8 Reasons I Hate Florida And 1 Reason Why They’re All Wrong (Detour #7)

John Steinbeck quote
My aunt cried when she moved to Florida. This is something I didn’t know until last week and there must have been some kind of anti-Florida force in the air that day, because later that evening my neighbor wondered out loud why anyone would move to the Florida Keys. God bless them both. Because really, why are so many people convinced Florida is some sort of Nirvana? These people look at me as an object to be pitied when I tell them Florida isn’t for me, as if I must have a two-digit IQ. And the first digit isn’t a big one.

I’m not saying the state isn’t a fabulous vacation destination. I live pretty much smack dab in the middle of the Midwest, putting me 700 miles from the nearest ocean and the soothing sound of the surf, and meaning a few days with sand between my toes and fresh shrimp on my plate would not be unwelcome. Particularly in the middle of winter when our highs are down in the range of my suspected IQ. But for year-round living? Let me count the ways I hate that idea:

1) Florida is hot.
And the heat isn’t just in the summer; my husband and I once strolled the University of Miami campus in early December and I was dying for some air conditioning an hour into the walk. We were both sweating. One should not sweat in December, not unless one is working out in a gym or in labor

Hot Thermometer
It only gets hotter from here.
delivering a nine-pound baby. The average January high in Miami is 76 degrees, which is at least three degrees higher than I would ever consider setting my furnace’s thermostat, making the entire outdoors the equivalent of an old person’s stuffy house. And the summer? Let’s not even go there.

2) Florida is humid.
Imagine you’re in a barber’s chair, getting heated moist towels wrapped around your face. Now slap those towels around your arms and your legs and the whole rest of your body. That’s Florida the minute you step outside your air-conditioned space. I once worked with a woman who sold advertising in Florida and she told me she’d given up wearing make-up. Why, I asked? Because her stops were too frequent to let her car’s air conditioning get good and cold, and by the day’s end her make-up had just melted off her face.

3) If you have an accident you can drown.
Seriously, people do it all the time. Somebody runs a red light and whacks you in the fender, and the next thing you know you’re hanging by your seat belt upside down in a canal. The risk is big enough that the state has even uploaded a video showing you how to escape a submerged car. Their video claims that less than one half of one percent of accidents involve submersion or fire, but that’s still 1 out of 200, about the same odds as being chosen for an IRS audit. I’ll take a pass on both of those, thank you very much.

4) There’s no “there” there.
Sure, some of today’s Floridians were born in the state but an overwhelming percentage retired there or

These are the people who  know my stories.
These are the people who know my stories.
were transferred there or floated there from Cuba. Texas has its independent cowboys, Jersey has its brass balls, California has its Valley Girls, but if you try to conjure up an image of Florida all you get is Mickey Mouse. I crave a sense of place, a connection to souls passed that lingers in the food and the language and the stories one generation tells to the next about that one particular fishing spot or the water tower brother Jim climbed when he was young and dumb. I want to live in a community, not a climate.

5) Florida is just a little less nice.
I’m not saying the people there aren’t noticeably pleasant and helpful and that they won’t give you a smile if you pass on the sidewalk, but let’s face it–with all that heat how many people are out walking the sidewalks? Stop for sweet tea at any restaurant in Mississippi and somebody is going to call you Honey; drive down an Alabama river road and somebody is going to wave. I once braked in a Memphis fast food parking lot to let a lady and her husband pass by and her smile of thanks was so big you would have thought I was her long lost cousin. That’s the south, but Florida is this mashed up state of south and east and tourist attraction parking lots. Surely I can be forgiven for not feeling the love when I see bumper stickers that say this: If it’s tourist season, why can’t I shoot them?

6) There are alligators.

Beware of Alligators
Wonder if the alligators have underwater signs warning them about tourists?
And home-eating snails. And pet pythons that have slithered off into the swamps where there is nothing that can eat a 20-foot, muscle-bound monster. I’ve never seen a coral snake in Florida but with coral right in the name (just like Coral Gables and Coral Springs) you know it has to be there. According to the Naples News, in 2006 one Bonita Springs coral snake moved into a camp already occupied by two homeless men who didn’t care to share. The men put down their Budweisers and picked up a palmetto branch to beat the snake away, and, when that didn’t work, broke a bottle to slash the snake instead. Not surprisingly, they got bit. Also not surprisingly, sleeping off the effects of a coral snake bite is probably not the smartest choice one could make. Rest in peace, Fernando. You have a home in heaven now.

7) Your house can fall into a giant hole.
Sure, our Midwest tornadoes can suck entire homes into the sky, but at least we know the storms are coming–we have sirens and weatherman warnings and my mother will call to make sure I’m awake and aware I could die at any moment. With a sinkhole it’s just BAM, down you go. The state is built on limestone and the underground is constantly dissolving under your feet, a lot like the cavities in your teeth, and when the hole reaches the critical mass where the house weighs more than the remaining rock can support, it’s goodbye house.

One of the redeeming features of the state of Florida.  Oh, Sonny's, how we miss you.
One of the redeeming features of the state of Florida. Oh, Sonny’s, how we miss you.
8) There’s no sunlight.
Yes, the sun is up there blazing away, but every home I’ve been in has been closed away from it to conserve air conditioning dollars. Heavy curtains drape the windows. Awnings hang outside. Tropical plants grow right up against the house and block out the view. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to stay cool inside their own home, but sitting in the dark is depressing and probably explains why so many weird things happen in the state. Sunlight burns the madness from your brain. Fresh air is restorative. The whole country might be better off if the Sunshine State would get a little more sunshine.

