10 Parts of the U.S. That Feel Culturally Different From “Mainstream America”

One of the best parts about living (or visiting!) the United States is experiencing its radically different regions and locales. Some areas are so culturally dissimilar to other places that it can shock the system of first-time visitors. Recently, men and women met in an online discussion to reveal every part of the U.S. that feels different from “mainstream” America.

1. Dearborn, Michigan

Dearborn, Michigan
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Dearborn makes this list due to the large population of Arabic-speaking Michiganders living there. In Dearborn, it’s common to see street signs written in both English and Arabic, and it isn’t surprising to hear people talking in Arabic instead of English when you visit. For this reason, countless people regard Dearborn as culturally unique from the rest of the country.

2. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA in Santa Fe Plaza with the Soldiers' Monument at twilight.
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As one of America’s most strikingly different-looking cities, Santa Fe gives off the vibes of being in another country due to its unique architecture. “I think it’s one of the most unique small towns based on architecture alone,” explains one man. “There is a city ordinance that any building within a certain distance of downtown must be made with stucco. Seeing a stucco Best Buy is funny, but it’s a thing in Santa Fe.”

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana
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Creole culture permeates the Big Easy, and as a result, it is like stepping into a different world the moment you enter the city limits. From the Cajun influence in their delicious cuisine to their residents’ unmistakable regional dialect, many people visit New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras and enjoy a world utterly different from every other region in the United States.

4. Hawaii

Beach vacation happy carefree couple arms raised. Winning couple with arms up showing happiness and fun on beach with pristine turquoise water on Lanikai beach, Oahu, Hawaii, USA with Mokulua Islands.
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As the only state that has never had a majority population that is Caucasian, Hawaii looks and feels different than any other area of the United States. Many travelers confess that it feels like they’re in another country when they visit. In addition to their demographics, Hawaiian culture is unlike any other: the islands’ cuisine, hospitality, and personality are second to none.

5. New York City, New York

View of Central Park in New York City in autumn
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Thanks to its reputation as the world’s biggest melting pot of cultures, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Big Apple is culturally different from every other city in America. “I lived in Southern California most of my life and moved to New York City for my career, and that opened up a lot for me culturally,” reveals one woman.”I was a flight attendant, so going to the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic let me see how much of a melting pot New York City was due to its migrants. I loved it, and it was unlike any state I’d been to. Now that I live in Japan, I miss the city’s booming multi-cultural offerings.”

6. Amish Country

Amish Country
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In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Amish community is still going strong. From not using electricity in their homes to still traveling via horse and buggy in 2023, Amish country is one of the best-preserved locales in the country. Visiting Lancaster and its surrounding areas feels like you’re returning to a simpler era.

7. The Florida Keys

Aerial shot of U.S. route 1, Key West , Florida
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One of the only parts of Florida that don’t revolve around endless nightlife or thrilling theme parks, the Florida Keys perfectly exemplify rest and relaxation. Granted, it’s a tourist destination in its own right, but it’s a haven for Jimmy Buffet-inspired, laid-back travelers who want nothing more to relax in a hammock and sip on a margarita. And really, who doesn’t want that?

8. Alaska

Aerial View of Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska during a stormy Summer Sunset
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Due to its extreme northern proximity to the rest of the continental United States, many visitors experience culture shock the first time they visit Alaska. “Anchorage feels like most moderate-sized cities, but once you get out a little into the boonies, it feels a little like you went back in time,” reports one woman. “Wait, you carry a weapon? To fend off bears? What century is this? But really, backwoods anywhere feels kind of a time warp. You meet a lot of folks who have never been more than 50 miles from their house.”

9. West Virginia

Loudoun Heights and the Shenandoah River, in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
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According to many residents of West Virginia, they not only acknowledge their extreme cultural differences compared to the rest of the U.S., they’re proud of it! Old-fashioned hospitality, politics, and an easy-going way of life run strong through all areas of West Virginia. Many travelers express being jarred by the culture.

10. Miami, Florida

An aerial view of Crandon Park Beach in Key Biscayne on a sunny day in Miami, Florida
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As arguably the party capital of the United States, visiting Miami is a rite of passage for U.S. residents and foreign tourists alike. The party never stops in Miami, and between its white sand beaches and Cuban-inspired culture, participating in Miami-based festivities will make you feel like you’re in another world. Despite most Americans being wholly against being taxed by the government, nobody speaks up about the sales tax levied on nearly every item a person buys. No other country willingly accepts sales tax the way Americans do. Even fundamental utilities and perishable food items are taxed, which is less prevalent in European countries.

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