10 Chicago Norms That Are Weird To Other People

10 Chicago Norms That Shock Visitors To Our Great City

For many residents of Chicago, these ten instances are the norm. For transplants and visitors these things are unheard of.


When I first moved to Chicago, I was surprised by many common practices that are not common elsewhere in the United States. Most are enforced by residents while others are "Acts of God."

1. Postal “service"

In Chicago, mail service providers like USPS or FedEx do not always handle your mail with care. I commonly see mail carriers throwing letters and packages over resident's fences and into their yards. I was on the sidewalk getting into an Uber, and a postman told me to take my packages. The Uber had to wait while I took my packages into my house. On another instance, UPS left a note on my door to pick up a package at "Chicago Pawners & Jewelers." I assumed that UPS was either connected to the pawnshop or had a kiosk inside. When I arrived, I had to get my mail directly from the pawnshop's cashier.

2. Bipolar weather

Many Chicago natives are familiar with the inconsistency of Chicago's weather. Residents were reminded of that when there was what seemed like a blizzard in the middle of April. The weather had been warm for well over a month. On this random Sunday, snow buried the entire city overnight. Within a few days, the temperature was 70 degrees and all the snow had melted.

3. Leaving hazard lights on wherever you want

It is oftentimes convenient that it is normal to leave your hazards lights on while illegally parked, to make a quick errand. Some street signs in Chicago direct drivers to leave their hazards lights on in "standing zones." What is a lot less convenient is that drivers will leave their cars parked where ever they feel and exit the vehicle. On one instance, a car blocked the entire one-way road that I live on and caused a back up down the whole road. On another instance, a man left his car with the hazard lights on and left his vehicle to go inside the nearby court house. An entire line of cars had to sit in their cars while we waited for him to return.

4. Reserving parking stalls with cones

Chicago residents oftentimes see residential roads lined with cones and chairs, reserving parking stalls, especially in the winter. Many residents call "dibs" on the street parking outside of their house by blocking others from parking there with objects. Other residents that find this practice unethical are forced to find parking spaces farther from their homes. Moving the objects in the road can cause confrontations or property damage to your vehicle. I moved a cone once and my neighbor immediately came out and demanded I put her cone back. Her excuse was that she "lived there longer."

5. Panhandlers at every stop

At almost every red light in Chicago, there is a person with a sign, begging for money. What makes this especially different than other cities, is that when the light is red, the person will walk into the street and go up to car windows. Many people that do this sit in wheelchairs and remain in the crosswalk. Drivers weave around them. When I first moved to Chicago, I was shocked that law enforcement did not bother these people or give them citations. I was also anxious to drive because I was afraid that someone could get hit.

6. Technology instead of cops

Red light and speed cameras are very common in Chicago. Most drivers get familiar with the locations of the cameras. Generally, I can tell if there is a camera coming up because of all of the drivers on the road suddenly down. Since there are so many cameras on the roads, Chicago police officers do not usually bother with traffic infringements. Many drivers know this so they purposely break traffic laws unless there is a camera. It is certainly a norm for drivers to run red lights. Some drivers report being traumatized by the sight of the bright white light flashing and get anxious when they see bright lights while driving.

7. Six-way Intersections

Intersections in Chicago can be terrifying to new or non-native drivers. Some intersections will have five opposite ways that you can go. Each direction will have its own traffic light. Deciphering which light belongs to you can be very confusing. Frequently, a jumble of confused drivers are all in the middle of the intersection at the same time. The intersections connect the city's grid system. The grid system may be unfamiliar for many but is a large way that Chicagoans communicate locations. If you ask someone where something is, they will almost always give you the intersection of two major streets.

8. Permit parking

The city requires a permit for everything parking related. Within thirty days of registering your car, residents must pay for a city sticker at City Hall. A city sticker will only allow drivers to park in the residential zone associated with their address. If the driver visits a friend's house, they will most likely not be able to park on that street without another permit. Drivers have to stick a temporary permit sticker on their window or risk a $75 ticket. Other areas along main roads usually require paying at the meter. With such complex parking regulations, its no wonder so many Chicagoans prefer taking the train.