9) It’s not home.
Remember Dorothy clicking her heels together and saying, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home?” There really is no place like home, and none of my reasons to hate Florida would mean a thing if I’d grown up there. Florida was my husband’s home and I get that; I understand why he yearns to look out the window and see palmetto bushes instead of our maple tree and pelicans instead of our robins. It was his brother who climbed the water tower and his father who showed him that one particular fishing spot. Florida is who he is and losing that sense of self must leave him just a little bit unsettled. He misses the state and he’s not wrong to love it. There’s a reason they call the place of your birth the Motherland.

So it’s not your fault, Florida, and I really don’t hate you, you’re just not mine. And as long as the maple keeps turning a brilliant red in the autumn and the honeysuckle keeps stirring in the summer breeze, my Midwest home is where I’ll want to be. This is where my daughter is and my grandchildren are and where my husband and I have built a life together, which is as good a definition of home as I can come up with. At least I’m clinging to it every time my husband checks the Florida real estate ads.

Peace.

13 Comments

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  1. Thank you for introducing me to your blog. I love your voice. Distinctive, folksy and Zen-ful. Best of all, your writing and take on life makes me smile. That’s worth a lot.

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  2. Top 8 reasons to not hate Florida

    1. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    2. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    3. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    4. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    5. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    6. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    7. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here
    8. It was 82 degrees in Florida not 18 degrees like here

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  3. I’m a life-long Floridian, actually born here, and why we have many flaws, there’s a lot to like. Meaning no offense, most of the criticisms weren’t hate worthy (“it’s too bright out”) and most of the monly apply to the greater Miami area, and the extreme southern end of the state. There’s no canals by me, for instance. No pythons (it’s too cold for them in the winter). Yeah, it’s hot, but so what? It’s probably insanely cold where you live. We learn to deal with the extremes of whatever place we call home. Not looking to pick a fight, it’s just a weirdly trivial list of things to hate, whene there are so many better things to hate around here.

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    • Absolutely, Randall–there’s a lot to love about Florida. Your beaches are fantastic, the azure waters of the Keys are magical and I would marry Mickey Mouse if I could. And I’d probably like your northern area of the state, even if my Melbourne-born husband would insist that it really isn’t Florida since it has a winter. I like our Midwest winters, so I have to agree that we learn to deal with the extremes of whatever place we call home. Actually, that was pretty much my point–that our love for a place has far less to do with its features and far more to do with what resembles our childhood home.

      But now you have me intrigued; there are so many better things to hate around there? Okay, I’ll bite–what’s your list of things to hate about Florida?

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  4. I could write a book about why I hate FL, but it would be an encyclopedia. Living in S. FL is like living another planet. So flat, boring, everything is exactly the same no matter where you go and it is a 6 hr drive to see anything different. If you grow up here, I guess you are used to it. But it’s not enough for me. I like variety. Beach, rivers, mountains, hills, meadows, I like it all. Why be so limited? Blinding heat 11 months out of the year and year round biting bugs, who would ever choose to live there? You end up going stir crazy inside the house. I ended up making an indoor soccer room just to have something. I’m not even getting into the notorious rudeness and bad attitudes here. Not everyone, but by far most. The only way I keep sane is traveling outside FL several times a year. My husband is the only reason I’m here. He is from Germany and extreme winters. And he loves it. To each their own. I agree it’s a great vacation spot, but I HATE living here with a passion. I miss the variety and beauty of nature you see everywhere else and I miss the seasons. I miss the chorus of thirty kinds of birds heralding the spring, running on a shaded trail next to a river, and the muffled acoustics of a freshly fallen snow. That is my paradise.

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    • Ah, Joy, it has to be tough to be stuck in one place when you’d MUCH rather be somewhere else. I have to remember that when my Florida-born husband is complaining about our Midwest winters. I’ll think of you while I’m enjoying our budding quince bush and cutting daffodils from my garden. But do you get to play soccer indoors? That is totally awesome!

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  5. Dear Karen, A welcome laugh-out-loud blog that has made my day. This past summer I spent a month on Long Island doing nanny duty (can a person really ‘nanny’ two pre-teens ages 10 and 12?) and many of your complaints, especially about the heat and humidity, struck home. But mostly, I identified with the lack of community. Westcliffe, Colorado is small and very much like a family gathered around the table at Thanksgiving, we have our small town family moments, but when push comes to shove, we are one for all and all for one. Come visit. You know how to find me.

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  6. Wow, this hit home. I moved to Florida (for work) from WI 6 ms ago and I am sad. I thought I always wanted the ocean and Palm trees. I had no idea of all of the other not so fun things that came with FL. GREAT READ.

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  7. I’ve read this article many times and reasons for not liking it resonates with me. I moved her with a family member and that person absolutely adores Florida, yet I really dislike everything about it. I miss where I’m from and pray everyday to save up enough money to get back there. God bless all people from this “place”, but it really is a soul destroying place.

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    • Makeba–oh please don’t let your soul be destroyed by any one place. Maybe I need to do a list of things I love about Florida, because there are many. Take a walk on the beach and think of those of us who are a thousand miles from the sand. Peace.

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