Smitten with the Mitten – 6 Months in Michigan

Moving here was the culmination of a vacation turned scouting trip. Having spent the past 4 years living abroad in various countries it was time to visit the Vaterland and bring my Wife to meet the family.

That was until I decided I wanted and we needed a change.

Having now spent 6 full months here I wanted to share the things I have learned since moving here. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are the things that have struck me as a new Michigander.

  • When you live in the breadbasket you get spoiled by a fresh bounty. I on the other hand have not prior so the food here has amazed me. Everything is fresh, local, and bursting with flavour. My Wife and I have traveled the State and some of the restaurants we have stumbled upon are world-class. Our biggest fear as foodies was that we would be bound to home cook the rest of our days, but that is simply not the case. The food here is excellent.
  • If you turn on one of our German or Dutch playlists and lose track of time, you could mistake your drive across the country for being there versus Michigan. The scenery can be jaw dropping beautiful. It is a relatively flat state, but the way the sky dances against the vastness of fields and forests adds a uniqueness to it all.
  • Much of my life has been spent in the South where the mantra always goes that they are the friendliest people in the US. The North gets a bad rap about being a cold and stoic place, but I think that is undeserved. The several times my Wife and I have left a conversation with a stranger thinking “gosh they were helpful or friendly” are countless.
  • Art is appreciated here. We enjoy the ballet and theatre and there are opportunities to see just about anything within an hours drive. Between Detroit, Midland, and Grand Rapids you options are open to doing something of that type of event. The productions are smaller and less grandiose, but they are well done and the community feels a sense of ownership due to that sizing I believe.
  • The State seems generally conservative, with a liberal leaning. It is hard to be a Union state and vote red. I would consider myself an independent libertarian and had thought I would be socially cast aside here. I am an oddity in the North part of the State, but overall people seem welcoming. In addition, people are just as fine to let you be. I can disappear onto our acreage and no one would think twice about involving themselves in our matters. I like that. Very different from the metropolitan.
  • Family being right up the road is such an amazing thing. This isn’t purely a Michigan thing, but it is something I love. With the months getting cold it seems the State binds together to have many indoor activities. There is always a cousin with some school show/sport/activity to go see. We walk into bars or restaurants and run into people we know. That sounds like Cheers, but in our case it is Cheers with the Schmidt’s.
Now things that I thought I’d love, but haven’t.

  • Sorry guys, but the beers and wines are overrated. As a snob in both arenas, I have yet to be impressed with the available refreshments. Trust me, I have tried EVERYTHING I can get my hands on. My basement fridge is littered with 5-packs after trying a beer from down the road only to be disenchanted. As a big Dutch, Belgian, and German drinker I had hoped the roots of the state would offer some good stuff. Been disappointed, but I will keep trying. I am never one to turn down something new and possibly tasty.
  • The roads…oh god the roads…I take delivery of my Ducati 1299 in a few months and I have started to scope routes, not based on their twisties or straightaways, but rather on if I can ride down them safely. I have lived in other cold places with lots of snow. Michigan doesn’t have some special brand that makes this difficult. For the love of everything beautiful in this place, FIX THE ROADS!
  • If you look at the most recent statistics, young Michiganders are leaving the State in droves. There are not enough opportunities to keep them here and as such the impending baby boomer retirements will mean a shortage in my opinion. We must attract and provide for young talent.
  • Embrace “going green” for the sake of your residents. Driving through the Thumb you see some of this through windmills and solar arrays, but Michigan (and the automotive industry) could stand-out if they truly took hold of this ideology. The great expanses between cities are begging for a series of charging stations or similar. Geothermal and wind power should be blanketing this state as the Dutch and Swedes have with their similar climates. As my Grandfather says “I am a farmer and going green is what I have done my whole life.” Just makes sense for this region.

Pure Michigan is a cheesy marketing campaign, but one I fully understand now. The State is an oddity of sand dunes, skiing resorts, metropolitan cities, and farming land. People remember it for the shape, but I think they are missing out on what is inside the mitten. We are looking forward to exploring more after the winter months thaw out. We can’t wait to see what else this beautiful state has in store.

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