Culture Shock in the States? Surprising Differences Between MO and WA

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Does culture shock exist when you’re moving from one part of the United States to another? Why yes it does! Every region is different and it takes time to get used to. Here are some things that surprised us when we moved to Missouri…

In July of 2021, we moved to Missionary Acres in southeast Missouri. Before this move, we were living in Washington State (on the east side of the state, not in the Seattle area.)

And though we were still in the same country when we arrived on our mission field, it was definitely different. It’s taken quite a bit of adjustment to feel more at home in this part of the United States.

Here are some of the things that surprised us most about this part of the country…

1. Humid Hot Is “Really” Hot

Back in Washington, the summer temperatures often reached triple digits. 103, 105, and other similar temperatures weren’t unusual at all.

But, it’s a dry heat. There isn’t a lot of humidity.

In Missouri? It’s humid. Really humid.

And humid hot is definitely more unbearable than dry hot. You walk outside and your skin feels sticky just from being in the air. It feels like you need another shower, even if you just took one before you left for the day.

Humid hot? It sucks the energy right out of you. It makes you so thankful for air conditioning (a luxury we never had in Washington. Back there, we just used the windows and fans to circulate air and keep things a bit cooler. But here? We’re so thankful for the AC!)

Since moving, we definitely appreciated the fall, winter, and spring. These seasons aren’t nearly as humid. And we’re praying that by the time summer rolls around again, we’ll be a bit more used to it.

2. Short Trees and Low “Mountains”

We all grew up in the beautiful pine forests in Washington State. The tall mountains and trees were so familiar.

But here in Missouri, there really aren’t mountains. Well if you ask the locals they’ll tell you there are mountains. But our family knows that these little things would be considered hills back home.

Also, the trees here are really short. There are some pines, but not like the majestic ones we’re used to. These pine trees are sort of shaggy-looking. And short.

But, most of the trees are deciduous. We’re surrounded by loads of oak trees and other types of hardwood trees. They’re pretty in their own way, but they cast a completely different silhouette into the sky. When we’re driving at dusk or dawn we notice it the most. It’s just different.

It’s a reminder of how creative God is. You can see His handiwork no matter where you are.

3. So Many Churches

Back west, good churches are few and far between. We have to drive nearly an hour from our sending church to get to another like-minded congregation.

Here in Missouri?

There are seriously so many churches. They’re like one or two miles apart. It is incredible. The kids often start counting churches when we get in the car. No matter which direction we go, it never takes long to get into double-digit numbers.

And yet with all these churches, people in Missouri are still lost. They don’t realize that Christ died for them. So we’re praying that all of the churches wouldn’t get too focused on their own congregation. That they would have a burden for the folks all around them who don’t know.

We’ve been praying for these dear people down here and trying to find ways to reach out to them as a family.

4. Friendlier People

On average, the people here in Missouri are way more friendly. It’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with a total stranger at the store.

Now a family our size garners comments no matter which state we’re in. There are often remarks about having our hands full, don’t we know what causes that, or are they all ours?

But in Washington, those were pretty much the only time that strangers interacted with us. Down here, we’ve enjoyed a variety of friendly interactions with people.

When we walk from the car to the door of the store, people often smile and say hello. There’s a lot of waving. And it’s much more likely for someone to hold the door open for us down here.

There’s a lot more respect as well. Nearly everyone says sir or ma’am regularly. And no matter how old you are or what gender you are, you’ll get called “Honey” at the store more often than not.

We’ve been able to have some neat conversations with the kids about the differences between warm and cold cultures. They’ve definitely noticed the difference between the two states.

5. A Rich History

One of the first things the kids noticed as we drove across the country was that the further east we went, the more cemeteries we saw. This got us talking about how this part of the country has been growing for longer than the western part.

Because of this, there’s so much history in Missouri. Nearby, in Greenville, there’s a section of land where the Trail of Tears passed through.

Additionally, over 1,000 civil war battles took place in this state. And the Oregon Trail started here. Being able to see these historical landmarks helps bring history to life in a new way.

And let’s not forget about the mighty Mississippi River. Living in Washington, the Columbia was our powerful river. But it looks tiny compared to the Mississippi.

When you look out on it, and you realize that people passed over this raging river on little rafts, hoping to make it to the west to start a new life, it really makes you visualize the dangers they faced. It’s one thing to read about places in a book. It’s another thing completely to see them with your own eyes.

We’re looking forward to diving into Missouri State History once we completely finish deputation and can stay put for a while. After teaching WA history for so long, it’ll be fun to learn more about our new state as a family.

6. Smaller States

It takes us all day to drive across Washington. Spokane to Seattle was a solid six-hour drive, and you still have a couple of hours to go to make it all the way to the westernmost part of the state.

