Being from southern California myself, I wrote these little tidbits of advice a little while ago for those who plan to move to Texas, more specifically Central Texas. This is all tongue in cheek and not meant to be serious or insulting.
Texans – The best part of this state is the people. Texans are a proud people and are the epitome of Southern Hospitality, very welcoming and inclusive. They wave at you when you drive by and are friendly as can be. This can be a little off putting if you are from Los Angeles where people driving by does not solicit the same response. Like me, you will get used to it quickly and hopefully start to emulate this behavior in your normal routine.
One observation is they are not really that impressed you are from California as much as you are. In fact, they seem to have disdain for pretty much any state that is not Texas. I am afraid you will eventually hear a Texan use the phrase, “Don’t California my Texas” when they find out you are from the Golden State. Don’t let this bother you, for every jerk that blames you for their problems, there are 100 more who will welcome you with open arms or even better, baked goods.
Your kids will say two pledges of allegiance in school, one for the US and one for Texas. Yeah, that struck me a little strange when we took our kids for their first day. If your kids are like my sons, they will eventually have a “Come and Take It” flag hanging in their room or flying from their truck. They will learn more about the history of this state than the history of this country, or their own history for that matter. They will also think that historic places, like the Alamo, are a pretty big deal and in turn so will you.
Frontage Roads – Learn how to use them or you will drive miles out of the way, making multiple u-turns, using multiple four letter words.
“The” Freeways or Highways – I still don’t know what they call them here, freeways or highways, but one way to quickly identify a Californian is the use of “The” preceding a freeway number. “The 183” or “The 35” will quickly get you a smirk from a Texan. However, I refuse to change my behavior on this topic. If you are feeling nostalgic and homesick, I suggest driving on the 35 or Mopac at 5:00 PM on a weekday. This will make you feel right at home.
Road Names – Yeah, I don’t get how they pronounce some of them but when in Rome. For example, Manchaca and Guadalupe, I will never reconcile this and will continue to scrutinize it. Also FM means Farm to Market and RM means Ranch to Market which has no bearing on anything you do but an interesting fact nonetheless.
Left Turns – The practice of sitting in the middle of the intersection, waiting for the light to turn red, for you to make a left turn will quickly get you introduced to the local law enforcement. As alien as it feels to not creep out in the middle, you must sit at the line and wait your turn to make a left turn on solid green. Also, the traffic lights are sideways, not vertical, just to mess with you.
Blue Laws – Coming from the “Godless” west coast, I never heard of a Blue Law before but apparently, they exist here in Texas.
You will not find vodka, rum or any other liquor in a grocery store or Walgreens. You will also not find milk and bread in a liquor store. You cannot buy liquor on Sundays or beer and wine prior to noon on Sundays. I tried to do all the above with futility. On Sunday you better have stocked up the Saturday before or you will be calling your friends to bring their own liquor for your special Superbowl trash can punch.
Also, the car dealerships are closed on Sundays. Actually, they get to choose the day of the weekend to be closed. I remember going Cal Worthington’s to test drive a car at 9:30 PM on a Sunday. You will not get to do that here.
Guns and Hunting – Where I grew up guns were meant to shoot people not animals but here they are used for hunting and people actually eat what they kill. There is nothing like a good deer sausage so do not turn up your nose when offered. Know what a “Deer Lease” is because the circles you will associate with will most likely be made up of hunters. You will hear countless references to “The Lease” so know what that is. Ok, I will tell you, it’s a large swath of land people pay a monthly lease to hunt deer. There is always a dwelling of some sort and a feeder of some sort on said “Lease”. Texans spend a lot of time on the lease and, from the stories I hear, they seem to do more beer drinking there than actual hunting. Also, here it’s Constitutional Carry which means most Texans are armed so keep your road rage in check.
Fire Ants – These are evil, mean, little spawns from hell and you WILL get stung, it is inevitable. Yes, I said stung not bitten and that is why they are called Fire Ants because their sting burns like a hot poker. Know what their mounds look like and where these little bastards prefer to set up shop. The good thing is, they are not hard to spot, especially after a good rain. They are not the only ants that bite/sting in Texas just the ones with the worst attitude.
Property Taxes – I would rather be covered in fire ants.
