We’ve all heard them, and we’ve all done it. Even the most politically correct among us has thought at least one of the stereotypes on this list.
Not all stereotypes are necessarily bad. They’re really just generalizations about a group of people based on assumed shared qualities or behaviors.
Some of the most prevalent stereotypes come up when people talk about the 50 states. Whether you ask a foreigner, or even another American, everyone has an opinion about the kinds of people who populate each of the states.
As travelers, stereotypes can sometimes be helpful, but more often than not, they’re a hindrance to really getting to know the locals. Still, they’re good to know, at the very least so that you can avoid making a serious faux pas next time you land somewhere new and completely foreign to you.
We polled experts, Yahoo Travel readers and residents about each state in our great nation to find out the worst misconception that the natives want you to know just isn’t true.
Crimson Tide fans are definitely a passionate bunch. (Photo: Dave Martin/AP/Corbis)
Stereotype: They care about football, football, football… and NASCAR. Life revolves around one or the other.
Stereotype: Many residents are simply burly, ice-fishing fur-wearers who club seals for sport.
Stereotype: It’s filled with senior citizens who carry their own hot sauce everywhere and claim that finding a parking spot in the shade is more important than the birth of their first child.
Stereotype: “One of the most common misperceptions of Arkansas is that everyone who lives here is a “hillbilly,” explains Leah DiPetro, communications manager for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “This misperception was encouraged back in the 1930s through popular entertainment. Today, folkways, crafts, and music are very popular, again based on some of that same history, but the perception has changed.”
California: where everyone looks like they just stepped out of a Hollister ad. (Photo: Getty Images)
Stereotype: The state is filled with beach bums, bodybuilders, activists, and movie stars. “Everyone thinks we’re all a bunch of laid-back, easy-going surfers. Try visiting the tech hives of Silicon Valley or San Francisco these days and saying that,” says Yahoo Travel editor Greg Keraghosian.
Stereotype: Everyone is a stoner who loves to ski.
Stereotype: This state is made up of the country-club-loving, pastel-wearing, helicopter-flying part of the 1 percent.
Stereotype: People travel here from other places just to shop and avoid paying taxes. That’s it.
Florida: where old people go to drink lemonade by the pool and play shuffleboard. (Photo: Getty Images)
Stereotype: Its population is basically made up of retirees, beach bums, and gator hunters.
Stereotype: It’s overflowing with sweet Southern blond women and the kind of gentlemen who you’d want to bring home to mama.
Stereotype: Everyone surfs — and that’s it. Also, the locals hate the mainlanders, with a passion.
Stereotype: Everyone is a potato farmer.
I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think this car’s owner is a Cubs fan. (Photo: Seth Anderson/Flickr)
Stereotype: Everyone talks like Mike Ditka and loves da Bears.
Stereotype: People here think a tractor is the only necessary form of transport.
Stereotype: This state is all about corn farmers and a caucus once every four years.
Stereotype: “Of course there are a lot of people who think we are rowdy, inbred hillbillies, blue-collar workers who don’t wear shoes, who live to fish and hunt. People think we are a decade behind regular social (and fashion) movements. But Kentuckians are comfortable outdoors, have a tendency to appreciate the past more than others, and their Southern charms and manners cannot be beat,” says Thomas Jarboe, a proud Kentuckian. “Plus we are famous for our bourbon, horses, and food.”
Just another beautiful day in Kansas. (Photo: Niccolò Ubalducci/Flickr)
Stereotype: “People always assume I live on a farm, am super-religious or racist, and own a gun. I also regularly get asked if I have ever been in a tornado. But the truth is, Kansas is an amazing place. It has great schools, a creative vibe, friendly people, great music, and great food,” says Julie Johansen, a Kansas native.
Stereotype: Everyone is into voodoo, and it’s home to gumbo-loving partiers who treat every day like Mardi Gras.
Stereotype: Residents of Maine are seafood snobs who mostly wear plaid and can’t pronounce the letter “R” properly.
Stereotype: “Marylanders are known for their obsession with education and politics, at least where I grew up. The public schools are better than most out-of-state private ones. There are a lot of Ivy-Leaguers and preppy kids. But people are very family oriented and polite,” says Diana Carrier, who was born and raised in the Old Line State.
Stereotype: “We are self-titled Mass-holes,” says Massachusetts native Melissa Rappaport. “And most people judge the accent. Even if you are from here, it sounds terrible. But we are the most hardcore sports fans. Just don’t mention the Yankees.”
Stereotype: Their hate for Ohio far outweighs their love of anything else.
There’s no shortage of love for Minneapolis-born Prince. (Photo: Neil Lupin/Redferns)
Stereotype: Minnesotans love Prince and the movie Fargo.
Mississippi businessman Rick Looser actually funded an ad campaign to try to dispel stereotypes about his home state after being asked on a plane if he “sees those Ku Klux Klan people on the streets every day.”
“There’s an ignorance of what it’s like here,” Looser declared. “I want to change the way people look at us.” His website, Mississippibelieveit.com, displays slogans like “Yes we can read. A few of us can even write” and “No Black. No White. Just the Blues.”
Stereotype: “Stereotypes I have heard about people from Missouri include the fact they are the kind to shoot first, ask questions later. Own camo furniture and a ‘good’ baseball cap for church. Oh, and they like to play deer-hunting video games. But people here will give you the shirt off their backs. The food is incredible, and they are the most well-behaved, loyal sports fans,” says Susan Jack of Missouri.
