. Chicago natives are born tough and raised the same way as a habit, not a rule.

16. The Sears Tower vs. The Willis Tower

It doesn't matter if the naming rights were leased in 2009, the Sears Tower will always be the Sears Tower in Chicago. There are just some things you don't mess with, and a part of history is one of them. So if you're ever in Chicago and happen to see this historic building don't dare say "Willis Tower".

15. Asking where you live isn't just for geographical reference

One out of ten people might ask where you live in Chicago just to know, but most of them will be judging you based on your address the second it passes your lips. Other people might think this is kind of a harsh way to judge anyone, but in truth most people do this without thinking about it. If you live in a particularly bad neighborhood but are the nicest person alive it might not matter to the person you're talking to. Sometimes where you live is all that matters.

14. St. Paddy's day is immeasurably better

This is one of those arguments you just don't win no matter if you have irrefutable facts of who parties harder. St. Paddy's day in Chicago is just below riot level, but instead of people berating one another and going on about political beliefs and the like they're having fun, getting to know each other, and of course drinking until the bars shut down, and sometimes beyond. It's said that no one celebrates this holiday harder than Chicago, and it might be accurate.

13. The dichotomy of Kanye West

People here either love him or hate him, there's really no in-between. To a lot of people he's kind of a jerk, but to some he's a Chicago native for better or for worse. While the world has its own opinion of the often tumultuous star, those in Chicago either back him or shun him without reservation. Even after everything he's done up until now, there are still those that will support him.

12. Don't ever call it "the subway"

Get it right, it's the L, and nothing else. The people of Chicago have a kind of love/hate thing going on with the L, as it can be one of the fastest modes of transport in the city, but it can also be among the most unnerving method as well. Whether it's crowded in the morning and evening with those that don't wish to drive, or crowded because of college students needing to get from one place to the next, it's a transportation system that's not perfect, but adequate.

11. If you can find the lake you know where you're at

Technically the saying goes that if you can find which way is east you'll know where you're at, but close enough. The lake is east, and by the reasoning if you can find it you'll be able to know exactly where you're at in Chicago. Since the city works on a grid system it's not too hard to find your sense of direction once you know where east is. After that, it's all a matter of finding your way along the grid and getting to where you're going.

10. The homicide rate is not as bad as it's been in the past

Despite a rise in homicides from 2015 to 2016 Chicago still isn't the murder capital of the nation that some might think. In fact it's homicide rate has been seen to sit well behind other cities that don't get nearly as much attention. One driving reason for this that people don't seem to think about is that Chicago is in fact a very big city, and anything newsworthy is bound to be broadcast in a way that allows the media and anyone with an opinion to claim whatever they would like. It's not the most dangerous place to live, but one might want to be cautious in various neighborhoods.

9. Even Chicago natives will go to a Sox game over a Cubs game

More and more might be making the switch since the Cubs just accomplished what many thought was utterly impossible when they finally won the World Series again. But in truth, many fans will still be more likely to watch the Sox game just because the Cubs are more or less bound to return to regular form when the season really gets going. As of now they aren't doing all that bad, but even die hard fans are just getting ready for the inevitable.

8. Don't badmouth the Bears

Even if they're having a down season, which has been the norm lately, don't dare badmouth the Bears. Most people in Chicago that are avid football fans simply won't tolerate any negative words about the Bears. Whether you want to talk about Jay Cutler and his mediocre time spent in Chicago or not, that's up for debate, but if you want to talk about the Bears be sure to bring a helmet and a full set of pads because likely as not you're in for a long night.

7. The pecking order is God, then the Blackhawks

It might be a relatively new pecking order, but Chicago residents love their sports and will defend their teams to the death if need be, figuratively speaking most times. The unwritten rule when talking about anyone's sports team, especially in their town, is that you don't bring up anything negative, and you certainly don't bring up any past losses, especially if they happen to be bitter losses that people would rather forget. Next to God, the Blackhawks are almost taboo to talk about in Chicago, unless you're going to go on and on about their accomplishments.

6. Finding a free parking spot is like finding Bigfoot

This is becoming true of a lot of cities, but in Chicago you're usually better grabbing a cab, walking, or taking the L than you are driving. Finding a space to park usually means paying more than you would to go see a movie for two people. That might seem like a lot, but considering that you're in a city that houses that many people it seems rather common. So if you're wanting to park anywhere in Chicago, be on the lookout for that rare, elusive free parking space. Chances are you'll be waiting for a while.

5. There's no such thing as "schools canceled for snow"

Those on the west coast think that a little snow on the ground is enough to call a snow day for schools. In Chicago, people are laughing hard enough to cry as they send their kids to school amidst snow drifts that can almost reach the bus windows. Those that think a snow day is warranted after a few inches have never tried to slog through waist-high snow drifts. It's laughable really to think that a little ice and powder on the road is hard to navigate when the average Chicago native has to shovel for about an hour or so just to get to their driver's side door.

4. Au jus-drenched Italian beef is where it's at

It might look like a hot mess, but it tastes absolutely divine. For anyone that doesn't like a "wet sandwich" don't come to Chicago. This culinary delight is one of the best known and most respected meals in the city. If you don't like it there are plenty of things to eat, but don't dare go without at least trying this common delicacy if you ever visit the windy city.

3. The Bean is actually known as "Cloud Gate"

You know that big, chrome-looking thing that Chicago natives call the Bean? It's actual name is Cloud Gate, and it was formally dedicated in 2006. It's a big deal in Chicago and one of their more interesting tourist attractions that gets a lot of attention. The underside is even more impressive as it distorts and multiplies reflections, making a very cool effect. Hardly ever though will you hear someone call it the Cloud Gate, it's mostly just the Bean.

2. There are North Siders and South Siders

It might be just a quirk of the city that things are done differently on the north side than they are the south side, but there is a very real division between the two. It could have something to do with how different races and cultures take up residence on one side or another, and it could have something to do with the kind of neighborhoods that can be found in each area. No matter what it really is that defines a north sider or a south sider, the truth is that the two are very well aware of each other and there doesn't seem to be any real desire to change this division in the near future.

1. No such thing as a Packer-Backer in Chicago

Well, there might be some, but more often than not they will be fewer in number and will wisely hold off on any comments during the off season. Once football season hits though it's not always wise to wear the green and gold in Bears country, as despite their record as of late, Bears fans stand by their team. The old rivalry between the two teams has been felt for many a year and is still going strong today, meaning that if you walk into a bar in Chicago it might be best to hide that Packers shirt for a while, at least until the Bears aren't playing, or their season has already hit the bricks.





Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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