Miami, Florida is one of the sexiest cities on the planet. But not without its eccentricities. Below are 10 things that might surprise you when visiting. To Miamians, it's all good!
1. Accepting Cafecito in a Tiny Cup From a Stranger.
Every corner of this city has a small bakery with Cuban coffee and pastries. There, you don’t sit down and sip on your mocha as you enjoy the newspaper like a Starbucks. There you put 50 cents on the counter and say “hit me” and within seconds you have your shot of the dark, uber-sweet, Cuban concoction.
If a stranger came up to you and randomly offered some sort of liquid in a tiny white cup would you drink it, no questions asked? Well in Miami, Florida… If it is a tiny plastic cup full of Cuban espresso then yes. The Cuban culture is all over Miami and a very common social norm is to take a Cafecito wherever you are going and give it to the room in tiny white cups. And it is not only okay to accept it, it is often considered rude not to. If you don’t know what Cuban coffee is, all I can say is that it resembles concentrated caffeine infused coffee permeated with and abundance of the sweetest sugar. Perhaps it’s an addiction, and Miami is the user… This stranger is being kind so pay it forward and take some delicious cafecito to your next appointment.
2. Turning Signal, Optional.
Driving in Miami can be an ordeal. Not only is it a tourist haven and metropolis, it is a melting pot of people from all over the world. With all these cultures, there are a lot of things that have to be foregone in terms of driving regulation. Maybe in other countries driving is like video game were the quickest person to cut you off with no indication and then stop to check something in their back seat is the status quo, or maybe it’s the sun burns… Be alert and maybe not too courteous. Turning signals are optional? “No pero whatever” a Miamian might say. This will be repeated throughout the list: Miami is a melting pot of cultures, immigrants, natives, Caucasian and everything in between. Some of the countries many people grew up in hardly have cars much less working turning signals, and in many of them you actually would be safer if the people behind you didn’t know where you are going. Oh, and P.S., turning on the signal as you are already turning or switching lanes doesn’t count, grandma!
3. Bi-Polar Weather
In Miami, there are no seasons, there is only aggressive solar exposure, and violent downpours. This weather can change at the drop of a hat for any amount of time no matter how clear the forecast. Our covered swamp city is still not used to humanity. One of the best anomalies is when you go to the front yard to get your newspaper and there is torrential downpour, then you walk to your backyard to let out the dog and there is scorching sunlight. Quick note, the rain here is never a sprinkle. Rain is literally hitting you, hard. There are no romantic kisses in the rain in Miami as both participants would be constantly nipped by tiny wet bullets in the face throughout the entire situation… Just get cover then maybe dry off. Very frequently a cloud will be pouring rain so hard on you that your umbrella can hardly stand it, yet you need to wear sunglasses because the sun on the other side is blasting you with blinding rays. Rainbows are frequent but does not lead to such happy endings… Only leads to another part of Miami where the same mess is occurring. Lesson of the day: Always have a pair of sunglasses and an umbrella!
More info here: http://www.miamihabitat.com/Miami-Weather_en.asp
4. When the Whole Party is 1 Hour Late.
Fashionably late is way too early in South Florida. It is the norm to arrive 1 to 2 hours late to an event (also called “Cuban Time”). In fact, it is so normal that arriving on time might make some hosts upset! Did it start from another culture? Is the humidity in the air making people slower, confusing walking with wading in water? If you want to be there on time, have a serious talk with the host, and you just have to ask “Okay it says 8pm but, be straight with me. Is this Real Time or is this Cuban Time? In addition, the parties rarely have end times and will go on until the wee hours of the night, unless otherwise specified.” No one really knows but if you are invited to something and arrive on time, you will be gossiped about later, expect to help the host set up! And the strangest part is how everyone knows and accepts this, it is planned, no one is late by accident. Everyone apparently wants to walk in and be the center of attention (why not?) and take 30 minutes saying hello to the whole congregation one by one, kiss on the cheek, how do you do, how are the aunts, and where’s the Cuban Coffee?