Montana is the same way. You can spend an entire day driving from one side to another. States back west are just larger.

Missouri and many of the other states down here? They’re bigger than some of the tiny eastern states, but they are so much smaller than what we’re used to.

In a single day, we did a fun drive that took us into Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. Granted, it was a long day. But, it was still a ton of states at that time.

Pensacola, Florida is only 9 hours away. Ashville, NC is 9 and a half.

There are so many states we can get to in a single day’s worth of driving. It’s definitely different from what we’re used to.

7. Stinky Rain

Back in Washington, the rain was so refreshing. It cooled everything down and the smell when you walked outside afterward was amazing. It’s fresh and piney and just wonderful.

The first time it rained while we were here, we were so excited. We went running outside to get some relief from the heat. That was a mistake.

It was hot outside still. So now we were hot and wet.

And the smell?

It didn’t get better. It got worse. Much, much worse. It seriously smelled like dirty socks or something.

That was a surprise. And maybe not a good one. 😀

8. Dangerous Grass?

We came to Missionary Acres as a family for the first time in the summer of 2020. Shortly after we arrived, one of the staff members warned us to stay out of the grass, since it was chigger season.

Having no idea what chiggers were, we didn’t think much of it. We thought maybe he was pranking us, like the old man in the movie Up who tells the kid to go catch a Snipe. After all, whoever heard of grass you couldn’t roll around on?

So soon, the kids were back to playing outside. On the grass.

You can probably tell where this is going. A few days later, we noticed these strange marks on their legs.

Yup, chigger bites. All over.

I think everyone got at least a couple of bites while we were here that trip. Owen got hit the worst. He had a lot of energy one day, and I wanted him to get some fresh air so we went outside. He crawled off the deck and played in the grass. The next day, his legs looked like they were polka-dotted. Poor boy.

After this, we spent more time researching chiggers. And we realized that we’d have to make some changes to our outside play routines to keep the kids from getting bit.

Now that we’ve moved down, we’ve gotten more used to chiggers. And we know that this special cream works well for the bites we do get.

Also, we’re very thankful that chigger season doesn’t last that long all things considered. The fall and winter were lovely without them!

9. New Stores

When you live and shop in the same area for almost your entire life, you kind of get stuck in a rut. Now that we’ve moved to Missouri, our shopping habits had to change.

For example, the nearest Costco is up by St. Louis. It takes almost two hours to get there. While we used to do a huge stock-up there every month, we haven’t made it nearly as often now.

We’ve also tried out a few new stores. Here are some that we frequently visit that aren’t in Washington (at least not in our part of WA…)

  • Menards
  • Aldi (our new favorite grocery store!)
  • Dollar General
  • Sam’s Club

There are also different gas stations, restaurants, and more. Or the same chains with different names – it’s so strange to drive past a Carl’s Jr. and have the sign say Hardees.

It’s been a learning experience trying to figure out the best places to shop. Since we’re in a small temporary house right now, we aren’t able to store as much food. That means we’ve been shopping more often than we’d like. But on the plus side, it’s helped us to find the best shopping routine for our family.

Once we move into the other house, we’ll know where to go to stock up and get the best prices!

10. The Slowness of Life

Back in Washington, things were definitely less relaxed when it comes to time. Here, it’s a lot slower and unhurried. This has definitely been frustrating for us. Back home, when a subcontractor said they’d be there on a certain date, they showed up or they called to reschedule.

Here? We frequently hear things like, “I’ll be out by April 1st, well, maybe by the 15th, but most definitely by the 20th.” It’s not just with one particular company either. It’s that way with nearly everyone the Acres hires to help with certain tasks.

When you’re eagerly waiting to get into your home, it’s not a cultural difference that makes you happy. But, we are learning to trust God – even when things take WAY longer than we think they should.

11. Language Differences

We weren’t required to go to language school to master southern, but there’s definitely a difference in the way people talk. Even though Missouri is in the midwest and not the south, Missionary Acres is really close to the Bootheel of Missouri, which is close enough to Arkansas that it’s definitely south.

While Bryan spent a few of his school-aged years in Texas and already knows the language, the rest of us are still learning.

Y’all and all y’all are words we’re trying to integrate. But they still sound weird coming out of our mouths.

And down here, it’s called soda, not pop. That’s taken a bit to get used to.

The freeway that runs between Springfield and St. Louis? That’s called the farty-far (44).

It’ll be interesting to see if any of our kids pick up an accent the longer we stay here!

What Other Differences Do You Notice?

Have you ever traveled to different parts of the country? What differences between the north and the south can you add?

We’re still adjusting, so we’d love to hear your experiences!

Note: This post was originally published on Lisa’s Maggie’s Milk blog in August of 2020. It’s been updated and refreshed. 

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