10 Things Only People From Pensacola, FL Will Understand

Located in the Florida panhandle, in the region that’s often referred to as the Redneck Riviera, Pensacola, Florida is home to more than 50,000 people. Also, like most of the cities in the Sunshine State, it’s a popular tourist destination. Although it’s not as much of a snowbird haven as some of Florida’s more southern areas, Pensacola still enjoys the same warm subtropical climate as the rest of the state, with breezes off the gulf to moderate temperatures a bit. The city even gets some snow every once in a while! It’s not enough for cross country skiing, of course, but it’s enough to be a cool novelty for the locals.

Like a lot of other small but proud communities, the people who live in Pensacola and who are from there often share a lot of quirks and commonalities. They share knowing nods and winks when an out of towner raises an eyebrow or makes a funny remark about a local custom. If you’re not from Pensacola, you probably won’t fully understand everything on this list. However, if you are from there, all of this will ring 100% true. Here are ten things only people from Pensacola, Florida will understand.

1. It’s the Gulf, not the ocean!

Yes, there are beaches in Pensacola, and they’re gorgeous, but that body of water right there? Don’t call it an ocean! That’s the Gulf of Mexico. It’s temperature is more even than the Atlantic, it’s not usually as rough as the water on the eastern side of the state, and anyone from Pensacola will tell you that the Gulf beats the ocean any day of the week.

2. It may be Florida, but it’s nowhere near Disney World.

People who aren’t Floridians may not realize how big Florida really is — or how long it is, we should say. It’s about 500 miles from top to bottom, and Pensacola is located in the state’s northwestern region. Orlando, where Walt Disney World is located, is in central Florida. If you’ve come to Pensacola thinking you can just take a side trip to the Magic Kingdom, think again. It’s at least a six hour drive. In fact, in half that time, you could make to the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

3. There are no good hair days.

You can blame it on the warm temperatures and that huge gulf it sits on, but the humidity in Pensacola is insane. As a result, if your hair has even the slightest bit of curl, you’re going to have some trouble keeping it tame. Oh, and you’ll probably get your hair rained on; pop up rain storms are so commonplace, especially in the summer months, that locals don’t even think twice about them. If you’re planning to visit Pensacola, though, don’t forget your umbrella.

4. You can’t trust the time on your phone.

Pensacola is located in the Central Time Zone. However, it’s so close to the Eastern Time Zone that it’s often difficult for phones to catch the satellites properly and display the correct time. So, your phone may have the right time, or it may be an hour ahead. If you want to be sure noon is noon, you may need to wear a wristwatch of the old fashioned variety.

5. Liking seafood is more or less required.

What’s for dinner in Pensacola? Probably one of the many fruits of the sea! In addition to abundance of grouper, oysters, and other seafood in Pensacola, the city is home to both the Pensacola Seafood Festival and the Pensacola Crawfish Festival. If you live there, you either like to eat seafood or you basically go hungry.

6. It’s all Coke.

While some parts of the US are “soda” territory and other parts are “pop” country, Pensacola is all about Coke. As in, a Coke is every variety of carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage under the sun. Don’t be surprised if you get asked, “What kind of Coke do you want?” Your answer doesn’t have to be regular or diet.

7. What you call a bug, we just don’t even acknowledge.

Pensacola, and all of the Florida panhandle, for that matter, is prime breeding ground for insects of every shape and size. While people in other parts of the country get irked by a few houseflies, people from Pensacola aren’t bothered at all. Sure, the infestations of love bugs can get a tad gross, and when the yellow flies are biting, life becomes a little miserable, but on the whole, bugs are just part of life down here. (But yes, we do get somewhat concerned about gators in close proximity.)

8. Gators or Seminoles: take your pick.

The sport of choice in Pensacola is college football, and if you’re from here, you’re a fan of one of two school teams: the University of Florida Gators or the Florida State Seminoles. Choose wisely, wear your colors with pride, and find likeminded fans. The rivalry gets pretty intense, and while it’s all in good fun, it’s also totally serious.

9. A Bushwacker won’t hurt you at all. In fact, it’ll make you feel great.

The name Bushwacker may sound ominous, and perhaps in some parts of the world it truly is, but in Pensacola, a Bushwacker is the city’s famous hometown drink. And while it’s served all over town, the original place to get a Bushwacker is Pensacola’s own Sandshaker Lounge. As the lore goes, a former owner of the bar had a drink in St. Thomas that he loved so much, he wanted to bring it back to the Sandshaker for his own customers.

It’s a frozen, sweet, and creamy concoction made up of cream of coconut, Kahlua, dark rum, creme de cacao, and milk, blended with ice, served in a tall glass, and garnished (as all good frozen drinks should be) with a little toothpick umbrella. Tourists may be apprehensive about asking for a Bushwacker, but Pensacola natives know it’s the best way to beat the Florida heat and humidity.

10. Spring break time is basically the worst.

Pensacola is a mostly quiet Florida city until March hits and the spring breakers descend. Yes, people from the area know it’s great for the local economy, and that tourism is important for the vitality of the city, but still: the spring break tourists are the worst. They’re drunk, they’re loud, they make a mess, and everyone from Pensacola has to suck it up until April finally rolls around and they’re gone for good — or at least until the next year.

Written by Amy S

Amy S. is a high school English teacher and freelance writer who likes to riff on topics related to tech, music, food, and the arts.