If you grew up in Nebraska, you learned some pretty important life lessons early on. Those lessons developed into habits, and those habits are pretty hard to break. Even if we end up leaving home later on in life, these things tend to stick with us forever.
1. Doing the "farmer wave."
We saw our parents and grandparents do it, and it comes naturally now: when you see another car on a country road, you lift a couple of fingers in greeting.
2. Saying hello to strangers.
Whether it's on the street, in the store, in church, or at a social gathering, native Nebraskans will never hesitate to give a stranger a friendly greeting.
3. Stopping to chat anytime, anywhere.
When we run into someone we
do know, it will likely turn into a conversation - even if we're in the middle of the street or blocking the whole grocery aisle. (To be accurate, this will often happen even with strangers. We really do like to chat.)
4. Offering to bring food to every gathering.
Food is a big part of any get-together in Nebraska, and so is politeness. If we get an invitation to a gathering, the first thing out of our mouths will likely be "Sure! What can I bring?"
5. Referring to a day at the lake as "going to the beach."
People from the coast will look at you quizzically if you say you're going to the beach in Nebraska. Little do they know that our salt-free, shark-free lakes are far superior to their dirty oceans.
6. Constantly scanning for deer on the side of the road.
No matter where you're driving, if you learned to drive in dear old Nebraska you'll always be watching the sides of the road for deer. Not being vigilant can cause you a whole lot of trouble when one of those animals bounds out in front of your car.
7. Wearing a red shirt on game day (or the Friday before game day).
I've worked in offices where you could only wear jeans on Friday if you also wore a Huskers shirt. But most Nebraskans don't have to be bribed into wearing red - it's just our way of showing support for our home team.
8. Giving directions by landmark rather than street names.
There are plenty of places in Nebraska where the streets don't seem to have names, so this evolved as a practical skill. Go down to the Johnson house, turn left, keep going until you see the green tractor, then the place you're looking for will be about two minutes down the road. If you get to the big apple tree you've gone too far.
9. Always being willing to help.
It's not at all uncommon for someone to offer help when you're having trouble reaching something on a high shelf in the grocery store, when you look lost, or when you've got a flat tire. It really helps to make a bad situation seem a little less bad when a stranger offers assistance. We love to pass on that kindness to others, even when we move away from Nebraska.
10. Planning events around football games.
If you plan a party for a game day, you'd better either have the game on or expect no one to be there.
11. Giving away tons of produce in the summer (or getting tons of it from friends and neighbors).
If you have a garden, you'll almost always have more fresh veggies than you can use. If you don't have a garden, everyone in town will take this as a sign that you don't have enough fresh produce and start leaving boxes of it on your front porch. One of my favorite reader comments on an Only In Nebraska article was something like "You only lock your car doors in Nebraska in the summer. If you don't, you'll come back to find someone has left a big bag of zucchini and tomatoes on your seat." How true!
12. Paying a whole lot of attention to the weather.
Our sometimes-severe weather has trained us to always know what's in the forecast. But we don't really trust the forecast because it's often wrong, so we'll discuss our own weather predictions with just about anyone. When severe weather does strike, we'll likely be outside watching it instead of hiding from it inside.
13. Always dressing in layers.
The aforementioned crazy weather has taught us that just because it's 60 degrees in the morning doesn't mean it won't be snowing by evening. We learn to dress in layers - or at least keep some extra clothes in the car just in case.
14. Being just a little over-prepared when it comes to the gear in our cars.
Especially in the winter, we tend to be super prepared for any eventuality. We've got first aid kits, kitty litter, jumper cables, extra ice scrapers, blankets, extra gloves, flares... everything you could need (and much more) for the possibility of a breakdown or a bad patch of snow or ice.
15. Expecting a festival for just about everything.
We've got festivals celebrating every culture imaginable, every holiday, and plenty of made-up holidays. There's almost always a parade, and we're not at all picky about who's in it.
16. Getting a little emotional at the sight of a beautiful sunset, open prairie, or any other scene that reminds us of Nebraska.
When we're away from home, one of the things Nebraskans miss the most is our unique and lovely scenery. We're at the crossroads of the continent, where we have vast plains, impressive rock formations, breathtaking sand hills, gorgeous lakes and rivers, and so much more. Nebraska's natural beauty will always get us right in the heart.