Tag Archives: food

Living in the Midwest: How Does it Differ from the West Coast?

By Tara Khan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Whenever I tell people that I’m from North Dakota, I usually get a ton of questions. “Woah! What do people do for fun there?” or “Where even is that?” are the most typical ones. I was born and raised in Fargo, a town in North Dakota less than 4 hours away from the Canadian border. A few years ago, my family moved to the West Coast. After living here for a while, I’ve noticed there are many differences between the two regions, and so I’ve come to understand why people who aren’t from the Midwest might have so many questions about it. I’ve broken these differences down into 5 categories here in order to highlight what life is like living in the Midwest!

Weather: The most obvious difference between the Midwest and the West Coast is the weather. Most places in the Midwest have four seasons, with winters that are harsh and cold, and summers that are milder and warmer. However, no matter where you live in the Midwest you are pretty much guaranteed to get snow. In Fargo, there’s always snow on the ground throughout the winter months. One year, I remember it snowing as late as May and as early as October. Temperatures also regularly reach sub-zero, and even into the -20s in Fahrenheit sometimes in January. In the summers, temperatures would generally stay in the 80s and low 90s, never really reaching over 100F.

Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

Food: In terms of food, places in the Midwest don’t have quite as much variety as the West Coast, as the population sizes tend to not be quite as large. When I lived in Fargo, there were only 2-3 options for things like sushi or Chinese food. People there tend to eat home cooked meals; casseroles and hot dishes are a Midwestern staple. At potlucks or holiday parties, there are sometimes traditional foods served. Due to North Dakota’s large Norwegian population, lefse, a type of flatbread, is a food I saw at most celebrations. I even helped my friend’s family prepare it one year for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Activities: Many midwestern families have “lake homes” which they visit on the weekends. People enjoy going fishing, having cookouts, or having bonfires. During the winter months, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are quite popular. Ice hockey is also a sport that some children play growing up. For some families, Sundays and Wednesdays are considered “church day” and “church night.” Many businesses, particularly local ones, close on Sundays. When I was in school growing up, we would usually not have after school activities on Wednesdays.

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

People: “Midwest nice” is a common term used to describe midwestern people. People are generally very friendly and neighborly. During the winter, it’s not uncommon to see neighbors shoveling each other’s driveways or helping each out out with various things, and at public places such as the grocery store, people will frequently stop to chat with each other. Since living on the West Coast, I have noticed that people still have a friendly demeanor but aren’t quite as talkative as the people in the Midwest.


Transportation/lifestyle: Cars are the main method of transportation throughout the Midwest, as there are not a lot of established large public transportation systems. Walking and biking aren’t popular options due to the harsh winters. The age to obtain a license varies by State, but it is generally lower than in other regions of the country. In North Dakota, you can obtain a learner’s permit at age 14, and a license at age 15. The age for getting a job is also 14, though there are child labor laws in place to protect those under 16.

Photo by Marie-Michèle Bouchard on Unsplash

Whether or not you ever live in the Midwest, I think it definitely worth visiting at least once, especially during the winter. The weather is pretty much like how it is in the movies: freezing cold, but magical. Just make sure to dress warm and you will get to enjoy experiencing some home cooked Midwestern food and friendly people!

Featured Image by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

Tara is a freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering on the pre-med track. She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and Las Vegas, Nevada. She speaks English, Thai, and elementary level Spanish. Tara is involved in Taekwondo Club at USC. In her free time, she likes to solve Rubik’s cubes, play guitar and ukulele, and play with her dog, Tofu. Tara also loves traveling and learning about different cultures, especially through food! One of her favorite things about living in LA is the large amount of food options available; she is always willing to give great restaurant recommendations.

Navigating American Service Culture: to tip or not to tip?

