Life in Cbus: American Habits You Can't Help Picking Up If You Live In Ohio

Miriam Ballesteros - Columbus Ohio.jpeg

“Oh, you’re from Barcelona, and you’re now living in Ohio? That sucks.”

This is what an immigration officer told me during my passport control check at the JFK airport.

My guess is, that officer hasn’t travelled much, and he has definitely not been to Columbus, Ohio.

I moved here just about a year ago, and while my first impressions of what being a Spaniard in Ohio is like remain the same, I’ve picked up some habits that I consider “very American”. 

Not sure what I mean by that?

Read on.


American Habits You Can’t Help Picking Up If You Live In Ohio

It’s impossible not to pick up on local or cultural traditions when moving to a new place.

Here’s my list of 12 American habits that you’ve likely picked up (some without even realising), if you’ve ever lived in the States.


1. A sense of community

The concept of community is very strong in Columbus. 

There’s literally a community for everything: social meetups, niche associations, professional events, religious groups, sports organizations…

I believe it’s super easy for people to connect with like-minded individuals across the city, and create meaningful networks too.

While it’s true that some of these communities can be found in Spain as well, I think the sense of belonging to one is way more common and stronger here.


2. Eating dinner pretty early

Eating dinner pretty early - American Habits.jpeg

Back in Barcelona, I used to eat dinners quite late.

9 pm was the earliest, 10 pm was the norm, and 10:30 pm used to happen quite frequently!

After coming to the U.S., I observed that everyone eats dinner by 6 pm or 6:30 pm. So soon after settling down, I adopted the practice myself (and I must say I totally prefer it this way).


3. Hugging friends as a greeting (instead of kissing them)

American friends greet each other with hugs. Sometimes it may be accompanied with a kind handshake as well. 

In Spain, we greet each other with kisses. Left cheek first, then right.


4. Driving through red lights

“Turning on red” is not always an infraction in America.

When displayed, the “turn on red” sign allows vehicles to turn into the direction of traffic nearer to them when the way is clear - without having to wait for the green signal.

Here’s a very cool post in Spanish that covers more on turning on red.


5. Rooting for the Bucks

Rooting for the Bucks - American Habits.jpeg

It doesn’t matter if you love another team, or if you’re not even really a big sports fan. 

All you need to do is spend a little bit of time in Columbus to become a Bucks fan and share #GoBucks moments. 



6. Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius all the time

Every time I want to translate Fahrenheit into Celsius, I subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit temperature, multiply this number by 5, and divide this number by 9.

Just kidding. Although it’s the right formula.

I know that 61°F means 16°C. Same numbers, different order. And I try to estimate the conversion from there.


7. Talking to strangers

Making small talk is not awkward in Ohio—rather, it’s relished. 

I find it’s pretty common to share stories with total strangers at coffee places, yoga studios, coworking spaces, you name it.

I actually met one of my best friends of the city in the common area of the apartment building.

8. How to handle snow days

How to handle snow days - American Habits.jpeg

Weather in Ohio can go from serene to severe in a matter of minutes.

And when that happens, boom! The next thing you know is your car is stuck in the snow.

The winter weather might impact your first days, though, after a couple of snow storms you end up handling them as a truly Ohioan.

9. Saying “excuse me”, and “you’re fine” a lot

It’s the “perdona” in Spanish and you’ll get used to saying this a lot.

“Excuse me” ↔ “you’re fine” are the go-to phrases for most things, from bumping into someone in the supermarket to trying to get the waiter’s attention at a restaurant.

10. Going to the movies for ¢33

One of the things I’ll definitely miss when I come back to Barcelona is the MoviePass membership card.

I seriously don’t know how these guys do business, but it’s the best invention ever.

I pay $9,95 a month and I can watch a movie per day in any cinema. Too good to be true, right? 

11. Stocking up on Sundays

In the States, nearly all the stores are open every day of the year - including Sundays (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Easter Sunday).

In Spain, you’d better go shopping from Monday to Saturday or you’ll find a sign that reads “cerrado”. 

12. Not caring if you go out in yoga pants

When it comes to fashion, I think Ohioans are a laid-back bunch.

Although they say that Columbus is one of the country's chicest capitals (clothing retail giants like Abercrombie & Fitch, and Victoria's Secret have headquarters here), many will attest that feeling comfortable is at the centre of this Midwestern city’s fashion.

So if you need some avocados for your breakfast toast, you won’t even think twice about running to the store in yoga pants.