Bring it on Boston: Every culture shock you need to be prepared for

As a New England girl living and going to school in a New England city, it is my duty, if not my civic obligation, to prepare you for all that comes with moving to the wonderful city called Boston.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Students who attend BU come from all four corners of the country and some even outside of it — but the East Coast has its own special set of challenges. From bitterly cold weather to insane wind tunnels and driving so fast that it makes you want to cover your eyes, Massachusetts is a state that brings its own set of challenges.

While these changes may be a big difference from what most are used to, it’s important to be in the loop before arriving on campus in the heart of this very mighty city.

As a native Bostonian, my most fond culture shock came on my own turf. As the word “draw” fell out of my mouth, my roommate and friends across the hall stood and looked at me with utter shock before teasing began. Apparently, “drawer” is the proper way to pronounce where you put your folded t-shirts and underwear. To avoid some awkward confrontation, just know that you’re about to enter a city where the letter “r” is nonexistent — and yes, that means car is “cah” and yard is “yahd.”

There’s also the popular adjective “wicked” that we attach to most things to add extra emphasis. So sometimes the weather can be “wicked cold” or a person can be “wicked smart.” (correction: “smaht”)

Lastly, this state has a history of naming some places after strange words. “Gloucester,” “Worcester,” and “Leominster” are just a few odd-ball names to add to your vocabulary, though you’ll probably never say them right.

And be warned now, it’s not just the accent you should be aware of. You’ll find that of the many people you will converse with from Massachusetts, most of them will come across as somewhat standoffish or flat-out rude — but I promise we’re not. It’s just the New England way! We can be just as cold as the weather.

Speaking of the weather, while I don’t recommend making the mistake of packing your whole closet as I did, I highly suggest bringing layers and multiple of them. If you’re from the New England area, you already know what it feels like to walk through the bitterly cold winds and spine-chilling snow, but if you’re anywhere from the Midwest and farther, mentally prepare yourself for what you’re about to face.

Perhaps only the students from Alaska will find some relief in Boston, but for everyone else, get ready. The months of September and October feature weather as different as night and day. Monday might be sunny with a high of 70, and it could be snowing by Wednesday. When Boston gets good weather, a stroll down Commonwealth Ave. might feel like a dream, but when the frost, hail, sleet, and snow begin, get ready.

Black ice is real, and you will slip and fall on your butt right before everybody. Frostbite is also a constant risk, so hats, gloves, and scarves are no longer a fashion statement — they are a necessity. And with all the exceedingly tall buildings, you are bound to get caught in a wind tunnel so powerful it may threaten to pry an Airpod out of the nook of your ear.

My one solution for this is to bundle up and bring durable shoes. Snow is as common as a day of sun, so Boston sees very few snow days.

But alas, despite the frigid temperatures, you should know that the harsh weather will never separate a New Englander and their iced drink. Iced coffee is a staple beverage practically coursing through most people’s veins here. While Starbucks, Dunkin, and many other coffee shops offer an array of delicious hot cappuccinos and americanos, nothing can beat an iced cold brew or latte in Boston.

Culture shock is inevitable and is a crucial rite of passage when entering a new environment. Values, norms, standards, and expectations vary from place to place, and while they can sometimes be hard to adapt to, they are critical components to finding your way.

So as you make the move to Boston University, keep these norms in your back pocket for safekeeping. But be warned, the drive here, from a surrounding area or the airport, will likely be your first taste of change. The blinker is a nonexistent tool for most Boston drivers, and “flipping someone the bird” is a natural part of the state-wide issue with road rage.

Although all of this may sound scary or frightening, Boston is a beautiful city with a lot of heart in the grand scheme of things. Anxiety is normal, and that “fish out of water” feeling is temporary because if there’s one thing about New England, once you learn to adapt to the culture, you’ll find a greater appreciation for the entirety of it all.



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