Cultural Odds & Ends

Culture is a catch-all phrase in sociology to describe differences b/w people that aren’t structural (aka: “tangible”) – like differences in income, residential location, etc.  I use it here to describe some of the differences I’ve found b/w living in New Orleans and….Boston/the Northeast/rest of the world???

1) There’s no ginger ale in New Orleans.  This study is not exhaustive, but while sick last week I went to three different stores – a convenient store, Walgreens, and the gas station – and couldn’t find ginger ale at any of them.  The next day at the airport, the three beverage displays I saw didn’t carry it either.  I always knew ginger ale was sort of the redheaded stepchild of soft drinks, but to not carry it at all?  Don’t get a stomach bug in NOLA, is all I can recommend.

2) This one is courtesy of Robin from Seedco, long-time New Yorker and recent transplant to NOLA.  To effectively capture what it’s like living down there to a group at a Brooklyn bbq a few weekends ago, she described to them that her dry cleaning in NOLA would not be ready for 10 days.  10 days?!?!, they spluttered.  Wow, she really is living in a developing country, they quietly concluded.

3) Again, thanks Robin.  The way she is getting a parking permit in the French Quarter is by befriending her meter maid who will now hook her up with one.  Seems there’s no other formal process for doing this, or if there is one, she doesn’t meet the criteria and this is the neighborhood level of graft that will enable her to be able to park as a new resident of the Quarter.

4) There are still plenty of non-functioning street lights that have been replaced with stop signs throughout the city.  This includes on multiple-laned roads, where drivers are required to roll through these signs in unison.  It’s a really odd collective action moment.  In addition, I live in a grid of suburban-esque mostly one-way streets by Tulane in the Uptown section of the city.  Plenty of street signs here, and the streets are narrow and crowded w/on street parking and I’m still getting used to figuring out in which direction to look at the different intersections, not to mention just learning to actually stop at all these stop signs.  As I cruise around in big American rental cars, trying to slow my Masshole driving pace to a more Southern/grandfather/Sunday drive cruising speed, and try to reach an equilibrium of rolling through/stopping/looking both ways at all these neighborhood stop signs, I’m feeling too often like the father in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off languidly driving home after work, complete with the occasional stopping short and giving vague, inoffensive hand signs to the different drivers who impede my progress. 

5) The packaging – particularly in coffee shops – is mostly styrofoam.  Hot coffee, iced coffee, it all goes into styrofoam cups.  I’m not sure what year it is in New Orleans, or why it’s kosher in one of the most environmentally vulnerable places in America to keep at it with the styrofoam.  Though, maybe this is more of the norm in the U.S. than I know. 

I’ll add to the list as I think of more.


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