The city of New Orleans is famous around the world for a number of reasons. The food, festive atmosphere, historical sights, and culture ingrained in the area definitely make it special and unlike anywhere else. There have been scores of films, TV shows, and media about New Orleans, and many who have never even been there think they know it inside and out. However, if you’re not from The Big Easy, there’s just no way you can understand all of the nuances of the city. Here are ten things that only people from New Orleans know.
1. You can always come home if you’re from New Orleans.
Whoever said “you can’t go home” never met anyone from NOLA. What’s incredible is that even though natives of the city find themselves leaving for various reasons, nearly 100% of them come right back eventually. Yes, other places have more employment opportunities, lower crime rates, and better kept infrastructure, but they lack everything that makes New Orleans so alluring.
2. “Dat” is a good thing.
Most people outside of New Orleans know the phrase “Who Dat?” in connection with the N.O. Saints, but it goes much further than that. At it’s core the spirit of the phrase is celebratory and a bit defiant, but it’s used in a number of ways. Whether it’s “tap dat”, “get dat”, or “heard dat”, know that whenever you hear the word used in a phrase it’s typically a good thing.
3. Most people there don’t speak Creole.
Unless you grew up speaking Creole or yat — also known as New Orleans English — you’re not going to have the accent that most people outside of the city expect. Just because someone doesn’t sound like they’re straight out of the parish, don’t assume they’re not a NOLA native.
4. The blue dog is special.
Right on Veterans Memorial Highway is a huge sculpture of a blue dog. If you’re from out of town, you’d probably see it and think it’s just an avant-garde piece of art. However, that blue dog is based on a Cajun legend, the loup-garou, and it was designed by someone who is now considered a legend in the city: George Rodrigue. The artist was known for his landscape paintings of Louisiana, but it was the Blue Dog paintings of his that brought him international fame. When he passed away in 2013, the city that loved him so much held a public funeral mass in Jackson Square. When you see that statue, know it’s not just some quirky dog that was randomly placed on the street.
5. Five o’clock means nothing in New Orleans.
No one needs to wait until a “proper” time to break out the beer, bubbly, or Bourbon in New Orleans, and liquor is packed into to-go cups much like soda is elsewhere. Cocktails are available at anytime of the day, including brunch and lunch, and you’ve got to have something good around for game days. This liking for alcohol is a big part of why New Orleans is such a party town, and it’s also why folks in NOLA are so laid back.
6. Punctuality isn’t everything.
Time is relative, even in some workplaces in New Orleans, so don’t expect folks to be right on time to any event or gathering. People will come at the time they feel like it, and everyone in the city embraces a slower pace of life. What’s the use of rushing when you’re in a magical enclave such as New Orleans? Just expect people to be about 15 to 30 minutes minutes late — if you want to get the party started at 9pm tell everyone to show up at 8:30.
7. People there can’t help but dress up.
Just not in the way you think people would dress up. This isn’t about donning fancy clothes, but costumes. New Orleans natives love their costumes and it doesn’t matter what time of year it happens to be. Birthdays, weddings, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, funerals, Thanksgiving, it really doesn’t matter — if there’s a reason to be festive, people will costume with pride. Also, expect that some of the costumes will be a bit provocative, and don’t be surprised when men stroll down the street as risque Santas for the holiday season.
8. There’s no such thing as not liking jazz there.
It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from, if you’re a New Orleans native or you’ve lived there for a long time you’re going to have at least an appreciation for jazz. After all, New Orleans is the birthplace of the iconic genre and no one does it better than the musicians down there. Disliking jazz music in NOLA is akin to someone saying they don’t like to breathe air — it just doesn’t happen.
9. Driving isn’t New Orleanians’ forte.
People in New Orleans sort of have an excuse to drive like crazed persons — once you see the enormous potholes along some streets you’ll know why going the speed limit can be unwise. There are also legitimate reasons to blaze through some neighborhoods at 70 miles an hour, or to stop in the middle of the road to talk to a friend. To the rest of the world the way that people from New Orleans drive will seem insane, but it makes sense to the folks there. Let’s just say that few there feel beholden speed limits and yield signs.
10. Mardi Gras should be a national holiday.
It may as well be, because that’s how it’s treated in New Orleans. And contrary to what most people who’ve never been here think, it’s not all about women flashing and raucous debauchery in the streets — that’s pretty much contained within a small area. The rest of the city celebrates Mardi Gras in a number of ways, and the bead trees can be a more beautiful sight than a decorated pine at Christmas. During the celebration there’s hardly a house that doesn’t become taken over by doubloons, go cups, beads, and Zulu coconuts. They may not really grow, but they are essential.