By Tara Khan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[2.5 minute read]

When you walk into a store in the United States, you are usually met with a friendly greeting such as, “Welcome!” or “Hi, how are you today?”. Typically, these greetings tend to be followed by a question such as “How can I help you?” or “What would you like?”. Employees will ask these questions to give you a more positive shopping or dining experience. In exchange for their friendly service, service industry workers usually receive some type of extra compensation in addition to their standard pay. This compensation either comes directly from you, the consumer, in the form of a tip, or from the business in the form of commission. It can be confusing to know when and where you’re expected to tip in the U.S., so here are some helpful examples of when tipping is recommended or not recommended.

clear glass jar
Photo by Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash

Add a tip! The following are situations where tipping is strongly recommended or encouraged:

  1. Restaurants: When dining in at full-service restaurants, tipping is customary. The amount you tip your waiter/waitress is usually proportional to how much your check is and how good the service was. If you thought the service was good, the general rule is to tip 15-20% of your check, pre-tax. A tip of 10% or below usually indicates that the service was poor, while a tip of 25% or more indicates the service was excellent. You can leave your tip in cash, but if you want to pay with a card, there is usually a place to add a tip on the receipt that you sign. Not tipping at a dine-in restaurant is typically considered to be rude, so always factor in the tip into your eating out budget!
  2. Counter service/fast food: Unlike at dine-in restaurants, counter service establishments, such as fast-food restaurants or coffee shops, typically make tipping optional. Usually, you can find a tip jar next to the cashier for cash tips. There might also be an option to add a tip on the credit card machine if you pay by card. If you are getting a $5-$10 item, a tip of $1-2 is usually acceptable, and is by no means required. Tipping at counter service establishments is an added bonus for the employees, and just something nice to do if you really enjoyed the service!
  3. Hair salons/nail salons: Tipping at beauty salons, such as hair and nail salons, is also optional. However, it is highly encouraged if you like the final product. The tip is usually 18-20%, but it can vary depending on how much time was taken to do the service as well as the number of services performed.
  4. Rideshare: Depending on the length of your ride, tipping on rideshare services, such as Uber or Lyft, may be appropriate. Generally, tipping about 10% of your ride price is acceptable, but not something you have to do all the time.
green coupe scale model
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Continue reading Navigating American Service Culture: to tip or not to tip?

To have a car or not to have a car… that is the question

By Lily Tam

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Not having a car in LA makes life hard. Or at least, that’s what I thought. Despite the strong and ever-improving public transportation system in LA, taking the Metro or another form of public transport just isn’t the same as having the luxury of driving. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken the Metro to Santa Monica quite a few times, and I definitely recommend it since the stop right outside of campus is so convenient. The best part? Not having to worry about parking and traffic-an absolute dream come true.

The story’s a bit different if you want to explore a little outside the city, however. My roommate and I are from the farthest ends of the United States, the East Coast and Hawaii, so it wasn’t really feasible for us to bring or drive a car all the way to California for use during school. Fortunately, we both have our driver’s’ licenses, which is why when we got the chance to rent a car with the school’s new partnership with Maven, we did.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

My roommate had just finished one of her most dreaded midterms and was looking to celebrate that accomplishment with a meal out. We decided to head down to East LA for some great Mexican cuisine. However, we were so excited that we forgot to take into account something LA is notorious for: rush hour traffic. Yes, we decided to head out exactly at 5 PM. On a Friday. About to go on the 110 Freeway. Not a brilliant idea, I’ll tell you that much. In fact, the traffic flow was so bad that the Waze app directed us to square around (like a circle around, but we went in a box shape) two blocks just to come back to Figueroa. The lanes were insane though, and the maneuvers I saw some drivers making really took some skill. A drive that was supposed to take 15 minutes took 40 instead, and we arrived at the restaurant disgruntled and very hungry. It ended up being alright though because in our eyes a good meal is worth anything.

It was starting to get dark on our way back, but the traffic didn’t stop. In fact, the headlights from the oncoming lanes and the rear-end lights of the cars in front of us made it seem like a stream of Christmas lights. I guess no matter the time of the year, LA will have the festive feel of a city lit up at night. Despite our frustration at the endless traffic, we took away one important lesson: appreciate the relaxation of public transportation.

Continue reading To have a car or not to have a car… that is the question