Mexican Food – There is no getting around it, the Mexican food is not the same here and at first you will be disappointed. Also, the quickest way to draw the ire of any Texan is to complain about Tex Mex. With that said, once you accept the differences, you will start to enjoy the food here and ridicule California for not having migas or breakfast tacos, when you visit there. Here are some points for you:
Dona or “Crack Sauce”. This green concoction is better than anything made, ever! It looks like creamy guacamole but in no way is it even related. It’s tasty, and spicy and most places will have it, albeit by different names. Just ask for the green sauce. HEB tries to sell a variation of it but TacoDeli is the Mecca for this, although Pollo Rico is on par too.
Queso – In California, this is just shredded cheese but here in Texas it is a conglomeration of melted Velveeta, jalapenos, pico de gallo, chili, and just about anything else they desire to put in it. It is used as a dip, a sauce, and an ingredient, a rub, a cure for psoriasis and can be found in just about everything. Texans are connoisseurs of good queso and many restaurants are judged by the quality of this dip. Actually, Velveeta is only used at cheap places and the worst places use canned nacho cheese. Avoid them like the plague.
Tacos – If you were a burrito person in California, you will be transformed into a taco person here. Mainly, because you will not like the burritos here as much as in California but also because the tacos here are superior. Tacos transcend any one regional influences such as Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex. Austin food establishments take great pride in their tacos from Korean infused concoctions to birria swimming in consume, so forget the big flour tortilla and go with the small corn tortilla.
Breakfast Tacos – This is a simple concept, not much different than a breakfast burrito except it’s a taco. Breakfast burritos are not in abundance here and do not attempt to convince a restaurant to make you one thinking they are not a far stretch from breakfast tacos. You will be met with annoyance and maybe more than you bargained for in your food, believe me, I tried. Learn to love the breakfast taco because it is fantastic!
Fish Tacos – They are typically grilled using Tilapia or fried using catfish. It’s hit or miss to find a good, fried fish taco if you are used to getting them in San Diego or Baja. Cabo Bob’s is not bad.
Migas – This is a scrambled egg and tortilla chip dish I like better than machaca but my dream would be a fusion of both.
Attention San Diegans – There are no Robertos, Albertos or any other “ertos” here to get carne asada burritos or rolled tacos (Taquitos) at 2:00 AM. Good luck finding one rolled taco within 100 miles from here. Their idea of carne asada is fajitas. It’s not the same but still just as good. Don’t fret, go to Michoacan Market and get their fajita meat for the grill, put it in a taco or burrito and you will quickly be converted.
Attention Angelinos – No Super Burrito Deluxes from El Tarasco or El Gringos will ever be found here or even a variation of it. Just let that one go. No Titos either.<sigh>
Attention NoCals – Do you even have Mexican food north of Point Conception? There are Taco Bells here so you should be fine. I jest.
Whataburger – This place is a state icon and the Texans seem to embrace it almost as much as the Alamo. A quick way to get into a heated debate with the locals is to state that In-N-Out is better than Whataburger. That never seems to end well either, so try to avoid making such declarations in public. We do have an In-N-Out here in Cedar Park and it tastes the same as the ones in California. I myself have converted to the Double Whataburger with jalapenos. Try Mighty Fine too, if you want a good burger.
BBQ – People take great pride in their BBQ here and will wake up in the early mornings to spend hours cooking it to perfection. Know the difference between grilling and BBQ and what a pit is. Don’t ever handle another man’s pit without asking. Smoked brisket is the measuring stick for all things BBQ here. Learn what a smoke ring should look like and act impressed when someone shows you theirs, even if you are clueless. Don’t attempt to bring up Tri-Tip comparisons because you will get feigned interest from someone who is trying to be nice but really does not know what the hell a Tri-Tip is, nor cares. Also know that BBQ sauce here is considered a condiment for the table, not a glaze or rub for cooking.
HEB – Probably the best supermarket I have ever been to and another Texas business icon. Don’t call it “heb”.
Buccees – Oh the complete amazement and wonder you will experience when first visiting the gargantuan of all gas stations. No matter how full your tank is or how full your belly is, you will find a reason to stop at every Buccees you see if only to use the bathrooms which, by the way, are cleaner than most hospital surgical rooms. I will leave this for you to experience yourself. No literary skill can describe, properly, this monolith to roadside convenience.