Stereotype: Hunting season is more important than Christmas to Montanans, they ride horses to school, and they are total badasses. The badass bit is true.
Stereotype: It’s full of call-center workers who love corn and corn-fed steaks and everyone lives on a farm. “Farms are an important part of our landscape — they are beautiful and profitable — but there is a lot more to Nebraska than cornfields. More than 700,000 Nebraskans live in Lincoln and Omaha, which are both thriving cities. We don’t ride cows to school, our cities have more than one stoplight, and we have indoor plumbing. The first time I touched livestock was at a petting zoo,” says Yahoo Travel editor Brittany Jones Cooper.
Elvis impersonators, showgirls, casinos. Pretty much sums it up. (Photo: Corbis)
Stereotype: Everyone works in a casino as a cocktail waitress or an Elvis impersonator. And they all have gambling problems.
Stereotype: The people here are overtly happy, religion-shunning vegetable growers, whose No. 1 topic of conversation is taxes.
Stereotype: This is the home of the spray tan, the back-combed bouffant, the “Shore,” and steroid abuse.
Stereotype: This is the state where meth is made and where everyone has been abducted by aliens.
Stereotype: “New Yorkers are rude!” Johanna Legaspi told us on Facebook.
We’re not totally sure we understand the Lexington style vs. Eastern style barbecue debate, but we know that it’s very, very important. (Photo: Xtina L/Flickr)
Stereotype: North Carolinians will fight you over the best way to make barbecue, and their tea is never sweet enough.
Stereotype: “People think that we all speak with a German/Scandinavian accent like in the movie and TV series Fargo,” claims Sarah Otte Coleman, director of tourism at the North Dakota Department of Commerce. “You have to look pretty hard to find accents like that in North Dakota!”
Stereotype: All Ohioans actually wish they lived somewhere else. Anywhere else. Especially during an election.
Deep-fried, bacon-cheddar mashed potatoes on a stick at the Oklahoma State Fair. Because, why the heck not? (Photo: amy_buthod/Flickr)
Stereotype: The home of the deep-fat fryer — where people will fry everything from fish to rattlesnake, and everyone is overweight.
Stereotype: This is the land of overly polite drivers of Priuses who live in communes.
Stereotype: “Everyone thinks we are blue-collar, Rocky-loving, loudmouths who will fight you if you dare say anything negative about the Eagles or cheesesteaks,” says Philly native, Yahoo Travel Managing Editor Jo Piazza.
Stereotype: The state where everyone is all up in each other’s business. And they all sound like Peter Griffin from Family Guy. ”The thing about Rhode Island is that you can get from anywhere in the state to anywhere else in the state in under an hour. So the stereotype is that people think that everyone from Rhode Island considers any drive over an hour a VERY, VERY long road trip,” says Rhode Island native, Yahoo Travel community manager Annie Daly.
Stereotype: People here are simple-minded and easily entertained.
Breakfast of champions (Photo: Getty Images)
Stereotype: Fireball shots for breakfast and cigarettes for lunch? “I’m in South Carolina, and I want to banish the belief that we’re all racist and homophobic. Oh, and that we all dress like we’re featured in “People of Walmart,” Eva Fridy Rector told us on Facebook.
Stereotype: “Stereotypes about Tennessee are all kinds of country. People think we all wear cowboy boots, jean shorts, and graphic T-shirts with Garth Brooks’s face on it. Our drinks of choice are fireball, more fireball, and cheap beer, and we eat fried chicken, hot chicken, and rotisserie chicken. In reality, we drink as much hipster coffee as we do fireball; there are other types of music in Tennessee besides country, such as blues out of Memphis and a thriving rock scene east of Nashville; and although music is a big part of living in Tennessee, there are also some beautiful outdoor adventures to be had in the Smoky Mountains,” says Nashville resident Faithe Parker.
Stereotype: “That everyone in Texas wears cowboy boots and rides horses,” Gail Harriman tells us on Facebook.
Stereotype: This is the center of the Mormon universe, where it is OK to cheat on your wife with your other wife.
When in Vermont, there is always maple syrup ahead. (Photo: Kevin Galvin/Alamy)
Stereotype: In this state, it’s legal to inject maple syrup into your bloodstream, or should be. And everyone talks funny — about cows mostly.
Stereotype: There are the people who live in D.C., and then there is everyone else. The “everyone else” loves to hunt. Those from D.C. are snobby. West Virginians are also huge fans of Civil War re-enactments, and they hate to be compared to, or mistaken for, their Western neighbors.
Stereotype: People who live here clearly love rain and trees and Big Foot.
Stereotype: Most people think Deliverance was filmed here. The state has long had a reputation of inbreeding, which isn’t helped by several suggestive Hollywood movies and documentaries.
Fried cheese curds and beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Photo: Lance and Erin/Flickr)
Stereotype: “Someone once asked me if we get fat in the winter to stay warm. And people think that all we do is drink beer and eat cheese. Well that is probably true in some cases. And I guess people think we all have this awful Midwest accent,” says Wisconsin native and Packers fan Rebecca Soper.
Stereotype: The people here are all right-wing horse lovers who hate anyone and anything that comes from Colorado.
So what do you think of these stereotypes? Is there any truth to them?
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”