5. Care-free Megalomaniac Pedestrians Don’t Just Happen.
Two people in Miami have been ticketed for J-walking and that was back in 1945 (exaggeration but any Miamian would believe this fake fact) Because it seems that Miami pedestrians are reincarnations of Thor, the Celtic god, who cannot be hurt by a measly car. They light is about to turn green, they know it… they wouldn’t start crossing now, would they? Oh… but they would and they will. To add insult to injury they are not going to look at you, nor speed up, because you are their motor vehicular servant driving a 2 ton steel weapon, yet you shall bow down to the all-powerful fragile human made of skin and bones. The dog-eat-dog habits from other war-torn countries and their cultures have influenced a lot of this behavior, since many of our inhabitants are immigrants from places that don’t have perfectly maintained cross-walks and also because sometimes it is so hot that walking to the crosswalk is out of the question, you need to get from point A to point B the fastest way possible. And furthermore, police rarely enforce this law because, well, there more important things to take care of and the police officer is a Miamian too! But hey, at least they will pretend to talk on their phone, it makes causing a pile up care accident more manageable.
6. Weird News.
Sometimes you cringe at the most ridiculous crimes and new stories on the air. In Miami it has become a habit to watch these and whisper “please don’t be in Florida, please don’t’ be in Florida” But it is… From the Florida cannibal to murderous astronauts… we have the best in weird news. The awkward mix of high society, bottom percent, and hipster/hippie clash with a drug happy port creates a bit of a news story extravaganza. If you follow the elections, you already know how backwards Floridians can be, but if you follow the news, backwards doesn’t begin to explain it. But don’t misunderstand, Miami is beautiful and people come in all shapes, colors, and opinions. But, maybe the sun exposure can lead to the best of us to do the worst of things, such as robbing a gas station with a baby using a plastic fork then leaving your wallet on the counter.
More here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/06/us/06cnd-astronaut.html and
7. Did The Stranger Just Kiss me?
In most of America, when meeting a new person, a simple handshake is the norm. Sometimes just a nod will do. For Cubans and many other Latin cultures, kissing is required. Many Northerners can be caught by surprise when someone is introduced to them and the person leans in for the cheek, this is normal. When leaving a party, it usually takes an hour as one must go person to person kissing and shaking, the same as when one walks in. This can even be true in professional situations although proceed with caution. “Un besito”, a kiss. You would think the half Cuban Coffee and half pound of sugar was sweet enough. To be fair, it’s not a smooch but just a slight touch of cheeks that sometimes doesn’t even touch so if this does happen to you, don’t go crazy, just go with the flow.
8. Home-Cooked Meals at The Movies.
Everyone loves the smell of a movie theater, the popcorn, the hotdogs, the freshly cleaned carpets and toasted pretzels. And also, the chicken rice? Picture this, you are watching the movie and all of a sudden the smell of fried food hits your nostrils. Slowly and discreetly you turn your head and see a big container of “Arroz con Pollo” rice and chicken, on a grandmas lap as she serves and passes food down the seats, in paper plates, to the whole family (Oh, yes. Everyone comes together). Popcorn? Why have popcorn when you can chew on this delicious peace of corn on the cob that my Abuela made. This may come from the frugality that people need to acquire when pinching pennies to reach the American dream, and theater food costs a fortune… Actually, maybe Miami has a good idea…
9. Full-Blown Winter Attire in 60 Degree Weather.
There is no winter in Miami. We simply have a rainy season and a season where you get to buy fake snow. However, every once in a while the weather might go down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and the people shall revolt. Miamians are acclimated to the heat. In a temperature where the average person might wear a simple long sleeve knitted shirt, a Miami Native will have on skiing gear they borrowed from a friend who visited from Colorado once (We don’t have winter clothing much). There are no heated anything here, no heated floors, no heated homes and if you turn on the heater in your house it might just cough some smoke and shut down. But this is our one chance to wear our sexy scarfs so if you want to go scarf-watching, go to Miami on that one day of the year…
10. Alligators “Chillaxing” on Roads.
It is a fact that Miami was originally a part of the Everglades Swamp that was filled up to create a city. The alligators didn’t get the memo. These huge creatures, which most people only see on tv, will frequently walk to the middle of the hot concrete in a 4 lane intersection and just… sleep. Who is going to do anything about it? It’s their land. We have grown desensitized to these things (which could be a problem when your kids start playing too close to canals) In fact the safest place a gator could be is out in the open, and the people are okay with that.) Also they can run much faster than you think and are not against tasting you. Usually they will be removed but not long after the traffic jam is resolved. I just hope he had a good nap!