High School Football – All the hype is true, it is like a religion here. I have attended more high school football games in my 17 years in Texas than my 37 years in California and that includes my time on my high school football team. I have two boys and our lives revolve around their school and this game. Know the difference between 4a, 5a, and 6a schools and the name of the head coach of your kid’s high school so at tailgate parties you can sound informed. Yes, they tailgate at the high school stadium parking lot before games. Make it out to a game on Friday night, preferably a Cedar Park high School Timberwolf game, and enjoy the splendor for all it is. (Actually, you can replace football with Band, Cheer, or any other endeavor, and Texans will make it big and tailgate for it). You will become hooked.
Yes Ma’am and Yes Sir – I will get mixed responses on this. We are in the South (Yes Texans, if you participated in the Civil War and wore grey, you are the South. Deal with it.) and, in general, it is a reflection of your parenting if your children do or do not answer adults with a ”Yes/No Ma’am” or a “Yes/No Sir”. This is confusing to Californians because the only people who say “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”, in the entire state, are found only on military bases. We don’t even expect it from people in the service industry. However, you will notice it quickly when you speak to the children here and even start to expect it of your own children. Even though it is an expectation here, people will still compliment you on your children’s good manners despite the fact they act like unruly animals when alone with you.
Cedar Fever – This essence of evil takes flight to afflict the innocent, around mid January through February. If you are one of those who states, ‘I don’t get allergies and never will”, the cedar trees will respond with, “Hold my beer”. Yeah, allergies in the middle of winter are a strange and horrible occurrence and there is no avoiding it, so make sure you ask Santa for plenty of Claritin and Benadryl for Christmas. You’ll need it.
The Weather – It’s hot and in the winter, its less hot. Actually, the weather here is very complex.
Winter– Temperatures in the 40s are the norm with some occasional dips into the 30s and 20s. On occasion, we will experience a hard freeze, maybe, one day out of the year. It seems lately we have been getting more snowfall in the area during winter. Typically we get a light dusting every few years to make miniature snowmen and to give the kids a snow day from school but we were hit right in the power grid with the Snowmageddon of 2020. This was equivalent to an average snowfall in the north but down here we were thrown into complete apocalyptic chaos. We lost power, water, heat, and all common sense when this white menace fell from the sky. If you see snow in the forecast, think hard about vacationing back in California for a week. It’s better to deal with the idiots who cannot drive in a California rainfall than to experience the hysteria a 6-inch snowfall solicits in Texas.
Spring – Spring brings California like temperatures to Central Texas and the bloom of the Bluebonnets. The landscape explodes in azure and every highway will be lined with them as well as with the bodies of those who think it is safe to take pictures on the side of a major thruway. I am kidding, no one dies but you will see many out there risking their lives, and their family’s lives, just to take a picture with a flower.
Also, at this time, we will get hit with the strongest weather. Unlike California, where rain comes in off the Pacific and gets people wet, the storms here barrel through like a stampede of longhorns to send all the non-Texans into a panic. The first time I heard the term “Tornado” on the news station, I threw my kids into a bathtub with football helmets, surrounded by pillows, all the while the Texans sat outside BBQing and drinking beer. As a Californian, it will unnerve you when you first hear the phrase, “Tornado Warning in your area” or that blaring tornado alarm that seems to come out of nowhere. I suspect the Texans would feel the same way if a 4.5 tumbler, centered in Joshua Tree, were to shake them out of their sleep at five in the morning.
Summer (AKA Hell’s front porch) – From May to Late October do not expect it to get below 95 with humidity making it feel like 150. You will know you’re A/C guy very well.
Fall – This is my favorite day of the year.
“Y’all” – Don’t fight it, you will succumb to it eventually. I will quote a friend of mine who transplanted here from New Jersey, “It rolls off the tongue like butter”. Drop the “You guys” and embrace the “Y’all”. You don’t have to be “Fixin” or “Hollerin” but definitely indulge in the decadence of this word dessert.
In conclusion, the most important advice I can give you is to become a Texan and don’t stay a Californian. Some of the most die hard Texans weren’t born in Texas. Be proud of your roots but also be proud you are now part of the LoneStar State and that is pretty cool. Do this and you will enjoy all this state and the people have to offer. Welcome to Texas, Y’all!