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Hello Iowa: Pickles, Acorn Trees, and Nice People

Updated on March 29, 2012
Old Green Tractor
Old Green Tractor | Source

Hello Iowa!

Our move from the west to the Midwest is not without its fair share of culture shock. My first impressions of our new home are mostly in contrast to the place we came from: the spicy salsa-loving Southwest. Iowa is a beautiful state, and since it is all new to me and my family, I’d like to share our first impressions with you.

First, there’s the pickle aisle. Yes, you read that correctly. The pickle AISLE. Rows, and rows, and rows of pickled items at the grocery store. Sweet pickles, sour pickles, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, and every other possible variation on pickled vegetables, offered in several different sizes and brand names. And don’t forget the kraut. Saur kraut is also readily available, and you can choose from your favorite brands, too. Salsas-well never mind that. Who needs salsa when there are so many pickles to choose from?

Next are the acorn trees. My 13-year old daughter has apparently spent what is now a disproportionate amount of her life becoming a dyed-in-the-wool Arizonan, because after she pointed out to me that she had found acorns from the acorn trees in the nearby park, I said, “oak trees.” And her response was, “well, yeah, but I found them by the acorn trees over there.” Now I realize how incredibly ill-informed that makes my progeny sound, and I even kindly suggested that she avoid calling them that at school, but in her defense, if you moved down to Arizona, would you be able to identify a cholla or an ocotillo or tell the difference between a gopher snake and a rattlesnake? Anyway, it appears that there are some lovely acorn trees in the park nearby.

Aldi. It’s a local grocery store chain that thrives on penury. You can save quite a lot of money there over the prices at big box stores as long as you don’t mind buying your bags and paying a quarter to unlock the grocery carts from each other. You do get your grocery cart money back, as long as you make sure to return the cart to its proper position and lock it back into place. I don’t actually mind renting my grocery cart, but it drives the whole concept of deep discount grocery shopping to a whole new level that I had not seen in Arizona.

Sump pumps. Boy am I in trouble with this one. I know there’s one in my basement and I suppose it will work if I need it to, but I’m not entirely sure what it does. Something about keeping the next great flood at bay when it rains.

Amish. They are everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Like at the Aldi store, and in the WalMart children’s department buying heavy-duty winter overalls and talking in accented German. I’m sure I’ll get used to them, but up until now, my main exposure to the Amish was in that Harrison Ford movie, Witness. My husband thinks that I am making a culturally insensitive statement here, so let me assure you that I have no prejudices against the Amish. My daughter, on the other hand, thinks that the bit about acorn trees is far more culturally insensitive.

Hamburgers that you eat with a spoon. We ordered hamburgers from a store out here called Maid-Rite, apparently a local restaurant that has been in business since the early 1920s. Imagine our surprise when we unwrapped our hamburgers to find them shredded like a Manwich sandwich, only without the special sauce to hold it all together. Fortunately the company served up their burgers with a nice little plastic spoon. I find it rather amazing that this burger joint has stayed in business for 90 years or so by serving hamburgers with a spoon. I must confess, I do feel a slight prejudice against these.

Nice people. This is such a culture shock. In my old state, if I wanted a man to open the door for me, I had to don a pair of 6-inch stiletto heels and a really short skirt. I’ve had more men hold the door for me in public places as a common courtesy in the last 6 days than I’ve experienced in the last 6 years. It is nice to experience courtesy so universally here, but it takes some getting used to. I didn’t realize that courtesy was a missing element in my life until I started to see it so prevalent here.

Northern light. No, not THE Northern Lights, just northern light. What I’m referring to here is that sudden feeling that the whole world just got a little darker about three or four o’clock in the afternoon. This is again probably only surprising to me because in the sunny southwest, if you stay outside too long without sunglasses you end up with cataracts by the age of 35. Everyone in Iowa stares at me like I’m very odd when I roll into the parking lot with my sunglasses on. Of course, I will probably never be able to get rid of them, since they do such a nice job of holding my hair back. Note I am referring to the sunglasses and not the door-holders.

Iowegians. There are a disproportionate number of blondes here. ‘Nuff said.

Farming. We moved to a metropolitan area of over 400,000 people where a large number of people still have barns in their back yards, motels are disguised to look like barns, and people flock to eat at a restaurant called The Tool Shed, which oddly enough, also looks like a barn, whose slogan is “Farming is Everyone’s Bread and Butter.” In Iowa people take their allegiances to certain brands of tractors, for example, with the same fervor as other people might support a football or hockey team. My new neighbor, whom I had just met, found out my husband works for the big green tractor people, and she said in a rather disdainful voice, “Well, we’re International Harvester people ourselves.”


Have You Ever Been to Iowa?

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  • eovery profile image


    8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

    Welcome to Ioway.

    It is just a tad greener than Arizona.

    You missed one, basements for tornadoes.

    Keep on hubbing!

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Hi Susan, it is a tempting proposition, but a bit long, don't you think? Still, I considered it! We went to eat at that Tool Shed place. Wow, the food was good! Best meatloaf I have ever tasted. And not only do they have a tractor parked outside, but they give tractor rides to customers.

