Iowa V. Northern Virginia - Cultural Distinctives

Here are some of my initial observations of the cultural differences between Iowa and Northern Virginia (from the perspective of a person who has lived in both cultural contexts):

  • What Iowans consider to be friendly, Northern Virginians consider to be nosey.
  • Iowans define "hard-working" as labor intensive with few breaks to rest.  Northern Virginians define "hard-working" as efficient, high-level thinking, with the completion of a larger quantity of work in a shorter time.
  • Iowans give standing ovations to recognize the work that was put into the performance. Northern Virginians give standing ovations to recognize a once-in-a-lifetime performance.
  • "To talk politics" in an acceptable manner in Iowa, one discusses current issues and how they impact people you know and criticizes politicians who express extreme views.  "To talk politics" in Northern Virginia is comparable to discussing the Iowa-Iowa State football game in Iowa.  The discussion focuses on the people and the parties more than the actual issues.
  • When grocery shopping in Iowa, you'll find a wide selection of cuts of beef and more variety of every type of food in the store than what you would find in Northern Virginia.  When grocery shopping in Northern Virginia, you'll find a nice selection of fresh fish, a small selection of beef, and unskinned chicken parts that are much larger in size than the chicken parts in Iowa.  In Northern Virginia, you'll also find a wider selection of food, but less options within the type of food.
  • Iowans eat to socialize.  When visiting someone, expect to be offered a beverage and a cookie.  Northern Virginians focus more on the socializing than the eating.  When visiting someone, you may be offered a drink (never milk) and perhaps a light appetizer.  When non-Iowans visit Iowa, they leave expressing that they've eaten too much.  When Iowans visit Northern Virginia, they leave expressing they've spent too much money on food and don't feel full.
  • To be an active participant in church in Iowa means to be on several committees and to do the work of the church.  To be an active participant in church in Northern Virginia means to either attend a small group or a worship service on a nearly weekly basis.
  • Iowans define "diversity" as differences of opinion and thought.  Northern Virginians define "diversity" from a multi-ethnic context, recognizing the presence of a range of religious, cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.
  • An outstanding chef in Iowa is one who has taken a common recipe and added his/her own unique touch to improve the recipe. An outstanding chef in Northern Virginia is one who has created his/her own recipe, by combining tastes from a variety of regions, and then added a decorative flair to how it is displayed in serving.
  • Your neighbor in Iowa is anyone who lives in your neighborhood or within one mile of your home. Your neighbor in Northern Virginia is the person who lives right next door.
  • If you plan to provide cold cut sandwiches in Iowa, make sure to have a lot of beef and ham.  If you plan to provide cold cut sandwiches in Northern Virginia, make sure to have a lot of turkey.
  • Iowans decorate their homes by filling the walls with family photographs and shelves with knick-knacks that express their interests.  Coziness is the ideal.  Northern Virginians either decorate their homes with clean lines and few items or they decorate New England style with wallpaper and ornate woodwork.


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