If you’re from somewhere else, particularly west of El Paso or north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you may have noticed that Texans are a bit unique. We’ve got our own culture. Our Southern neighbors understand and take it for granted, as there are enough similarities to keep cultural confrontations to a minimum. As for the rest of you, whether you’re visiting, have moved to Texas because of our awesome scenery, great economy, and affordable housing, or whether you’re trying to figure out the Texan who just moved into your neighborhood, here’s a handy guide to a few cultural distinctions you can expect.
Texans are proud of Texas. We like where we’re from, and we know our state. We take Texas history in junior high school, where we learn about how Texas was under six different nations during its history and about how Texas was once its own country. We learn about heroes like William Travis and Sam Houston, and about the Alamo and San Jacinto. Many of us know our family histories as well, know when our family came to Texas, and how our family fits into the stories of Texas history.
Texans are generally friendly. In small town Texas, everybody waves at everybody, even when we’re driving. Even in the big cities, you’ll hear plenty of “yes ma’am” and “yes sir”, and a man is expected to hold the door for ladies and older folks. We may offer to help you, even if we don’t know you. When we move to your state, we bring these habits with us.
Texans are not all “hicks” and “cowboys” and we don’t generally ride a horse to work. Now don’t get me wrong, being a cowboy or working on a ranch is still a legitimate job, and in some towns you can indeed ride a horse through a Sonic drive through. At the same time, Texas has some world-class research universities and has more than a million college graduates. Please don’t assume we’re ignorant.
Texans drink distinctively. If you order tea, expect it to be iced, and expect to answer “sweet or unsweet.” If you want a soft drink, order it by name. If you say you want a “coke”, we may ask you “what kind.” Coke in Texas is like Kleenex: the one word covers all the brands. Shiner Bock and Lone Star beers are made in Texas, and we like them.
Texans have guns. In some states, one gun is too many and two is a “gun collection.” In Texas, a gun is a tool. It may be a tool for self defense, a tool for hunting birds or deer, or sometimes just to shoot for fun. You’d not make fun of a guy’s tool collection, so don’t poke fun at the number of tools we have just because you don’t understand why we need them. Many of us grew up hunting and shooting. We’ve got fond memories of those times, and we value the tools we used. It’s not uncommon for children to get a BB gun in early elementary school and to be shooting a .22 before junior high. We’re not gun-crazy, but we respect and love the tools we use.
Texans are independent-minded. We’ll listen to what you think, but we’ll make up our own mind. We expect to have to solve our own problems, and we expect you to try to solve your own problems as well. We expect no help, but we’ll offer to help and accept help when you offer. We’re confident in ourselves, and have no expectation that your way will be better. It’s not arrogance, it’s experience: our pragmatism has served us well in the past. Politically, we resent the influence of other states on our politics. We don’t want Washington DC, New York, or California telling us what’s best for Texans. Texas political independence is valued by many Texans, and many of us want a chance to make our voice heard when it comes to Texas’ future.
Welcome your Texas neighbors. When you come to Texas, respect our values and you’ll be welcome here as well.