  • susansisk profile image

    Susan Sisk 

    8 years ago from Georgia, USA

    Thanks for this fun read. Are you going to change your name to Wannabmidwestern?

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    I'm glad you signed up to write on HP and enjoy the experience! Stereotyping works great for humor pieces like this, and I guess that is how we all arrive at our first impressions, for better or for worse. I know the acorn trees won't mind but my husband was a bit horrified by the Amish remarks.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Yup, sounds like our land! Welcome to Iowa, Miss Wannabwestern! I work for the big green tractor company too, I love pickles, and I'm blonde! Funny stereotyping though!

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Old Poolman, you will probably stop missing Iowa in January when the holidays are over and we are hunkering down for an ice storm and you are wearing a pair of shorts at the golf course. I have purchased winter coats for my kids including a snow suit for my two-year old that she could wear outside to milk a cow in on one of those cold winter mornings. I'm looking forward to eating some of the fresh Iowa corn, too, though I maintain that Maid-Rite is an acquired taste, akin to Adobo or Nopales.

    Dim, that is high praise. I deeply appreciate it. I lived in a little village called Barton Mills near Mildenhall, England when I was age 7 to 11. Barton Mills was more of a hamlet while Mildenhall was the village. I have my parents and the U.S. Air Force to thank for that experience.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 

    8 years ago

    Hey, glad your trip is over with and you are feeling your way around your new diggs. I spent my earliest years in Iowa, prior to moving to Arizona, and I happen to like Maid-Rite burgers. You will learn to love them too. I was the one who told you that you would return to Arizona one day. Let's see, about mid January please send me an email so we can compare temperatures. If you go into Salsa withdrawal, send me an email and I will send you some of my homemade Salsa. You will learn to love Iowa. Lots of great people, and food that can't be compared to anywhere. When they say fresh corn in Iowa, they mean fresh, like picked a few minutes ago. Fresh corn in Arizona means it arrived at the store this week. Darn, after writing this comment I have a yearning to leave Arizona and move back to Iowa. Go figure.

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 

    8 years ago from Great Britain

    Somehow you can always make me laugh. l loved this.Having recently had my culture shock by moving into a village. (Where IS everyone?) Thanks for another great hub.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Retromike. Iowa is really a beautiful place: gentle rolling hills and a picture of order. We are enjoying it so far. I'm looking forward to heading North this spring and doing some camping too. We drove through a small slice of Missouri on our way out here and I was impressed with the trees and just how green it is there.

  • Retromike profile image


    8 years ago from Missouri

    Very interesting. I felt like I was in the state for a few minutes. It's pretty bad I live in Missouri and haven't been to the state directly above me.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Rick! I'm looking forward to checking them out!

  • rickzimmerman profile image

    Rick Zimmerman 

    8 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Hey, wannab, nice hub! I've linked with writers in Moscow, Austria, South Africa and Wales (among other places) and have visited Iowa and the Sonoran Desert among my travels. (You might enjoy my hubs on Europe, Harvard or Junkanoo, or just sample my comics and humor — like 'You Are a Potato!'.) Keep 'em coming! Regards, Rick Z

  • bayoulady profile image


    8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

    Talk about a fun read! Man, I'd like you to come to Louisiana just so you'd crack me up. Cuz honey,you would for shore get a culture shock! I VACATIONED (lol!) in Iowa because of the Amish and all of the interesting barns. Yeah, I know...such a geek I am.LOL!

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 

    8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    Different folks, different, but the same...

  • lorlie6 profile image

    Laurel Rogers 

    8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

    My dad was born in Wapello, Iowa, wannabe, and I am fascinated by the state. I was there a year ago and love the history, the people and the land.


  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Vox Vocis, Thanks for the comment. This article was just for fun. I agree you would have a much more difficult time adjusting in a place that spoke a different language. The biggest adjustment for us is probably the climate. We left Phoenix at 106 degrees fahrenheit and arrived in Iowa to about 40 degrees. It will get much colder this winter.

    Dahoglund, to each his own. :)

    Thanks Hello, hello!

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    A wonderful way of writing about all your new impression of your new home town. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and you gave me lot information of the way of life there.

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    We have Aldi's in Wisconsin too. However we don't have Maid-rites. I rather miss them.

  • vox vocis profile image


    8 years ago

    The grocery cart system is the usual system here in Europe, strange someone finds it a totally new experience. You moved to a country where everybody speaks your language so you'll get used to it soon. Getting used to a new environment is hard when you move into a totally different state where everybody speaks another language, has a different mentality, I mean where everything is different indeed...

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks drbj, I appreciate that. Hamburgers et with a spoon: some advertising gimmick,huh?!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    8 years ago from south Florida

    Hi, wannab, I enjoyed the read about acorn trees and pickles and burgers you eat with a spoon (ugh!). Will be delighted to follow you and read much more.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Marcie, Vee will be happy to know she isn't the only one! Miss you too but glad to hear that the weather is finally cooling a bit for you there in AZ! Hugs!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    What a great read! I'm glad you are doing well. I can't imagine being in a totally different place. Sounds very interesting... Tell V. that I also used to refer to them as "acorn trees" until I was married and corrected by husband! Yes, there are things you don't learn in the desert! Miss you and enjoy reading of your experiences!


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