9. Taking trains everywhere

With all of the driving-related norms in Chicago, it is not surprising how many people take the train everywhere. Even though I have a car, taking the train is a must. It can get residents somewhere in a quarter of the time, especially during rush hour. The train is also much more affordable than it is in other major cities. Riders are also not charged by distance but around $2.50 for an entrance fee. Having panhandlers on a train is another norm. It can also be quite dirty but worth it for many residents.

10.  A neighborhood for every community

Various cultures have their own neighborhoods throughout the city of Chicago. For example, Ukraine Village or Greek Town. Each of these neighborhoods is decorated to celebrate the culture of the town it represents. Humboldt Park is a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. Residents are greeted with a giant, red Puerto Rican metal flag when entering Humboldt Park. These neighborhoods offer people a way to experience different foods and other shops authentic a large variety of cultures.

Norms in Chicago can seem so shocking to people that are not from the area. Visitors will be able to get used to these things very quickly. With every unexpected obstacle, there is an opportunity for fun and exploration in the city.

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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9 Things To Do In Nashville If You Have No Idea What To Do

Trust me, I was just as lost as you are.


Nashville is a great place packed full of lots of really cool smaller great places that all offer their own unique take on the city. If you're like me, though, and have a hard time ~planning ahead~, then this list is exactly what you need. I went around and got lost and tried all the coolest hidden gems in Nashville so you don't have to. Here are some of my faves.

1. Milk & Honey Nashville

Located in the Gulch, Milk & Honey is the coffee shop/cafe from my dreams. It's decorated perfectly for any cute insta story and y'all when I say their coffee is amazing I mean it. Try it. It's so worth it, and pretty easy to find, too! You can browse their menus here.

2. Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop

While we're on the topic of coffee shops, Frothy Monkey is a MUST try. Trust me, I've drunk A LOT of coffee in my lifetime, and theirs is up in the top 10 of the best. They have other good things too, but if you're a coffee person like me, this place is heaven, I promise. It's right off 12th Avenue and within walking distance of lots of other funky little shops.

3. Two Old Hippies

This is the coolest little shop you will ever go into. Tucked away in the Gulch, it's within walking distance of Milk & Honey, so stop by after you grab a coffee and browse. They have everything from handmade clothes to cool books to refrigerator magnets. This is one of my all time favorites and I know you'll love it too.

4. Baked on 8th


I fell in love the second I saw the cute sign. Baked on 8th has a great atmosphere and even better little pastries, cookies, and cakes. Their cookies were so good it took every ounce of self-control I had to not go back and order 2 dozen. 12/10 would recommend if you're into Instagrammable locations and bomb sugar-filled desserts.

5. Burger Republic

I get it, you've gotta eat more than just cookies and coffee. As far as restaurants go, this place is home to the best burger I've ever eaten, plus the atmosphere is pretty laid back and great, and it's an awesome place to go and watch pretty much any sporting event happening anywhere relatively close to Nashville. Browse the menu so you can know exactly what to order before you even get there here.

6. Fido

In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a HUGE fan of coffee shops and cafes. Fido was the most perfect little spot. It boasts about its gourmet coffee and great food, and rightfully so. It's also got the coolest funky vibe that makes you just want to sit and stay all day, and it's in a great location and decently close to Vanderbilt.

7. Go see some murals

Nashville is FULL of these bad boys. I know y'all have all seen the countless pictures of those people with big butterfly wings. Well, there's more and they're all around the city and on the side of pretty much every building. It's cliche, but tbh it's also kind of a must do while you're there.

8. Walk around Centennial Park and the Parthenon

This is a really nice place to visit if you're looking to spend a couple of hours away from the concrete of the city, and the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the one in Greece.

9. Ride one of those little scooters around and explore


I'm not gonna lie to y'all. I did not ride the scooters. They seem kind of dangerous and I know without a doubt that if I tried to get on one it would not end well for me, the scooter, or anyone within a 3-mile radius. With that being said, though, I did see a lot of people riding them and it looked pretty fun, plus it's a great way to see the city without walking too much. So if you just want to explore, hop on one of these bad boys and pray.

Nashville is a great city full of tons of tourist attractions and amazing musical history, but if you find yourself stuck with nothing to do for a couple of hours before your next walking tour, you're sure to find something on this list that you'll love. So, you're welcome.

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